A series of key statisics on geography students and graduates.
According to UCAS End of Cycle data, first-year acceptances in 2021 for geography were slightly down on 2020, but in line with the trend across all subjects. The movement year-to-year is remarkably small, given all that has happened since 2019. In terms of the change from 2020 to 2021, total acceptances were down 1.5% across all subjects, but down only 1.1% for geography. Within geography, there was a 3.5% drop in female accepted applicants, and a 2.2% rise in male accepts. Despite this, the gender balance remains at around 55% female. 2021 also saw an increase in mature students (age over 25) of 4.4%. In terms of domicile, UK student acceptances rose by 0.6% and acceptances of students from outside the UK and EU (i.e. the rest of the world) rose by 7.7%. The largest fall was for EU domicile students, which dropped by 59.6%. However, the number of EU domicile students within geography has historically been relatively small.
Subject group (HECoS)
CAH12 - Geographical and environmental studies
CAH12-01-01 - Geography (non-specific)
CAH12-01-02 - Physical geographical sciences
CAH12-01-03 - Human geography
CAH12-01-04 - Environmental sciences
Total (all subjects)
Table 1 - Accepted applicants by subject group (2019-21)
Data on the total number of undergraduate students by subject (across all levels) are available from HESA. In 2020-21, the figure for geography (CAH26 combined) was 44,730.
These data are of most direct interest to geography departments at the moment, as they are indicators of acceptances for next year. These are application data for CAH12 (geographical and environmental studies). Overall, total applications for geography are up 3.91% on 2021. For male applicants, the figure is up 11.7%, but down 2.3% for female applicants. However, despite this, 56% of the applicants are female. All UK domiciles have seen a rise in applicants, while EU applications have fallen by 17.2%
year on year growth
Table 2 - Applicants by subject group and year on year growth (2019-22)
For the second year, the What do graduates do? report is based on HESA Graduate Outcomes data collected 15 months after graduation. The report is also the first to use the new Standard Occupational Classification (SOC 2020), rather than the previous SOC 2010 structure – meaning the new data are not directly comparable with previous reports. The cohort covered in this report did not graduate in the pandemic but clearly they are impacted by the pandemic job market. These data cover graduates who left university the previous summer (2019) and so, in most cases, had been in the labour market a few months when COVID-19 hit the UK. Geography-relevant observations include:
The unemployment rate across geography is marginally lower than the average rate for graduates (i.e. more are in employment). However, a significant proportion of this employment appears to be in non-graduate sectors/roles. What is or is not classified as a non-graduate/professional role is problematic, but this nonetheless signals the kind of jobs recent graduates have been able to get (and the context of the UK job market).
Compared to other sciences, relatively high numbers of physical and geographical science graduates entered retail and other customer service roles. High percentages also went into education, business, finance and HR roles and only 2.2% of this cohort went into ‘science’ occupations (again, issues with classification).
Geography (social sciences) has the highest full-time employment rate in the social sciences (52.5%) but saw similar trends in terms of customer service and other roles.
The data are combined with Earth and Environmental Science which skews some of the interpretations presented (though these will be a relatively small number). So, for example, the report suggests that trends could have been partly as a result on the impact of COVID-19 on oil prices, which led to a reduction in the size of oil companies’ graduate intakes.
First degree graduates (all subjects)
Geography (social sciences)
Physical and geographical sciences
Working full time in the UK
Working part time in the UK
Unemployed, or waiting to start work
Table 3 - Destination of 2019 geography graduates (15 months after graduation)
Source: Prospects Luminate
PhD or equivalent
Postgraduate cert/dip (including PGCE)
Table 4 - Percentage of 2019 geography graduates entering further study (excluding 'other' category)
Source: Prospects Luminate
Secondary education teaching
Architecture, planning and consultancy
Business and related research professionals
Construction project manager
Business sales executive
Primary education teaching
Table 5 - Top 10 professional jobs for 2019 geography graduates
Source: Prospects Luminate
There are some more general comments in the report about how graduates feel the pandemic has:
detrimentally affected their employment prospects (83%);
caused them to think differently about their future (79.4%);
made them less confident about their future employment prospects (72.6%).
The report recognises impacts disproportionally on newer job entrants: vacancies collapsing; internships, work placements and apprenticeships were cancelled; and employers ceased recruiting. There are other comments in the report on AI and automation; on self-employment and freelancing; on expanding understanding on value and success (with a question added to the graduates to respond to on how they value their work).
Featured image: Stephen Dawson/Unsplash
Dr Lynda Yorke (Bangor University) and Dr Simon Tate (Newcastle University)
Resources on and for bystanders in situations of discrimination, harassment and bullying.
A collection of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) resources with relevance to experiences of female staff in HE geography.
Sounds can offer powerful evidence of lived experiences in the past and prompt oral history recollection.
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