Professor Robbie Nicol

Senior Lecturer in Outdoor Environmental Education


Professor Robbie Nicol is a senior lecturer in outdoor environmental education at Moray House School of Education, the University of Edinburgh.

My life motivation comes from the realisation that human activities are fundamentally altering the planet’s ability to sustain us in the long term.  As an educator I believe that the outdoors provide places where individuals can rediscover their direct dependence on the planet through embodied experiences. As such my teaching and research interests are directed towards the theoretical development and practical implementation of environmental education, sustainability education and epistemological diversity (different ways of knowing) particularly in the outdoors.

I am currently supervise PhD and MSc students in a range of topics including place-based education, outdoor environmental education, environmenntal philosophy,  emotional intelligences, the use and application of learning models, and cross-cultural education.  I have authored more than 50 articles, co-authored Learning Outside the Classroom, Routledge (2012) and most recently Canoeing Around the Cairngorms: a Circumnavigation of my Home (2016).  I have delivered keynote conference addresses in Japan, Sweden, Canada, Slovenia, Denmark, UK, Finland and the Czech Republic.

I have worked as an outdoor educator within the public, commercial, charitable and voluntary sectors and hold a wide range of national governing body awards in canoeing/kayaking, mountaineering and skiing and maintains an active participation in these activities through journeying.

Outdoor Education at the University


  • BA (Hons) Recreation Management (Moray House)
  • PG Diploma in Outdoor Education (Moray House)
  • PhD (Edinburgh)

Responsibilities & affiliations

I am involved in Continuing Professional Development with a European Union funded Socrates programme titled 'Outdoor Education: Authentic Learning in the Context of Landscapes'. I am a co-opted board member of the European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning, a member of the Advisory Panel for the Wilderness Foundation and a regular reviewer for various academic peer-reviewed journals.

Undergraduate teaching

BEd Primary

  • Global Learning: Citizenship and Sustainability

Postgraduate teaching

MSc Programmes in 'Outdoor Education' and 'Outdoor Environmental and Sustaianbility Education'

  • Outdoor Environmental Education: Concept-Based Practice
  • Environmental Philosophy and City-Based Outdoor Learning
  • Practical programme - Canoeing (River Spey Descent), Winter Mountaineering, Environmental Education in Practice

Areas of interest for supervision

I will supervise research under the headings listed in the research tab.

Current PhD students supervised

  • Briton, D. “Is this an emergency?” Examining “emergency” in the context of school expeditions. Examining “emergency” as a social act.
  • Hanser, C. 
  • Stockwell, L.

Past PhD students supervised


  • Clarke, D.  (2018) Practicing immanence: (still) becoming an outdoor environmental education academic University of Edinburgh.
  • Treacy, J.  (2017) Curricular Sports Programmes and Positive Youth Development in a Scottish context. University of Edinburgh.
  • Abdullah, S.  (2017) An Investigation into the Influence of Outdoor Environmental Education Courses on the Environmental Attitude and Behaviours of Malaysian Participants: A life history approach. University of Edinburgh.
  • Spiteri, J. (2016) Young Children’s Perceptions of Environmental Sustainability: A Maltese Perspective.  University of Edinburgh.
  • Shimoyamada, S. (2016) Production of Scottish Open Gardens. Differences in Perception of Power. University of Edinburgh.
  • Harrison, S. (2012) Place-based praxis: Exploring place-based education and the philosophy of place. University of Edinburgh.

Research summary

  • Outdoor Environmental Education (theory and practice)
  • Environmental Philosophy
  • Epistemological Diversity (different ways of knowing)
  • Experiential Learning
  • Sustainable Development Education
  • Cultural Perspectives on Environmental Education

Project activity

  • Higgins, P., Christie, B., Ross, H., Beames. S. and Nicol R. (current) National Curriculum Project Outdoor Learning. 
  • Higgins, P., Nicol, R. & Ross, H., 2006, 'Teachers' Approaches and Attitudes to Engaging with the Natural Heritage Through the Curriculum'. Perth: Scottish Natural Heritage, (June 2006).
  • Nicol, R., Higgins, P. and Ross, H. (2006). 'Outdoor Education: the views of providers from different contexts in Scotland'. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.
  • Nicol, R., Higgins, P., Goodyear, M and Ross, H. (2006). 'Working with Local Authorities to deliver first-hand experience of the natural heritage through the formal education sector'. Perth: Scottish Natural Heritage.
  • Ross, H., Higgins, P. and Nicol, R. (2006). 'Recognition of Young People's Achievements in Outdoor Learning Activities: A Report for Learning and Teaching Scotland'. Dundee: Learning and Teaching Scotland.

View all 41 publications on Research Explorer