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Department of Geography


RAE08: The Department of Geography

The Department of Geography at Durham University participated in RAE08 and received detailed feedback in January 2009.

Of the research assessed from geography 30% was graded as ‘world leading’ (4*). This places us =1st in a ranking of institutions on the same criteria. Overall, the department produced the highest volume of world leading (4*),  internationally excellent (3*) and overall international quality research of any geography programme in the country.

RAE08 & Durham University - in context

The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (or RAE08) aimed to produce quality profiles for each submission of research activity (Unit of Assessment or UoA) made by higher education institutions.

The four higher education funding bodies (HEFCE, HEFCW, DEL and SFC) will use the quality profiles to determine their grant for research to the institutions which they fund with effect from 2009-10. Any HEI in the UK that is eligible to receive research funding from one of these bodies was eligible to participate. The results of the RAE determine how much money the University will be awarded for its general research activities as well as feeding in to league tables.

Durham University is a medium-sized higher-education institution with a renowned, research-led culture and success in RAE08 in terms of both the volume and quality of our research input reflects this commitment to excellence.

Durham University’s International Quality

The University submitted a higher number of research active staff than any of our comparator institutions in the 1994 Group.

90% of the research which Durham University staff submitted was assessed as being at least of International Quality (2* and above) in terms of originality, significance and rigour. Geography exceeded this percentage with 95% at this level.

This is a higher percentage than many of the larger institutions which form the Russell Group of UK universities.

See an overview of Durham’s RAE success.


Professor Tom McLeish, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Durham says: "This is an excellent set of results for Durham University reflecting the international breadth and significance of our Departments’ research."

For Geography specifically Jonathan Rigg, Head of Department, adds: “This was an excellent performance to rank joint 1st amongst Geography departments nationally in terms of both grade-point-average and the proportion of ‘world-leading’ or 4* research. It is especially pleasing since all 56 of our research active staff were included in the submission, making it the largest submission in the country and reflecting the depth of excellence here. Together this means the department led the country by conducting the greatest amount of world leading, internationally excellent and internationally recognised (4*, 3* and 2*) research.”

What does Durham's RAE result really mean for prospective students?

With 90% of Durham’s research assessed as being of International Quality and examples of World-Leading (4*) research excellence in every department, you are guaranteed to study in an academic environment of great quality. Within geography, we invite you to actively participate in our research environment deemed ‘vibrant and ‘competitive at the highest international levels by the RAE panel through seminars, conferences, workshops and fieldwork. Activities of our research clusters and groups can be found on our Research Clusters / Groups / Centres pages.

If thinking of coming to Durham for post-graduate research at PhD or Masters level you will know that you are entering a research environment second to none, will be receiving the guidance of scholars and researchers at the very front of their field internationally, and be given the chance to participate in your chosen research field at the global level.

Our Geography RAE result sits alongside our recent ranking in the Times Newspaper Good University Guide as 3rd best geography department in the country for 2009 and 2008 consecutively and being ranked in the top 6 geography programmes in the Guardian tables every year since 2006.

Link to RAE