Health of UK Physical Geography

The first-ever report to compile evidence on the health and influence of UK physical geography has shown that the discipline is in great academic shape and a leading force worldwide. The International Benchmarking Review of UK Physical Geography was produced by the Royal Geographical Society and co-authored by Professor Phil Ashworth, University of Brighton.

The report highlights the extraordinary richness and diversity of physical geography in the UK that provides insights into processes and forms in the natural environment including climate and atmosphere, geomorphology and landscape, biogeography and ecosystems, hydrology and water science, oceans and soils.

Physical geography is witnessing a resurgence in popularity in schools and is growing subject choice at university where undergraduates perform well in their degrees, express high level of course satisfaction and have excellent employment outcomes compared to many disciplines.

UK physical geography research is international in outlook, world-leading in many subareas and influences the discipline worldwide. It punches well above its weight in terms of success rates with funding agencies, leads eminent international collaborative research programmes and addresses global societal-environment challenges.

Professor Phil Ashworth, Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor Research & Enterprise at the University of Brighton, said: “This is a timely strategic review of UK physical geography whose findings have been validated by a panel of distinguished international experts. It shows that physical geography percolates into many natural and social science challenges in the changing world. Fundamental and exciting discovery science is produced by globally-renowned and influential geographers. UK physical geography is in excellent health and has a bright future for the new generation of numerate physical scientists”.

An independent, international panel of reviewers of the report, led by Professor Olav Slaymaker of the University of British Columbia in Canada said: “Physical geography within the UK is a major international player in terms of any metric considered, whether numbers of undergraduate and graduate degrees awarded; research foci; intellectual contributions as judged by papers and journal editorial positions. The UK is performing better than most in terms of maintaining the visibility of physical geography as a distinct field. The strength of the field in the UK acts as an important role model for the future of physical geography globally.”

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