Recruitment to undergraduate geography degrees has fallen by over 10 per cent with all the signs suggesting it could get worse.
The Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geographers' meeting this week at Surrey University heard that applications to read geography for 1996 were down 11 per cent on the previous year with no signs of an improvement in 1997. With initial applications in for 1998, some departments are again suffering "very serious" recruitment problems.
But still greater concern is being reserved for 2000 when this year's GCSE students enter university.
Michael Bradford, head of geography at Manchester University, said that the numbers doing the GCSE this year could drop by up to a third, hitting A-level intakes.
Some university departments may consider accepting students without a geography A-level or equivalent. The downturn is blamed on the greater variety of subjects at A-level and in universities, as well as the introduction of vocational qualifications such as leisure and tourism.
Responsibility for teaching the latter often falls to geographers, tending to weaken geography departments.
With the introduction of tuition fees in September, geographers are concerned students will pick more obviously vocational courses.
Hazel Barrett, of Coventry University, said: "The environmental bubble has burst. 1996 could be a recruitment blip, but it looks like it is going to be a trend."
Geography research, page 8