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Young Geographer of the Year 2019

The winners of the 2018 Young Geographer of the Year competition at the Society's headquarters in South Kensington The winners of the 2018 Young Geographer of the Year competition at the Society's headquarters in South Kensington
23 May
Now in its 22nd year, the Society's annual promotion of geography is introducing a brand new way to enter

In 1997, the RGS-IBG launched the annual Young Geographer of the Year competition to celebrate and reward geography students with a passion and aptitude for the subject. Now in its 22nd year and run in partnership with Geographical, the competition is bigger and better than ever, with more than 1,100 entries received in 2018, and even more expected this year.

‘The Young Geographer of the Year competition launched as a recognition project and to engage more and more people with geography and with the RGS-IBG,’ says Holly Sullivan, education assistant at the Society. ‘The main focus is to increase a passion for geography and to encourage people to take geography for GCSE, A level or undergraduate level.’ The competition is open to all schools globally and entries are judged blind. ‘Last year we had entries from Mauritius, Hong Kong, Oman, Greece and others,’ Holly adds.

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A new aspect to this year’s competition is the option for entrants to submit an Esri story map. Story maps allow students to combine GIS maps with text, images and multimedia content to create a digital submission. Esri, the company behind the software, offers a free subscription to its ArcGIS service in all schools. ‘We thought we would incorporate story maps this year to spread the word about the ArcGIS subscription and because GIS is becoming increasingly important in education,’ says Holly.

Running in tandem with the competition, the Society also hosts the Rex Walford award, open to early stage teachers including those currently doing teacher’s training and NQTs. Applicants are asked to submit a scheme of work equivalent to three lessons and to include work that’s come back from the students as a result. 

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The winners and highly commended students and teachers from all categories are invited to an awards ceremony at the Society’s Kensington home in December to celebrate their achievements.

This year, the question that the Society would like answered is: ‘Where can geography take you?’, giving pupils the chance to explore the potential that geography holds and think about geography-related careers. Submissions are due on Friday 18 October 2019 at 5.00pm and the judges are looking forward to receiving a diverse and wide range of answers.


Winning a Young Geographer of the Year award is often a key driver for pursuing greatness in future geographic fields. Here, three previous winners speak about the legacy winning provided...

WEBProf. Danny Dorling I RGS YGOTY Nov 2013

George Breckenridge

‘Winning Young Geographer of the Year was a real platform on which I could build. The award is highly respected within the geographical academy and I think having a common affinity to the RGS-IBG really helped me in gaining experience and further opportunities. I’ve since worked on research at UCL, taught at the University of Hong Kong, and represented the UK twice at the International Geography Olympiad. Now, I’m a BA Geography student at the University of Cambridge. It’s a great undergraduate course and although my study of geography is more challenging than ever, I’m loving my time at Fitzwilliam College. Danny Dorling presented the award to me and our conversations on the day basically started a great friendship that has guided me since!’

Maria Christodoulou

Maria Christodoulou

‘Winning Young Geographer of the Year was such a huge achievement, and I was super honoured. I entered at a time where I began to really start exploring my passion for geography outside the classroom – I had just applied to university so succeeding in the competition was a great way to gain first-hand experience of what geography at a higher level could be like.

I am now a policy adviser in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. My specific work area is EU Exit, and I have been part of the central team creating new policy for the UK’s chemicals industry in a post-Brexit world. Geography has been fundamental in influencing my academic and professional journey to where I am today. It is ingrained in my day-to-day life. I always loved geography for the simple reason that it represents the world around us; making it an impactful, relevant and ever-changing subject. The ability to learn about a theory and see its practice in the relationship between humans and the environment is super exciting and participating in the Young Geographer competition is a fantastic way to start exploring this further!’


Ian Cheung

‘I was fortunate to win the competition in the under-18 category. This worked out at the right time when I was applying to Cambridge to read geography! This was actually a focal point during my interview and thankfully the interviewers were really interested in the work I did for the competition, which was based on geo-spatial differences in obesity prevalence in the UK. Shortly after winning Young Geographer of the Year, I went on to read geography and music at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The competition provided a great foundation for reading for the subject – I really enjoyed the independent research aspects of my course, which built upon what I had to do for my Young Geographer of the Year essay. I really enjoyed the social, economic and political aspects of studying geography. This, combined with my long-standing interest in aviation, formed the foundations which allowed me to apply my skills and interests to my present position as a consultant in aviation for the European Commission in Brussels. On a day-to-day basis, I apply many of the transferable skills that studying arts and humanities has provided me, for example: understanding of the European political system, economics, policy, regulation, stakeholder management, dealing with political sensitivities, report writing, and quantitative and qualitative analysis.’

Find out more about entering the Young Geographer of the Year Award and the Rex Walford Award here

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