Professor Neil Ravenscroft
As Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my role is to provide guidance and leadership in the development of UK and international partnerships and collaborations, in teaching, research and knowledge exchange. As part of this role I am Executive Dean of the RAU Joint Institute for Advanced Agri-Technology at Qingdao Agricultural University, while I also serve on the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group at the RAU, as well as chairing a number of committees related to our international programmes and collaborations. Outside the University, I have recently held positions including elected executive membership of the UK Council for Graduate Education and membership of the UK Committee for the UNESCO Man & Biosphere Programme. I am also a Visiting International Expert at Fudan University, China, where I research farming in China’s urban periphery and the growth in interest in community supported agriculture. As a result of this work I have been appointed as an advisor to the China Community Supported Agriculture Alliance. I have a more practical interest in community supported agriculture in the UK, as a member and past Director of Tablehurst Community Farm in East Sussex.
The foundation of my research interests lies in economic questions about the multiple relationships that people have with each other and with the natural and physical environment. At the core of this are questions about the extent to which economic concepts such as wealth, individual utility and exchange can adequately capture the complexities of such relationships. In recent work funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), for example, I have examined the case for moving away from the conventional economic focus on the individual as the unit of assessment to a more systemic conceptualisation of humans as social beings where values and utility are formed through shared and deliberative processes. Not only does this challenge the efficacy of market-based resource allocation, but it also suggests that conventional understandings of economic efficiency may actually be counter-productive to achieving sustained – and sustainable – societies.
At the core of this research problem is the question of how rights to exploit resources are allocated. Most research on the allocation of land and natural resources has concentrated on the governance of rights, in the belief that there is a causal relationship between robust governance systems and the protection of rights. However, my research has suggested that the opposite is the case and that the exploitation of rights, and thus of people and the environment, is facilitated by the unequal power relations implicit in the operation of such governance systems. Examples of this exist all over the globe, whether in terms of the marketisation of European and African commons, or the liberalisation of collective property regimes elsewhere.