Studentship opportunity

Legislative Change to the Private Rented Sector: A natural experiment between Scotland & England

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences

University of Glasgow
Human Geography, Environment and Urban Planning
Mode of study

Full time / Part time

Application deadline
15 March 2019

Project details

The Private Rental Sector (PRS) has tripled in size in a 20-year period following a long decline for most of the 20th Century. Many countries in Europe have successful PRSs but these are highly regulated. In the UKthe PRS has had little regulation since the late eighties and is viewed, by some commentators, as the least stable of all tenures.  In addition to the growth of the PRS, the nature of private renting has also changed. Younger people now stay longer in private renting, with some predicted to spend much of their adult life in the PRS (“Generation Rent”). The number of households with children living in the PRS has also grown.

In Scotland, changes have been made to legislation on PRS tenancies through the Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016. The Act has introduced a new tenancy with some limitations on rents and changes aimed at increasing security of tenure. The aim of this PhD is to examine whether changes to Scottish PRS legislation impacts on PRS supply, rents, security and satisfaction of tenants, by making comparison to England. The student will be expected to use data from a range of sources including repeated cross sectional UK surveys (e.g. Family Resource Survey, Annual Population Survey), longitudinal UK household surveys (Understanding Society) and big data sources (online rental advertisements database from the Urban Big Data Centre).

The PhD will be situated jointly in two of the UK’s leading centres for housing and urban research, both based in Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow . This will provide an unrivalled opportunity for training and development. The research will benefit from collaboration with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) who are part funding the PhD, and will also be represented on the supervisory team.  SPICe is the Scottish Parliament’s impartial research and information service.  As part of the collaboration, the successful candidate will be expected to spend some of their study time based in the SPICe offices in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

About the institution

Funded by the ESRC, the Urban Big Data Centre (UBDC) is one of three big data centres in the UK. The UBDC has been investigating the possibilities of using big data and other innovative data sources to inform the understanding of the private rented sector (PRS). This PhD would be the next step for UBDC’s housing research, moving from testing new data sets to using them, in conjunction with the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) and the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE). The UBDC currently has four PhD students who are encouraged to participate actively in the centre’s research group, workgroup meetings and centre seminars. PhD students are expected to present their work at different stages at school level but also in the centre. The University of Glasgow hosts the ESRC funded CaCHE project. CaCHE is a research centre, networking hub and what works initiative. It runs six PhDs across the UK and has a strong commitment to early career researchers including a housing studies PhD summer school andan early careers researcher network. CaCHe  runs events, including in partnership with the Housing Studies Association. and has provided post-doc jobs to five researchers (soon to be seven) and employs three knowledge exchange officers. CaCHE has recently identified the PRS as one of its priorities moving forward and has recently held its annual conference on the Scottish market rental reforms. A major component of its work across the housing sector is to promote the rigorous use of evidence analysis and evaluation in testing interventions such as the regulatory changes recently introduced in Scotland. SPICe is responsible for providing robust independent information to the Members of the Scottish Parliament.  This PhD is part-funded by their academic engagement programme. SPICe will input to the PhD providing a supervisor with expertise in housing policy. The student will benefit from the input of an expert in housing policy who has a vital understanding of communication with MSPs and policy makers. The collaboration provides valuable opportunities to communicate the results directly to MSPs and policy makers.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria
  • A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of, housing studies and policy
  • Have a good grounding in quantitative methods and have some knowledge of regression modeling.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training.  This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process.  The programme will commence in October 2019.  It includes
  • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2019/20 rate £15,009 full-time)
  • fees at the standard Home rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year
The 1+3 scholarship is for candidates with a first degree in social sciences or a related area but no Masters-level training. For these candidates, the studentship would also provide fees and stipend for the additional year to complete the MRes in Urban Research as preparation for undertaking the PhD.

Other information

In the UK, the private rental sector has more than trebled in the last 20 years (DCLG 2017; Scottish Government 2017). This regrowth of the sector has led to widespread calls for greater regulation of rents and protection of tenants. A UK Government white paper suggested that longer tenancy and greater protection from rogue landlords might be considered in England (DCLG 2017). While some see rent control as protecting tenants from unaffordable rents, others see it as a way of reducing welfare benefit bills (House of Commons Library 2017). However, critics, particularly from the economics sphere, argue that rent controls have negative outcomes. While some politicians on the left have argued for rent controls, there are not wide spread calls for their return, rather some have called for some means of limiting extreme changes when they are particularly high (JRF 2012; De Santos 2012). Housing policy is devolved to the Scottish Government. There has been some ‘tinkering’ with PRS legislation in both England and Scotland, including tenancy deposit schemes, and landlord registration (in Scotland). However, the recent Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 is the first move back, by the Scottish Government, to exert some limitations on rents and to offer greater security to tenants in Scotland. This PhD sets out to test if the current changes in Scotland have an impact in a number of areas of the PRS including supply, rents, security and satisfaction of tenants. The student will use a natural experiment approach using England as a control. Candidates should have undertaken some initial training in statistics or quantitative research methods and, more importantly, be keen to develop their expertise in this area. The studentship provides an excellent opportunity to receive a training in advanced quantitative research skills, and in the exploitation of Big Data in particular – a relatively new and fast-growing field for researchers. The student will benefit from being associated with both the Urban Big Data Centre, the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre. This collaboration will allow the student to draw on a supervisory team with a large breadth of skills but will also provide significant opportunities to promote the research and findings.

How to apply

  1. Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
  2. Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
  • Application form
  • Full academic transcript(s) from previous studies (undergraduate and postgraduate).
  • References
  • CV
  • Statement of interest: A two or three page document outlining your interest in the topic of the studentship, setting out the issues you think are involved, and outlining an approach to studying these using national surveys and administrative data (from online advertisers) this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming convention as follows: *yourname_GibbGlasgowCollaborative_date*
  1. Applicants submit application through GradHub

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 05th April 2019. Interview dates are to be confirmed. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the College of Social Sciences. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Mark Livingston