Top Geography Departments – Spring 2012 Survey Results

June 8, 2012 at 1:02 pm  •  Posted in Education, Geography by  •  4 Comments

I didn’t receive as many survey responses as I’d hoped but as the academic year comes to an end it feels like an appropriate time to post the Top Geography Department survey results.  If you’re interested in participating, the survey is still available.

As noted in the preliminary survey results post, there are significant differences between the survey results and the NRC rankings.    At some point I may produce my own ranking with a combination of NRC and survey results.  But, I want to give the methodology some more thought and, hopefully, gather more survey responses.  In the meantime, here are your Top 20 Geography Departments:

  1. University of California – Santa Barbara
  2. Penn State University
  3. University of Colorado – Boulder
  4. Ohio State University
  5. Arizona State University
  6. University of Wisconsin – Madison
  7. University of California – Los Angeles
  8. University of Maryland – College Park
  9. Boston University
  10. University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
  11. University of Oregon
  12. Clark University
  13. University of Washington – Seattle
  14. San Diego State University
  15. University of California – Berkeley
  16. University of Kentucky
  17. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
  18. Texas A&M
  19. University of Texas – Austin
  20. State University of New York – Buffalo

In addition, I’ve compiled a list of programs that received a number of votes but didn’t make the top 20.  Honorable mention departments include:

Oregon State, Utah, South Carolina, Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan State, Iowa, Syracuse, Texas State, Illinois, and USC.

I’m hoping to get more input from the academic community in subsequent surveys.  And I’ve received several suggestions that I hope to incorporate in my next installment.

Thank you to those who participated in the survey!


  1. john / August 25, 2012 at 4:07 pm / Reply

    Is this list a joke? UC Berkeley went from off your list to #15. Meanwhile Boston U goes from #1 to #9?
    UC Berkeley is premier—the professors, the resources, the location, the research potential. That it isn’t in the top five, if not top three, discredits your entire list.

    • Justin / August 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm / Reply

      Hi John. No, the list isn’t a joke. If you read the text that goes along with each list you’ll see that one list is a compilation of rankings from the National Research Council and the other list is based on a non-scientific reader survey. Also, geography is a unique academic discipline, especially in the US. So while UC Berkeley is an outstanding University, the geography department’s appeal is limited due to a variety of factors mostly having to do with their focus on the human/cultural branch of geography versus other branches of geography. UC Berkeley may be a top 3 program for human/cultural geography but it’s not a top program in other areas (e.g., physical geography and/or GIS); for these subjects students would do better to enroll in the College of Natural Resources. Hope this helps. Best, Justin

  2. John / August 30, 2012 at 5:57 am / Reply

    It does a help a little, but I think overall your list is still “out to lunch,” and of little value to future geography grad students. Perhaps students happening upon your geography rankings would be better served if you made separate rankings for GIS, cultural, etc. This would be similar to b-school rankings of entrepreneurial, international, and other programs.

    • Justin / August 30, 2012 at 9:27 am / Reply

      John – I think the separate rankings idea is a good one – it’s come up before – and I’m hoping to get that done sometime soon. When I was applying to grad programs there were no rankings and very little information available at all that would indicate how departments stacked up against one another. When I generated the NRC compilation and the survey I didn’t see anything better and I still don’t. If you find a better list let me know but otherwise your “out to lunch” comment is unwarranted. I think you’re probably just annoyed that Berkeley or some other favorite doesn’t rank higher. Best wishes, J.

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