Professor Robbie Nicol (Principal Fellow Higher Education Academy)

Professor of Place-Based Education


Professor Robbie Nicol is a Professor of Place-Based Education  at Moray House School of Education and Sport, 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 a Director of The Shieling Project

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

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


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

  • Place-Based Education
  • Outdoor Environmental Education (theory and practice)
  • Environmental Philosophy
  • Epistemological Diversity (different ways of knowing)
  • Experiential Learning
  • Sustainable Development Education

Project activity

I am on a part-time secondment with the Institute for Academic Development. My project activity is to  promote residential teaching, learning and research opportunities within the University of Edinburgh.

View all 43 publications on Research Explorer