Marie Houghton: Reflections from the CaCHE PhD Summer School 2019

Photo: Dr Emma Bimpson and Dr Jenny Preece, present their research

Following the CaCHE PhD Summer School, which took place at the University of Sheffield on 18-19 July 2019, Marie Houghton gives an overview of the two days and highlights benefits that she gained from attending. 

I saw the CaCHE PhD Summer School advertised on Twitter. It sounded interesting and was free so I signed up, but I didn’t really know what to expect.

My research, which focuses on people’s experiences of house sharing, is based within psychology and there are not many in my department doing work around housing. I was therefore excited to attend a housing specific event, meet people who were focused on issues related to housing and hear about their research.

Day 1

The event started off with lunch and, because everyone was very friendly and keen to hear about each other’s research, I had already had some really interesting conversations with other participants before the official programme of talks even started.

In the first talk, we heard from Brian Robson from the Northern Housing Consortium about some of the latest issues being debated in the world of housing policy. This included the future of social housing, affordability, and potential changes to the private rental system. This was followed by Dr Jenny Preece and Dr Emma Bimpson, from the University of Sheffield, who discussed their research on housing exclusion (which really highlighted the very real impact policy decisions can have on people’s lives). Dr Tom Moore, from the University of Liverpool, then rounded off the session with a presentation on community-led housing (which provided really interesting insights into something which could – potentially – challenge the way the housing market works currently).

After a break, there was then an opportunity for each student to present a summary of their research. It was interesting to hear about the broad range of topics people were working on, including student housing, age-friendly housing, bringing up children in insecure rented accommodation, governance of housing associations, modular housing and modern methods of construction.

Those who wanted then decamped to a nearby pub for a drink and to carry on the discussion. The evening ended with a dinner which provided a great opportunity to chat with speakers, members of the CaCHE team, and other students about housing, research, and also just life as a PhD student. (On my table there was some particularly spirited discussion about snacks of choice while studying.)

Day 2

The second day started with a presentation by Dr Rowena Bermingham from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) on different ways we as PhD students can, and should, try to engage with Parliament about our research. This was then followed by Claire Martin from CaCHE discussing strategies for communicating your research. These presentations offered lots of very useful advice on how to increase the impact of your research and to make sure your work is reaching as wide an audience as possible. Both these talks included lots of tips which I will definitely be making sure I act on (for example, when communicating your research, know what your key message is and get straight to the point) and I was also given lots of food for thought about how I might be able to use creative approaches, such as video, to communicate my research. Both speakers also stressed that you do not have to wait until you have finished your PhD to start reaching out to people. Although we may not always feel like experts as PhD students, we do have knowledge and expertise which could be useful in helping to inform policy. Also, if there is someone you are interested in discussing your work or collaborating with, you don’t have to wait until you have done everything to contact them!

The final session of the day focused on careers in housing. Speakers included Dr Yoric Irving-Clarke from the Chartered Institute of Housing, Emma Lindley from Ashfield District Council, and Dr Gareth Young from CaCHE. This session gave us an insight into different career path provided lots of ideas for different ways you can work in housing research and/or policy post-PhD. A career in academia is certainly one of those ways, but it was interesting and reassuring to hear about the many different other possibilities out there.

How was the event?

I had a great time at the event. I really enjoyed meeting PhD students from different universities and different disciplinary backgrounds (including sociology, geography, architecture, and economics, to name a few) who all shared a deep interest in issues related to housing. At the event, I discovered that another participant, also based in London, is exploring topics very closely related to my research and we are planning to start a reading group examining these issues. I am sure other future collaborations between researchers will also grow out of connections people made during the event.

The summer school provided a really supportive environment in which to talk about my research and all the speakers had really useful advice to offer about life during and after your PhD. I came away feeling inspired and excited about not only my own research but the work other participants are doing. I would really recommend attending future versions of the summer school to anyone doing their PhD in any area related to housing.

Marie Houghton is a PhD student based in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London. Marie’s research is focusing on experiences of house sharing, particularly among those who are aged 30 and over.

The CaCHE PhD Summer School was delivered in collaboration with the White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership


Date: June 26, 2019 2:59 pm


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