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The Business of Search: Spatial Preference Signals in the UK (RDF17/ABE/MULDOON-SMITH)

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  • Full or part time
    Dr K Muldoon-Smith
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

The proposed studentship is a comprehensive investigation into the spatial structures of business (office, retail and leisure and industrial) search preference signals (SPS) and their implications for the planning and management of cities in the 21st Century. The aim is to reveal mis-matches between the supply and demand of business property in the contemporary city in order to plan more resilient urban futures. SPS offer a spatial insight into the real decision making behaviours and frustrations of the modern business before they purchase a property. Yet, the study of SPS has been challenging due to the cost and practicality of delivering large scale SPS surveys. Even though the construction of business property is a derived demand, business preference is typically an implicit assumption rather than an explicit situational variable in the planning and production of the contemporary city. This studentship aims to resolve these problems by using digital SPS generated through website search activity in the UK. This is because internet browsing generates SPS which can then be benchmarked against existing models of business property stock. This provides a unique opportunity to model the interaction between demand for business property and its physical supply which can be used to inform the efficient use (and re-use) of business property.

The proposed studentship is split into three principle areas of investigation:
1. Data exploration and refinement – Search preference data sets need to be prepared and converted into suitable formats for analysis.
2. Developing SPS tracking techniques using GIS– For example search intensity, search duration; search fixity; search radius and inter spatial movement
3. Determine the implications of business SPS for the production of business property – SPS modelling will be benchmarked against an existing model of business property stock to reveal potential mis-matches between business property supply and demand.

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 (evidence required by 1 August 2017).

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

Please ensure you quote the advert reference above on your application form.
Deadline for applications: 20 January 2017
Start Date: 2 October 2017

Northumbria University is an equal opportunities provider and in welcoming applications for studentships from all sectors of the community we strongly encourage applications from women and under-represented groups.

Funding Notes

This project is being considered for funding in competition with other projects, through one of two types of funding packages available:
• Fully funded studentships include a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates for 2017/18 (this is yet to be set, in 2016/17 this is £14,296 pa) and fees (Home/EU £4,350 / International £13,000 / International Lab-based £16,000), and are available to applicants worldwide.
• As Northumbria celebrates its 25th anniversary as a University and in line with our international outlook, some projects may also be offered to students from outside of the EU supported by a half-fee reduction.


Muldoon-Smith, K. & Greenhalgh, P. (2016) Greasing the wheels or a spanner in the works: permitting the adaptive re-use of redundant office buildings in to residential use in England, Planning Theory and Practice, 17(2), 175-191.

Thompson, E, Greenhalgh, P, Muldoon-Smith, K and Charlton, J. (2016) Planners in the future city: using city information modelling to support planners as market actors, Urban Planning, 1(1), 79-94 (Inaugural Edition).

Muldoon-Smith, K & Greenhalgh, P. (2015) Passing the buck without the bucks: some reflections on fiscal decentralisation and the Business Rate Retention Scheme in England, Local Economy, 30(6), 609–626.

Muldoon-Smith K, Greenhalgh, P., Conroy-Dalton, R. & Alvanides, S. (2015) Urban Transactions: Investigating the Relationship between Spatial Preference and Spatial Configuration in the City of Leeds. 10thSpace Syntax Symposium, University of Central London, 12-17 July 2015

Greenhalgh, P. and King, H. (2013) Developing an indicator of property market resilience - investigating the potential of GIS to analyse business occupier displacement and property market filtering: a case study of Tyne and Wear. Urban Studies, 50 (2). pp. 372-390. ISSN 0042-0980

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