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BA (Hons) - Outdoor Leadership (with Integrated Foundation Year)

You have a passion for being active outdoors, learning about yourself and how to work as a team. You enjoy acting for the environment and ensuring the safety, welfare and engagement of others.

Our outdoor leadership foundation year in Carlisle will build a solid base in scientific, intellectual and investigative skills and knowledge so that you reach the level needed to undertake the remainder of your degree in Ambleside.


Outdoor Leadership (with Integrated Foundation Year) cover image

Course Overview

You’ll develop outdoor and leadership skills, knowledge and experience working with people in challenging environments. You will enjoy great facilities at our Lake District campus whilst gaining all the skills you need to work in the outdoor sector. There will be plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy exciting field trips in a range of locations which may include the Highlands of Scotland, North Wales and the Spanish Pyrenees.

The outdoor leadership degree course is organised to blend theory and practice seamlessly, using a range of adventurous outdoor activities to promote your learning whilst gaining valuable experience and skills to support your journey towards National Governing Body Awards.

On this course you will...

  • Benefit from the outdoor experience that's at the heart of this course with theory backed up by practice.
  • Improve your competencies in mountaineering, climbing, sailing, caving and paddling.
  • Explore the Cumbrian outdoors while developing academic, critical-thinking and valuable life skills.
  • Learn to successfully lead people with the most up-to-date and best practice coaching.
  • Gain valuable commercial and entrepreneurial skills – enhancing your employability.

Course Structure

What you will learn

You’ll have an outdoor classroom quite literally on your doorstep – with more than 150 lofty peaks, 16 lakes and an abundance of rivers. So, there are ample opportunities to learn all the academic knowledge and practical skills you need to kick-start your career as an outdoor leader.

We don’t just teach you the theory, you’ll get on with it in practice so you become a proactive and confident problem-solver able to make sound professional judgements and decisions.

So, if you have the desire to operate effectively and lead in challenging environments, then our uniquely-located course will provide everything you need to succeed. Experience-gaining and skill development sit at the centre of all our modules.

Year one

You will build a solid base in scientific, intellectual and investigative skills and knowledge which will be expanded upon during the rest of the course

Then standard IFY outcomes to follow this (they are the same as those used for Marine and Fresh Water, Animal Conservation, Geography)

  • Essential University Skills 1
    This module develops your academic and professional skills required for effective learning and successful progression through your chosen honours degree programme and beyond.
  • Essential Biology
    To develop knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of biology, essential to further study in your chosen field.
  • Scientific Investigation
    To explore the protocols associated with scientific investigation.
  • Essential University Skills 2
    You will expand your learning in the areas of research, writing structure and reflective learning. You will also gain skills in presenting research to an audience and in reflecting on your development throughout your integration foundation year.
  • Environmental Sciences
    Introduces field-based skills akin to the natural sciences with interdisciplinary content which relates Human Ecology to Toxicology, Public Health, Epidemiology and Parasitology. Giving you a good foundation in the basic principles required for your degree.
  • Dynamic Earth
    You will study applied aspects of geology, geomorphology, climatology, hydrology and soils within the context of your area of interest. There will be opportunity for laboratory and field classes to support your understanding within a regional context.
Year two

You'll explore the relationships between environmental, cultural and personal space in various outdoor settings. Plus, you'll develop your core skills in climbing, mountaineering and paddling.

  • Outdoor Adventure Skills and Learning (Water)
    This module will provide you with a foundational understanding of and capability in, a range of key water activities areas that underpin the wider programme. You will also explore the nature of adventure and adventurous experiences both conceptually and in practice.
  • Outdoor Adventure Skills and Learning (Land)
    You will experience and reflect upon a range of contrasting approaches designed to develop skill across a number of land-based activity contexts. Theoretical teaching will introduce you to some core principles of skill development that underpin the approaches used in practical sessions.
  • Living and Working in Groups Outdoors
    Develop a range of outdoor activities (e.g. overnight journeys, participating in an environmental task, urban exploration, solo) where the students will have the opportunity to reflect on their part in working with “others”. Students will share their own experiences to develop broader perspective.
  • Outdoor Professional Development
    Explores concepts of outdoor learning and examples in practice within historical and contemporary work-based settings. Students will visit a variety of outdoor professionals in order to learn what are necessary fundamental skills and knowledge expected by employers across a range of contexts.
  • Physiology and Psychology for the Outdoor Leader
    Gain fundamental skills and knowledge of human performance that underpin a healthy lifestyle and safe optimal performance in the outdoor environment. Students will be encouraged to consider the implications of physical and psychological fitness for themselves and those they lead or manage.
  • Outdoor Leadership Theory and Practice 1
    History and philosophy of the outdoor sector, particularly as it relates to the role of outdoor leadership. Students will understand the contemporary outdoor sector and occupations within it, whilst developing their own abilities in leadership to design, implement and evaluate an outdoor session.
Year three
  • Outdoor Leadership Theory and Practice 2
    Prepare and evaluate a self-organised research expedition to mainland Europe. The module will enable students to evaluate and apply sustainable travel options and relate them to expedition organisation and climate smart outdoor adventures. Leadership models for outdoor activity are incorporated.
  • Psychological Applications in Outdoor Contexts
    The aim of this module is to develop understanding of the key concepts drawn from contemporary psychological theories and to enable students to apply these to the leadership of individuals and groups in a range of potentially challenging outdoor environments.
  • Coaching Individuals and Groups
    Provide students with the knowledge and understanding of the current theoretical basis of coaching. This relates to work with both individuals and groups and specifically to the coaching of outdoor skills and the management of groups in practical skill and development training settings.
  • Evaluating Outdoor Leadership
    Leadership has been a central topic in UK Outdoor Education since its origins. This module prepares students to develop critical thinking skills within the theme of outdoor leadership and to develop understanding of contemporary views of outdoor leadership.
  • Research Design
    This module will enable you to explore the process of designing, executing and reporting an independent research project, and develops from your understanding of techniques developed earlier into developing methodologies and the research method. Culminates in student-led fieldwork.
  • Traditional and Innovative Approaches to Outdoor Education (Optional)
    Considers the nature and value of different approaches to outdoor learning. A range of educational approaches will be experienced and examined with reference to pedagogies such as adventurous learning, place-based, expedition based or environmental contexts in outdoor learning.
  • Sustainable Outdoor Event Management (Optional)
    Practical experience in sustainable outdoor event management. Enables students to design, research, plan, deliver, and evaluate an original event project. The planning, organisation, and delivery of the event will be led by the students, mentored by a tutor and delivered to external clients.
  • Health, Wellbeing and Environmental Health (Optional)
    The aims of this module are to enable students to explore and examine relationships between ecological, social and personal health and well-being in varied environmental settings. Extent they add to people’s personal stories of health and well-being will be examined using different approaches.
Year four

You have the flexibility to shape your degree according to your own interests and career goals. This will be enhanced further when you get to conduct your own research for a final year dissertation within the broad field of outdoor leadership.

  • Dissertation
    An opportunity to undertake an independent piece of in-depth research into a topic of your choice that is related to the fields of animal conservation science and conservation biology. You'll develop your research skills and gain valuable experience in project management and research dissemination.
  • Coaching and Facilitation in Outdoor Environments
    Students will develop the ability to develop and facilitate other learners acquiring skill at different rates and levels showing differentiation in a range of adventure based outdoor activities.
  • Outdoor Leadership Theory and Practice 3
    The module will critique the emphasis given to the various outcomes of different outdoor programmes and the role of the outdoor leader as the facilitator of learning, development, reflection and experience.
  • Commerce and Employment in the Outdoor Sector (Optional)
    The aims of the module are to develop students’ understanding of the outdoor sector in terms of the range of employment opportunities and to foster the relevant skills, knowledge and insights required to progress within it whilst being able to adapt to change.
  • Outdoor and Environmental Education (Optional)
    To develop a critical understanding of outdoor and environmental education theory and practice in formal and non-formal educational settings.
  • Therapeutic Opportunities (Optional)
    Students will experience a range of nature-based interventions and will be encouraged to reflect on their own personal therapeutic relationship with nature, as well as design outdoor experience for others with specific therapeutic intentions.

Attend an Open Day at Cumbria

An Open Day is your opportunity to explore one of 5 campuses, meet your lecturers, and find out how the University of Cumbria could become your new home.

Take the next step towards achieving your dreams.
A student stands in front of a wall splattered with paint.