Our Geography and Environmental Studies submission consisted of 18.4 FTE staff, an increase from 11 in 2014.

Targeted investment in our research strengths has helped us to increase our external income by 320%, quadruple the number of research outputs in peer-reviewed journals, and increase the number of our PhD students by over 150%.

We have increased our international engagement, developing collaborations in over 60 countries. This has allowed us to increase internationally-sourced research funding from 5% to 20% of our total income.

Results in REF 2021

  • 53% of our overall research quality was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 58.7% of our research outputs were rated as world-leading or internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour.
  • 50% of our impact case studies were rated as outstanding in terms of their reach and significance.

Research areas 

Our research is structured across two multi-disciplinary research groups that provide intellectual and organisational focus and connect with the University's research themes.

Environmental Processes and Impacts has established critical mass in climate science, with particular expertise in paleo-environmental reconstruction, and climate change in alpine and glacial environments. We have published highly cited research papers on mountain climate change, the contribution of small glaciers in Greenland to sea-level rise, and using tephra (volcanic ash) deposited in sediments, to help date past changes in environments around the world.

Culture, Society and Governance has established strengths in geographies of health and wellbeing, and historical geography. We have extended our wellbeing focus, adding expertise on children and young people in Sub-Saharan Africa, securing succession in health geography, and extending expertise in economic development. As a coastal university, we have also built research strengths in coastal environments and marine environmental management, linking with the Centre for Blue Governance which has acted as a focus for interaction with our own local communities on the South Coast. 

Impact case studies

We submitted two impact case studies, demonstrating the reach and significance of our research:

Ancient London map with a magnifier

Presenting places: connecting with, and preserving, the past

Our research has pioneered the creation of accessible and searchable digital databases across the UK, reflecting how places have changed with time. This has enhanced public understanding of UK cultural heritage through citizen science. The ‘GB1900’ project (2016-2018) created the world’s largest historical gazetteer, involving over 1,000 online volunteers in the digital recording of place names in Great Britain. Since its launch in July 2018, there have been more than 1,000 data downloads by local historians, researchers, libraries, archives and organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors. The resulting data has been included in national regulation to preserve Welsh naming of properties and streets, and in the identification of 49,000 miles of missing footpaths in England and Wales, incorporated into the Ramblers’ “citizen geography” Don’t Lose Your Way campaign.

Female entrepreneur working on a market stall in Indonesia

Improving the wellbeing of international women migrants and their families in Indonesia

Research on the impact of international female migration on ‘left-behind’ families in Indonesia has directly led to changes in international policies and programmes. These have benefited over 1 million female migrants and their dependents. Changes include an extension to individual rights and duration of protection and support; improvements to national and regional pre-departure training programmes to support integration on departure and return; and the creation of women’s self-help groups and youth centres to support families and returning migrants. The Portsmouth-Brawijaya Centre for Global Health, Population and Policy, established in 2015, has also enhanced international capacity in collaborative research on intractable development issues across South East Asia.

Collaborations and partnerships

  • Helmholtz Centre, Potsdam
  • Chinese Academy of Sciences  
  • St Louis University, USA
  • Office for National Statistics
  • International agencies, including the UN International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Charities, such as Action Against Hunger
  • NGOs, including PRACTICA Foundation and the WASH Alliance
  • South Downs National Park Authority

Infrastructure and facilities

  • Institute of Marine Sciences
  • Earth Surface Materials Laboratory: atomic absorption spectrometer, laser particle size analyser, flume, rainfall simulator, and ion chromatograph
  • Tephra analysis (muffle furnaces, centrifuge, polishing machine, micro-manipulator) 
  • Coring equipment (Russian peat corer, gravity corer (lake sediments)) 
  • Scanning electron microscopes with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, an inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometer, and an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. 
  • Extensive meteorological/data logging equipment
  • Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
  • Field survey including two differential GPS (Leica), 20 micron 3D laser scanner (for non-invasive field measurement of earth surfaces), Ground penetrating radar, drone technology (UAV)