Geography at Newcastle provides a lively environment for both physical and human geography research
Our research focuses on core geographical topics and issues, and we have a strong interdisciplinary orientation. We are located in the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, and connect with earth science, humanities and social science research across the university.
Geography is home to the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) which is an internationally recognised research centre focusing on applied and policy-orientated research on urban and regional development issues.
Our staff and PhD researchers also have good links to the Institute of Health and Society and the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability.
Our postgraduates come from a wide range of academic backgrounds and our postgraduate research is equally diverse in terms of its subject matter and geographical focus.
We welcome applications from students interested in PhD and MPhil topics in a range of areas. The research areas for both Human Geography and Physical Geography where we can provide supervision give an indication of our range of research interests.
Please also look at our listing of current PhD research in Geography
Our research activity in Geography is organised through a number of clusters, and postgraduate researchers are very involved in these clusters, which bring both staff and students together.
All our academic staff welcome inquiries from prospective PhD students about supervision. The following information shows the range of topics where we can offer supervision, grouped by research clusters.
Economic Geographies PhD topicsEconomic Geographies PhD topics
Uneven impacts of and regulatory responses to the credit crunch - Jane Pollard
The crisis in sub-prime mortgage markets in 2007 started in the suburban labour markets of the USA and has spread across the globe as a consequence of the extension of US models of asset-backed securitisation. Although commentators point to the crisis as evidence of the internationalisation of credit, this internationalisation remains geographically uneven.
This unevenness is crucial to understanding the speed, the global reach and the uneven depth of the crisis. PhD research could look to document and learn from such unevenness.
The main objectives would be to undertake empirical and theoretical work to (1) improve understanding by linking analyses of the crisis at different spatial scales (transnational, national, regional and local) and (2) to analyse cross-national responses and experiences with a view to learning and building resilience to future potential shocks.
Social innovation in financial institutions - Jane Pollard
In light of the contemporary credit crunch, there is renewed interest in the question of whether the UK financial system is 'fit for purpose' and, more broadly, how we design financial institutions that enable long term economic growth.
PhD research could explore (1) some of the variations in the nature and mission of banking institutions in different parts of the world; what is a bank and what should it be/do and (2) a range of 'alternative' financial institutions that claim to have broader social and economic benefits, for example, credit unions, Islamic financial institutions and so forth.
The regulation of economic activity - Jane Pollard
Prospering, internationally competitive small firms are crucial for the UK and its regions’ economic and social well being. Yet there are widespread and longstanding concerns about the appropriate level and forms of regulation of such firms.
Literatures spanning Economic Geography, Sociology, Management, Organisation Studies and Industrial Relations critique the often aspatial, acontextual conceptualisation of firms that is a feature of much of the small firm literature and, as a consequence, the 'one size fits all' approach to regulation of 'typical' firms.
In this vein, PhD research could produce a more context-sensitive understanding of small firm regulation by exploring the spatial and temporal dynamics of how small firms in different regions/sectors receive, understand and respond to regulatory change.
Global production networks and geographies of ethical economy - Alex Hughes
I am keen to supervise PhD projects on any aspect of global production networks and/or ethical economy, including corporate responsibility, fair trade and ethical consumption.
Proposals addressing the spatiality of corporate responsibility initiatives are particularly welcome, addressing the tensions between global standards and private regulation and the impacts of corporate responsibility in particular places.
New areas of interest include corporate responsibility and ethical consumption in the global South and ethical public procurement.
Local and regional development in a global context - Andy Pike
Applications are encouraged from students interested in connecting the broadening conceptions of 'development' regionally and locally with international practice and policy.
Devolution, spatial policy and economic performance - Andy Pike
Applications are encouraged from students interested in the relationships between devolution, spatial policy and economic performance in an international context. This project links to our involvement in the Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) based at LSE.
Geographies of brands and branding - Andy Pike
Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring the geographies of brands and branding, involving goods and services as well as spaces and places.
Evolution of local and regional economies - Stuart Dawley and Danny MacKinnon
Applications are encouraged that seek to better understand the geographically uneven evolution of local and regional economies. Particularly, though not limited to, adaptation and adaptability; path creation; and the dynamics of branching and diversification.
We welcome applications that connect conceptual development to empirical analysis within a wide variety of territorial and sectoral contexts.
Stay At Home Dads and regendering of care in the wake of recession – Al James
Emerging evidence suggests that, in the aftermath of the recession and associated labour market change and welfare reform, increasing numbers of men are assuming a greater share of care and household labour. PhD applications are encouraged from students keen to explore the complex geographies of this potential ‘regendering of care’ phenomenon, and its potential for shifting the focus of work-lfie balance debates beyond an assumed ‘female-only’ problem.
Female entrepreneurship and inclusive growth in the Digital Economy / Sharing Economy – Al James
There is growing policy excictment about the ‘new’ possibilities the so-called Sharing Economy for enabling workers from a wide range of backgrounds to access new forms of ‘digital work’ that fit around personal life commitments. Applications are invited for PhD research in feminist labour geography that explores the geographical opportunities for female entrepreneurship and labour market empowerment across different online work platforms and in different urban settings.
Offshored work and new economic-development geographies of opportunity in the Global South – Al James and Raksha Pande
The Global South remains oddly marginalised as a focus for study and research in Economic Geography, as if best left to Development Studies specialists. PhD applications are welcomed from students seeking to deepen our understanding of worker agency in making and shaping geographies of capitalism outside the Anglo-American world, and to extend an exciting hybrid economic-geography/development geography intellectual ‘trading zone’.
Financial resilience and diverse economies of coping amongst migrant communities – Al James and Jane Pollard
The aftermath of the global financial crisis and subsequent period of austerity has prompted geographers to search for 'alternative', more socially sustainable models of economic growth. Yet the majority of geographical analyses have largely failed to learn from Southern knowledges, practices and outcomes of crisis recovery and financial resilience. PhD applications are invited from students keen to explore diverse financial practices of mutual aid, peer-to-peer support, risk sharing and aid amongst migrant communities in the Global North, and to theorise back on ‘mainstream’ conceptions of financial resilience.
Governance and the built environment – Astrid Wood
Applications are welcomed from students wishing to look at comparative urbanism, critical urban theory, development, the Global South, governance, inclusive cities, mobilities, policy mobilities, postcolonial studies, South(ern) Africa, sustainability, transport and urban studies.
Geographies of Social Change PhD topicsGeographies of Social Change PhD topics
Geographies of race and ethnicity - Alastair Bonnett, Anoop Nayak, Michael Richardson, Peter Hopkins, Matej Blazek
Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring the contested geographies and politics of race and ethnicity in contemporary Britain. Proposals may focus upon debates about whiteness, issues about youth, gender and ethnicity or anti-racism and multiculturalism and debates about migration.
Participatory and Collaborative research with children and youth - Matt Benwell and Matej Blazek
Applications are welcomed by those looking to explore innovative approaches to undertaking participatory and collaborative research with children and young people. This might include the use of sound and radio, visual methods and online technologies. Projects introducing innovative elements of collaboration to more traditional approaches (e.g. ethnography) are also encouraged.
Human trafficking Matej Blazek
Applications are encouraged from students interested in investigating human trafficking. Projects might address any aspects or geographical contexts of human trafficking, although those looking at processes and/or experiences of human trafficking would be particularly welcome.
Occidentalism and the Idea of the West - Alastair Bonnett
Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring the idea of the West, either in the West itself or in non-Western societies. Professor Bonnett is also keen to supervise and engage students interested in theories of occidentalism and westernisation.
The History of the Left and/or Nostalgia - Alastair Bonnett
Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring the history of radical politics. Professor Bonnett has a specific research interest in the relationship between the left and the politics of nostalgia but welcomes any students interested in the broad area of radical/socialist history.
Geographies of religion - Nick Megoran, Michael Richardson and Peter Hopkins
Applications are encouraged from students interested in the changing geographies of religion, faith and spirituality. In particular, we welcome applicants interested in: religion, belief and intergenerational relations; youth and religion; religion and contemporary international relations; religion and geopolitics; visions of the apocalypse and the role of faith in affecting geographies of migration and mobility.
Novel and nostalgic expressions of cooperative living - Helen Jarvis and Alastair Bonnett
Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring alternative grassroots strategies of co-operative living that express widely held yearning for a more socially just, communal, family-friendly urban ideal. Such alternative living arrangements are illustrated in the case of new or retrofitted cohousing (where collectively self-governed private family units share access to common amenities) as well as more ‘utopian’ ecovillages.
A groundswell of popular interest in ‘community-led’ grassroots housing and community groups, projects and movements is one response to the perceived crisis in housing affordability and the mismatch between speculative housing supply and demand for alternative, more collective and mutually supportive living arrangements.
Co-creating community engagement for sustainability - Helen Jarvis
Applications are invited from students looking to explore new collaborative spaces for the co-production of knowledge and debate on the green sharing economy at different scales of housing, community organisation, neighbourhood planning and city-regional governance.
In all cases projects would function in collaboration with a partner organization. The questions explored may explore ways to combat the social isolation, carbon footprint and care burden associated with rising numbers of single person and senior households.
Work/life reconciliation: ethnographies and infrastructures of everyday life - Helen Jarvis and Alison Stenning
Applications are encouraged that use innovative ethnographic approaches to explore the interlinkages between urban settlement patterns and a ‘new normal’ diversity of working time arrangements and non-traditional family-household structures.
It is increasingly relevant in this field of research to account for neoliberal patriarchies and the impact of austerity in the micro-social geographies and practices (of time, space and an ethic of care) of work/life reconciliation.
Socio-political implications of geospatial technologies - Wen Lin
The growth and development of geographic information system (GIS) and related technologies in the past several decades have significantly impacted the ways in which spatial data are produced and used in society.
More recently, the development of Web 2.0 technologies and mobile devices has given rise to the emergence of volunteered geographic information (VGI) or user-generated geographic information.
A rich and interdisciplinary body of work in Critical GIS, participatory mapping, information and communications technology, and urban geography has called for investigating how various geospatial technologies have been constructed and employed in a variety of social contexts.
Applications are encouraged from students interested in examining the complex intersections of the developments and usage of GIS and VGI and their socio-political implications situated in particular spatial and temporal contexts.
Geographies of social and spatial media - Wen Lin
In recent years, the rapid development and increasing employment of social media platforms and Web-based mapping tools (examples include WikiMapia, OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, etc), engaged with through mobile devices as well as desktop interfaces, have brought new challenges and questions for GIScience research.
In particular, how can we capture, model and analyse these digital data that tend to be produced at a much larger and more massive scale as well as a faster pace? Applications are invited from students interested in exploring and investigating ways of collecting, mapping and analysing these social and spatial media data at various scales.
Marriage, gender and family - Raksha Pande
Applications are invited from students interested in exploring gender and family relations among the South Asian diaspora in the UK. Topics may include exploring arranged marriages, forced marriages and narratives of love and romance among Asian migrants.
Masculinities and gender-based violence - Raksha Pande
Applications are invited form students interested in exploring constructions of masculinity in India and the Indian diaspora. Potential topics may include gender relations among young men and women in urban India, ‘eve-teasing’ and sexual harassment.
Night and the City - Robert Shaw
Applications are welcome from anyone interested in researching diverse elements of the night-time city.
Potential topics might include: the role of alcohol and leisure (the ‘night-time economy’) in cities, including the governance and planning of alcohol in public places, the diverse social roles of alcohol, and the relationship of different social groups to alcohol; the night as a space for outsider or marginalised social groups; artificial lighting and other nocturnal infrastructures; work and employment in the night-time city; experiences of the domestic night.
Of particular interest would be projects which diversify the geographical focus of current research into the urban night, either by looking at cities in regions which have had less focus, or by finding urban spaces which have not been explored at night.
Geographies of gender and generation - Michael Richardson
Students are encouraged to enquire if they have research interests in the concepts of gender and generation as geographical concerns. Enquiries would be especially well received if students have considered the intersection of both concepts and the impacts they have on identity formations.
Investigations in these areas could provide key insight to understanding social change. Intergenerational approaches would be particularly well suited to research in these areas.
British and Irish identities - Michael Richardson
Research that considers the social geographies of Britishness and Irishness would be welcomed. This could focus on diasporic communities; ex-pat identities; or the impacts of emigration and immigration. Prospective students may want to consider what it means to be British, English, Scottish, Irish or Welsh at a time when the union is being questioned. Debates around continual involvement with the EU may be relevant here.
Environment - Economy - Society – Technology - Gareth Powells
Students are encouraged to propose PhD research that will critically examine interactions between environmental, economic, social and technical processes. This could, for example, be research that connects empirically to cities, energy, food, housing or transport through critical engagement with notions of sustainability.
Geographies of health inequalities – Alison Copeland
Currently health care in the UK is a hot topic and issues around this can be seen almost daily in the national press. Applications are encouraged from students interested in studying health inequalities. This may include the North/South divide, access to health care services, regional or local variation in health needs, hospital admissions etc. Areas of interest need not be restricted to the UK as health inequalities are a worldwide problem.
Art, Performance and Politics – Caleb Johnston
Applications are welcomed from those interested in the intersection between art (theatre, visual art, music, dance) and popular publics. I am looking for projects thinking through the capacity of the arts to open up spaces in which to forge political solidarities, ‘new’ affective attachments, and a more vulnerable public politics.
Transnational Geographies of Care and Intimacy Caleb Johnson
I am keen to supervise projects examining emerging geographies of transnational care, labour and intimacy. Situated in relation to a massively expanding global care economy, there are a wealth of possible projects at this junction, including but not limited to: domestic caregiving, labour migration, reproductive biomedical technologies, elder care, medical tourism, transnational families, and more.
Power, Space, Politics PhD topicsPower, Space, Politics PhD topics
Nationalism in Central Asia - Nick Megoran (Geography) and Joanne Smith Finley (Modern Languages)
The past two decades have witnessed the birth of independent republics in former Soviet Central Asia and identity-based struggles in Chinese Central Asia. Applications are invited that explore issues relating to nationalism, boundaries and mobilities, ethnicity and cultural politics, international relations and geopolitics, and territorial governance.
Everyday nationalism - Matt Benwell
Applicants interested in examining everyday expressions of nationalism are invited to get in touch. These might consider how nationalism is reproduced (and/or resisted) through everyday representations, practices and rituals. Applicants wishing to look at these issues within institutional or domestic spaces of childhood and youth are especially encouraged.
International Boundaries - Nick Megoran, Alison Williams , Craig Jones
International boundaries frame the modern world. Although literally at the edges of nation states, rhetorically and metaphorically they may be at their hearts. Applications are encouraged from students interested in exploring the historical and contemporary geographies of the delimitation and demarcation of international boundaries, and the politicisation and management of border areas.
Memory, war, peace - Nick Megoran, Matt Benwell, Rachel Woodward , Craig Jones
The ways that we remember the past inform our understandings of the present. This is particularly clear in our remembering of past wars or our marking of the deaths of those in today’s conflicts. Applications are invited from students interested in exploring how state, church, military, civic authorities and activist groups frame the present as they commemorate and recall the past.
Histories of geopolitical theory - Alison Williams, Nick Megoran, and Alastair Bonnett
Applications are invited from students interested in exploring the intellectual history of geopolitical theory: why have ideas developed in certain places, and how they changed as they have ‘travelled’ and been reappropriated in other places?
Cultures of contemporary militarism - Rachel Woodward, Alison Williams , Craig Jones
Applications are invited from students interested in pursuing research into the public representations and performances of military institutions and forces. Topics here might include practices of commemoration and memorialisation, military displays at non-military public events, or celebrations of military capacity orientated towards civilian audiences. We are open to the use of both visual and textual analyses.
The politics of military environmentalism and land use - Rachel Woodward
Applications are invited from students wanting to explore the issue of the military use of land beyond the battlefield. Issues here include the conservation and protection of valued environments on military training areas, issues of civilian engagement with military training activities in specific areas particularly where military land use is contested, and the politics of changing management regimes on military lands.
We are open to expressions of interest for studies of any national context.
Gender relations and identities in military forces - Rachel Woodward , Craig Jones
Applications are invited from students wishing to explore gender relations and identities within military forces, within any national or international context. Ideas for research include issues of women’s military participation, the operation of gender relations and gender identities within military institutions including military masculinities, and the representation of soldiers as gendered bodies.
We are open to the use of a range of methods in the study of gender and military forces.
Military landscapes - Rachel Woodward and Alison Williams
Applications are invited from students for projects exploring the construction, representation and interpretation of military landscapes, within any national context. Military landscapes include spaces of memorialisation, spaces of military use and habitation, and spaces of preservation and heritage construction. We are open to suggestions about potential conceptual and methodological approaches for projects under this theme.
Military aviation and airspaces - Alison Williams
Applications are welcomed from students wanting to explore the geographies and geopolitics of military aviation and airspaces. Topics may include analysis of the airspace structures of specific states, military low flying, aerial power projection, air force basing issues, and air power and sovereignty.
Popular geopolitics of aviation - Alison Williams
Applications are invited from students interested in pursuing research into the popular geopolitical representations of military and civil aviation, in both contemporary and historical time periods. Topics might include analysis of aviation-related promotional material (posters, timetables, toys, stamps or other ephemera) or analysis of accounts of, and publicity surrounding, record-breaking flights.
Radical Politics - Jon Pugh
Jonathan Pugh is keen to supervise PhD projects on any aspect of the changing nature of radical politics today. Topics could include the changing nature of new social movements and radical protest; and the changing technologies, ways of framing and conceptualizing radical challenges to the state and neo-liberal hegemony more generally.
Geographies of international development - Kate Manzo , Jon Pugh , Craig Jones
We are keen to supervise PhD projects on any aspect of international development, including human rights and development, trade and development, gender and development and governmental and non-governmental practices.
Proposals with a spatial focus on areas, countries or regions of Africa and the Anglophone Caribbean are particularly welcome. Proposals are also invited that seek to analyse aspects of small island development policy and/or practice, and the shirt towards ‘resilience’ in development policy and practice
Development – Environment – Participation - Jonathan Pugh, Gareth Powells
We encourage proposals for PhD research that investigates critically the interactions, tensions and opportunities between participatory forms of economic development and environmental governance in the global south. Potential projects could also include the changing nature of participatory planning, institutional capacity building and collaborative approaches to planning in the Global South.
PhD proposals that examine the policy, practice and theory of participatory development will be reviewed.
Critical geopolitics of the Southern Cone and Antarctica - Matt Benwell
Applications interested in developing proposals related to geopolitics in Chile, Argentina, the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), the South West Atlantic and/or Antarctica are particularly welcome. More specifically, those looking to explore the popular, resource and creative geopolitics of territorial conflicts in the region are encouraged.
Children, young people and critical geopolitics - Matt Benwell
Those interested in the ways children and young people engage with past and present geopolitical issues are invited to apply. This could encompass debates about militarism and connections to the lives of children and young people; the participation of children and young people in geopolitical issues/diplomacy throughout the world (e.g. through online engagements with social media) or their involvement in the commemoration of geopolitical events.
Geographies of international law and war and 'Geographies of the Middle East - Craig Jones
Craig is interested in hearing from prospective students who are interested in one or a combination of any of the following topics: war and (para)military violence; conflict and migration in the Middle East; and international law and the laws of war. He particularly welcomes applications from students wishing to explore the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and their impacts on the wider region; the changing geographies of the 'war on terror', including the rise of the Islamic State; survival and health care under conditions of war; and the legal dimensions of war.
For any further general information, please contact:
GPS Postgraduate Secretary
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology
Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 5200
Fax: +44 (0)191 208 5421
Researchers in the Physical Geography cluster work in interdisciplinary teams with a focus on four core research areas: palaeoclimatology, water science, cryospheric systems and landscape evolution. There is a breadth of research experience across the team which has excellent international and national profile. Our research has a strong science base, and this is supported by the development of dedicated laboratory and computing facilities. Environments where we are active in research include places in the UK, Greenland, Iceland, Paagonia, Turkey, USA, Tibet and Japan.
- landscape evolution
- applied geomorphology and natural hazards
- Quaternary geochronology
- water science
For any further general information, please contact:
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU
Telephone: +44 (0)191 208 5200
Fax: +44 (0)191 208 5421