Department of Geography
The Geography Department, in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Health, was founded in 1928 and has long been one of the foremost centres of geographical research and education in the country.
We have two undergraduate courses; the BA (Hons) and BSc (Hons) in Geography, as well as offering a Joint Honours in Natural Sciences and Combined Honours in Social Sciences and in the Arts. We also provide the Geography component of the School of Education's BA (Hons) in Education Studies - Geography. This gives us an undergraduate population of close to 600 students. Our graduate school, meanwhile, currently stands at approximately 120 students, most of whom are postgraduate research (PhD and MRes).
The Department supports two research units. IBRU is the internationally recognised International Boundaries Research Unit, specialising in the peaceful resolution of problems associated with international boundaries on land and at sea. Nomis is the official system for dissemination of UK local area labour market data. The service is provided by Durham University under contract to the UK Office for National Statistics. We also continue to be highly involved in the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, which is physically attached to the main Geography West Building. IHRR is now a pan-University research institute, but began life in Geography, providing a rich environment to bring together multidisciplinary strands in risk research.
Research is at the heart of the Department, organised through two physical geography research groups (Catchment, River and Hillslope Science; and Quaternary Environmental Change) and five human geography research clusters (Geographies of Health and Wellbeing; Lived and Material Cultures; Politics - State - Space; Social Spatial Theory; and Urban Worlds).
Geography is highly diverse. We research and teach across the discipline from Antarctica to Bangladesh, from spatial theory to flood modelling, and from GIS to the social economy. Geography's reach across many fields and disciplines makes interdisciplinarity a natural vehicle for extending the frontiers of our research.
Supporting and encouraging creative ways of working with colleagues from other fields and disciplines, both internally and further afield, is central to us realising our ambition to sustain our position as a world-leading research department. Likewise, we endeavour to create and capitalise upon opportunities to bring the benefits of research to our students, not least through research-led teaching.
Like all academic departments, Geography has to adapt to a changing environment of funding and competition. Despite our success in RAE 2008, changes in the funding landscape presented us with a significant challenge - how to re-balance the books without undermining quality or diminishing future potential. Our strategy is to focus on developing further opportunities in our research and in our graduate school, while maintaining across-the-board excellence. Being such a large department - with some 140 salaried staff - maintaining lines of communication is also always a challenge, which we try to address through regular email summaries of issues facing the Department, and through Department social events.
Staff in the Department
We now have almost 60 academic staff and about 40 research associates, supported by approximately 40 professional administrative and technical staff. This makes us the largest geography department in the country. We are very fortunate to have been able to attract and retain staff of outstanding quality, across all staff groups, over many years. We work hard to promote a truly collegial environment, in which the importance of all contributions is respected and valued.
The Department is led by the Head of Department, Prof. Joe Painter, who is supported by a small number of senior academics who form the Department Management Group (DMG).
Administratively, the Department is divided into sections, with each section being led by a section head, who works closely with a DMG member who has academic responsibility for that area.
The Geography department is an open and friendly department. We are always interested to learn from expertise and good practice in other departments and pleased to discuss areas of our practice with others. We welcome opportunities to contribute to the University beyond departmental boundaries and currently do that through having staff linked to the IAS, IHRR, the DEI, the Wolfson, and the Faculty and Colleges. Anyone who would like to make an approach to the Department but isn't sure who to contact can call the Head of Department's Office on 41896.