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The impacts of in-migration to Scotland’s island communities

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  • Full or part time
    Dr L Philip
    Dr M MacLeod
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

In recent decades many remote and rural communities across Europe and North America have witnesses a rural population turnaround. In some areas this has reversed a long established trend of persistent rural population decline. In-migrants to rural areas are drawn from all age groups and previous research in, for example, the USA and the UK has shown that mid-life adults, a ‘pre-retirement’ cohort, account for a high proportion of in-migrants to remote and peripheral areas (Champion and Shepherd, 2006; Fleming 2005; Plane and Jurjevich, 2009). The in-migration of mid-life and ‘young old’ individuals is important for the maintenance of demographic and economic stability in many rural areas yet there has been very little academic scrutiny in the UK context of this age group and the role they play in the demographic, social and economic attributes of rural communities. Recent research has shed some light on the phenomena of pre-retirement migration to remote rural Scotland (Philip et al, 2013; Philip and MacLeod, 2016; Stockdale et al, 2013). This research project will develop this research agenda further to explore recent in-migration to Scotland’s island communities and to question whether the ongoing recession and associated period of austerity is having an impact on the pre-retirement age group’s migration patterns making and consequent demographic fortunes of Scotland’ island communities.

Recent critiques of an Anglophone-centric conceptualisation of counterurbanisation (e.g. Ghartzios, 2013) have suggested that experiences of counterurbanisation in Scotland align more closely with the experiences of Scandinavian and mainland European nations than they are with those of England which has provided the dominant narrative of counterurban migration. There is thus an exciting opportunity to contribute to international debates about the diversity of patterns, processes and outcomes associated with counterurban migration based on empirical research conducted in various case study areas across rural Scotland.

This project will examine how demographic processes interact with and shape the trajectory of social and economic change within different island communities in Scotland, seeking evidence of how counterurban migration affects long term sustainability. The research will include, as case studies, islands of varying size, population and remoteness and will include locations in the Gaidhealtachd where language shapes the social and cultural environment and offers an unexplored dimension of the patterns and process of counterurban migration.

This research project will involve periods of fieldwork in remote rural Scotland. Funding will be required to support travel and subsistence costs arising from fieldwork as well as funding for research costs such as those associated with household survey administration, interview transcription etc.

The successful candidate should have, or expect to have, an Honours Degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Human Geography or a cognate social science. Applicants will be offered appropriate research skills training to support their doctoral studies.

Essential Background:
Human Geography or a cognate social science

Knowledge of:
Population geography, rural geography, migration, demographic ageing, rural development, language and identity

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project, it is for self-funded students only.


Champion, A. and Shepherd, J. (2006) Demographic Change in Rural England. Pp 29-50 in P. Lowe and L. Speakman eds., The Ageing Countryside: The growing older population of rural England (London: Age Concern England).
Fleming, A.D. (2005) Scotland’s Census 2001: Statistics on migration (Edinburgh: General Register Office for Scotland).
Gkartzios M (2013) ‘Leaving Athens’: narratives of counterurbanisation in times of crisis. Journal of Rural Studies 32 158-167
Philip LJ and MacLeod M. (2016) Tales from Small Island: applying the ‘path dependency’ thesis to explore migration in mid and later life to a remote rural community. Sociologia Ruralis, DOI 10.1111/soru.12142
Philip LJ, MacLeod M and Stockdale A. (2013) ‘Retirement transition, migration and remote rural communities: evidence from the Isle of Bute’ Scottish Geographical Journal 129(2) 122-136
Plane, D. and Jurjevich, J. (2009) Ties that no longer bind? The patterns and repercussions of age-articulated migration. The Professional Geographer 61(1) 4-20.
Stockdale A, MacLeod M, Philip L. (2013) ‘Connected life courses: influences on and experiences of ‘midlife’ in-migration to rural areas’ Population, Space and Place, 19(3) 239-257.

This project is advertised in relation to the research areas of the discipline of Human Geography and Social and Applied Language Studies. Formal applications can be completed online: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply. You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Geography, to ensure that your application is passed to the correct College for processing. NOTE CLEARLY THE NAME OF THE SUPERVISOR and EXACT PROJECT TITLE ON THE APPLICATION FORM. Applicants are limited to applying for a maximum of 2 projects. Any further applications received will be automatically withdrawn.

Informal inquiries can be made to Dr L Philip ([email protected]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter and to discuss potential project proposal development.. All general enquiries should be directed to the Graduate School Admissions Unit ([email protected]).

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