Researching the experiences and effects of precarious working in UK University Geography

About the Project

States of Precarity is a research project conducted in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute for British Geographers. It aims to understand peoples' experiences of precarity within UK geography, in the UK higher education sector.

The project seeks to:

  • Better understand the immediate and long-term effects of precarity on UK Geography staff (postgraduate to professor, alongside those who have left academia).
  • Provide a snapshot of the far-reaching implications of precarity on the discipline.
  • Inform the development of best practice guidelines for UK Geography Departments.

The project consists of two data collection stages. The first will run between 24th July and 24th October 2023, and will involve a qualitative survey that can be accessed here. The second will follow up on the survey results with a series of focus groups.



Precarious working arrangements for academic staff are currently commonplace across the UK higher education sector, including the discipline of Geography.  These arrangements may involve, but are not necessarily limited to: short-term contracts; fixed-term contracts; part-time contracts; the requirement to move and be mobile; and long probation periods. For context, HESA (Higher Education Staff Statistics) states that among academic staff in the UK, 77,475 individuals (33% of academic staff) were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2021/22.

Our knowledge of the experiences and effects of precarious working arrangements on individuals (both short and long-term) and their impacts on academic work cultures is currently limited. Addressing this gap in knowledge is vital if we are to better understand the effects of precarious working on the discipline, and if we are to work towards better working conditions for those experiencing precarity in academia. 

Who are we?

The States of Precarity research team consists of geographers from a range of career stages at different universities across the UK. More information on the team can be found here.

The project is developed in collaboration with the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute for British Geographers.

Research design

The project is divided into two parts.

Part 1:  A qualitative survey collating a range of experiences and perspectives on precarity within UK HEI academic geography. This survey will be open to participants between 24th July to 24th October 2023. Details on the survey, how the data will be used, and what participation entails, can be found here.

Part 2: A series of focus groups that delve deeper into issues raised in the survey responses. 

Who can participate?

Anyone who has worked in the field of geography in a UK higher education institution is welcome to participate in the survey. This can include individuals from postgraduates to professors, and also people who have decided to leave the discipline, or academia more broadly. 

If you would like to participate in the survey, please click here

If you would like to be considered for participation in our focus group sessions, please email us at


If you have questions about any aspect of the study, please feel free to email us at



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