Geography is critically important and should remain as a core subject on the Junior Certificate curriculum, according to the head of the Geography Department at UCC.

Both geography and history were removed as core subjects from the Junior Cert last year, making them optional.

The dropping of history as a core subject is currently being reviewed.

A letter from the heads of six geography departments in Irish third-level institutions expressing "deep concern at the demotion of geography from being a core subject" was published in the Irish Times today.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Dr Kieran Hickey said the subject deals with human/environment relations and is critically important, particularly given current environmental and social problems.

Dr Hickey, who was one of the six signatories on the letter, said that studying geography also gives students good practical skills, such as being able to understand and read maps and also understand and read data.

He said the subject is still an elective one and is a very popular one, particularly at third-level, and the decision to remove it as a compulsory subject was very shocking.