Geography and Environment


Dr James Esson PhD (University College London)

Photo of Dr James Esson

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography

Academic career

2018 onwards: Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University

2014 - 2018: Lecturer in Human Geography, Loughborough University

I studied at Newcastle University, University of Oxford and University College London (UCL)

Professional responsibilities

2018 onwards – Admissions Tutor, Geography and Environment

2018 onwards - University Teaching Assessor

2018 onwards – International Advisory Board, Population, Space and Place

2017 onwards - Co-Chair of Loughborough University’s BAME Staff Network

2016 onwards - School of Social Sciences Athena SWAN Team

2016 onwards - Head of the RGS-IBG RACE Working Group’s Teaching and Learning subcommittee

2015 onwards- Module Contributor: Global Challenges in Transport, Oxford Leadership Programme. University of Oxford, UK

2015 - Member of the Academic Assessor Group for the ESRC-DFID Education and Development Programme Call

My research is broadly located within the field of development geography, and extends debates in geography and the wider social sciences by examining development processes in three areas 1) Unconventional approaches to development 2) Migration 3) Urban Dynamics. Ongoing and recent projects in these areas include:

Unconventional approaches to development

I am investigating the efficacy of sport, art and cultural programmes in promoting development in relation to poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and gender equality. This work is supported by the ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund. I am also working on a project funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund that examines how philanthropy is interpreted and enacted within African higher education institutions as part of national and international development agendas.


I am bringing social and cultural theory into conversation with the migration-development nexus. I do so by using human trafficking in the football industry as a way to investigate the tension between sedentary development policies, and the increasingly popular belief among West African youth that regardless of the risks involved, irregular migration is a legitimate way to improve their life chances. This area of my research was funded by the ESRC, and will inform a co-authored monograph on African youth, development and transnational migration to be published by Manchester University Press.

I am interested in higher education as a field of inquiry, ranging from policy reforms to the issue of racism in the academy. I was awarded a British Academy research grant to investigate the impact of UK immigration policies on international students. More specifically, this project examines how migration statistics are produced, made credible and used by the State to monitor migrant populations.

Urban Dynamics

I am exploring the relationship between age-related mobility, urbanization processes and development in Africa. This strand of my work builds on research conducted as part of the EU-FP7 African Rural-City Connections project (RurbanAfrica), where I collaborated with scholars based in Cameroon, Denmark, France, Ghana, the Netherlands, Rwanda, Tanzania and the UK. Policy documents and reports associated with this research can be found here.

My teaching is in development geography, bringing together my interests in migration, urban dynamics and education.

Current postgraduate research students:

  • David O’Byrne: Sport for Development and Peace (University Studentship)
  • Jedi Tetteh: Maternal and child health in urban Ghana (University Studentship)
  • Chidinma Okorie: Development in Africa through Commonwealth Scholarships (University Studentship)