Ellen Hughes awarded title of Doctor for her PhD research


We are delighted to announce Ellen Hughes has been awarded the title of Doctor for her PhD research on the subject of Patterns of Creative Worker Migration Across the Lifespan: the migration and occupation paths of Bristol designers (1950-2018)

Dr Hughes’ PhD research was funded by UWE and developed using data gathered for CFPR’s Bristol and Bath by Design report. The thesis analysed the migration and occupation trajectories of designers who have lived and worked in Bristol. Creative workers are theorised as autonomous and highly mobile, migrating away from their family of origin and childhood friends, breaking away from inherited values and expectations into independence. Ellen’s thesis took a biographical approach to understand the complexity of reasons for migration and occupation choices, set within their historical, political and social contexts. The thesis finds that contrary to theory, migration and occupation outcomes are intimately connected to early family experiences and to social class. For the middle-class majority, their very identity as a designer was tied to their parents’ occupations, and the world they inhabited as children. This world was carried with them as they migrated and informed migration decisions throughout their adult lives.  

Many thanks to Ellen’s examining team:

Alessandra Faggian, Vice Provost for Research, Director of the Social Sciences Area, Professor of Applied Economics Gran Sasso Science Institute, Italy

Andrew Spicer, Professor of Cultural Production, ACE – Creative and Cultural Industries, University of the West of England

Chaired by Svetlana Cicmil, Director of Doctoral Research in Business and Law, UWE UN ECPD Professor of Global Operations Studies, Assoc. Professor with Bristol Leadership and Change Centre

We would like to congratulate Dr Hughes on her success.

More about Ellen’s research:

Creative workers are theorised as autonomous and highly mobile, migrating away from their family of origin and childhood friends, breaking away from inherited values and expectations into independence. In contrast to theory, across Europe, including the UK, creative workers are found living in their region of birth or education, suggesting that attachment to place, and social and familial ties are important. This thesis takes a biographical approach to understand the complexity of reasons for migration and occupation choices, set within their historical, political and social contexts. Using 63 in-depth interviews with designers who have lived in the city of Bristol, UK, the thesis maps sequential patterns of creative worker migration over the lifespan, and makes a deep analysis of the impact of early life experiences on migration and occupation outcomes. The thesis finds that migration and occupation outcomes are intimately connected to early family experiences. Designers, who were predominantly white, middle-class and male, depended heavily on family of origin for support into education, access to employment and for housing costs long into adulthood. Trajectories fell into three categories: Stability: remaining in situ was most common among working class designers who did not consider migration as necessary or important in their life trajectory. Mobility: moving from working to middle class through education and employment, migrating away from family of origin, seeking a place to make a new home in a new social position. Recreation: for middle-class designers, a movement away from their home of origin for education was anticipated from childhood. This was followed by one or two movements for a job, then, after the formation of a family, a movement to a location that was similar in feel to their home of origin. This thesis also contributes to migration theory in revealing a yo-yo pattern of migration: a sequence of movements away from and then returning to an anchor place or region, showing that for many creative workers, a specific place, and the social connections contained within it, continue to be important across the life span.  

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