Professor Harvey Armstrong

School of Geography and Planning

Professor Emeritus


Harvey Armstrong took his first degree in Economics & Geography at the University of Sheffield and postgraduate education at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Subsequently he was a Lecturer at Loughborough University (Economics, 1970-1973) and a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University (Economics, 1973-1996).

Between 1996 and 2009 he was Professor of Economic Geography at the University of Sheffield.

He also held visiting appointments at the University of British Columbia (Economics) and the University of West Virginia (Regional Research Institute). He is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Sheffield.

Research interests
  • Regional and local economic disparities.
  • Regional economic policy and its evaluation, particularly EU cohesion policy.
  • The economics of very small states and island economies.
Research group

Former PhD students

  • Alexandros Karvounis (2018, Second supervisor)
    EU Structural Funds programmes in Greece and the UK
  • Mageda Emreage (2005) Libyan Government (Second supervisor)
  • Kim Seaton (2003 start) ESRC (Second supervisor)
    Internal migration in a 'borderless' Germany: a biographical approach
  • Amer Ghazali (2002) Malaysian government (Second supervisor)
    The Malaysian electoral process
  • Antony Potter (2006, Second supervisor)
    Supply chains, business assistance and the regional economy
  • Sara Nock (2005)
    The role of universities in technology transfer in South Yorkshire
  • Stephen Huckerby (2004)
    An investigation into the attitudes held by permanent residents towards university students in three areas of Sheffield
  • Nick Bowes (2001)
    The competitiveness of former coalfields: The perceptions of manufacturing managers in the RECHAR II area of South Yorkshire
  • Ronan de Kervenoael (2000)
    An assessment of the role of sub-regional and regional jurisdictions in economic development policy. The case of tourism policy in France and Great Britain
Professional activities and memberships

I have undertaken extensive advisory work and consultancy with international, national and European policymakers.

This has included acting as Specialist Advisor to a House of Commons Select Committee on regional policy, working with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the development of Ascension Island, and membership of the Welsh Assembly Government Economic Research Advisory Panel.

Over many years I have acted as expert advisor and participant in a series of EU regional policy evaluation projects, as well as participating in speaking engagements and policy conferences concerning EU regional policy, including working with the Commission on regional policy guidelines.

I remain a member of the Evaluation Help Desk on EU Cohesion Policy 2014-20 programmes and occasionally act as expert advisor on individual evaluations.

Current research

Regional policy and its evaluation

I have undertaken many years of research on regional policy issues and the evaluation of regional policy. Armstrong and Taylor's Regional Economics and Policy was for a long time the standard one in this field.

Since 1997 I, with colleagues, undertook a number of projects concerned with the evaluation of regional policy. Two large scale evaluations of the 1994-1999 Objective 2 Structural Funds programmes in Yorkshire & the Humber were undertaken. These were European Commission and DETR funded.

The first, completed in 1997, was an interim evaluation of the 1994-1996 programme. This was a pioneering evaluation in developing a thematic appraisal approach and in developing evaluation in partnership involving large team evaluation methods, working with the close involvement of partner and stakeholder organisations in both the funding of the research and in the actual evaluation field work and analysis.

This evaluation was judged one of the three best EU evaluations at the 1998 Commission Evaluation Conference in Seville.

The second evaluation was completed in 2000 and was a combined ex-post evaluation of the 1994-1996 Objective 2 programme in Yorkshire & The Humber and an interim evaluation of the 1996-1999 programme.

Part of this project sought to pioneer new methods designed to better evaluate community economic development policies, with subsequent publications in academic journals.

Since 2000 I have undertaken several further evaluation-related research studies. An ESRC-funded project The Third Sector and the Governance of Regional Policy examined the growing role of third sector organisations in regional policy and has analysed their changing relationships with newly-emerging regional tier bodies in England.

This project considered the changing governance structures in Yorkshire & The Humber, Merseyside and the North West. The project has produced results concerned not only with the impact of the changing governance system on regional policy effectiveness but also on how evaluation methods must adapt to changing governance systems, particularly for community economic development initiatives.

More recently, I was engaged in Aide a la Decision's (ADE) evaluation of EU regions with specific geographical characteristics (islands, mountainous regions and sparsely populated areas).

I have also in the past worked with both Paul White and Sam Scott (University of Sheffield) and Lucinda Fonseca (University of Lisbon) on an Aga Khan Foundation funded study of social exclusion challenges in Portugal and on the design of a new programme for the Foundation in Lisbon.

I worked with the Foundation on the design of a monitoring and evaluation plan for Foundation programmes.

Very small states and island economies

Although superficially very different from regional economies, very small states and island economies share many of the characteristics of sub-national regions in that they are small, open economies in which policymakers have available only a very limited range of policy options.

This makes them amenable to the same economic principles and analytical techniques as for regional economic analysis.

There are in excess of 120 sovereign small states and overseas territories in the world, many of which are also islands. A large number exhibit surprisingly good economic performance and growth rates and have adapted well to globalisation. A residual group continue to perform poorly.

My work with Robert Read (Lancaster University) on small states and islands has focused on five main areas. Firstly, we have analysed the determinants of differences between small states in their levels of economic performance and in their growth rates since the early 1990s.

Secondly, the research has examined the role that 'islandness' plays in affecting the economic performance of small states. Paradoxically, insularity is more often associated with the better performing small states than with those experiencing development problems.

Thirdly, the differences between sovereign small states and the overseas territories of metropolitan powers such as the UK and France have been analysed. Again paradoxical is the finding that, other things equal, sovereign small states tend to do less well than their dependent territory counterparts.

Fourthly, the research has examined the policy options available to small states, and compared them with the options available for policymakers in sub-national regions.

Finally, we have most recently researched the the role of the 2008 financial crisis on island states.

Modern growth theory stresses that geographical factors can have a major influence, partly through new economic geography mechanisms but also via more traditional variables such as tropical climate, landlockedness, agglomeration effects and geographical isolation from major global markets.

Our research seeks to contribute to the important current 'institutions versus geography' economic growth debate, from the perspective of small states and island economies.

I have also worked with Dimitris Ballas (University of Sheffield) and Adreene Staines (Birmingham University) on the economic performance of small subnational islands in Greece and the UK.