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 Employability Lead for Geography and Deputy Lead for SoGEES. I lead two modules - GGH2205: Social and Cultural Geography and GGX3203: Work Based Learning - 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.



2013-14: University of Brighton - lecturer

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

2010-13: University of Portsmouth - PhD researcher


HEA Fellowship - Plymouth University

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 a 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

External examiner for Edge Hill University (2019-2022)

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)

GGX2204 – Fieldwork in Geography

GGX2201 – Principles and Applications in Geography 1

GGX2201 – Principles and Applications in Geography 2

GGH2205 – Social and Cultural Geography (Module Leader – 2019/20 only)

GGX1200 – Geography Matters

GGX1205 – Geographical Journeys

GGX1206 – Sustainable Futures

GGH1203 – Culture, Society and Space


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 research is couched primarily within the geographies of students and higher education. My PhD thesis was entitled ‘Advancing Student Geographies: Habitus, Identities and [Re]sensing place’ and explored how [im]mobile undergraduates establish and negotiate their identities and ‘sense of place’ within their term-time University location, focusing specifically upon the adaptive relationship between habitus and place. 

My research interests are not limited to students and I am also broadly concerned with mobilities, identities, and youth.
My most recent project entitled PlymTour, a digital mobile walking tour of Plymouth city centre and was funded by Plymouth University's Pedagogic Research and Teaching Innovation fund and has produced two academic papers for Area and Mobilities.
In 2019 I was funded through the University of Western Australia's Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellowship programme to work with Dr Clare Mouat on a project exploring studentification in Australia. I gave a public lecture on this at UWA and Clare and I have submitted a paper based on our findings to the journal Urban Studies. 

Other research

A new theme of my research interests takes me back - quite literally - to my roots in hairdressing and relates to an emerging research agenda on the geographies of hair. While this is a completely different avenue to my previous research, it is informed by my previous career as an Artistic Director and salon franchisee for the global hairdressing chain Toni & Guy. My return to this – in an academic sense – coincides with an emergent intimate turn in geography and my research here is part of a cutting edge collective of work that examines the body and its practices in new and exciting ways. My paper on the geographies of hair and the bordered body has recently been published in Progress in Human Geography and I am co-convening two sessions at the RGS-IBG Annual Conference on Hypersurfaces that examine different ways of understanding bodily practices. This has resulted in co-editing a special issue for Social and Cultural Geography. I have recently conducted a small pilot project to investigate masculinities in men’s hairdressing salons and I intend to use the contacts made from this study to inform a larger Wellcome Trust-funded project that examines links between barbering and men’s mental health.

Grants & contracts

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.

2016-2017 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).

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


von Benzon, N., Holton, M., Wilkinson, C., and Wilkinson, S. (in preparation) 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. (forthcoming). Dynamic qualitative methods: attending to place, space and time in higher education. In Delamont, S., and Ward, M. R. M. (Eds). The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education (2nd ed). Edward Elgar: Cheltenham.

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

Holton, (forthcoming). 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.

Key publications are highlighted


Holton, M. (2019). On the geographies of hair: exploring the entangled margins of the bordered body. Progress in Human Geography, DOI: 10.1177/19838055.
Holton, M. (2019). Walking with technology: understanding mobility-technology assemblages. Mobilities, DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2019.1580866.

Holton, M. (2018a). Debating the geographies of contemporary higher education students: diversity, resilience, resistance? Children’s Geographies. DOI: 10.1080/14733285.2018.1536777.

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

Holton, M., and Finn, K. (2018b). Belonging, pausing, feeling: a framework of 'mobile dwelling' for UK university students that live at home. Applied Mobilities, 1-15.

Holton, M., and Harmer, N. (2018). “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. DOI: 10.1111/area.12425

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

Holton, M. (2017c). “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. (2016a). The geographies of UK university halls of residence: examining students’ embodiment of social capital. Children’s Geographies, 14(1), 63-76.

Holton, M. (2016b). 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. (2015a). 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. (2015b). ‘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. (2015c). Learning the rules of the ‘student game’: transforming the ‘student habitus’ through [im]mobility. Environment and Planning A. 47(11), 2373-2388.

Holton, M. (2015d). 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

UniverCities: Investigating the influence of student accommodation on global cities (University of Western Australia - April 2019).

Performing Studentification: homemaking and place-making in shared student accommodation. Education-led gentrification in global contexts (Xi’an Jiaotong University, China – April 2018). 

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 (ZiF, Bielefeld, Germany – Dec 2017). 

Debating the geographies of contemporary higher education students: diversity, resilience, resistance? 5th International Conference on Geographies of Children, Youth and Families (Loughborough University – Sept 2017).

The spaces of friendship: understanding the socio-spatial co-production of friendship in UK university halls of residences. Exploring a sense of belonging’ and why it matters in higher education (SRHE, London – June 2017).

Investigating the emotional geographies of UK University student halls of residences. Seminar Series (University of Portsmouth – Dec 2015). 

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