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About us

The Centre for Rural Policy Research is home to an inter-disciplinary team of social scientists focusing on all aspects of the rural economy and society. Our particular research strengths and interests include:

  • agricultural, environmental and bioenergy policy
  • environmental resource management 
  • sustainable communities
  • the social and economic development of agriculture
  • the transformation of food systems
  • sustainable livelihoods in agriculture and food
  • agro-food regulation and changes to markets
  • consumption and dietary change
  • food and agriculture-related social enterprise
  • agriculture, food and cultural heritage
  • the impacts of climate change on farming and land use.

While much of our research focuses on and is conducted in the United Kingdom, we also have an interest in these issues around the world, especially in Europe.

In addition to conducting research, including hosting a number of PhD students and externally funded projects, our staff play an active role in the development of rural, agricultural and food policy.


The Centre is directed by Professors Matt Lobley and Harry G West, and is based within the Faculty of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. As well as full-time staff and researchers, the Centre also has a number of associates and an external Advisory Board.

Find out more about our staff, researchers and associates.


The origins of the Centre for Rural Policy Research date back to the 1960s when the Agricultural Economics Unit was established at the University of Exeter.  In its current guise, the Centre has been directed by Professor Michael Winter and Professor Matt Lobley since the early 2000s.

The Centre has a longstanding reputation as one of the leading groups in the UK and beyond in the study of land, environment and agriculture.  Research undertaken within the Centre has been used to inform governments, businesses and communities about how land and the environment are managed and used and how policy can be better designed, appraised and evaluated.

In 2017, Professor Harry G West joined the Centre as Co-Director alongside Professor Matt Lobley as part of a larger initiative to strengthen the inter-disciplinary links between Politics and Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology (SPA) within what was then the College of Social Sciences and International Studies and to enhance the Centre’s already strong emphasis on food-related issues.