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Tim Schwanen

Visiting Professor of Human Geography from
University of Oxford, UK

We need to do better in making transport sustainable

Professional biography
Research interests
Influence beyond the academy
Inspiring passions and concerns
Most significant publications
Hopes for the Visiting Professor Programme

Professional biography
Tim is at the School of Geography at the University of Oxford, UK. He has worked at Oxford’s Transport Studies Unit (TSU) since March 2009 becoming its Director in September 2015. Prior to this he worked as a lecturer in urban geography at Utrecht University, the Netherlands. At that university he also completed his PhD thesis (2003, cum laude) and MSc thesis (1999, cum laude).

Tim is one of the Deputy Directors of the Research Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (2013-2018) in which the University of Sussex collaborates with the Universities of Manchester and Oxford.

What are your main research interests?
My current research primarily revolves around the question of how the everyday mobility of people can be durably reconfigured in a socially just manner so that greenhouse gas emissions are radically reduced and transport makes a positive contribution to the wellbeing of people and communities. The social sciences – and human geography in particular – are critically important to addressing this question, and I seek to make my contribution through theoretical and empirical studies of recent innovations in urban transport and of how people’s mobility practices and experiences in both Europe and the global South.

How does your research have influence beyond the academic world? Does this include any roles you have beyond the academy?
Within my UK research projects I interact intensively with policy makers, providers of transport services and other stakeholders in various ways. I have for instance interviewed them as research participants and regularly give seminars and presentations about my research and thinking. In Oxford I also teach on intensive courses and a MSc programme for professionals who come from all over the world to learn about sustainable urbanism and transport.

Is teaching still a significant part of your working life? What particular method or approach would you say characterises your teaching?
In addition to the above, I teach an undergraduate geography course on transport and mobility and MSc modules on decision making and on cities, mobility and climate change in Oxford. I also supervise undergraduate, MSc and PhD students and in one of Oxford’s colleges I teach tutorials across all of the undergraduate curriculum in human geography. My approach to teaching revolves around offering students different perspectives on a given issue and expecting them to form their own views and opinions on those perspectives. I also have a preference for small group teaching that is more conversational in style and based on active participation by students.

What specific passions or concerns particularly inspire you in your work?
Anthropogenic climate change and forms of social injustice based on gender, age, capacity to move through geographical space, and so forth. I am particularly concerned about the lack of priority accorded to emissions and climate change in many policy and governance processes. And when these are considered there are often inflated expectations about the role of technology and economic instruments in addressing the issues. Such expectations can be found in many domains of society but is particularly prevalent in the transport sector. Much more comprehensive changes are required in how mobility is practiced, thought about and governed.

Which of your publications would you regard as the most significant and why?
One of the more interesting papers is a piece on how we can understand habits and what this means for how we think about policy interventions seeking to make people’s everyday mobility more sustainable. I am also pleased with recent work on the relationship between mobility and individuals’ wellbeing because it brings out the complex and multifaceted nature of the latter concept and explains why studies of wellbeing cannot be reduced to relatively straightforward measures of satisfaction with one’s life. Finally, I am honoured to have been asked to write a series of articles on the latest developments in geographical research on transport for geography’s most well-known review journal, the first of which is now available.

What are you particularly hoping to achieve during your time as a Visiting Professor in Gothenburg?
I look forward to the opportunity to conduct collaborative research with members of the Mobility Research Group led by Prof Vilhelmson and elsewhere in the University of Gothenburg on questions around physical mobility and the use of contemporary information and communication technologies. Sweden is known for the availability of extensive and high quality data on mobility and other aspects of everyday life, and it would be great to develop innovation research projects utilising these. I am also keen to interact with students to discuss approaches for making everyday mobility more sustainable and to establish new coontacts and productive working relationships with academic staff at Gothenburg University.


Tim Schwanen


Would you like to meet Tim and/or have an idea for future cooperation?

Send an email to his contact person at the School:
Bertil Vilhelmson

Or visit
his home university website!

Focus areas:

  • Mobility
  • Cities
  • Wellbeing
  • Energy

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Page Manager: Karin Jansson|Last update: 12/17/2015

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