Professor John Mawson FAcSS, FeRSA, FHeA, MRTPI (Rtd)

Professor John Mawson

Department of Public Administration and Policy
Associate, Institute for Local Government Studies

Contact details

School of Government
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Professor John Mawson is an Associate of the Institute for Local Government Studies and Professorial Fellow in Policy and Practice at St. Chad’s College, Durham University.  He was educated at University College London in geography, economics and town planning and worked in local government and regional development in the West Midlands and West of Scotland. 

In the academic world he has held Chairs at Aston, Warwick and Durham Business Schools, and was Head of the School of Town and Regional Planning at Dundee University.  Against this background he has undertaken research and consultancy work for Research Councils, Charitable Research Foundations, Central and Local Government, and voluntary and community organisations.  John’s research interests and publications cover urban and regional policy in the UK and EU, devolution, multi-level governance, social enterprise development, and knowledge exchange and engagement between Universities, practitioners and local communities in delivering place based development.


  • Member Royal Town Planning Institute, 1981-
  • MPhil Town Planning (by research and professional qualification), UCL, 1975
  • BSc (Hons} Geography, UCL, 1969-72
  • Fellow of Academy of Social Sciences
  • Fellow Higher Education Academy
  • Fellow Regional Studies Association


John commenced his career at Strathclyde Regional Council working on a corporate strategy which addressed issues of multiple deprivation across the West of Scotland.   He went on to work as a lecturer in the Centre of Urban and Regional Studies at Birmingham University and was seconded to West Midlands County Council as Director of Economic Development.  Following abolition of the metropolitan authority in 1986, he played a key role in establishing the West Midlands Enterprise Board Ltd. as a venture capital and economic development agency, controlled by the seven Metropolitan District Councils.  This pioneered the raising and use of pension fund finance for its investment activities.  Associated with this experience, John was engaged in two ESRC research awards addressing innovative approaches to local economic development and the public policy response to the economic restructuring of the West Midlands with colleagues in INLOGOV.

John returned to Birmingham University from his secondment in 1991 and led a national evaluation of the then Conservative Government’s competitive funding model, the Single Regeneration Budget.  He was also engaged in comparative European studies of urban regeneration for the Local Government Management Board and French national research funding body the CNRS under its PIR-VILLE programme.  Professor Mawson went on to hold Chairs at Dundee and Aston Universities, and between 2001-2009 was Director of the Local Government Centre at Warwick University Business School. 

During the above period he played an active research and advisory role in the development of the Labour Government’s Devolution agenda, including ESRC studies of Government Offices for the English Regions and the emergence of regional governance structures in England.  Consultancy work was undertaken for the ODPM on Regional Development Agency Strategies and Partnership working  and for the Cabinet Office, addressing the impact of central government on the activities of local and regional institutions and stakeholders.  He also led the successful London-wide proposal to secure the establishment of the London Development Agency on behalf of the Association of London Government and London Development Partnership.

Whilst at Warwick University, John was invited to Chair the West Midlands Social Economy Partnership, a £1.5 million SRB action research programme which funded and evaluated 21 pilot business projects and networks.  Between 2006 and 2013 he was successively Chair of the Local Authority Research Council Initiative, Assessor for the ESRC and Scottish Funding Council Programme on local authority research engagement and a Member of the Advisory Board of the ESRC’s Third Sector Research Centre.

On moving to Durham University, he established and ran for over a decade The Institute for Local Governance (ILG), a North East-wide research and knowledge exchange intermediary involving a partnership between the region’s five Universities and key public sector institutions. He is currently engaged in an analysis of this pioneering initiative.


Current Research

Throughout his career Professor Mawson has worked at the interface between research and practice focusing in particular on the politics, management and development of cities and regions.  His current research activity includes exploring the interaction between Universities and their localities through processes of engagement, leadership, evidence informed policy and practice, and knowledge exchange. 

The work has involved a ten year longitudinal study of a region-wide partnership between the North East’s five Universities and key public sector institutions.  Funded by annual subscription, the ILG’s purpose was to access academic expertise in the delivery of various local governance projects in the region whilst seeking to foster organisational capacity and research excellence in the Universities concerned.  This work was managed by three academic/practitioners supervised by Professor Mawson and accountable to a Partners’ Management Board.

In delivering for partners this involved co-production research processes, commissioning, monitoring, delivery and dissemination as well as running four stakeholder fora (a regional information network, public health and crime and community safety groups and the North East Child Poverty Commission).  These collaborative activities enabled partners to develop understanding of key issues and generate and pursue research proposals. 

In 2014, a national survey conducted by ESRC, LGA and SOLACE concluded the ILG was “at the leading edge of knowledge exchange intermediaries”.  During its period of operation, the ILG North East Research and Knowledge Exchange Programme was responsible for the sourcing and delivery by North East academics, of 97 research and consultancy projects across an area stretching from Teesside to the Scottish Border.  These included individual projects for its partners as well as collaborative regional and sub-regional studies covering a range of issues including Devolution, Brexit, public expenditure cuts, the impact of welfare reform, public sector purchasing, social enterprise and community development, mental health provision, and child poverty.  Emanating from this work it organised over 200 knowledge exchange activities, seminars and conferences involving over 5,000 participants from across the region.

The ILG also funded some independent monitoring of its brokering activities with partners.  Since the ending of the initiative in 2021, Professor Mawson has been engaged in an analysis of its role and processes drawing on work funded by the ESRC, the Association of North East Councils and a North East research foundation, the Millfield House Trust.

Related Research Contracts Not Funded by the ILG Partnership

  • North East Child Poverty Commission Strategic Partnership Action Research and Knowledge Exchange Programme. With R. Beveridge and D. Harrison, Durham University. (Millfield House Trust) 2016-19.
  • Developing and Implementing Effective Working Relationships Between Health Authorities, Local Government and the Third Sector in Improving Public Health and Wellbeing.  With A. Chapman and F. Robinson, Durham University. (ESRC IAA Impact Case Study) 2016-18.
  • Comparative Review of Managerial and Political Arrangements in the Operation of Mayoral Combined Authorities and Analysis of Public Opinion Survey on Mayoral Powers in Teesside.  With D. Reid Consultant and S. Leach, DeMontfort University. (Redcar and Cleveland Council, for five Teesside Councils) 2016.
  • Effective Working Relationships Between Local Authorities and the Third Sector in an Age of Austerity.  With A. Chapman and F. Robinson, Durham University. (ESRC IAA Impact Case Study) 2015-18.
  • Connecting Local Communities to the Nation: A Review of Relationships between Local Communities and National Policy Systems.  With M. Laffin et. al. Durham University.(Arts and Humanities Research Council) 2011-2012.
  • Capacity building and Research Support for the Development of the Institute for Local Governance Durham University. (ESRC Ventures Scheme) 2010-15.

Other Research and Consultancy Projects

  • Customer Service Developments in Local Government with H. Davis et al., Warwick University. (Institute of Customer Services) 2009.
  • Local Strategic Partnerships, Managing Performance and Resources. with C. Fuller, Warwick University (Audit Commission) 2007-2008.
  • Skills for Sustainable Communities in Contested Cities  K. Gaffikin and K. Sterret, Queens University Belfast  with Warwick University(ESRC) 2006-2008.
  • Review of the Role of the West Midlands Local Government Association in the Context of the Sub-National Review, Warwick University with A. Coulson, INLOGOV (WMLGA) 2008.
  • Evaluation of the National Neighbourhood Pathfinder Programme Phase Two. SQW and four Universities including Warwick. (ODPM) 2005-2008.
  • Emerging Patterns of Governance in the English Regions with G. Pearce and S. Ayres, Aston and Warwick Universities (ESRC) 2002-2006.
  • Towards a Democratic Region. The West Midlands Research Action Programme. with G. Morran and G. Pearce, Aston University. (Barrow Cadbury Trust) 2001-2004.
  • Research and Capacity Building in Support of Regional Assemblies/Chambers with S. Snape, Warwick University. (English Regions Network) 2002-2005.
  • The Future Structure of Local Government in Durham.  S. Leach INLOGOV, with Aston University (Durham County Council and Districts) 1999.
  • Review of National Neighbourhood Renewal Strategy and Implications for Local Government with P. Burgess and G. Pearce, Aston University (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) 1999-2000.
  • Strategy Developments and Partnership Working in the Regional Development Agencies with Ove Arup and Aston University. (DETR) 1999-2000.
  • Analysis of Consultation Survey on the Role of Central Government at Regional and Local Levels.  Aston University. (Cabinet Office, IPSOS RSL) 1999.
  • Challenge Funding, Contracts and Area Regeneration (Joseph Rowntree Foundation)  Dundee University. 1997-1998.
  • Capital Choices.  London Development Agency Proposals: a Co-ordinated Response  Dundee University (ALG and London Development Partnership) 1997.
  • Whitehall and the Reorganisation of Regional Offices in England with K. Spencer, INLOGOV. CURS Birmingham. (ESRC) 1994-1997.
  • Nègotiations et Obligations Dans Le Gouvernment Des Villes. Une Approach Comparative CURS Birmingham University, with Universities of Amiens, Lille, Utrecht, Free University Brussels and Catholic University, Milan (CNRS PIR VILLE Programme) 1993-1996.
  • The Single Regeneration Budget. Stocktake. CURS Birmingham (Association of County Councils, District Councils, and Metropolitan Authorities) 1995
  • Management Innovations in Urban Policy. Lessons from France. CURS Birmingham (Local Government Management Board) 1994.
  • Exit Arrangements for Urban Development Corporations. CURS with A. Coulson INLOGOV Birmingham University. (National Audit Office) 1991.
  • The Development of Interventionist Local Authority Economic Development Policies CURS Birmingham University. (ESRC) 1983-1985.
  • The West Midlands.  Inner City Research Programme with K. Spencer et al, INLOGOV (ESRC) 1983-1985.
  • Comparative Study of European Regional Policy. CURS Birmingham University with Relations et Conjecture (Delegation l’Amenagement du Territoire et a l’Action Regionale – DATAR) 1980.

Other activities

National Level

  • Written and Oral Evidence to House of Commons Justice Committee and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee ‘Devolution A Decade on’ 2009
  • Special Advisor to House of Common Environment Committee on Urban Regeneration, 1994-1995
  • Member Policy Advisor Group - Opposition Spokesman on Regional Affairs, John Prescott MP, 1981-1987
  • Written and Oral Evidence to House of Lords Committee on  European Communities, 1981-1984

Research, Knowledge Exchange and Evidence Informed Policy and Practice Roles

  • Member of the Board of the North East Centre for Translational Research in Public Health (Fuse). 2014-2020.  Medical Research Council involving all 5 NE Universities
  • Member of the Advisory Board ESRC Third Sector Research Centre, 2009-2014
  • Assessor ESRC and Scottish Funding Council  ‘Engaging with Scottish Local Authorities’ 2009-2010
  • Chair, Local Authority Research Council Initiative, 2005-2008

West Midlands

  • Member, Minister for West Midlands Economic Inclusion Panel 2008-2009
  • Member, European Social Fund and Regional Development Fund.  Programme Committee, 2007-2009
  • Member, West Midlands Regional Assembly, Task Review Group, 2001 and 2008.  Proposals leading to changes in functions and constitution
  • Chair, West Midlands Social Economy Partnership, £1.5 million action research project engaged in funding and evaluation of 22 social enterprises, community businesses and networks.  Office of the Third Sector, SRB and Regional Development Agency (AWM) 2002-2006
  • Chair, Greets Green (Sandwell) New Deal for Communities Partnership, Jobs and Enterprise Programme involving engagement of disadvantaged communities and residents. DCLG. 1999-2002

North East

  • Trustee, Youth Homeless North East, 2016-2019

Career Positions

  • Professorial Fellow, St. Chad’s College, Durham University, 2017 -
  • Professor and Director of the Institute for Local Governance (ILG) Durham University Business School, 2010-2020
  • Visiting Professor, Urban Planning Research Programme, Griffith University, Brisbane, 2009
  • Professor and Director of the Local Government Centre, Warwick Business School, 2001-2009
  • Professor of Public Policy and Management, Convenor of Public Service Management, Aston Business School, 1998-2001
  • Professor and Head of School of Town and Regional Planning, University of Dundee, 1995-98
  • Senior Lecturer Centre for Urban and Regional Studies, University of Birmingham, 1991-1995
  • Joint Chief Executive, West Midlands Enterprise Board Ltd., 1986-1991.  Controlled by 7 Metropolitan District Councils – seconded from University of Birmingham
  • Director of Economic Development, West Midlands County Council, 1984-1986 – seconded from the University of Birmingham
  • Lecturer, Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS), University of Birmingham, 1978-1984
  • Lecturer in East of England Centre for Planning Education, Anglia University (Chelmsford) 1976-1978
  • Strategic Planning Officer, Strathclyde Regional council, Member of Regional Report Team, 1975-76


Recent Publications

Demaziere, C., Mawson, J., and Hall, S. (2020), “Les Métropoles Francaises Vue D’Angleterre: Un Jeu Entre LeEtat et les Notables?” Chapter 2 in Demaziere, C., Desjardins, X. and Sykes, O. (eds) La Gouvernance Des Métropoles et Des Régions Urbaines.  Ministère de la Translation Ecologique /Ministère de la Cohèsion des Territoires.  Lyon.  PUCA pp50-70.

Mawson, J. and Griffin, M. (2019), “Research, Knowledge Exchange and Impact.  The Experience of a University-Public Sector Partnership in North East England.”  Chapter 11 in Liddle, J. and Shutt, J. (eds) The North East After Brexit.  Emerald Publishing, Bingley.

McGuinness D. and Mawson, J. (2017), The Rescaling of Sub-National Planning: Can Localism Resolve England’s Spatial Planning Conundrum?  Town Planning Review 88(3), pp 283-303.

Laffin, M., Mawson, J. and Ormston, C. (2014), Public Services in a “Post-Democratic Age”: An Alternative Framework to Network Governance.  Environment and Planning C. Government and Policy  32(4), pp 762-776.

Wilson, R., Cornford, J., Baines, S. and Mawson, J. (2011), Information for Localism. Policy Sense Making for Local Governance. Public Policy and Management 31(4), pp 295-299.

Mawson, J. (2010) Social Enterprise, Strategic Networks and the West Midlands Experience. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy Volume 30 no 12, pp 66-83.

Mawson, J. (2009), Local Economic Development and the Sub-national Review: Old Wine in New Bottles? Local Government Studies, Volume 86 no 2, pp443-463.

Pearce, G., Mawson, J. and Ayres, S. (2008), Regional Governance in England: A Changing Role for Government Regional Offices. Public Administration Volume 86, no 2, pp 443-363.

Journal Articles

Reflecting his research and multi-disciplinary background, Professor Mawson has published in a range of refereed journals including: Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Common Market Studies, Regional and Federal Studies, Regional Studies, Local Government Studies, Policy and Politics, Public Administration, International Journal Public Sector Management, Environment and Planning C, Local Economy, New Economy, International Journal Sociology and Social Policy, Built Environment, Planning Practice and Research, Town Planning Review.

Journal Editorial Roles

Policy Review Editor, Regional Studies 1987-2005

Member of Editorial Board Local Economy 1986-1996


Tomaney, J. and Mawson, J. (eds) 2001 England: The State of the Regions Policy Press, Bristol

Bradbury, J. and Mawson, J. (eds) (1997) Devolution. The Challenge of State Reform and European Integration Taylor Francis.

Spencer, K. Batley R., Mawson, J., Flynn, N., Taylor, A. and Smith, B. (1986) Crisis in the Industrial Heartland. A Study of the West Midlands  Oxford University Press.

Research Monographs

How to Work Effectively with the Third Sector For Public Sector Organisations. ESRC IAA Impact Case Study (2018). Durham University, Durham.

It’s a Culture thing – The Challenge of Change.  Customer Service in Local Government. (2009) Warwick University.  Institute of Customer Service. London

Strategy Development and Partnership Working in the Regional Development Agencies. (2001) Aston University  Regeneration Research Series.  DETR, London.

Devolved Approaches to Local Governance: Policy and Practice in Neighbourhood Management (2000). Aston University.  Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.

Challenge Funding, Contracts and Area Regeneration (1999). Dundee University.  Joseph Rowntree Foundation.  Policy Press, Bristol.

The Single Regeneration Budget.  The Stocktake (1995). CURS Birmingham University, Birmingham.

Management Innovation in Urban Policy.  Lessons from France.  (1994) CURS Birmingham University.  Local Government Management Board, London