Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

• Multi-level governance
• Agenda setting and policy change
• Policy implementation
• Smart and sustainable transitions
• Transport policy
• Urban governance
• Wellbeing and quality of life


Research activity per year

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Personal profile


  • PhD in Politics, University of Sheffield, 2014
  • MA in Governance and Public Policy, University of Sheffield, 2009
  • BA (hons) Philosophy, Politics and Economics, University of Durham, 2008


Louise is internationally recognised for her expertise in governance and public policy and regularly provides advice to international funders and policy makers. She also convenes multiple fora for the translation of research findings across disciplines and policy practice.

Broadly, Louise’s research seeks to advance understanding of the contribution governance and public policy processes make to some of society’s most intractable problems, particularly those felt at the urban level.

She is best known for her research on transport policy and governance, including highlighting the political and non-rational nature of transport policy and decision-making, and the tensions between central and local government (and their wider networks) that can limit policy change and stifle implementation. She has also sought to advance analysis of the governance processes related to “smart” and “sustainable” innovations, for example in relation to autonomous vehicles and the future of flight.

Her theoretical interests in governance and policy processes have also been applied and well recognised in relation to wellbeing. Her co-authored monograph The Politics and Policy of Wellbeing (with Prof. Ian Bache, University of Sheffield) was one of the first to apply a political science analysis to the rise of the wellbeing agenda in the UK and internationally.

Before joining the University of Birmingham in 2017, Louise was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds. She has also taught at the University of York, University of Sheffield, and provided guest lectures at the University of Oxford.

Louise is currently Director of Research at the Institute of Local Government Studies and has held several other leadership positions in the department, including Director of Post-Graduate Research and Programme Leader of the Public Management and Leadership Degree Apprenticeship.

She is on the Editorial Boards of Research in Transportation Business & Management and Local Government Studies, having previously been co-editor of the latter. Louise also regularly acts as a peer-reviewer for international research funders and leading academic journals, across disciplines. 

Research interests

  • Multi-level governance
  • Agenda setting and policy change
  • Policy implementation
  • Smart and sustainable transitions
  • Transport policy
  • Urban governance
  • Wellbeing and quality of life

Current projects:

Future Flight (ESRC): Louise is part of a team led by Prof. Fern Elsdon-Baker (University of Birmingham), which is seeking to advance social science analysis of the public desirability of a range of future flight technologies, such as drones and air taxis. Louise’s research focuses on the governance and public policy challenges across scales (local, regional, national, international), linked to transition to these technologies.


‘Emerging transport technologies: finding new practices in urban governance’ (Australian Research Council)’ – Led by Prof. Carey Curtis, Dr Crystal Legacy, and Dr John Stone (University of Melbourne), Louise is a co-Investigator. The research explores the rapidly changing political economy of Australia’s urban transport systems as private companies deploy new technologies, such as platform services and automation. Many new and existing policy instruments are available to governments to manage this difficult technological transition. In-depth case studies of emerging policy responses in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney will be set in the context of fast-moving international developments to explore these issues. This work will deliver new insights into the design and use of better instruments for policy, planning and governance to meet the needs of businesses and the public in this rapidly changing context and to ensure that the potential benefits of the new technologies are fully realised in Australian cities.


‘Facilitating Policy Change for Low Carbon Mobility: The Role of Multilevel Governance’ (CREDS/EPSRC). Louise is PI of this project, collaborating with Dr Timea Nochta (INLOGOV) and Dr Li Wan (University of Cambridge). Urgent and significant change in transport policy is required if the UK wants to meet its net-zero ambitions. This project uses interpretive network and problem analysis to identify the role multi-level governance plays in influencing local-level policy responses towards low carbon mobility.

The project is comparing the multi-level governance of two city regions: Birmingham and Cambridge, using original data from policy documents, participatory mapping workshops and semi-structured interviews. In doing so, the project will provide important and timely recommendations for ways current UK governance arrangements can be supported to enable more effective local policy responses towards low carbon mobility. More information on the project can be found here.

Previous Projects:

UNDER REFORM (ESRC/ICSSR): Louise was co-Investigator of ‘UNDERstanding Indian Urban Governance REFORM: A comparative analysis of the Smart City Mission reforms and their impact on sustainable urban mobility’. This project was an interdisciplinary collaboration led by Prof. Greg Marsden, University of Leeds, alongside Prof. Sanjay Gupta, School of Planning and Architecture Delhi (SPA), Prof. Ashish Verma, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, and the World Resources Institute.

This research had two primary aims. The first was to develop cutting edge, theoretically informed insights into the nature of mobility governance reform in India’s smart cities and their potential to generate more sustainable urban mobility. The second aim was to bring together, develop and inspire a community of researchers and practitioners to advance the study and understanding of mobility governance across India and between the UK and India. More information on the project can be found here.

Long-term institutional Change in the Wake of Crisis (IGI): Louise was co-Investigator of the project, in collaboration with Dr Xinfang Wang (University of Birmingham) and Dr Long Seng To (Loughborough University). The research focused on energy resilience in Nepal in the wake of the 2015 earthquake. The aim was to ascertain the extent to which long-term institutional changes have been made in relation to energy supply and energy access in response to the earthquake (covering both infrastructure changes and governance processes) and the extent to which these changes have the potential to create a more resilient energy system.

DEMAND (RCUK): Louise worked as a research associate as part of the Dynamics of Energy, Mobility and Demand Centre, funded by Research Councils UK. The Centre aimed to understand the social practices that determine the demand-side of energy and mobility demand. Louise’s research focused on the role of politics and policy in steering and shaping demand for mobility services.  

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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