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Rural Housing Demand and Rural Economic Change (RDF23/EIS/BOSWORTH)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof Gary Bosworth, Prof Ignazio Cabras  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project examines the relationship between housing market changes and the rural economy, allowing a PhD candidate to focus on the impacts of changing rural populations on the operating conditions for rural businesses. Extending beyond economics of population size, the study will explore how ageing populations and the out-migration of young people affect local businesses, how increased house prices (including those driven by second-home-ownership) affect their local economies and how new working patterns might further change relationships between residential preferences and rural economic development.

Over several decades, counterurbanisation has been associated with significant rural economic change. 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 considering residential mobility as a driving force of economic change.

To achieve this, we propose a quantitative/mixed-methods study of housing market trends, business populations and socio-economic characteristics in rural England. This comprises three phases:

  1. With access to datasets from DEFRA and Rightmove, the PhD candidate will be supported to carry out longitudinal analysis of counterurbanisation patterns, commuting and economic change at a local scale. This would include analysis of the performance of different business sectors, business growth rates and household income levels over time compared against change in local population, house prices and housing affordability.
  2. New Survey analysis will examine in detail how the residential preferences of rural house-seekers are changing. This may 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 aims to identify 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).
  3. Analysing embeddedness and community cohesion. This includes assessing the community services that are most valued by housemovers (e.g. see Cabras et al, 2019) 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. 

Overall, the study can build on business research questions of place-based/embedded business practices (Korsgaard et al. 2015) as well as geography research into the socio-economic effects of changing rural populations.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Professor Gary Bosworth and Professor Ignazio Cabras. For informal queries, please contact Prof Bosworth [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 https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. 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 https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • 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


Bosworth, G. & Finke, H.B. (2020) Commercial counterurbanisation and the changing roles of rural businesses. Environment and Planning A 52(3),654-674
Cabras, I. & Lau, (2019) The availability of local services and its impact on community cohesion in rural areas: Evidence from the English countryside. Local Economy 24(3),248-270
Habersetzer, A., Rataj, M., Eriksson, R. & Mayer, H. (2021) Entrepreneurship in rural regions: the role of industry experience and home advantage for newly founded firms, Regional Studies, 55(5),936-950
Korsgaard, S., Muller, S. & Tenvig, H. (2015) Rural entrepreneurship or entrepreneurship in the rural – between place and space. Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research 21(1),5-26

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