Every year PGRG award prizes for the best dissertations in population geography in the UK. These are the Joanna Stillwell Undergraduate Dissertation Prize and The Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize. These prestigious prizes each carry an award of £100.

How to enter the dissertation prize competitions:

Calls are made (on the website and by email) for entry to the Joanna Stillwell Undergraduate Dissertation Prize in Spring, and the Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize in Autumn each year. Supervisors are invited to submit dissertations to the competition by sending them by email to the PGRG Prizes Officer. A panel of the PRGR Committee judges the dissertations and makes the awards.

Please note that we can only accept one submission per institution.

Please send submissions directly to me at:

Congratulations to Ellie Thompson (University of Cambridge) for winning the Joanna Stillwell Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2019

My name is Ellie and I recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a BA in Geography. Through my degree I have been especially interested in geopolitics and citizenship, and more broadly in the ways that geographical thought can draw links and disentangle interactions across a diversity of topics and scales. Feminist geography in particular was something that I was keen to explore in my dissertation as a method of analysis from the global to the local and the personal; not only to dismantle grand geopolitical narratives but to also center on the voices and agency of those marginalized by hegemonic discourses. My dissertation focusses on one particular initiative in Berlin by Refugee Voices Tours, a walking tour designed and guided by Syrian refugees, in light of Europe’s so-called refugee ‘crisis’. They offer walking tours of Berlin’s historical sites and compare the stories of these places with the events of Syria’s civil war and the circumstances which caused them to flee and travel to Germany. I came across the tour before starting my degree and found it immensely informative and powerful, and it was through the analytical lenses I learnt in my degree that I was increasingly captured by their project and came to understand why it was so effective. I found it touched on many aspects of geography and made evident to me that questions of migration, citizenship and geopolitics cannot be cleanly cut from place, personhood and memory. This emphasized the feminist conviction that ‘the personal is political’ and especially aligned with the need for qualitative research and ethnographic methods to access these experiences. It must be by including these voices and understanding the lived experiences of conflict that progressive discussion and policy can move forward successfully.

I am currently taking a year out to explore other interests, travel and gain some career experience. I hope to start a Masters in 2020.

Congratulations to Gordon McLachlan (University of Leeds) for winning the The Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize 2018

Well done Gordon for your excellent dissertation on geodemographics. We asked Gordon to tell us a little about himself –

I am Gordon, and I have recently finished an MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) at University of Leeds. My interests lie in how the world and its people are structured: the who, the what, the where, and, perhaps the most interestingly, the when. As a result, once I came across geodemographics in my studies I saw not only the great value they have for population studies, but also the great potential.

Geodemographics have the powerful ability to condense a myriad of socio-economic variables into an easy to synthesis output. This distilment of factors makes them great for comparing one area with another and determining spatial patterns. This is good, but when you start to think temporally rather than just geographically you can start to see how geodemographics could be utilised to compare areas not just across space, but also across time. My dissertation used on this idea to explore the socio-economic nature of neighbourhoods over time, and asked questions on whether key characteristics are engrained or if they more fluid and dynamic.

Currently I am working as a GIS consultant utilising many of the central analytical and cartographical skills I learned during my MSc dissertation research and write up.

Congratulations to Calypso Owen (University of Sussex) for winning the Joanna Stillwell Undergraduate Dissertation Prize 2018

Well done Calypso for an excellent dissertation on the topical debates around Brexit and EU Nationals. The project, titled ‘Brexit as rupture? Voices, Opinions and Reflections of EU Nationals from the Liminal Space of Brexit Britain’ has recently been published as a working paper by the Sussex Centre for Migration Research. To read more click here

My name is Calypso and I went to the University of Sussex in 2015 to study BA Geography & International Development. My interest in world politics and current affairs intensified during my degree studies and I undertook modules that explored varied and interrelated subjects such as ethnicity and nationalism, religion in global politics, conflict and violence and the geographies of rising and declining powers. I have always been interested in the ways in which we can use geographical thought, practice and approach to think critically and consciously about the impact of events.

As a student at Sussex before, during and after the British referendum in 2016, I knew that the impact of Brexit was something I was keen to explore through my degree. The motivation for my research dissertation came from a genuine space of empathy and interest for those who found themselves unwillingly at the core of much of the campaigning, migrants. The ultimate analytical aim was to map and unpack participants’ subjectivities about their affective experiences and embodied reflections situated within the liminal space of a pre-Brexit Britain. By engaging with individuals who represented one of the symbolic and physical bodies that found themselves in this space, I hoped my paper would offer some clarity in Brexit’s liminality. As a recent graduate I am exploring different career paths and looking at the various options in graduate jobs.

Congratulations to Niall Newsham (University of Liverpool) for winning the 2017 Bob Woods Postgraduate Dissertation Prize

Well done Niall for your excellent dissertation on the highly pertinent topic of the demographic impact of Syrian migration in Germany.

We asked Niall, to tell us a little about himself –

My name is Niall and I have completed undergraduate and postgraduate courses at the University of Liverpool. I am interested in the mechanisms of population decline and the variation of fertility, mortality and migration over geographical spaces. In studying Population & Health MSc at Liverpool, I gained an understanding of contemporary demographic issues, core theory and advanced statistical analysis methods. For my dissertation, I examined the role of Syrian migrants in shaping Europe’s demographic future through applying a series of Bayesian projection models to analyse the likelihood of population growth in Germany through 2100. I am currently working as a data analyst in my hometown of Cardiff gaining practical experience in statistical analysis to strengthen my application for a PhD in the next academic year.

Congratulations to the Joanna Stillwell Undergraduate Dissertation Prize winners 2017 –

First place, Elizabeth Augarde, University of Leeds

Second place, Anwen Davis, University of Edinburgh

Third place, Elizabeth Morrison, University of Nottingham

We asked first place winner Elizabeth, to tell us a little about herself –

My name is Lizzie and I came to the University of Leeds to study BA Geography in 2013. I was keen to explore the relationship between geography and disease, having done some research into HIV spread at Sixth Form. My degree exposed me to a wide range of topics and methods, and I became especially interested in epidemiology and cartographical methods for exploring population geography. I loved modules that explored how population structure is related to the varying levels of disease risk of different demographic groups. This led me to undertaking a dissertation exploring the geography of suicide risk in the UK; I used GIS to identify hotspots of risk, and was fascinated to explore the way that population characteristics can so drastically affect one’s risk of suicide. I’m about to start a graduate position with Atkins Global as a GIS Consultant where I hope to put the skills and knowledge I’ve acquired at Leeds to good use!

Exceptional Awards

PGRG occasionally makes exceptional awards to recognise contributions to Population Geography.

In 2013 a PGRG Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Professor Tony Champion and Professor Tony Fielding who have been leaders in studies of migration for several decades. The Awards were presented at the International Conference on Population Geographies in Groningen.