The direct impact of a DFE on accessibility could not be quantified due to this exceeding the scope of the Project. In order to explore this, as well as the intrinsic connection between accessibility and inclusivity, this literature-led chapter is in collaboration with Black Geographers.
INTRODUCTION: BLACK GEOGRAPHERS
Black Geographers formed as a collective of Black geography students and graduates who have first hand experience of the many barriers which prevent Black students from studying geography, and how isolating the field can be even after navigating these barriers.
Through collaborative work Black Geographers aims to not only encourage more Black students to study geography but to also begin transforming Geography as a discipline, to make it more engaging and inclusive at every level of education.
We provide resources, mentoring, networking, and internship opportunities to the students and academics we work with. We also work with other educational institutions and geography organisations to improve representation, accountability, and access across schools and universities.
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FIELD TRIPS & PHYSICAL ACCESSIBILITY
Currently, field trips are designed with the notion that everyone is physically able, and very little research has been done into how physical barriers can decrease participation in geography.
Globally, there are 1 billion people living with some form of disability, making up 15% of the global population (The World Bank, 2021). In addition, disabled students form a significant but underrepresented minority in higher education in the UK (AdvanceHE, 2018), and a report published by House of Commons (2021) found that the number of students in higher education with a known disability is increasing. In 2019 to 2020, 332,300 UK higher education students said that they had a disability of some kind (cognitive or learning, mental health, multiple sensory, social or communication), this was 17.3% of all UK students (House of Commons, 2021).
More specifically, within environmental subjects disabled people are still significantly underrepresented, and this exclusion can operate on three levels: practical access and negotiation of the physical environments of higher education institutions, the level of teaching, and the level of social experiences (Hall et al, 2002). Importantly, field trips in geography commonly take place in rural, coastal or ‘remote’ environments, and it was found that participation appears to be particularly low in courses or modules that contain a fieldwork component (Hall et al., 2002). For example, a published account of a disabled student's experience of fieldwork in the Peak District reported that she ‘found it uncomfortable and felt isolated with a reduced quality of experience’ (Desforges 1999).
Moreover, it must be acknowledged that not all disabilities are visible and mental health should also be central to this discussion (Tucker and Horton, 2019).
FIELD TRIPS & FINANCIAL ACCESSIBILITY
The cost of a field trip is a further barrier to creating accessible geography, in which it is widely recognised that the subject of Geography tends to attract fewer young people from financially disadvantaged backgrounds (Dorling, 2020). This is because it has been found that almost all courses require financial contribution, setting students back hundreds to thousands of pounds (Giles et al., 2020). Examples of the type of financial considerations within field trips include travel and lodging, loss of wages, and costs of dependent care (Giles et al,. 2020), as well as vaccinations for safer travel to some locations, or requirements to hold qualifications that have costly training as factors (Peasland et al., 2019). It has also been highlighted that despite the opportunity of bursaries and discounts, students can also feel excluded by the hidden costs of purchasing clothing and equipment (Stokes et al., 2012).
A recent study by Abeyta et al. (2021) found that that the total sum of field education in geosciences (geology, earth science, physical geography), estimated to be approximately $2,000 per student participant, was inaccessible to students from low-income groups. In addition to this, a bachelor’s degree in geoscience was estimated to typically require 30 to 60 days of field experience to supplement classroom education and give students the opportunity to ‘apply theoretical and practical concepts’ learned in the classroom to real-life situations. This could immediately deter applicates, especially with the additional consideration of ‘optional’ field trips, and it was concluded that this had the wider impact of acting as a barrier to diversifying the subject.
Overall, by addressing finance-based exclusion, which may ultimately influence a student’s decision to participate in field trips or fieldwork, we could work towards a positive, generative, collective and valuable experience for all participants and a create a safe learning environment in the field (Giles et al., 2021).
INCLUSIVITY IN GEOGRAPHY
Accessibility is about being inclusive and making sure the transformations that we make into the discipline make strides toward improving the experiences of currency and prospective students.
Improving accessibility in geography will optimise access, but to increase uptake of the discipline from a diverse range of students, we need to consider how barriers can be intersectional and use the concept of intersectionality to ensure diverse recruitment. An inclusive geography will give equal access and opportunities to everyone regardless of their race, gender, disability and other social determinants (Desai, 2017; Mcllwaine and Bunge, 2019).
PARTICIPATION OF BLACK STUDENTS IN GEOGRAPHY
Black Geographers posed a question to schools, universities, and organisations alike: “why aren't there more Black people in Geography?”. Through collaborative effort Black Geographers aim to not only answer this question, but to also begin transforming Geography as a discipline to make it more engaging and inclusive at every level of education. With this, our key research findings (Black Geographers, 2020) have been summarised below:
Across Oxbridge, fewer than 3 Black students were admitted to study geography in 2018. In the same academic year, only 1.7% of all enrolling undergraduate geography students in the UK identified as Black.
Currently, Black students represent 7.2% of the undergraduate cohort, and similarly to KS4 and KS5, the Western-centric colonial curriculum and reading list may be to blame for the low numbers of Black pupils studying geography at undergraduate level.
Total admitted undergraduate students (UK) - All subjects 2018/19
Total admitted undergraduate students (UK) - All subjects 2018/19
We also discovered that in 2018, there were only 10 Black geography professors across the UK. This means: 7 in every 1000 geography professors identifies as black. With so few Black professors across the UK and even fewer within geography departments, limited representation of Black people in academic may be deterring undergraduate geography students from further academic pursuits.
Numbers for Black geography students at undergraduate level, the number decreases even further at post-graduate level. There is a large discrepancy in the percentage of Black students who receive a 2:1 or above classification at the undergraduate level compared to other ethnic groups.
For more information, please go to the full report by Black Geographers:
The literature provides vast evidence that field trips, and subsequent fieldwork, are not currently as accessible, and thus inclusive, as they should be. With this, it must be acknowledged that DFEs have the clear potential to increase accessibility, in which this format of learning could provide an effective way for field trips to be designed with those most marginalised in the field at the forefront.
Importantly, this could increase student participation within the Geography, which could ultimately promote further interest in sustainable career sectors; having significant wider social impacts for both people and the planet.