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Title: Contextualising geography fieldwork : perspectives within European higher education
Author: Wall, Glenda Patricia
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2011
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Creating a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 was considered as a priority by the European Commission; the aim being to provide students with greater mobility, choice in their studies and enhanced employability by offering a high quality education system, with comparable qualifications across European universities. This area has been formed through the implementation of the Bologna Declaration, and has meant that European higher education has experienced numerous changes in the past ten years. Geography fieldwork offers many of the generic skills linked to enhanced employability, and this outcome is considered to be one of its outstanding characteristics. It is within this context that this study explores the position, and roles, of geography fieldwork in European higher education institutions. This research provides a thorough analysis and overview of the state of European geography fieldwork, from the perspectives of both academics and students, from universities in 27 European countries. It investigates fieldwork teaching, and the knowledge and skills gained through this; exploring its frequency, scope and the importance placed upon it. A number of constraints on fieldwork's continuation at current levels are highlighted. Academics considered time, funding, student numbers and out-dated equipment as threatening fieldwork provision. Conversely, whilst students listed external commitments, such as working in addition to their studies, family, cost and duration of fieldwork, they conclusively perceived it as being central to their degree studies. The Bologna Declaration focused on improving graduate employability through skill acquisition, and geography fieldwork is a pivotal teaching method in this regard. Despite this, the academics surveyed listed only subject specific skills, such as spatial thinking and understanding process and change, as outcomes of fieldwork. However, students cited numerous employability skills attained through this method of learning including team work, leadership, communication and analytical skills. Attitudes towards fieldwork are changing, and the introduction and increase of tuition fees in some European countries, are fundamental to this. Students are increasingly demanding value for money and universities using exotic fieldwork locations as a means of attracting students. Both of these issues are impacting on the provision of fieldwork within degree courses. Furthermore, it has become apparent that the EHEA has not been conclusively achieved to-date, with confusion still remaining about the length and status of university degree courses. Fieldwork provision varies across Europe, and the reasons for this cannot be separated from the effects of the Bologna Process, which weaves throughout this research and contextualises the state of fieldwork in Europe. Recommendations arising from this study include: the formation of an overarching European geography association, specifically concerned with learning and teaching, that will champion fieldwork; and that benchmark statements for fieldwork should be available to all higher education geography departments within the EHEA. In addition, methods of disseminating the EHEA should be improved, so that decisions and recommendations reach the wider academic community.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available