UK physical geography in excellent health

UK physical geography in excellent health Dr Joanna Nield / University of Southampton
05 Jun
Following on from the review of human geography in 2013, physical geography in the UK has recently undergone a health check

The International Review of UK Physical Geography was carried out by a panel of internationally respected geographers who have declared the health and global influence of the discipline to be excellent.

The panel’s report, to be launched at the AGM of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) on 5 June, contains ten key findings and a set of recommendations. The Society, in partnership with the UK’s physical geography community, will be developing an action plan that addresses the report’s recommendations over the coming five years as part of its new strategy.

Commenting on the report, Professor Olav Slaymaker, Chair of the International Review Panel, said: ‘The review shows that physical geography within the UK is a major international player in terms of any metric considered: it makes major contributions to the big scientific and applied societal questions, collaborates and leads international agendas, and punches above its weight in the delivery of research impacting on policy.’


The key findings of the report include:

• The ‘evolving identity’ of physical geography means it is not only found in traditional geography departments, but contributes to, and influences, many different science agendas relating to our environments.

• Physical geography research is funded from a diverse set of sources and has a high success rate in being awarded funding from the UK’s research councils and global collaborative research programmes.

• Curriculum changes at A Level in England and Wales, and a greater emphasis on fieldwork and individual project work, have increased physical geography’s presence in schools.

• Undergraduate geography programmes attract some of the highest calibre students and those that specialise in physical geography report high satisfaction levels with their courses. Geography degrees in general produce graduating students with skill sets that are highly regarded by employers.

• UK physical geography is international in its outlook, is world leading in many sub-areas, and influences the discipline worldwide.

The report concludes that the future is bright for UK physical geography as it works to support resilience in a changing world and promote responsible management of the environment.

This was published in the June 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

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