Student Views

Our online course offers the perfect starting point for a prosperous career in Geographical Information Systems. Here's what our past and current students think about us (our letter writers for hire republished recent studies at to make sure the article reach its true audience). Take a look to get an insight into what a career in GIS could mean for you! We have views from students who have completed the following courses:


Hannah Pearce

Completed the Masters Degree

Location: UK

"My interest in GIS was sparked as an undergraduate. When I was given the opportunity to get involved with the GIS work in my workplace it quickly became apparant that my colleague didn't have the time to get me up to speed and I broached the idea of an external course. The whole course was online with some fantastic tutors who were a great support. There was also opportunity to discuss issues arising from trying to apply things at work, something that I found particularly valuable as as time progressed I was left as the sole "GIS specialist" in my workplace.

There are two things I think that will stick with me though, firstly the increased confidence in my own ability to write code and secondly graduation and getting to actually meet people I'd been talking to for 3 years. After taking a couple of the coding modules (Visual Basic and Java) I managed to complete a transition between ArcView 3 and 9 at work and am now trying to teach myself R, niether of which I'd have contemplated before starting the MSc!"


Gareth Henry

Completed the Masters Degree

Location: UK

"I currently work in the Spatial Strategy and Research team at Hampshire County Council that provide principally economic data analysis and forecasting to other departments, local authorities and partners, although I work mostly from home in Kent due to the wonders of modern technology. I take the lead on labour market, geodemographics and deprivation analysis for service planning, and since undertaking the MSC course have contributed to advancing the use of GIS in the organisation. The County Council recently won the bid to supply and host the new South Downs National Park Authority GIS, and as such I�ve been involved with creating socio-economic layers to support their strategic planning needs.

I had already completed an HND in GIS way back in 1994 whilst working for the Ministry of Defence (in a pre-Windows age!), but never really got to develop this area due to various moves towards research and intelligence roles. Joining the Learning and Skills Council I was reintroduced to GIS, but when the LSC became defunct in 2006, I decided now was an opportune time to return to studying GIS both out of personal interest and with a career in mind. I was fortunate enough to get a job not long after with Hampshire County Council that required developing and exploring GIS work, for example mapping geodemographic and deprivation data. The mix of on-the-job tinkering and the MSC course, and in particular the module on geodemographics, was to prove very useful.

In terms of studying, I was more or less prepared with the level of work involved and the commitment necessary to complete the course, but nonetheless it can be hard juggling work, family and coaching kids football. However, the flexibility of the course and the ability to take �holidays� allowed me to complete the MSc in four rather three years, as opposed to not completing the course. The support provided by tutors and staff alike was also extremely helpful, as was the online discussion forum that provides some contact with other students.

I now hope to build on what I�ve learnt on the course and expand my working knowledge of GIS."


Michael Rowan

Completed the Masters Degree

Location: Myanmar

"As a result of my wife's work for a health charity, we relocated to Myanmar (Burma). The MSc GIS offered the chance to develop new skills in a growing field and, through the specialist streams in Year 2, combine the learning of GIS with my interest in health studies. Studying online has allowed me to gain a UK university education without needing to leave Myanmar. Online study is not without challenges, but throughout my time of study the rapid response to any queries and the flexible approach to learning adopted by the university staff has really helped. Through the online discussion rooms I have exchanged views with people in the UK, the USA and across Africa and Europe, and the chance to communicate with fellow GIS students has been invaluable. I feel that my knowledge and skills in GIS, along with the additional benefits of IT and research skills acquired on the course, have greatly enhanced my career prospects."


Masters Degree Graduate Caroline Johnson

Caroline Johnson

Completed the Masters Degree

Role: Business Analyst

Employer: Experian

"I enrolled on the course firstly because I missed learning after having finished university a couple of years beforehand. I looked around for a suitable course, but most didn't seem to be very related to my work, and I wanted something which would help me in my role as a Retail Analyst at Experian. When I came across the 'GIS for Business and Service Planning' course at Leeds it was exactly what I'd been looking for. The modules were closely linked to what I do and covered the retail industry specifically.

I was a little anxious about starting the course. I was worried about how I would fit the workload around work commitments and my already busy life. I was also worried that working on my own with little contact with other people on the course would be a lonely experience. I was worried about how much help there would be if I got stuck.

I've found that the course fits quite well around my other commitments. The estimated workload of 7 hours per week seems to have been fairly accurate and most weeks I set aside a couple of evenings for the course. My company has also given me a few days a year to dedicate to the course. Fitting distance learning in around a full-time job has not proved too difficult.

I've found the course both interesting and helpful. It has expanded my knowledge of work-related issues. I am now able to work on additional types of projects and am more knowledgeable when it comes to using different types of software.

I've found the staff at Leeds extremely helpful. They are always on hand if I have a problem.

Overall, I've enjoyed being a distance learner. However, there have been times when I felt I would have benefitted from more contact with other people on the course. You need to be committed to the course and the onus is on you to complete the work and organise your time effectively. At times this has proved difficult, but on the whole I've enjoyed the feeling of being in charge of my own learning.

The tutorials are a great way to meet other people on the course and exchange ideas. I've stayed in touch with a couple of people and throughout the course we have helped each other out. It's also nice to meet members of staff and to be able to put names to faces!

I'm hopeful that once I've finished the course it will help my future career. I've learned a lot about the role of GIS in retail analysis and feel that I am better equipped than before to progress."

Postgraduate Diploma Student Stephen Oladayiy

Stephen Oladayiye

Completed the MSc in GIS

Role: GIS Analyst / Programmer

Employer: Chevron, Nigeria

"I chose Leeds specifically because I wanted to give myself some strong footing in the development of socioeconomic spatial applications, from both academic and entrepreneurial perspectives, and I find it gratifying that my expectations were not disappointed.

The MSC GIS programme added tremendous value to my career aspiration. The business and service planning stream helped me fill critical knowledge gaps I had identified before embarking on the course. It was however the support and encouragement I received from faculty members, especially as an ODL, which ensured my successful completion of the programme, without this I surely would have dropped out of the programme. And I must commend the University of Leeds in the way the different organs and services provided seamless service to me as distance learner."

MSc GIS Student Dominic Stankiewicz

Dominic Stankiewicz

Completed the Masters Degree

Role: Neighborhood Statistics Coordinator

Employer: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

"I decided to take this course due to my interest in GIS via my employment, plus encouragement from Leeds Staff during a business meeting. Resuming academic study was a bit scary. It was only eight years since completing my HND in Computing, but that course was mainly technical and did not involve writing long essays. One of the hardest parts is fitting in coursework alongside work - it helps to get an agreement with your employer on this before starting the course.

The course and modules have been very interesting, and although sometimes the work may not seem immediately relevant to my public sector work, there have been many times where the study undertaken suddenly becomes incredibly useful six months later.

My job is Neighbourhood Statistics Coordinator, and involves creation of new geographic statistics for small geographies via GIS. The course has greatly enhanced my ability to do my current job, as I now have a theoretical understanding of what I am doing. My future plans could involve further GIS study, it is a relatively new science that is still evolving, but that would depend on my work- study arrangements."

Postgraduate Diploma Student Katie Johnson

Katie Johnson

Completed the MSc in GIS

Role: Product Manager

Employer: EuroDirect

"I work in the Product Management department of EuroDirect, a direct marketing company in Leeds. Having never studied Geography before, and having finish my first degree several years ago, it was certainly a challenge but was made easier with the high standard of tutoring and support available.

The hardest part of the course has actually been managing my time well enough to fit all the work in. Part time study is not something to be taken lightly, especially if you have a demanding career, as weeks tend to disappear very quickly and deadlines are soon upon you. However, communication is the key and these problems can be worked out, as I have found out on several occasions over the last couple of years.

The tutorials that the University hold in Leeds are certainly worth attending and help to focus on what is expected for the different modules. I find it easier to attend as I do not have far to travel, but I have also found email invaluable as a communication tool due to the prompt replies and detailed instruction. It does help to have access to a fast internet connection, especially when you need to send or receive files.

This course has helped examine many of the aspects of GIS that I otherwise would not have been aware of and has broadened my appreciation of the field. My overall aim is to continue on to the dissertation later this year and complete the Masters, so fingers crossed!"

Postgraduate Diploma Graduate Judith Finlay

Judith Finlay

Completed the Postgraduate Diploma

Employer: UK Valuation Office

"When I embarked upon this course, it was some ten years since I had finished my degree. I was a little apprehensive about studying again after so long, especially as I was also working full-time. However, combining study, work and leisure was not as onerous as I had imagined. Maybe it was because I was more mature and more disciplined than I had been in my undergraduate days. I allocated a couple of evenings and Sundays for study. Sometimes more than a couple of evenings were required, especially as deadlines approached. However, in general, I found that if I stuck to my routine I was able to keep on top of the course work and reading required.

I am a surveyor in the civil service. My employers were quite encouraging about the course. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I was unable to use my work computer for the course. This caused me some inconvenience but I was allowed, on occasions, to work from home where I could use my own computer and course software. It was helpful to have an employer who was amenable to my having study time at home or in the office.

The course did have some teething problems but I found it to be generally well organised. The staff were very helpful offering advice via e-mail and by telephone. The tutorials in Leeds were very useful, especially for practical computing / software help they offered.

When I began this course I thought that it would help me with my current job and advance my surveying career. Having completed the first year I have gained more than I anticipated. I have a few more transferable and marketable skills than I did a year ago. I feel that my future prospects will not be limited to the surveying field (I hope my boss does not read this!). The course has shown me that GIS can be and is being used in a variety of ways in numerous fields.

Postgraduate Certificate Student Walid Musa

Walid Musa

Completed the Postgraduate Certificate

Employer: Planning Officer for the Sudanese Government

"I found it [the programme] a good chance to study GIS from home in my spare time at a reasonable cost! During your studies you will really feel that you are back as a student, you will have lectures to study, you will have your questions answered and you will have a chance to discuss with others in a forum, and a well prepared staff are ready to help at any time. I found that this way of studying gave me many benefits, I was able to get in contact at any time, and study my lessons at any time. I realized that my computing skills were developed in a short period of time and feel that I am at the heart of GIS!"

Postgraduate Certificate Graduate Nada Ahmed

Nada Ahmed

Completed the Postgraduate Certificate

Employer: United Nations World Food Program

At the beginning, I found the learning experience quite challenging, but it was also very rewarding, the amount of knowledge I have acquired is tremendous. My work in the Vulnerability Analysis & Mapping Unit (VAM) requires direct need for GIS techniques and by studying this online course I have been able to improve on my capabilities and competencies at work. I believe that the recipe for my success was my high motivation, commitment, family support and the ongoing guidance and thorough feedback from the University of Leeds academic tutors."

Gary Mason

Gary Mason

Completed the MSc in GIS

Company: LocationWorx

"I have my own IT consultancy business, specializing in Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, and have become intrigued by the potential for "Location Intelligence", a rapidly developing field. It was this that got me interested in learning more about GIS and spatial analysis. The programme at the University of Leeds was exactly what I was looking for.

There was considerable appeal in the flexibility of being able to organize study time around my work schedule. But I was quite concerned about some of the aspects of distance learning, such as a lack of lectures, and the self motivation that would be required. As it turns out, this hasn't been a problem at all. The programme is very well structured and has been developed around the needs of distance learners. The notes that are provided are far better than the notes that I could take myself and the material has been so interesting that keeping motivated has not been an issue.

The faculty and staff have been incredibly supportive and helpful, and while there is a certain feeling of isolation that comes with being 7 time zones away, the use of email and the on-line learning environment helps to "bridge the Atlantic Ocean" to alleviate the problem.

I have been particularly pleased that the syllabus has been organized to draw upon material from a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, history and medicine, providing a very stimulating holistic learning experience.

In summary, I'm thrilled with the programme and am keen to further integrate the material into my consultancy engagements. "