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Research and higher education policy

The Society is continuing to monitor and respond to developments in policy that relate to geographical research and teaching in higher education, particularly in relation to funding, in consultation with the geographical community.

UK human geography number one in the world

The Society's Director, Dr Rita Gardner CBE, acted as the chair of the steering committee of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) international benchmarking review of human geography. The group appointed a panel of international experts, chaired by Professor David Ley, University of British Columbia, Canada.

The panel made an independent assessment of the UK’s performance in human geography research and identified recommendations.

The final report, launched at the Society on 4 March 2013, states that UK human geography is world leading, ranking number one in the world.

The key conclusions from the report:

  • UK human geography ranks number one in the world
  • It is an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that in many areas sets the intellectual agenda
  • The UK publishes more than its share of major disciplinary journals; bibliometric indicators reveal international primacy both in volume and citation impact; and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin
  • UK human geography is radically interdisciplinary and with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences has become an exporter of ideas and faculty to other disciplines
  • That there is confidence research in human geography had substantial impact on policy and practice and would successfully meet the challenges of the current impact agenda

Commenting at the launch of the report, Dr Gardner said:

"It's such a key subject in helping to understand and address many of the environmental, economic and social challenges the world and the UK faces. At a time when impact is increasingly seen as important, the fact that the Panel highlighted the range, clear strategic intent and effectiveness of engagement between scholars and the users of research in human geography is also especially welcome. We look forward to working with the research councils and the HE community to take forward the five recommendations of the review."

Developments in higher education

Open Access (OA)

Find details here of the Society's work and position on Open Access publishing in relation to the geographical community.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

In 2014, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) assessed the quality of research in UK higher education institutions (HEIs).

A searchable online database of REF Impact Case Studies has been launched. Users can search for case-studies by institution, Unit of Assessment, subject area or location of the impact (UK or global). 

Over 200 case-studies were submitted under 'Geography, Environmental Studies and Archaeology', with impacts listed including upon policy, society and environmental management.

Other policy monitoring

Subscribe to Geobyte, a weekly e-bulletin from the Society, for updates from the geographical research and higher education community, including relevant policy developments.

RGS-IBG links
Our work
· Policy
· Research and higher education (RHED)
· RHED policy monitoring
• ESRC Strategic Priorities - Adrian Alsop, ESRC Director of Research, March 2011 Presentation (PDF)
• Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Delivery Plan 2011-15 (PDF)
• Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS): Higher Education White Paper (PDF)
• Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Delivery Plan 2011-15
• Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Toolkit
• Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Delivery Plan 2011-15
• Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014

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