Call for abstracts: GeogEd RGS-IBG Annual International Conference sessions

We are currently inviting abstract applications for the following GeogEd-led sessions at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2023 in London (29th August – 1st September):

Climate changed geographies and education for a better tomorrow?: Possibilities, politics and perspectives

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Convenors: Dr Lauren Hammond, Lecturer in Teacher education (University of Edinburgh) Nicola Walshe, Professor of Education and Pro-Director (IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society) Grace Healy, Honorary Research Fellow (University of Oxford) and Education Director (Secondary) (David Ross Education Trust), Dr Victor Salinas-Silva (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile)

This session seeks to invite discussion about the role, responsibilities and realities of education in a climate-changed world. The session aims to facilitate research sharing and knowledge exchange between colleagues interested in actively considering the possibilities and practicalities of education for a better tomorrow in, and through, schools, universities or other education spaces. From the decisions educators make in the classroom or out in the field, to what policy makers choose to include (or not) in national curricula and guidelines, education is inherently political and often contested. The multi-scalar and intersecting decisions made shape the spaces that children and (young) people and those who work with, and for, them occupy, and their experiences of education. Decisions can lead to the (re)production of systems of ‘unjust hierarchy and dominator culture’ (hooks, 2003: p. 86), or the active challenging of them through relationships, curriculum and pedagogy. Young people are currently navigating complex narratives about, and experiences of, environmental in/justices and futures in their everyday lives (Rousell and Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, 2022; Walshe and Sund, 2022). The ‘gap’ between school and university geography and the politics that surrounds education, influences educators’ agency and the construction and representation of geography in curricula and educational resources. Here, the context of a climate-changed world makes conversations about the possibilities, politics and perceptions of education and education spaces more urgent. This session offers the opportunity to consider geography both as lens through which to examine educational spaces, processes and institutions in a climate-changed world, and a subject and academic discipline (young) people engage with through education to explore the world in all of its complexity.

Please email paper abstracts of 250 words to Lauren Hammond ( by the 10th March for consideration for this session.

Contemporary student geographies: inequalities, injustices, and agency

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Convenors: Matej Blazek (Newcastle University; John McKendrick (Glasgow Caledonian University;

Without having fully recovered from Covid-19 disruptions, university education is being enveloped in a confluence of emergent crises, among others: (i) cost-of-living struggles, unaffordability of studies, and increasing debts that plunge students into poverty, (ii) colonial legacy and everyday manifestations of structural racism, (iii) gender-based violence, transphobia and abuse of power within institutions, and (iv) the rise of poor student mental health along with eroding support structures. At the same time, we witness a rise of student activism facing and challenging these issues, from campaigns to decolonise the curriculum, through student rent strikes, to efforts to root out misogyny and racism from campuses. In this session we invite papers that take stock of contemporary university student geographies, with a particular focus on three interrelated issues: – Structural inequalities and injustices, as experienced by students or manifested otherwise – Students’ own agency in facing, addressing, and challenging these issues – Critical reflections on the roles and responsibilities of academics in supporting students to challenge injustices within the Academy We are interested in research and insight from practice that explores the structural factors that underlie the uneven student experience of university education, and students’ capacities to act as agents of change. We welcome 15-minute contributions from a range of geographical, cultural and institutional contexts; papers that focus on undergraduate and/or postgraduate education; and also those that provide historical insight on contemporary student geographies.

Please send abstracts of not more than 250 words to both Matej Blazek AND John McKendrick ( & by 10th March 2023.

Can we create a flourishing higher education environment that supports student and staff wellbeing?

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Convenors: Jennifer Hill (University of Gloucestershire) and Harry West (UWE Bristol)

It is widely recognised that higher education environments across the globe are becoming increasingly marketised. This has placed great pressure on students and staff within the sector. A survey carried out by the UK National Union of Students in 2020 revealed that just over half of students (52%) had worse mental health than before the Covid-19 pandemic and they appeared to be more anxious than the general population (NUS 2020). In a Chinese study, 25% of surveyed students experienced anxiety linked to worries about academic delays, the economic effects of the pandemic, and the impact on daily life (Cao et al. 2020). Equally, recent surveys of higher education staff have highlighted significant wellbeing and mental health challenges. In the UK, one study found that 53% of academic and academic-related staff reported probable depression (Wray and Kinman 2021) and in another, conducted during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, 47% of academic and professional services staff described their mental health as poor (Dougall et al. 2021).

In this session we wish to debate if and how we might create higher education spaces, systems, processes, curricula and pedagogies that can support the flourishing of students and staff within and across higher education institutions (Vailes 2022).

Contributions might explore the themes below, or consider additional areas of interest. Papers can present results of empirical research or be more reflective in nature.

  • How might university strategies, policies and systems better reflect student and staff wellbeing challenges?
  • How might we recognise and enhance student and staff wellbeing in our curriculum planning, pedagogic practices and assessment processes?
  • How can we build a sense of belonging for a diversity of students in higher education to support positive wellbeing and flourishing?
  • Can further studies into pedagogies of courage, care, compassion, slowness and mattering offer us hope for securing more positive mental wellbeing in higher education?
  • Can hybrid ways of working and learning be used to promote positive wellbeing?
  • How might students and staff work collaboratively to promote positive wellbeing?
  • How can educational developers support staff to embed wellbeing in their curriculum delivery and pedagogic practices?
  • What can we do to generate open discussion and reflection on the wellbeing challenges experienced by staff and students?
  • How can we implement a systemic approach to change within higher education institutions so students can flourish and staff can reduce feelings of pedagogic frailty?

Please email paper abstracts of 250 words to Jennifer Hill ( by the 17th March for consideration for this session.

Exploring the complexities of student transitions in to and through geography degree programmes

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Exact timing to be confirmed

Convenors: Sonja Rewhorn (The Open University; Vicky Johnson (The Open University;

We know student transitions into and through university can be complex, both academically and socially. It is widely accepted that transition programmes into university support student retention in geography.  It is also documented that summer/between levels bridging programmes supports student retention (Habley et al., 2004).  Watson Swail in 2014 highlighted that only having transition into the equivalent of first year undergraduate of higher education was meaningless as students need support moving through university levels.  With Othman Aljohani (2016) noting that students may withdraw going into their final year due to ‘students’ academic abilities and their level of motivation and educational commitment were the most frequently reported reasons for withdrawal’ (p. 44).  Pauline Kneale (2015) reminds us that if we support the students’ academic well-being this goes towards supporting their mental well-being, which supports retention.  We are also aware that family, caring, health and work commitments can impact students moving into final year undergraduate. This session seeks to invite discussion about the transition into and through university for the progression of geography students.  Papers are welcome on any aspect of transition.

Please email paper abstracts of 250 words to Sonja Rewhorn and Vicky Johnson ( &  by the 17th March for consideration for this session.

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