We are committed to supporting the higher education geographical community to advance equality and diversity in geographical teaching, research and learning.
The International Benchmarking Review of Physical Geography (2017) and ESRC 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 at 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.
We encourage geography departments to engage with the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and its charters when considering the equality and diversity of their staff and students, and practices to support them.
For most geography departments, initiatives to support gender equality will fall under Athena SWAN action plans at departmental or institutional level. We have worked with the ECU to support geography departments making applications for Athena SWAN (and, formerly, the Gender Equality Charter Mark) awards.
There is a jiscmail distribution list for geographers engaged in Athena SWAN applications 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.
We host occasional meetings for representatives from geography departments and schools making Athena SWAN applications. 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. The notes and presentations from previous meetings are available here (PDF).
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 publishing their applications and action plans on their websites. Please check departmental websites of 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.
The Society has a working group 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 ECU'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.
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:
The Society has also collected together data about geography in the UK from a range of sources.
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).
Desai, V. (2017), Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) student and staff in contemporary British Geography. Area, 49: 320-323
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
McIlwaine, C and Bunge, D. (2018), Placing diversity among undergraduate Geography students in London: Reflections on attainment and progression, Area, 1-8. (https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12506)
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