About the School of Geography and Planning

The School of Geography and Planning was formed in 2024 as the result of a merger between the Department of Geography and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

The School of Geography and Planning on the edge of Weston Park

The School of Geography and Planning has an international research reputation spanning both disciplines:

  • 100% of our research conducted within the geography and environmental studies subject area was rated as world leading or internationally excellent in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021.
  • 95% of our research conducted within the urban studies and planning subject area was rated as world leading or internationally excellent in REF 2021.

The school is housed in an award-winning, purpose-built building on the edge of Weston Park, lying close to the University Library, the Students' Union and central lecture theatres.

It offers a range of facilities for staff and students, including a state-of-the-art urban design studio, a computer teaching laboratory, postgraduate and undergraduate physical geography laboratories, and image processing facilities, which provide an important component for teaching and research in remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS).

History of the Department of Geography

The University of Sheffield received its Royal Charter in 1905, and the Department of Geography was created not long afterwards.

At a meeting of the University's Court in 1907, the President of the Royal Geographical Society, Sir George Goldie, gave an inspirational speech to the room, which included William Edgar Allen, the Chairman of Edgar Allen & Co Steel Works.

Compelled by Goldie's speech, Edgar Allen offered £150 a year for five years to introduce the teaching of geography to the University.

In the early years, the geography department was located in Western Bank and was small, with one lecturer - even by 1914 it had only 15, predominantly locally based, students.

The First World War saw reduced student numbers, apart from a ‘special course’ related to the war effort, for which 41 students enrolled; probably studying map reading and surveying. Post-war student numbers soared, reaching 50 in 1919.

In 1923, Sheffield University was contracted to train staff for the new London and North Eastern Railway company and Rudmose Brown taught ‘Railway Geography’ to 133 students. After 16 years with only one staff member, 1924 saw the arrival of Alice Garnett as an Assistant Lecturer and the establishment of a BSc degree in Geography. A BA degree in Geography followed in 1928.

Alice Garnett’s enduring legacy to her department was her lobbying for a purpose-built building for geography, where the geography annexe had been on Winter Street. The building - which geography still occupies - was opened in 1970 by the then head of department, Ron Waters. Terraced houses on Winter Street were demolished for the new geography building, which was integrated into Weston Park. This and other features - including the hexagonal teaching rooms - earned the building a Civic Trust commendation.

The building contained a library, a map library, a physical research laboratory with a huge flume, an aerial photograph analysis room and teaching rooms sufficient for all but the biggest first and second-year lectures. It also had offices for academic staff, tutorial rooms, a workshop, photographic and cartographic suites.

We are now one of the largest geography departments in the UK, with a diverse student body and research that is not only international but world-leading.

Study with us

Join an international community of geographers, planners, and environmental scientists to help tackle the biggest issues in our changing world.

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.