Subject Overview

What is Geography?

Geography is the study of the planet we live on and the people that live there. It has two branches, physical and human. Physical geographers study the materials the planet is made from and the scientific processes that are at work on our planet including glaciation, atmosphere physics and sea-level change. Human geographers study the social processes of our planet including migration, social exclusion, war, famine and, disease. An important strand of geography is the connection between physical and human geography. When looking at topics such as climate change there is a significant focus on the interface between human and physical factors, including man’s effect on the environment and changing understandings of nature across time. Geography is one of the broadest subjects that you can study but it is unique in its mandate to combine lots of different types of information in its approach to one issue.

Geography Today

Geographers are currently working on some of the biggest challenges facing our planet. These include climate change and sea-level rise, but also very new and complex issues that are currently in the news such as migration and refugees. Geographers use their wide-ranging knowledge and expertise not only to explain these phenomena but also to devise solutions. There are almost no bounds to Geography. Students can be researching water flow on a glacier one day and considering the political disagreements over who owns the Arctic the next. Geography will hold your interest and be a source of constant fascination.

Thinking about studying Geography at university?

Geography is a very broad subject and becomes even bigger at university. Some universities offer a wholly physical or human Geography degree and some offer a combined degree where you can choose to specialise in one aspect of Geography later in the degree should you wish. It is therefore very important to read about the degree courses in detail to check that the courses you select offer the kinds of Geography that you are interested in. Some students say that Geography is very different at university compared with Geography at school. University will offer you new topics that you haven’t studied before. But it will also explore issues such as climate change and earthquake risk in a multi-disciplinary way and offer new perspectives on topics you may have already studied.

In practice, most people who study Geography at university have studied it as a subject before. That said, given the wide-ranging nature of the subject, not having studied Geography at A level may not prevent you from applying for a Geography course. Check with the Admissions Department at universities for more information. Before coming to study Geography at university, students take a wide variety of subjects in preparation. Physical Geographers will find Chemistry and Maths or Physics a useful background for studying glaciation and atmospheres. Human Geographers will find subjects including History, Biology, Politics and Psychology all relevant in their university study. If you are applying for a Physical Geography degree such as Geography and Geology, or a specialist Human Geography degree, please check the subject entry requirements carefully.

Geographers are very employable and go on to successfully pursue a wide range of careers. These include government advisory and civil service posts, teaching, environmental consultancy and planning.

  • Biodiversity

    This topic covers material that falls into two important spheres of geographical study: biogeography and conservation science.

  • Overpopulation

    Such a rapidly growing population brings challenges for resource use and supply; for example, more food is needed to feed a rapidly growing global population. The resources in this topic cover many high-profile issues in Geography, including Malthus’ theory of overpopulation and Hardin’s idea of the ‘Tragedy of the Commons’

  • Understanding Maps

    This topic examines perhaps the most famous of geographical outputs, the map.

  • Sea Level Rise

    This topic introduces the evidence of current and historic sea level change, and the Earth System processes that control sea level at a variety of time scales.

  • Climate Change

    This topic has become central to the study of Geography over the last two decades.

  • Evidence-Based Policy-Making

    The resources in this topic will help you to delve into the complicated process of policy-making, and find out how researchers are trying to encourage policy-makers to use more evidence in their decisions.

  • Nature-Society Relations

    Urbanisation is occurring rapidly throughout the world. Many would argue that this is separating us from the natural environment, and forcing us to be out of touch with nature. Geographers are interested in how nature-society relationships can best function to create a sustainable world.

  • Sustainable Development

    ‘Sustainable development’ is a widely studied topic in Geography, both at A-Level and at undergraduate level.

  • Portuguese: Favelas

    While the historical intricacies of the favelas are mostly unknown by the general public, writers, musicians, composers, filmmakers and artists have depicted its geography, stories and human relations. Such richness and variety of this depiction enables Portuguese language to be approached through its main subtopics, such as class struggle, high and low culture, community and individual values and economic dependency.