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Equality and diversity in higher education geography

The Society is committed to supporting the higher education geographical community to advance equality and diversity in geographical teaching, research and learning.

Geographers at the Society's Annual International Conference 2016

This page contains information about:

The International Benchmarking Review of Human Geography (2013) highlighted challenges for the discipline in the areas of gender equality and ethnic diversity across all grades, but especially senior grades. The Equality Challenge Unit supports UK higher education institutions in advancing equality and diversity through the Athena SWAN Charter, to advance gender equality and career progression, and the Race Equality Charter Mark, to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students.

The Society encourages geography departments to engage with the ECU and its charters when considering the equality and diversity of their staff and students, and practices to support them.

Gender equality

For most geography departments, initiatives to support gender equality will fall under Athena SWAN action plans at departmental or institutional level. The Society has worked with the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) to support geography departments making applications for Athena SWAN (and, formerly, the Gender Equality Charter Mark) awards. For further resources, please see the section of benchmarking data and other information below.

Athena SWAN geography jiscmail list

There is a jiscmail distribution list for geographers engaged in Athena SWAN application and action planning. Academic and professional staff with responsibility for equality and diversity activities in schools and faculties are also invited to join. Click here to join the list.

Meetings for geography departments

The Society intends to host its next meeting for representatives from geography departments and schools making Athena SWAN applications, in late September or early October 2017. The notes and presentations from the last meeting, in February 2017, are below. The next meeting will take place in late September or early October 2017 and will be announced on the jiscmail list (link above).

The meetings offer participants an opportunity to discuss questions and challenges related to applications and renewals, action planning, and sustaining momentum in equality and diversity activities in geography departments/schools.

Please contact Stephanie Wyse (s.wyse@rgs.org) for more information and to register interest.

Benchmarking data

The Society has some snapshot (2014/15 only) student and staff benchmarking data available to complement ECU and institutional data. Please contact RHED@rgs.org to find out more and request a copy.  The Society has also collected together data about geography in the UK from a range of sources.

Staff and student survey example questions

The Society is collecting examples of staff and student surveys for Athena SWAN and other equality and diversity initiatives, as used by geography departments.  Please email a copy of your survey to Stephanie Wyse for it to be included in the shared pool of resources.

Please contact RHED@rgs.org to request a copy of survey questions and associated information.

Resources and notes from meetings

Athena SWAN geography award-holders

Up to date lists of current award holders and previous applicants can be found on the ECU website. 

Institutions and departments who are successful in joining Athena SWAN commit to publish their applications and action plans on their websites. Links are provided below to some of the geography, earth and environmental sciences departments (broadly defined) that hold Athena SWAN awards. Departmental awards can only be made where an institution already holds an award - for further information it may be worth searching for an institution's application and action plan. 

Please note that this may not be a complete list of current award holders - please check the link above to the ECU website.

Other geography-related departments (such as earth and environmental sciences) holding awards:

  • Imperial College London - Department of Earth Science and Engineering
  • University of Strathclyde - Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Durham University - Department of Earth Sciences
  • Newcastle University - School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences
  • Royal Holloway, University of London - Department of Earth Sciences
  • University College London - Department of Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering
  • University College London - Department of Earth Sciences
  • University of Bristol - School of Earth Sciences
  • University of Cambridge - Department of Earth Sciences
  • University of Manchester - School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences
  • University of Oxford - Department of Earth Sciences
  • University of Southampton - Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
  • University of Southampton - Ocean & Earth Sciences
  • University of Stirling - Division of Biological and Environmental Sciences
  • University of Surrey - Centre for Environmental Strategy
  • University College London - The Faculty of Built Environment (The Bartlett)

Race and cultural equality

A new Society working group has been launched for geographers in the area of in Race, Culture and Equality (RACE). The group encourages, promotes and facilitates research, teaching and positive action on race through collaboration, both within geography and between geography and other disciplines. Visit the RACE website.

The Equality Challenge Unit's Race Equality Charter Mark provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students.

Benchmarking data and other information

The ECU shares recent and extensive benchmarking data on gender equality and other key markers with subscribing institutions engaged in the Athena SWAN application process. Please contact your institutional Athena SWAN representative and/or the ECU for further information and access.

ECU has been working with UCAS to clarify what ethnicity data is available for higher education institutions, and how to access it. They have developed a briefing document that explains when and how to access data documenting ethnicity in admissions:

Geography subject data

The Society has some snapshot (2014/15) student and staff benchmarking data available to complement ECU and institutional data. Please contact RHED@rgs.org to find out more and request a copy.

The Society has also collected together data about geography in the UK from a range of sources.

HESA data

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) is the official source of data about UK universities and HE colleges. Some of their data on staff and students is published for free, or bespoke data sets and analysis can be requested.

Most Higher Education Institutions can gain access to this data through their subscription to HEIDI (Higher Education Information Database for Institutions).

Other resources


Dyer, S., Walkington, H., Williams, R., Morton, K. and Wyse, S. (2016), Shifting landscapes: from coalface to quick sand? Teaching Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences in Higher Education. Area, 48: 308–316

Maddrell, A., Strauss, K., Thomas, N. J. and Wyse, S. (2016), Mind the gap: gender disparities still to be addressed in UK Higher Education geography. Area, 48: 48–56


Internet links
Equality Challenge Unit

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