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What is Geography? Perceptions of first year undergraduates in South Africa

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journal contribution
posted on 09.03.2017 by Jasper Knight, Kirsten Robinson

Disciplines such as Geography are well placed to respond to the changing needs of society and the effective application of geographical knowledge to real-world problems. This project surveyed first year Geography undergraduates’ understanding of “What is Geography?”, both before and after an exercise in which geographic topics were identified within recent newspapers. The survey instrument employed was an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire, and was undertaken with first-year undergraduate Geography students at a university in South Africa. Results show that the exercise enabled students (n = 158) to more readily see the application of geographical knowledge to both environmental and social problems that they identified in the newspaper stories. Students also identified that studying Geography may be able to help them increase their skills, employment prospects and earning potential. These findings can help locate the disciplinary concerns and applicability of Geography in post-apartheid South Africa within the wider context of the twenty-first Century world.