Dr Alasdair Rae

Senior Lecturer

Room number: D25
Telephone (internal): 26903
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 6903
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 6903

Academic profile

I began my journey in academia by completing a BA in Geography at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I graduated with First Class Honours in 2001 and was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Medal . This period of study was followed by an MA in Geography at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. During my time in Ohio I also worked as a Teaching Associate and as a Research Associate at the University’s Center for Survey Research. I obtained my MA (magna cum laude) in 2003. Following this two-year stint in the United States, I then completed a PhD on urban and regional policy at the University of Liverpool in 2007.

Shortly before completing my PhD, I took up a post as a Research Fellow at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Urban Policy Studies in October 2006. 

After two years in Manchester I moved to my current post as Lecturer in Town in Regional Planning, in November 2008.

Research interests

My core research interests are centred thematically on spatial inequality, spatial analysis and spatial policy. In relation to spatial inequality I typically focus on patterns of deprivation in urban areas, at the neighbourhood level, but I also look at wider processes of housing and labour market inequality. In relation to spatial analysis, I explore processes of spatial interaction such as commuting and migration, I develop methods for understanding places and I attempt to make sense of vast geospatial datasets through visualisation. In relation to spatial policy, I attempt to understand how geographically-targeted policies impact different places and the extent to which they have positive or negative impacts. In addition to my formal academic publications (see below), I also produce a research-related blog on which I regularly publish extracts from my work. This work has been covered in the national media (e.g. The Guardian, BBC) and frequently leads to engagement and collaboration with external organisations. I have worked as a researcher and consultant on a variety of funded projects during my academic career. Clients or partners I have worked with include the Centre for Cities, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, SalfordGIS, The Northern Way, the Department for Communities and Local Government and Sheffield City Council.


I’m a big believer in the idea that Universities are first and foremost about learning and teaching! This idea, combined with my belief that students should also have access to the latest research in their field, means that my teaching is inextricably linked to my ongoing research programme.

I teach on a number of modules in the Department, and am module leader for the following:

TRP621/TRP457 Advanced GIS Methods
TRP623 Applications of GIS
TRP620 Open Source GIS and Spatial Data Analysis
TRP622 The Professional GIS Project

I am joint module leader with Rowland Atkinson for:

TRP324 Independent Specialised Study in Geography and Planning
TRP325 Independent Specialised Study in Planning

I am also part of the team delivering:

TRP130 Housing, Home and Neighbourhood

The students I teach here at Sheffield are motivated, inquisitive and intelligent – an excellent combination – so I have sought to develop an approach which is both challenging and inspiring. I teach using a variety of methods, including multi-media materials, in an attempt to stimulate critical thinking and independent learning. In the course of doing these things, I’ve been fortunate enough to have won some teaching awards, including the University’s Senate Award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and the award for Best Personal Tutor (Social Sciences) – voted on and awarded by the Union of Students.  Last but not least, as part of my professional development as a higher education teacher, I have also completed the University of Sheffield’s Certificate in Learning and Teaching.

PhD supervision

I provide primary supervision for the following students:

  • Hanaw Amin - Land use change in Sulaimaniyeh City
  • Charlotte Hoole - Deprivation, educational attainment and resilience in Doncaster, South Yorkshire
  • Adipandang Yudono - National Spatial Data Infrastructure Adoption for Spatial Planning in Indonesia

For information on my secondary and tertiary PhD supervision, see my PhD Students page.

Key publications

  • Rae, A. (2011) ‘Learning from the Past? A Review of Approaches to Spatial Targeting in Urban Policy’, Planning Theory and Practice, 12(3), pp 341-348.
  • Rae, A. (2011) ‘Flow-data analysis with geographical information systems: a visual approach’, Environment and Planning B, 38(5), pp 776-794.
  • Ferrari, E. and Rae, A. (2011) Local housing market volatility, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.
  • Rae, A. (2009) ‘Isolated Entities or Integrated Neighbourhoods? An Alternative View of the Measurement of Deprivation’, Urban Studies, 46(9), pp 1859-1878.
  • Rae, A. (2009) ‘From spatial interaction data to spatial interaction information? Geovisualisation and spatial structures of migration from the 2001 UK census’, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 33(3), pp 161-178.

Other information

In addition to my teaching and research roles within the Department I am also the Undergraduate Exams Officer, the Undergraduate Placements Officer and the Level 3 Tutor. As Exams Officer I’m responsible for overseeing the Department’s undergraduate Exam and Degree Classification procedures. My role as Placements Officer means that I’m responsible for liaising with undergraduate students and employers to facilitate work placements for students. As Level 3 Tutor, I have overall responsibility for the 70 or so students on our Geography and Planning, MPlan and Urban Studies programmes. Beyond the University, I am the Treasurer of the Regional Studies Association, a major international learned society. I sit on the RSA’s Board and also on its Journals Management Committee. The RSA is perhaps best known for publishing the Regional Studies journal but the organisation has experienced significant growth in recent years and now publishes three journals, a book series and hosts major conferences in locations across the globe.