Internal Academic Review Committee

Report on the Review of the Department of Geography

The Department of Geography was recognized by both the External Consultants and the University Review Team as a strong, active and productive department that delivers a well-respected undergraduate program, enjoys an international research reputation, fosters a growing doctoral program and has had much success in securing major external grants.

The recommendations of the Review Team and the External Consultants, arising from their comprehensive review of the unit, and the conclusions derived by the Internal Academic Review Committee (IARC), may be summarized under the headings which have been used in the Review Team's report: curriculum, graduate students, equity, research presence and resources.

Overall, the Department of Geography is credited with a quality undergraduate curriculum. It is recognized for maintaining its enrolment in a context where the nationwide trend in the discipline is towards losing majors. The Review Team recommended that the Department explore opportunities in interdisciplinary teaching and enhance the field and practical components in the honours curriculum. The IARC concurs with these recommendations. It is noted that the department has initiated a curriculum review to help maintain its excellent reputation.

The graduate program in the department, at both the doctoral and master's levels, is flourishing. To continue to attract first-rate students, financial packages offered to incoming students have recently been increased. This should be monitored to ensure that the Department remains competitive in this arena.

The Review Team report indicates that equity progress, as reflected in recent appointments, is reasonable. It notes that departmental research advances in areas of equity and social responsibility, such as Aboriginal peoples, immigration and racism, women's studies, and aging and health, should also be reflected in the undergraduate curriculum.

The External Consultants and the University Review Team noted the substantial research presence, both nationally and internationally, of scholars from the Geography Department. The IARC also commends the department for its expanding research profile and international reputation. The reports recommended a reassessment of the traditional research groupings in order to better encourage and reflect current strengths, and the IARC is pleased that the Department is actively addressing this issue.

As in the case of internal academic reviews of other units, those involved in the review of this department noted that constraints related to resources, both physical and human, which are required to support the academic endeavour, are of concern. Specific examples of significant resource challenges facing the department, as identified in the reports, covered a range including faculty complement, technical staff, infrastructure requirements, library resources, computing facilities and other space requirements. The Department of Geography was lauded by the Faculty for its strategic use of limited resources, and the IARC noted that the Department continues to be creative in facing these challenges.

Although the Queen's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Laboratory was not specifically the subject of this review, the importance of this resource for the Department of Geography is unquestionable and therefore comments did arise in the report of the External Consultants. The challenge is to develop a more integrated and cooperative relationship which will produce synergies for both the Department and the GIS Laboratory.

Follow-up on these recommendations and issues will take place in the annual staffing and budget strategy meetings between the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Vice-Principal (Academic).