Based on data on the establishment, change, and closure of undergraduate and graduate programs in higher education institutions of geography in China from 1980 to 2021 extracted from a variety of sources, this article discussed the development process of these institutions from three perspectives—types, growth, and distribution—and the current main issues they are facing. The following results were obtained. First, higher education institutions of geography include research institutions and departments at universities/colleges. Universities/colleges running geography departments could be divided into 11 categories: comprehensive, normal, engineering and mining, agriculture and forestry, technology and information, city and architecture, finance and economics, tourism, ethnic, language, and military universities/colleges. Second, it is necessary to divide geography institutions into "discipline" and "major," considering the difference in the number of geography majors in different institutions. Third, the development of higher education geography institutions can be divided into three stages: 1980-1998, stable growth period; 1999-2009, rapid growth period; and 2010-2021, fluctuating growth period. The various types of universities/colleges that run geography departments affect the growth of geography institutions in different stages. Fourth, the distribution of geography institutions can be divided into three stages: provincial stable expansion (1980-1998), provincial-prefecture level fast expansion (1999-2009), and provincial-prefecture level continuous expansion (2010-2021). Furthermore, there are differences in the spatial distribution and expansion trend of various types of universities/colleges that run geography departments. In the past 40 years, the types, growth, and distribution of higher education institutions of geography in China have been continuously optimized. Recently, there has been a development momentum of forming institutions with geography as a discipline as the core body and institutions with geography as a major as extended space. While this is a healthy development, it is also necessary to strengthen the disciplinary identity and communities in order to avoid the misunderstanding that geography is not a unified discipline for its diversified development, to alter the common phenomenon that "geography" or "geographic sciences" is disappearing from department names, and to reduce the risk of major institutions being closed.