Press Office


Royal recognition for rural research


The Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University, Professor Chris Brink, and representatives from the University’s Centre for Rural Economy (CRE), have attended a ceremony at Buckingham Palace where CRE's reputation as a driving force for research into rural economies and societies was recognised with the award of a Queen's Anniversary Prize.

The Prize was announced at a special reception at St James’s Palace in recognition of the University’s internationally-renowned research into sustainable rural economies and societies, led by its Centre for Rural Economy, which has influenced policy and practice around the world.

Queen’s Anniversary Prizes are awarded by the Royal Anniversary Trust to honour work of outstanding importance and quality in higher and further education in the UK.

This is the third occasion on which Newcastle University has been awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize. Previously the University gained the Prize in 2005 for its innovative solutions to mine water pollution, and again in 2009 for research into ageing.

Excellence in rural research

As a world-class civic university, Newcastle University’s research is aligned with three Societal Challenge Themes that aim to respond to some of the world’s most pressing social issues. These are ageing, social renewal and sustainability. By recognising the University’s excellence in the field of rural economy research, this latest Prize means that research being carried out under all three of the themes has now been recognised, making for a sector-leading ‘hat trick’ of Anniversary Prizes.  

Newcastle University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Brink, explains: “Our aim at Newcastle is to conduct world-class research that directly addresses the biggest issues of the day, and the work being carried out by the Centre for Rural Economy is an excellent example of what this means in practice. Philip Lowe, Mark Shucksmith, Guy Garrod and their colleagues are looking at some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from how we use land, to the changing relationships between rural and urban communities and how we tackle social exclusion. The announcement of this award is testament to their hard work and I congratulate them on this richly deserved accolade.”

Professor Mark Shucksmith OBE, Director of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, at Newcastle University added:  “The Anniversary Trust has recognised Newcastle University’s efforts to have excellence with impact, and academic work that is responsive to large-scale societal needs and demands. Rural issues are still of the utmost importance, as recent public debates on badger culls, healthy and sustainable food production, affordable housing and rural broadband show. It is vital that these debates are evidence-led, and the Centre for Rural Economy – under the inspiring leadership of Professor Philip Lowe – has been committed to developing the knowledge and insight to ensure this is the case. The award also recognises that we work closely with rural communities so that our work is as grounded and useful as possible.”

Guy Garrod, Director of the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University, said: “Since its creation in 1992 the Centre for Rural Economy has updated the picture of rural economies and societies. We have led the way in changing the image of the ‘rural’ away from something that has not moved with the times into that which has its own rich sources of dynamism beyond agricultural development.

“It’s fantastic to mark our 21st anniversary with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize. Hopefully the next 21 years will see us build on our success and continue to explore key themes affecting rural economies and societies, including rural resilience to economic crisis, food security issues and democratic and participative models of rural development.

“This news could not come at a more appropriate time, as we are about to launch a £2.5 million fundraising campaign to secure the future of Centre for Rural Economy and maintain our position at the forefront of rural economy research.”

Boosting Britain's ability to compete

Of the announcement, the Rt Hon David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, said: “I warmly congratulate the twenty universities and colleges honoured in The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education. I welcome the role that the Prizes play in enabling our institutions to publicise their successes. Britain’s ability to compete depends on the quality of the teaching and research undertaken by our universities and colleges; and particularly on the translation of that work into real benefits for society, business and the growth of the economy.”

Among some of the Centre’s achievements recognised by the Prize are the role it has played in:

•    Spearheading research into counter-urbanisation, middle-class colonisation of the countryside, rural knowledge exchange and socio-spatial exclusion, related to the challenges of the public provision of services and affordable housing in rural areas.

•    Directing the UK research councils’ £25m Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) Programme to research options for the future of Britain’s countryside and establishing the Northern Rural Network (NRN) to foster rural development in this region.

•    Developing national and international rural policy. Academics at the Centre have contributed to various Government White Papers, chaired the Scottish Government’s Commission on the Future of Crofting and served on the Countryside Agency, Commission for Rural Communities, and Affordable Rural Housing Commission. The Centre contributed to the ‘greening’ of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and other European rural policy initiatives like LEADER.

published on: 22 November 2013