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Geography in Higher Education in Australia

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This article discusses the current state of the geography discipline in higher education institutions in Australia. Geography in Australia is vulnerable - and perhaps more so than in many of the other countries covered in this special issue. Reasons for this are discussed. Amidst description of a series of struggles, this article also seeks to highlight some of the complexities and contradictions of the Australian situation. The importance of teasing out discipline-specific issues from wider problems of the tertiary education system is emphasized - as is a reading of geography not as a coherent 'whole' but as a series of variously situated 'scenes' or 'neighbourhoods' encompassing teaching and research (Mee, 2006). These sites of geographical praxis and knowledge have their own cultures, lives, struggles and opportunities. Vulnerabilities are not uniformly present, and amidst scenes of decline are experiences of survival, growth and diversity. Specific initiatives are much needed to improve the visibility of geography in Australia, and there is a lot to learn from experiences of restructuring. But prescriptive 'solutions' to vulnerabilities are unlikely to fit the needs of all geography units. Instead, a rhizomatous agenda of disciplinary strengthening is suggested as a means to both buttress discipline visibility and accommodate the diversity of geography's many identities.

Keywords: Australia; Geography education; history of geography

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Australia

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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