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Placemaking Automobilities: rural and urban tourist experiences on the road (RDF23/EIS/WILSON)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Sharon Wilson, Prof Peter Varley  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This PhD opportunity cuts across tourism management and geography, where the candidate will be encouraged to draw from contemporary ideas in mobilities research to understand more about touristic experiences of different forms of mobility.

The development of transportation and communication technologies has produced expanded possibilities for the mobility of ideas, objects, knowledge and people. As a result, urban-rural mobility, including forms of urban-rural tourism has attracted growing scholarly attention (Eimermann, 2017 et al). The point of departure for this project is that movement is integral to the overall tourist experience and resonates with how tourists experience not only the destination, but the journey itself. Despite this, in-depth research into these phenomena is lacking (Song et al., 2012). 

With a particular focus on tourism mobilities as multi-sensual and embodied auto-mobile experiences (Wilson and Hannam 2017), this research will explore how movement and mobilities are constitutive of places. This call therefore invites human geography, tourism, sociology and specifically scholars with mobilities interests to consider the contrasting rural and urban placemaking potentialities of travels in motorised vehicles – specifically in taxis and/or in campervans and mobile homes.

Taxis are part of the architecture of the place encounter, where the lightly regarded role of the taxi driver in shaping the tourist imaginary has yet to be voiced. In the extra-urban and rural context, a sharp increase in caravanning following Brexit and the covid-19 crisis, sales of motorhomes are at an all-time high, creating tourism pressures felt acutely in rural and remote parts of the country such as North Coast 500 route in Scotland.  We ask, to what extent the use of vehicles - mobile places moving through space and time, shape the tourist experience?

Both ideas focus on the transgressive potentials of automobility. The ways meanings are shared, negotiated and mediated are partial, personal, and perhaps even disruptive, and are a key concern of the project. As such, the stranger might be afforded a 'peeling back of the layers’, in urban and rural settings, potentially revealing aspects of a fascinating cultural milieu and a thickening of the sense of place, but filtered through a very particular lens – that of the automotive traveller.

It is anticipated that mobile methods such as ‘ride-along’ ethnographies, in-car interviews and conversation analysis will be employed to examine how placemaking-in-motion is made and unmade in tourism automobilities.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Sharon Wilson. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see   

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc

 Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our doctoral students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Employer, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career Development of Researchers.


Eimermann, M. (2017). Flying Dutchmen? Return reasoning among Dutch lifestyle migrants in rural Sweden. Mobilities, 12(1), 116-135.
Song, H., & Witt, S. F. (2012). Tourism demand modelling and forecasting. Routledge.
Wilson, S., & Hannam, K. (2017). The frictions of slow tourism mobilities: Conceptualising campervan travel. Annals of Tourism Research, 67, 25–36.

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