Societies are interdependent with the physical environment. Increasingly these are fragile interdependences, whether related to urbanisation, development or climate change.  These acute concerns are our challenge in Geography, especially at Queens’ College.

Geography for undergraduates at Cambridge involves a range of lectures, practical classes and field courses, organized around a three-year course divided into three parts, with an examination at the end of each year.  Course work and supervision essays are submitted during each year. 

Year 1 - Part IA 

You study the following two papers, both assessed by written 3 hour examinations: 

Human Geography / Physical Geography 

You also take the Geographical Skills and Methods paper that covers subjects such as numerical methods; survey and interview techniques; documentary and archival data; spatial data; and field, laboratory and desk–based skills. 

Year 2 - Part IB 

All students will take the core paper, “Living with Global Change”. Divided into three sections this paper will explore “Core Ideas” and “Core Themes”, and will deliver “Core Skills”. In addition, students will choose any three from a choice of six option papers: three of the option papers will focus on human geography topics and three will cover topics in physical and environmental geography. All of the second year papers involve an element of course work which is assessed alongside end of year examinations. Paper titles vary each year. Indicative the papers are:

Human Geography 

  1. Austerity and Affluence 
  2. Development Theories, Policies and Practices 
  3. Citizenship, Cities, and Civil Society 

Physical and Environmental Geography 

  1. Biogeography
  2. Glacial Processes 
  3. Quaternary Climates and Environments 

All second–year students participate in a one-week residential field class. This is essential for your final year dissertation research, both in terms of inspiring you in your choice of topics and in teaching specific field research skills. A piece of submitted work on the field class forms part of your second–year assessment. In addition, you will start to prepare for your dissertation research, and a research proposal is assessed as part of the Year 2 examination. 

Year 3 - Part II

You select four papers, from a choice of 12, which are assessed by either three–hour written examination or by a combination of two–hour written examination and coursework project. Papers on offer vary each year. Indicative papers are:

  • The Geographies of Global Urbanism
  • Political Ecology in the Globel South
  • Geographies of Discipline and Social Regulation
  • Biosedimentary Coastal Systems 
  • Biogeography
  • Giaciology
  • The Political Geography of Postcolonialism
  • Geographies of the Arctic
  • Changing Cultures of Risk
  • Volcanology
  • Political Appetities  
  • Legal Geographies

Students write a dissertation of 10,000 words on a topic of their choice. During the summer vacation between the second and third years students typically carry out research for their dissertation, which is written up during Year 3.

Geography at Queens’

  • Work with their DoS and peers in a series of skill and theme supervisions.
  • These supervisions refine writing and analytical skills, and advance subject knowledge.
  • At interview we typically ask interviewees to reflect on a ‘thing’ and its relevance for Geography. 
  • We desire students who are creative, curious and sensitive to global concerns.

Director of Studies 

Acting Director of Studies (2022-23) - Dr Ilona Kater 

My research is focused on Northern and Arctic ecology, examining the complex relationships between human activity, the physical environment, and the living environment. This has centred around the cumulative impacts of land use development (mining, silviculture, hydropower dams etc…), climate change and political factors on reindeer and Sámi reindeer herders in Northern Europe. More recently I have been examining the relationship between researchers, particularly in the natural sciences, and local and/or Indigenous communities, when academic studies are being conducted. This work notes the impacts of power relations between these groups when research is undertaken and disseminated, alongside discussing how greater communication across academic disciplines on these topics is of vital importance.

Dr Graham Denyer Willis (The Chris Rokos Fellow in Geography)

My research considers the collision of democracy, security and inequitable urbanisation in cities in the Global South. As an ethnographer, I am interested in how people practice security in a context where security, as we know it in the North, is a mirage. To this end, my last research project was a multiple year study of homicide and other detectives in the city of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the ways that these detectives grapple with rampant police violence and the growing influence of an organised crime group -often in the communities that they come from. My next project pushes my consideration of the collision or democracy and security further, to the internet, asking how social media platforms may further complicate this paradox by 'moderating' certain kinds of content.