Dr Mark Holton

Dr Mark Holton

Lecturer in Human Geography

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)

I am a lecturer in human geography at the University of Plymouth. Within my role I am the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee (EDIC) chair for SoGEES and co-chair for the Faculty of Science and Engineering EDIC. I am the Employability Lead for Geography and Deputy Lead for SoGEES and also the Stage One Tutor for Geography.

I lead three modules - GGH3207: Sustainable Cities, GGX3203: Work Based Learning and ENVM3003: Professional Practice in Sustainability - as well as contributing to other human geography modules at all undergraduate and postgraduate levels including residential fieldwork courses in the UK and overseas and dissertation and PhD supervision. 
I co-edit the cultural geography section of the journal Geography Compass.



2013-14: University of Brighton - lecturer

2013-13: University of Portsmouth - lecturer (part-time)

2010-13: University of Portsmouth - PhD researcher


HEA Fellowship - University of Plymouth

PhD in Geography - University of Portsmouth

MA in Social Research Methods - University of Portsmouth

BA (Hons) in Human Geography - University of Portsmouth

Professional membership

Member of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE).

Member of the American Association of Geographers (AAG).

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (IBG).

Education Officer for the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group (SCGRG) RGS-IBG.

Committee member for the (Geographies of Children, Youth and Families Research Group (GCYFRG) and Higher Education Research Group (HERG) RGS-IBG.

Roles on external bodies

Editor (cultural geography) for Geography Compass journal (2020-to date)

External examiner for Edge Hill University (2019-2022)

Education Officer for the Social and Cultural Geography Research Group RGS-IBG (2019-2021)

Teaching interests

I am primarily a Social and Cultural Geographer, although my teaching interests spread into planning and urban studies.

I contribute towards the following programmes:

MSc Planning

PLG505 – Urban Design: theories, methodologies and practice

PLG503 – Environmental Knowledge: From Field to Stakeholder (planning)


MSc Environmental Consultancy / Sustainable Environmental Management

GEES519 – Environmental Knowledge: From Field to Stakeholder

GEES520 – MSc Dissertation


MSc Human Geography

GEES522 – Research in Human Geography: Philosophies and Design


BA / BSc Geography (ALL)

GGX3200 – Dissertation in Geography

GGX3201 – Advanced Fieldwork in Geography

GGX3203 – Work Based Learning (Module Leader)

GGH3207 - Sustainable Cities (Module Leader)

GGX2204 – Fieldwork in Geography

GGX2201 – Principles and Applications in Geography 1

GGX2202 – Principles and Applications in Geography 2

GGH2207 – Travel, Transport and Mobilities

GGX1205 – Geographical Journeys

GGX1206 – Sustainable Futures

GGH1203 – Culture, Society and Space

BSc (Hons) Environmental Management and Sustainability

ENVM3003 - Professional practice in sustainability (Module Leader)

PhD Supervision

Hoayda Darkal 2015 - 2020 (DoS)

Pearlin Teow 2018 - 2021 (DoS)

Kieran Green 2018 - 2022 (2nd Supervisor)

Staff serving as external examiners

External examiner for Edge Hill University (2019-2022)

Research interests

My broad research area focuses on the social and cultural dimensions of youth culture and the significant societal challenges concerning issues of community, health and wellbeing among young people. I am particularly interested in how young people’s everyday mobilities shapes place and how this influences the ways in which spaces are designed, managed and regulated. The key focus for much of my work has been on the social, cultural, economic and physical impacts of studentification – the outcome of student in/out-migration upon towns and cities. This responds directly to the ongoing global challenges faced by institutions, communities and planners in developing sustainable, mixed communities that can support the thousands of young people that migrate in and out of university locations each year. My contribution comes from examining the impacts of university life, in terms of how and where students live and learn, the influence this has upon local communities and infrastructure, and the effect of student life upon their, and others’, health and wellbeing. My recent work has examined sustainable living in other coastal cities in the UK, Europe and Australia. In broadening the scope of my wellbeing research I am currently working with young UK farmers to examine loneliness within UK agriculture in order to foster support for younger rural populations.

Other research

Ploughing a Lonely Furrow: Investigating loneliness among young UK farmers (2020-2022): This project seeks to examine the growing issues surrounding loneliness among young farmers in UK agriculture. Evidence suggests that a combination of financial issues, Brexit uncertainty, the perceived ‘anti-meat agenda’, the effects of climate change, and now Covid-19 are compounding a sense of loneliness among farmers – specifically those who are younger – meaning young farmers may be particularly susceptible to the ill-effects of loneliness in terms of emotional stress. This research will therefore positively impact the agricultural communities the young farmers live and work in as well as informing local and national policy of the implications for loneliness on young farmers’ well-being. This project is funded by the Seale-Hayne Educational Trust and is led by researchers from the University of Plymouth and University of Liverpool.

The rise (and rise) of vertical studentification: exploring the drivers of studentification in Australia (2018-19): This project explored Australia as a new frontier for studentification research and how the rapid emergence of purpose built student accommodation in Australian cities impacts upon existing infrastructure. Specifically we revealed issues surrounding generating sustainable and durable accommodation for seasonal use. Outputs included: A paper for Urban Studies; a public lecture for UWA; a UWA Research Collaboration Award grant (AUD $29,973) (announced early 2020); and the development of a new Australian studentification network.

Exploring the emotional geographies of UK university student halls of residences (2016-17): This project investigated how the morphology of shared halls of residences impact upon the wellbeing of students that reside in them. Using place-based interviewing, photo elicitation and cognitive mapping, this project revealed how communal space acts as a fundamental design feature for supporting students’ wellbeing and mental health. Outputs included: an academic paper for Emotion, Space and Society; five conference presentations, including two invited lectures in London and Germany; and a report for Residence Life.

Developing and evaluating ‘Plym-Tour’ a new mobile online educational resource for students on Plymouth’s people and places (2016-17): My work covers not only studentification in terms of health and wellbeing, but also how students learn. This project examined how technology can assist with supporting undergraduates’ experiences of, and connections with, their term-time locations. Funded by the University of Plymouth: Pedagogic Research and Teaching Innovation Fund, we designed and implemented ‘PlymTour’, a digital walking tour of Plymouth that was housed in the University of Plymouth mobile app. Outputs included: academic papers for Mobilities and Area; four conference presentations – including the VC’s Teaching and Learning Conference in 2017 – and a teaching resource.

‘Men-scapes’ of care? Performing masculinities and wellbeing in the men’s hairdressing salon (2018-20): Building on my previous wellbeing work, some of my recent research extends the concept of wellbeing to examine the role of men’s hairdressing salons in providing interactive and effective spaces of care for men. Interviews and participant observation were used to explore how men’s interactions and behaviours, contribute towards fostering wellbeing and (self)care. Outputs included: a paper for Progress in Human Geography.  

Grants & contracts

2020 Ploughing a lonely furrow?: Investigating loneliness, isolation and mental ill-health among young farmers in Devon and Cornwall. Seale Hayne Educational Trust (£2,015). PI along with Mark Riley.

2019 Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellowship Programme (University of Western Australia). (AUD $3,000). Supported by Clare Mouat – UWA.

2016-2017 Developing and evaluating ‘PlymTour’ a new mobile online educational resource for students on Plymouth’s people and places. University of Plymouth: Pedagogic Research and Teaching Innovation Fund (£5025) PI along with Nichola Harmer and Rebecca Vickerstaff.

2015-2016 The mobilities of geography: examining the trajectories of geography through the UK education system. University of Plymouth: Teaching and Learning Fund – supported by RGS (£18,000). Co-I along with Dr Alison Stokes and Dr Ruth Weaver (PI).



von Benzon, N., Holton, M., Wilkinson, C., and Wilkinson, S. (2021) Creative methods for human geographers. SAGE: London.

Finn,K., and Holton, M. (2019). Everyday Mobile Belonging: Theorising Higher Education Student Mobilities for a New Century. Bloomsbury Academic: Understanding Student Experiences of Higher Education. Bloomsbury: London.


Finn, K., and Holton, M. (2020). Dynamic Qualitative Methods: Attending to Place, Space and Time in Higher Education. In, Ward, M. R. M., and Delamont, S. (Eds) Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education (2nd ed). Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.

Glass, C., and Holton, M. (2020). College Student Development. In Ogden, A., Streitwieser, B., and Van Mol, C. (Eds). Education Abroad: Bridging Scholarship and Practice. Routledge: London.

Holton, M. (2020). Accommodation. In Amey, M. J., and David, M. E. (Eds). The SAGE Encyclopaedia of Higher Education. SAGE: London.

Holton, M. (2017). Geographic Methods: Interviews In Ward, B. (Ed) Oxford Bibliographies in Geography. Oxford University Press: New York.


Holton, M. (2020). On the geographies of hair: exploring the entangled margins of the bordered body. Progress in Human Geography, 44(3), 555-571.

Holton, M., and Finn, K. (2020). Belonging, pausing, feeling: a framework of “mobile dwelling” for UK university students that live at home. Applied Mobilities, 5(1), 6-20.

Holton, M., and Mouat, C. M. (2020). The rise (and rise) of vertical studentification: Exploring the drivers of studentification in Australia. Urban Studies. DOI:0042098020925246.

Cheng, Y. E., and Holton, M. (2019). Geographies of citizenship in higher education: An introduction. Area, 51(4), 613-617. 

 Holton, M. (2019). Debating the geographies of contemporary higher education students: diversity, resilience, resistance? Children’s Geographies, 17(1), 13-16.

Holton, M. (2019). Walking with technology: understanding mobility-technology assemblages. Mobilities, 14(4), 435-451.

Holton, M., and Harmer, N. (2019). “You don't want to peer over people's shoulders, it feels too rude!” The moral geographies of using participants’ personal smartphones in research. Area, 51(1), 134-141.

Holton, M. (2018). Traditional or non-traditional students?: incorporating UK students’ living arrangements into decisions about going to university. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 42(4), 556-569.  

Holton, M., and Finn, K. (2018). Being-in-motion: The everyday (gendered and classed) embodied mobilities for UK university students who commute. Mobilities, 13(3), 426-440.

Holton, M. (2017). A place for sharing: The emotional geographies of peer-sharing in UK University halls of residences. Emotion, Space and Society, 22, 4-12.

Holton, M. (2017). Examining students’ night‐time activity spaces: identities, performances, and transformations. Geographical Research, 55(1), 70-79.

Holton, M. (2017). “It was amazing to see our projects come to life!” Developing affective learning during geography fieldwork through tropophilia. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 41(2), 198-212.

Holton, M. (2016). The geographies of UK university halls of residence: examining students’ embodiment of social capital. Children’s Geographies, 14(1), 63-76.

Holton, M. (2016). Living together in student accommodation: performances, boundaries and homemaking. Area, 48(1), 57-63.

Holton, M., and Riley, M. (2016) Student geographies and homemaking: personal belonging(s) and identities. Social and Cultural Geography. 17(5), 623-645.

Holton, M. (2015). Adapting relationships with place: investigating the evolving place attachment and ‘sense of place’ of UK higher education students during a period of intense transition. Geoforum, 59, 21-29.

Holton, M. (2015). ‘I already know the city, I don't have to explore it’: adjustments to ‘sense of place’ for ‘local’ UK university students. Population, Space and Place. 21(8), 820-831.

Holton, M. (2015). Learning the rules of the ‘student game’: transforming the ‘student habitus’ through [im]mobility. Environment and Planning A. 47(11), 2373-2388.

Holton, M. (2015). Youth transitions, international student mobility and spatial reflexivity: being mobile?; Intra-European student mobility in international higher education circuits: Europe on the move. Children's Geographies, 1-3.

Holton, M., and Riley, M. (2014). Talking on the move: place-based interviewing with undergraduate students. Area, 46(1), 59-65.

Holton, M., and Riley, M. (2013). Student geographies: exploring the diverse geographies of students and higher education. Geography Compass, 7(1), 61-74.

Special Issues

Cheng, Y.,and Holton, M. (2019). Theorizing citizenship in higher education: students as agents for change? Special Issue for Area.

Internet Publications

Riley, M., and Holton, M. (2016). Place-based interviewing: creating and conducting walking interviews. SAGE Research Methods. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305015595386


Holton, M. (2016). Examining Provisions for Communal Space in Plymouth University Halls of Residences. Residence Life: Plymouth University.

Reports & invited lectures

30 April 2019. UniverCities: investigating the influence of student accommodation on global cities. University of Western Australia. Perth, Australia

26 July 2018. Beyond the Pedestrian: Walking in Research, Theory, Practice and Performance. University of Liverpool. Liverpool, UK

20-22 March, 2018. Performing Studentification: homemaking and place-making in shared student accommodation. Education-led gentrification in global contexts. Jiaotong University. Xi’an, China

7-8 December, 2017. Constructing global ‘spaces’ of student friendship: the socio-spatial co-production of friendship in UK university halls of residences. Global Students: Mapping the Field of University Lives. Bielefeld, Germany

25-27 September, 2017. Youth-full Geographies panel session. 5th International Conference on Geographies of Children, Youth and Families. Loughborough, UK

9 June 2017. Constructing ‘spaces’ of student friendship: understanding the socio-spatial co-production of friendship in UK university halls of residences. Society for Research in Higher Education. London, UK

9 Dec 2015. Investigating the emotional geographies of UK University student halls of residences. University of Portsmouth Seminar Series. Portsmouth, UK 

20 Nov, 2015. The Inclusive Campus: Exploring the Social Capital of International Students in UK University Campuses. Society for Research into Higher Education. London, UK

Conferences organised

Conference organisation:

28-30 August 2019. Hypersurfaces: exploring the geographies of multi-dimensional bodies. RGB-IBG Annual Conference. London, UK

29-31 August 2018. The Super-Diverse University?: Changing Landscapes of the Geographies of Higher Education. RGS-IBG Annual Conference. Cardiff, UK

12-13 July 2018. 2nd International Conference on Mobilities and Migration. Plymouth, UK

5-9 April 2017. Theorizing Citizenship in Higher Education: Students as Agents for Change? AAG Annual Meeting. Boston, USA

2-4 Sept 2015 Exploring methodologies and critical geographies of education RGS-IBG Annual Conference. Exeter, UK

26-29 Aug 2014. Educational transitions: changes, contexts and geographies RGS-IBG Annual Conference. London, UK