Counterurbanisation has been associated with significant rural economic change, stimulating increased attention on the impact of in-migrant commuters and retirees on rural social geography (Lowe and Ward, 2009). Trends of commuting, gentrification and higher house prices have transformed the socio-economic and demographic composition of many rural communities. In some areas, entrepreneurial new residents have added to the local economy (Bosworth & Finke, 2020) but the overall relationship between migration and rural service provision remains inconsistent (Cabras et al., 2019).
As demand for rural homes has increased further since Covid-19, and as new ways of working are evolving, the relationship between rural housing markets and local rural economies demands new research to inform rural economic development and planning policies. Practically, the study will generate deeper understanding of the differentiated characteristics of rural economies and the influence of residential change on their entrepreneurial ecosystems. Conceptually, it can reinvigorate rural development theories by widening the analytical lens beyond processes taking place within the locality and identifying residential mobility as a driving force of economic change.
To achieve this, we propose a quantitative study of housing market trends, business populations and socio-economic characteristics in rural England. This comprises three phases:
- With access to new datasets from DEFRA and Rightmove, who have offered their support to the project, the PhD candidate would be supported to carry out longitudinal analysis of patterns of counterurbanisation, commuting and economic change at a local scale. This would include analysis of the size and performance of different business sectors, individual business growth rates and household income levels over time compared against change in local population, house prices and housing affordability.
- New Survey analysis will examine in detail how the residential preferences of rural house-seekers are changing. Where possible, this would include data on the family composition and employment characteristics of movers to draw direct connections between housing and the local economy. This phase of the study will identify the features of rural places and properties most attractive to entrepreneurial individuals, skilled employees and different occupational categories who are most likely to contribute to their local economies (see Habersetzer et al., 2021).
- Analysing embeddedness and community cohesion. This includes assessing the community services that are most valued by housemovers (Linking to the methodology from Cabras, 2019, that took local “third places” as indicators of community cohesion) and measuring local economic embeddedness and community cohesion based on networks, local expenditure patterns and business dependence on their local markets/suppliers. A range of indicators will be developed to build a picture of rural community cohesion e.g. availability of services of amenities such as village shops, post offices etc. From a business perspective this builds on the place-based/embedded questions (Korsgaard et al. 2015) to better understand how changes in rural housing markets are associated with different types of rural entrepreneurship. The research will build on the ICS led by Cabras for REF2021 on rural “third places”.
This project is supervised by Prof Gary Bosworth.
Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
- 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 currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.
For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see
Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22/BL/EIS/BOSWORTH) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: 18 February 2022
Start Date: 1 October 2022
Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.