Course: PhD studentship in the School of Real Estate and Land Management

Course details

  • Location

    Royal Agricultural University Campus
  • Duration

    3 years (Full time)
  • Academic Year

    21 September 2020 - 21 May 2021

Closing date 5:00pm Friday 22 May 2020. Applications are invited for a new 3 year, full time, PhD studentship in the School of Real Estate and Land Management, to start in September 2020.

Course overview

Addressing the rural housing crisis in the UK


The need for rural housing is critical across the UK, particularly in view of the rural restructuring that is beginning to take place as the UK leaves the EU. There is general agreement that there is an economic and social imperative for more housing to be built, and more quickly than is currently the case. Yet there are equally strong concerns that this drive to create more housing could impact negatively on the social, cultural and environmental fabric of the countryside. In 1926, the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE) first Honorary Secretary, Patrick Abercrombie, claimed that “it should be possible that a just balance be struck between conservation and development”. This idea, of just and sustainable development, remains a vision for rural areas. However, in the 90+ years since Abercrombie’s statement we have struggled to achieve this balance. At the core of this is a concern that the realities of rural life are not well understood, by politicians or the public. Too often, the housing crisis is portrayed as an exclusively urban issue. Rural poverty remains largely unacknowledged, even though low wages and high living costs mean there are pockets of real deprivation and housing need in the countryside.

Allied to this is recognition of the need for a reappraisal of how we understand housing need, in terms of changing housing aspirations and domestic construction techniques. Trends such as declining homeownership, changing family structures, changing patterns of migration, affordability concerns and precarious rural labour markets are fundamentally changing peoples’ aspirations for the forms of housing that they aim to access at different stages of their lives. Equally, new industrial approaches to house construction offer the possibility of increased flexibility in terms of housing form – possibly reducing the need for people to consider moving home as their aspirations and resources change. Research in this area thus needs to move beyond tenure and choice frameworks, to consider the range of dimensions that shape aspirations, from political economy and the state, to the supply of housing and its potential socio-environmental impacts, to socialization and individuals’ dispositions towards new housing forms.

Indicative research questions

  1. What is the scale of rural housing need, and what are the principal constraints to accelerating the provision of affordable rural housing, in the UK?
  2. How significant is addressing the current rural housing crisis to supporting the development of a vibrant post-Brexit rural economy?
  3. How should we conceptualise housing aspiration?
  4. What influence does location have on the provision of rural social housing in the UK?
  5. What new forms of construction and tenure might help address peoples’ changing housing aspirations?
  6. What are the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of new housing and tenure forms?

Indicative research methods

The precise development of the project and generation of suitable evidence will be agreed between the candidate and supervisors. However, the research method is likely to involve an extensive review of research and policy documents, semi-structured interviews, case studies and possibly comparative analysis of the construction processes, tenure forms and policy instruments used in other countries. It is envisaged that the candidate will undertake the majority of the fieldwork in the UK, which will involve some periods of working away from home. Depending on the direction of the research and the availability of funding, it may be possible to undertake some fieldwork outside the UK. This is all subject to agreement with the supervisors and suitable ethical and risk-based approval.

The supervisors

Professor Neil Ravenscroft is Pro Vice Chancellor (International) and Head of the School of Real Estate and Land Management at the Royal Agricultural University. He has worked extensively on rural regeneration and land tenure issues, in the UK and elsewhere, and was instrumental in preparing the first UN Food & Agriculture Organisation guidance on good practice in land tenure arrangements.

Nick Millard is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Real Estate and Land Management at the RAU. He has combined academic work with a professional career in land management with research interests including land tenure and the impact of change on the rural economy in the UK.

Matthew Smith is Programme Manager for the MSc Real Estate course within the School of Real Estate and Land Management. He is MRICS qualified with professional experience in Valuation, Agency, Development and Investment Appraisal and Compulsory Purchase Compensation. He is a contributing author to training manuals of the NAEA, a research paper by the RICS and a key valuation text for real estate students. As a teacher, he has a Cert Ed and M.Ed. and he has numerous nominations for teaching awards including the prestigious THE Award and has won awards for teaching innovation and the creation of learning assets.

The candidate

You should be a UK or EU student with a good honours degree and preferably a Masters degree, ideally in a land-based subject. You should also have a strong working knowledge of housing and rural policy in the UK. You will be based at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, and will be expected to participate fully in the life of the university. While your primary focus will be on research, you will have the opportunity to undertake a relevant teaching qualification and to undertake limited teaching at undergraduate and Masters levels.


The successful candidate will receive a fee waiver for three years plus a tax-free stipend equivalent to that currently recommended by the UKRI (£15,285 for 2020/21). A small research budget will also be made available to contribute towards data collection and analysis, conference attendance and publication costs.

The programme

The PhD is a three-year full-time programme validated by the University of Gloucestershire. It includes training in research skills and a regular discussion seminar at which all candidates discuss the progress of their study. You may also attend taught subject classes to update your knowledge and understanding on disciplines related to your chosen subject of study and to further your critical review skills. The programme is completed when you submit your thesis for assessment and defend your research in a viva voce examination.

General enquiries about the programme should be directed to Professor Meriel Moore-Colyer, Graduate Dean at the Royal Agricultural University (

Specific enquiries about this project should be directed to Professor Neil Ravenscroft (

How to apply

Those interested in applying for this opportunity should complete the application form available at

The closing date for application is 5:00pm Friday 22 May 2020. Interviews will take place at the Royal Agricultural University in the following two weeks, with the successful candidate starting in September 2020 (date to be agreed).