International Geographical Union

On the basis of the International Geographical Union website (www. igu-net. org), write a critical assessment of the global geography of university geographical education. This website doesn't discuss the origin of the discipline of Geography, but merely the bare flesh of the International Geographical Union. A summarised history of the Union is found in what can only be described as a list of past presidents and secretary-generals of the Union.

I believe the website may have been established to be a portal for geographers, as a lot of work has obviously gone into the links page which details a wide range of geographical internet sites; and also the geography department's page, which presents a simple list of the geographical departments which exist in each country. I sense instantly, that the Union don't want to go into great depths about who is part of the union, not only as individuals but also as countries, but makes a great point of what it stands for as a global union of academic geography departments in its statutes.

I would imagine that any geographical department would be entitled to be a member of a national IGU organisation, which in turn answers to the IGU itself. This makes the IGU's simple international website useful in that it provides an easy way to study the task in hand. I found that of the five countries worldwide where more than 25 geography departments exist, only one (USA) is represented by an officer in the current Executive committee. That means that 427 out of 736 departments are represented on the committee by only one out of ten votes, when statistically that vote counts for 58% of the Union's membership.

Other delegates on the Executive committee work from (shown with the number of departments that the IGU website show for that county) Ireland (10), Italy (11), Switzerland (9), Russia (4), China (11), Finland (9), South Africa (13), Mexico (0! ) and Japan (25). It is quite interesting to note that 90% of the executive committee is made up of representatives from northern hemisphere representative organisations, and only South Africa is represented in the executive as a southern hemisphere country.

On a closer analysis, only 10 southern hemisphere countries exist with Geographical departments, does this make Geographical education and analysis a primarily northern phenomenon? Links can be made with the Brandt report which reported the north-south economic divide between countries, that the better economically developed countries were in the north, and the least in the south, with Australia being the exception where the line drops to include Australia as a northern country.

Does that mean that the world of geographical academia primarily exists were money is readily available? Hundreds of thousands of pounds of grants are awarded to the UWA's Institute of Geography and Earth studies to undertake various research projects. It is the findings of that kind of research that creates the basis of Geographic academia, and is spread between states, and academic institutions globally through the distribution of reports and journals. Unless money exists, departments simply don't establish themselves properly.

There are many examples of countries were only one or a small few geography departments exist, these are generally state universities were available finance is channelled in order to provide politicians with geographic information, whilst providing an opportunity for students to study the key principles of the discipline. I also wanted to look at this task from a religious approach, as I had noticed that a substantial number of members at Aberystwyth's Christian union, and St. Michaels church were students (or lecturers) of Geography, and upon a detailed global study using data from the IGU website, found that 62.5% of the countries where geography departments exist are states where the primary religion (over 50%) is of some sort of Christian denomination.

In actual fact, the vast number of departments in some of these countries, such as the UK, USA, Germany and Australia would actually increase the overall percentage even more. I would suggest that this points back to the early modern geographers, who were mostly clergymen. I would suggest then that as a side point, more followers of Christ take a great interest in the world and 'distribution' of people and landforms by, in their opinion, the creator of the world.

A problem is seen in the website in that it shows no Geography departments for Mexico, yet Professor Josi?? Luis Palacio-Prieto, one of the IGU's Vice-Presidents works for the Institute of Geography in the National University of Mexico. Further inspection of the website under the National Committees sections shows that a Mexican geographical organisation exists, Sociedad Mexicana de Geografi y Estadi?? stica, although I am not too sure how happy the executives from that organisation would be if they were to properly look at the website of their umbrella organisation.

In conclusion, I found the IGU website to be of great reference for discovering more about the Union, and the many university departments which exist globally. It provided a core source for a simple list of geography departments in each country, making a global analysis painstaking. However, as detailed, there are some inconsistencies in the data. The data showed that money is the key basis of the location and distribution of geography departments, but that the Executive Committee of the Union is mis-represented according to where the great geographical 'powers' that exist in today's competing world of academia can be found.