10 April 2018
Lancaster’s main Geography degrees have been accredited by the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), the UK’s learned society and professional body for geography.

Nine of Lancaster’s Geography programmes have been given RGS accreditation, which recognises ‘good practice in geography learning and teaching’.

Dr Duncan Whyatt, Director of Undergraduate Programmes at the Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC), said: “The RGS is the recognised body for geography in the UK, with a long history of supporting geography education, independent research and expeditions. All the great geographical explorers like Shackleton were part of the RGS. So it’s good to get the RGS seal of approval.”

“Accreditation was introduced by the RGS two years ago to make sure that the syllabus remains relevant as the world changes, and that issues like climate change, poverty and migration are covered properly, so we get globally informed citizens,” Duncan explains.

The RGS says that: “Accreditation is one of the ways for a university to receive an independent check that the knowledge, skills and other attributes expected of high quality geography graduates are being delivered. During the accreditation process, the course’s content and delivery is assessed by a peer review panel [of academics and professional geographers working in public and private sectors].”

The first part of the application focusses on teaching, ensuring a degree programme fits with the nationally agreed subject benchmark statements, as well as making sure it includes a range of teaching methods including lab work, field work, and technical skills. The second part assesses the transferable skills and employability training offered by a degree course. The submission for both parts must be backed up by extensive paperwork and evidence.

“The accreditation shows that we are covering the right kind of topics, giving students the right kind of teaching, and the right skills for employability, so when leave Lancaster they have the right set of skills to get employment,” said Duncan.

The accreditation comes into effect immediately and lasts until the end of 2023. It covers the main Lancaster undergraduate geography degrees, and the integrated Masters degrees where students do an extra year to gain a Masters qualification. It also covers the Study Abroad options, where students get to spend a year in a partner university overseas. The accredited courses are:

BA (Hons) Geography
BA (Hons) Geography (Study Abroad)
MArts (Hons) Geography
MArts (Hons) Geography (Study Abroad)
BSc (Hons) Geography
BSc (Hons) Geography (Study Abroad)
MSci (Hons) Geography
MSci (Hons) Geography  Study Abroad
MSci (Hons) Geography (Professional Experience)

Duncan is particularly pleased that the Study Abroad degrees were accredited.

“Unlike many universities our Study Abroad year is part of a three year degree, rather than a separate fourth year so the modules studied during the year abroad count towards the final degree. We don’t have direct control over these modules but our Study Abroad advisor, Dr Emily Heath, works really hard to make sure the students pick modules that are equivalent to what they would do at Lancaster, so they get equivalent credentials.

“We also submitted our specialist degrees in Human Geography and Physical Geography, which we offer for people who are really keen to focus on one aspect of the discipline.

“The RGS told us that they couldn’t accredit these degrees currently because they don’t fit into the broader evaluation criteria because of their specialist nature. They told us that they are considering introducing different criteria and so we should be able to resubmit.”

Duncan thanked Dr Ally Gormally, Dr Emily Heath and Dr Gordon Clark for their help with the accreditation process.