Why is geography increasingly popular, influential, and valued?
The study of geography equips young people with the knowledge and understanding to be informed citizens in the 21st century, providing them with the skills to pursue a range of careers.
Stimulates an interest in places, people and the environment.
Helps young people make sense of a complex and dynamically changing world and how society, the economy and environment combine to bring about change.
Explains where places are, how places and landscapes are formed, how people and their environment interact.
Explores how a diverse range of economies, societies and environments are interconnected.
Examines natural resources and their sustainable use.
Over recent years the number of students studying geography at school and university has been rising, with geography experiencing some of the most rapid rates of growth for all subjects. The number of GCSE entrants has increased by 22% since 2011; it is now the eighth most popular subject at GCSE, A and AS Level.
The changing nature of who is, and who is not, studying geography in English schools, colleges and universities was explored in our Geography of geography report.
The report showed that the increase in GCSE numbers has come predominately from groups who had been previously less likely to study GCSE geography – notably, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME)* pupils, disadvantaged pupils, and pupils with lower prior attainment. With respect to BAME pupils, those of Chinese ethnicity now have the highest entry rate for geography of all groups (52%), and over the period 2010 to 2018 the proportion of GCSE entries by Black/Black British pupils doubled from 18.6% to 37.3%. Pupils of a (known) BAME background now represent about 23% of all geography GCSE entries. However, such progress is not reflected in the transition from GCSE to A Level where, apart from white pupils, fewer pupils of all other ethnicities chose geography than would be expected. The narrowing of geography’s BAME intake continues at university. In 2018, 88% of undergraduate geographers were white.
In Scotland, more than 11,200 pupils achieved a 'pass' in Geography at SCQF level 3 - 5 in 2014/15, whilst nearly 5,500 students passed SCQF level 6 - 7.
The importance of geography has been recognised by government: the UK Government has included geography as one of the subjects within the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) aimed at getting more students to study core subjects at GCSE.
Geography is important for further study and careers: the Russell Group of Universities recognise A Level geography as one of the key 'facilitating' subjects for entry to degree level study. Their document Informed Choices provides details. Geography graduates have highly valued, transferable skills, equipping them for a range of careers.
The subject content, aims and learning objectives required for GCSE geography and A Level geography specifications are set out by government.
* Overall Black and minority ethnic pupils currently make up over 30 per cent of pupils in primary and secondary schools in England (Runnymede Trust CERD Submission 2021)
Over the summer of 2021 we invited BAME geographers who had been supported through our Geography Initial Teacher Training Scholarships programme to discuss and share their experiences of studying and teaching geography.
In total, eight participants took part in three focus groups. They explored a range of issues through semistructured discussions spanning their motivations for choosing geography, their experiences of studying geography, and their training and professional practice as geography teachers.
The views expressed in this report, unless otherwise referenced, are those of the participants who contributed to the discussions.
Discover the range of careers and jobs available if you choose geography.
If you want to better understand our world, a rewarding job that pays well and to help shape the future, then look no further. Report after report tells the same story: choose geography.
The RGS-IBG education department is at the heart of the Society’s work as a learning community for geography. We are committed to promoting and reinforcing the relevance and benefits of geography
Find out why geography is a hugely beneficial subject to study at GCSE and A Level
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