Centre for Rural Economy

Staff Profile

Professor Ruth McAreavey

Professor of Sociology


My research focuses on migration, particularly to regional and rural areas. I am interested in inequalities faced by migrants in the labour market and in other parts of everyday life. I have published extensively on rural development, rural migration and I’m also interested in research ethics and methodologies. I am an active member of various international research networks including the Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network and the European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS). I am currently co-editor-in-chief of Sociologia Ruralis.

My research is strongly oriented towards migration and I continue to conduct research with migrant communities in the UK. I have a practitioner background and prior to working in higher education I held various positions in the voluntary and community sector and within local government (Hastoe Housing Association, Suffolk County Council and the Workers' Educational Association). That experience included helping small and medium non-profit organisations to achieve core objectives including accessing funding and working with communities to stimulate social change. These various roles initiated my commitment to doing research that has social relevance and that objective continues to remain an important motivation for my work today.

I continue to engage with third sector organisations and with government agencies and departments. For instance, my research on migration (for the Nuffield Foundation and for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) led to various policy and advisory roles including advising Northern Ireland government on Racial Equality Indicators. Meanwhile I recently completed a review of rural development funding in Northern Ireland for the NI Rural Womens' Network and the NI Rural Community Network. My other areas of research include rural governance; participation and research ethics. 

I teach undergraduate and postgraduate students and I supervise PhD researchers. I welcome inquiries from prospective PhD researchers on the issues identified above.

I am external examiner for University College Dublin and I am a member of research review panels for the European Commission and for the Swedish Research Council (Formas).

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I have obtained funding from research foundations, government third sector and industry. All of my research carries significant social and economic impact. For example, my Joseph Rowntree Funded research on migration led to various policy and advisory roles including advising the Northern Ireland government on a proposed Racial Equality Strategy, addressing a NI Assembly Committee and speaking at a central government lunchtime seminar series.

I am an active member of European Society for Rural Sociology (ESRS);  and the Trans-Atlantic Rural Research Network (TARRN). The latter involves scholars from Cornell, Penn State and the UK and I am one of two anchors for Newcastle University. I am a member of the Scientific Committee for the ESRS Congress 2022 and I am co-editor of the  ESRS journal, Sociologia Ruralis.

Current projects

Labour Shortages in the Food Supply Chain, Food Standards Agency (2022). This research is examining the implications of labour shortages across different parts of the food system both now and in the future. Using a food systems approach it will explore shortages relating to specific elements, namely food production and consumption.


Review of Rural Development funding, Rural Community Network (Northern Ireland) (2022). This project will identify how the UK government’s replacement funds, as promoted through its levelling up agenda, can best be tailored to meet the needs of rural communities in Northern Ireland. The research will identify opportunities to innovate and support wider community interests, including small scale local groups to larger community enterprises.

Local Perspectives on Community and Economy (DEFRA). This project aims to provide greater understanding of rural community development through exploring the 'lived experience' in terms of relationships between economy, society, local context, and service delivery (2020-22)

National Institute of Health Research: Applied Research Collaborations (2021-22) (with HAREF and Riverside Community Health Project). To use the coronavirus pandemic as a prism through which to research health inequalities. and to understand how health messages got through during the first pandemic phase.

Diversified Rural: Understanding Differences Within and Between the UK and Ireland, ESRC-Irish Research Council  (2021-22). This network will co-produce future research questions and reframe rural policy in a context of UK exit from the EU and post-pandemic rebuilding.

Transnational Theory Building for Researching the Global Countryside: Perspectives from Taiwan and the UK, ESRC (2021-22). This project examines how 'transnational theory' can advance understanding of the global, national and regional dynamics that are reshaping rural societies and economies around the world.

Previous Projects

Non-Agricultural Seasonal Workers in Rural and Urban Scotland, (Scottish Government). Led by Mark Diffley Consultancy and Research, this is mixed method project estimated the number of seasonal migrant workers in Scotland and examined their everyday lives including their working conditions and their future intentions in the context of Brexit. The research also examined the perspective of employers and their future choices and actions.

HAMLETS. Immigration and Sustainable Development in Micro Villages (Recer Caixa), led by Ricard Morén Alegret (Department of Geography, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona). This project examines the contribution that (international and internal) immigrants make to the sustainable development of small rural municipalities in Catalonia.

Evaluation of ‘Going for Growth’, Friends of the Earth (January 2016 – March 2017). This research examined the capacity of the Going for Growth strategy to contribute to food security. It reviewed the political and power dynamics behind the strategy and its impact on the environment in Northern Ireland and its potential to deliver food security. 

Additionally I have been involved in research projects on the theme of migration funded by the Regional Studies Association, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Nuffield Foundation.



I am interested in supervising research students on migration to New Immigration Destinations, especially those with a focus on economic mobility; seasonal workers; inclusion and exclusion; social integration; transnational identities and educational mobility. The other broad theme that am keen to supervise is rural development including projects focused on changing rural communities and society; participation and governance; rural planning and economic development.

I have supervised a number of PhDs to completion. Currently I am supervising the following students:

Claire Boden (PT) with Stenning, NCL

Raphaela Berding (PT) with Dobbernack, NCL

Jake Pointer (FT) with Shildrick, NCL

Colin Watson (FT) with Ahmed Kharrufa, NCL

Rebecca Jackson (FT)  with Shildrick, NCL

Completed PhDs:

Adrienne Attorp, 2022

Claire O’Boyle, 2018

Carey Doyle, 2017

Aisling Murphy, 2014

Anne Rice, 2014

Jonathan Bell, 2013

Lori McVay, 2011


Other research activities

I regularly participate in academic conferences and have presented papers and organised working groups and panels at European Rural Sociology Association and the American Rural Sociological Society conferences.  I have also presented papers at a range of other conferences including those of the Irish-British Institute; Sociological Association of Ireland; Society of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences; the Institute of British Geographers; the Irish Social Sciences Platform; Norface Research Programme on Migration; and the UK-Ireland Planning Association.

I provide ethical review for the European Commission and scientific reviews for a range of Research Councils including the Swedish Research Council (Formas). I am regularly invited to review academic articles and books for a range of high impact journals. 



I am currently Head of Subject and not leading any modules

Teaching experience

Rcent modules include:

  • SOC3098 Community and Conflict in the Countryside
  • SOC8050 Migration, Mobilities and Inequalities
  • SOC2070 Researching Social Life II

In the past I have taught UG Planning Students on a range of topics including European Planning Studies, Regeneration, Economics and Planning; and Work-Based Practice.