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Susan J. Smith

Honorary Professor of Social and Economic Geography and The Mistress of Girton College


Professor Smith has a distinguished career both as a human geographer and in the interdisciplinary world of housing studies. In addition to a programme of research spanning more than 30 years, Professor Smith is experienced in research management, research strategy, and research assessment of all kinds. She has contributed to the work of the ESRC (Research Grants Board, Professorial Fellowships Commissioning Panel, Public Services Programme Commissioning Panel), HEFCE (as a panel member in the 2001 and 2008 Research Assessment Exercises), the Leverhulme Trust (Philip Leverhulme Prize panel), and to research development and monitoring in HEIs within and beyond the UK. She has a wide-ranging teaching and examining portfolio, at all levels, in a variety of topics; and she is active in the communication dissemination of ideas beyond the academy.


  • 2010 – Present: Honorary Professor of Geography, Cambridge University
  • 2016-2018: BCEC Professorial Fellow, Bankwest-Curtin Economics Centre, Curtin Business School, Curtin University, Perth, Australia
  • 2009 – Present: Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge
  • 2008 – 2015: Adjunct Professor (Honorary), RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia
  • 2004 – 2009: Professor of Geography and a Director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Durham University
  • 1990 – 2004: Ogilvie Professor of Geography at the University of Edinburgh
  • 1985 – 1990: Research Fellow, Department of Social and Economic Research (Centre for Housing Research), Glasgow University
  • 1984 – 1985: Research Fellow, Department of Government (Centre for the Study of Community and Race Relations), Brunel University
  • 1981 – 1982: Junior Research Fellow, St Peter’s College and School of Geography, University of Oxford


  • D.Phil., Faculty of Anthropology and Geography, and Nuffield College, Oxford University
  • B.A., M.A. in Geography, St Anne’s College, Oxford University

Awards and scholarships

  • Victoria Medal (2014)
    Awarded by the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers for conspicuous merit in research in human geography
  • Tanner Lecturer at Clare Hall, Cambridge (2010)
    Appointment as a Tanner lecturer is ‘a recognition for uncommon achievement and outstanding abilities in the field of human values’
  • Elected Honorary Fellow St. Anne’s College Oxford (2009-)
  • Julian Minghi Outstanding Research Award (2009) shared with Rachel Pain for our work on ‘Fear: Critical Geopolitics and Everyday Life’.
  • Fellow of the British Academy (2008-present)
  • ESRC Professorial Fellow (2005-7)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE) (2000 – present)
  • Inaugural Fellow, Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences (AcSS) (1999 – present)
  • Murchison Award from the RGS-IBG for contributions to social and cultural geography (1998)
  • President, Section E, British Association for Advancement of Science (1996)
  • Jean Monnet Professorial Fellowship, European University Institute, Florence/ Fiesole (April-August 1996)
  • Christensen Fellowship, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University (January-March 1996)


Professor Smith’s research is centrally concerned with the challenge of inequality, addressing themes as diverse as residential segregation, housing for health and fear of crime. Her current research focusses squarely on inequalities in the housing economy, and particularly on those arising from the uneven integration of housing, mortgage and financial markets. Her work has been funded by research councils, government bodies and charitable trusts. Methodologically this work includes a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches, as well as in interest in a variety of participatory techniques. In collaboration with Dr, Mia Gray and Menagerie Theatre Company, and funded by an impact acceleration grant at Cambridge University, she recently developed a project on ‘public choices in times of austerity‘. This is an experiment in dramatizing the findings of original academic research in a style – Interactive Forum Theatre, as developed by the Brazilian playwright Augusto Boal – that is designed to inform and empower stakeholder audiences. Susan is currently working with Bill Clark (UCLA), Rachel Ong (Curtin University) and Gavin Wood (RMIT University, Melbourne) on an ARC-funded project on The edges of homeownership: linking tenure transitions to financial and wider wellbeing.

Professor Smith’s current research builds on an earlier study of ‘The edges of homeownership‘ funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute (with Gavin Wood and Rachel Ong), which itself builds on an Australian Research Council-funded project on ‘Housing wealth and welfare. Unlocking housing wealth over the life course’ (with Gavin Wood and Judith Bessant). Previously she completed review of ‘the role for equity finance in UK housing markets’ funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (with Christine Whitehead & Peter Williams) and an evaluation for the DWP of the UK’s ‘Support for mortgage interest’ benefit (with Moira Munro and Janet Ford).

Professor Smith also continues to analyse and write from three earlier ESRC-funded projects: ‘Pathways of housing wealth and wellbeing: precipitants and consequences of mortgage equity withdrawal in BHPS and HILDA’ (with Beverley Searle and Sarah Curtis); a project funded under Phase II of the Cultures of Consumption Programme ‘Banking on Housing; Spending the Home‘; and underpinning all this, her ESRC professional fellowship research programme, ‘Trading Places: the Complex Economy of Housing Markets’ which was peer-reviewed as ‘outstanding’.

Past ESRC-funded projects include: ‘Health, life insurance and financial inclusion‘ (with Paul Bennett and Donna Easterlow); ‘The anatomy of a housing boom‘ (with Liz Bondi, Hazel Christie and Moira Munro); and ‘Health and the housing market‘ (with Donna Easterlow and Moira Munro). In the early 1990s Professor Smith also completed suite of projects around ‘Housing provision for people with health and accessibility needs‘ funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


[Publications will load automatically from the University’s publications database.]


  • Currently lecturing to first year undergraduates on unequal geographies, and to second years on housing, affluence and austerity
  • PhD supervision in areas of social and economic geography concerned with housing, mortgage and financial markets, including house prices, housing wealth, mortgage debt, and financial innovation