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Frances Brill



UCL Department of Geography
University College London
Pearson Building
Gower Street









2017 Visiting Fellow, University of Witswatersand

2015 MSc Sociology, London School of Economics.

Thesis title: Who Rules London? An analysis of Power Structure during the CrossRail decision making process

2013 BA Land Economy, University of Cambridge

Non-PhD research

2017 - 2019 Frontline Europe, Research Co-oridnator

2015 - 2016 Early Career Researcher, Research = Teaching Project, UCL

2015 - 2017 Shelter England, Community Researcher, Volunteering Team

2013 – 2014 Town and Country Planning Association, Research Assistant ‘Planning out Poverty’ (Webb Trust funded)

PhD Research

The Developer in Question: A Comparative Analysis of the Role of Developers in London's Royal Docks and Modderfontein, Johannesburg

This PhD draws on elite interviews and ethnographic work to question the role of real estate developers in two large scale projects, Modderfontein in north-east Johannesburg and London’s Royal Docks in the east end, with a particular focus on how developers create and maintain agency. Specifically, I challenge the singularising nature of current everyday and academic discourses to show the necessity of conceptualising them in a networked fashion which acknowledges the inherently sociological nature of development processes. Using this broader conceptualisation and applying a lens of financialisation, I argue that developers engage in specifically financialised activities which widen their networks as part of both risk mitigating and revenue generating strategies. In doing so they challenge their own agency, but maintain a relative position of power by promoting themselves as knowledge mediators and as localising forces in often very globalised settings. In analysing the way in which these financial strategies require navigating global-local dynamics, I argue developers must also find a way to navigate transcalar politics. Looking across the two sites highlights specific actions which developers can take if they are trying to embrace local urban contexts, whilst drawing in finance from other places. Theoretically this works builds on existing financialisation literature, urban governance research policy mobility research and comparative urbanism with the hope to advance understandings of real estate developers’ roles in the global flow of finance and ideas during development processes.

Papers and Presentations

Robin, E., and Brill, F., (2018) The global politics of an urban age: creating “cities for all” in the age of financialisation, Palgrave Communications

Brill, F. (2018) Learning from the Institute of Making Connecting Research and Teaching: Students as Partners in Shaping Higher Education, ed. Vincent Tong, Alex Standen and Mina Sotiriou.London: UCL Press, Forthcoming (2018)

Brill, F. (2015) Comparative Urbanism, Skin Deep: Outside the Academy, vol.3


2017 'Playing the Game', presented at the RC21 Conference

2017 'The Developer in Question' presented at the American Association of Geographers

2016 R = T, presented at the Insitute of Education’s Teaching and Learning Conference

2015 ‘Conceptualising the urban through difference in comparative studies’ with Camila Saraiva, presented at the Stadtlkolloqium Annual Conference

Other Writing

Global Urbanist – Pieces on urban policy, housing and gender – Pieces on British politics, housing and planning policy


Africa@LSE – Multiple pieces on Africa governance and cities



Qualifications and Training

2016 HEA Associate Fellow

2015 UCL Arena One Teaching Associate Programme (TAP) for the School of Laws, Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences

2014 Arena 1 PGTA Gateway course


PGTA Roles - UCL

Academic year 2016-17:

  • MSc Gender and Sexualities
  • Paris Fieldtrip
  • Development Geography
  • Global Geographies

Academic year 2015-16:

  • MSc Gender and Sexualities
  • Paris Fieldtrip
  • Development Geography
  • Global Geographies
  • Politics and Society (Geography)
  • Research Methods/Second Year Readings Groups

Academic year 2014-2015

  • London: a Geographical Introduction
  • Research Methods/Second Year Readings Groups