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Postgraduate research


Welcome to a vibrant and cosmopolitan research community


Welcome to world-class research in geography


Welcome to doctoral students who make a difference


Welcome to our prize-winning postgraduate community


Welcome to an inspirational environment


Welcome to doctoral research undertaken around the world


Welcome to world-class research in Quarternary Science


Our postgraduate community is vibrant

We have more than 90 PhD students (see list of current topics) and over 40 master’s-degree students pursing cutting-edge research, and undertaking advanced training, in the areas of Quaternary science, social, cultural, and historical geography, the GeoHumanities, development studies, sustainability, and geopolitics.

Our postgraduate community is cosmopolitan

We attract high-quality students from all over the world, including Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Overseas students play a vital role in ensuring that our department benefits from a diversity of experience and skills.

Our postgraduate community is committed to collaboration  

Through specific initiative such as the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Award programme, the ESRC’s CASE scheme, and via their own dissertations and projects, our students prove that they are able to form and maintain partnerships with premier institutions including London’s major museums, the Body Shop, the British Geological Survey, the British Library, the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation, Natural England, the Ordnance Survey, the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), the Royal United Services Institute, StreetInvest, and WaterAid.

Our postgraduate community is skilled  

Through dedicated programmes in the department, and at college level, we offer our students relevant and timely training in research-specific and transferable skills. We are committed to ensuring that our students are well equipped, not only to complete their studies but also to develop their future careers.

Our postgraduate community is successful

Many of our postgraduate students, even before they complete their studies, are presenting their work at international conferences and publishing in top-ranked journals. Our students are also deeply committed to public engagement, not only in the UK but also around the world.

Postgraduate fees and funding

The latest information about course tuition fees, and about how you can pay, can be found on the college’s research-degree tuition fees page.

There are a range of options for funding your research degree in the department. Further details can be found on our scholarships and funding page.

Applying to undertake a postgraduate research degree

In order to apply to undertake a postgraduate research degree in the department, you should

1. Make an informal enquiry before you apply

In the first instance, you should check the research interests of members of academic staff in the department to see who is active in the area that you are interested in. It is helpful at this stage if you can provide any member of staff you contact with an outline research proposal and a CV, setting out your qualifications and experience. You should expect to have a series of discussions with the member of staff (by email, by telephone/Skype, or in person) about the project, about options for funding, and about your career aspirations. These discussions will help the member of staff decide whether or not they would be an appropriate supervisor for your proposed project.

2. Submit an application

When a member of staff has agreed in principle to supervise your project, you should then submit an application form using the online application system. One of the most important aspects of your application is the research proposal. 

The purpose of the research proposal is two-fold: first, to help determine whether your topic corresponds with the interests and expertise of its proposed supervisor(s) and, second, to make clear how the research will make an original contribution to geographical knowledge. 

The proposal is important as it will allow the department to assess your aptitude for doctoral-level research, to allocate supervision appropriately, and to ensure we are fully able to support the study you propose. Although you are required formally to submit the proposal with your application for doctoral study, it is a document you may wish to develop in discussion with a member of staff in the Department of Geography. 

The proposal should be no more than 2,000 words in length (excluding the bibliography) and include the following sections: 


At this stage, a working title that summarises the proposed focus is more than adequate.

Introduction and Rationale 

The introduction should, in a succinct way, provide an overview of, and rationale for, the proposed project. You should explain the project’s focus, its broad aims, the key academic issues or debates it addresses, and how it will make an original contribution to geographical knowledge. In simple terms, explain why this project matters, why you are the right person to undertake it, and why the Department of Geography is the most appropriate place to be based.

Literature Review 

Any proposed project should make clear how it relates to existing research (and to creative practice, if a practice-based PhD project) on the topic (or related topics). In this section, you should summarise the current state of scholarship on your topic and explain the ways in which your project will draw from, and build on, that work. In this part of the proposal, you are demonstrating your knowledge of the field and the ways in which your project will add meaningfully to it. 

Research Aims and Questions 

As succinctly as possible, explain the intellectual and/or scientific questions your proposed project will answer. What does your research seek to show or to explain? What is its ultimate aim? Try to be as specific, here, as possible. This section will allow your proposed supervisor to determine the appropriateness and feasibility of your project and whether or not you would be able to achieve your aims in the scope of a PhD thesis. 

Sources and Methodology 

In this section you should detail the sources of data (qualitative and/or quantitative) that you will require in order to answer your project’s research questions and the specific methods you intend to apply in order to collect or generate those data. You should offer a clear explanation for your selection of investigative techniques. Why one method rather than another? If your work is practice based or led you should use this section to detail your practice and how you intend to pursue it in relation to your research questions.

This section should also offer an account of your analytical strategy. How, specifically, will you make sense of your data/creative practice? Will you require any specialist hardware or software to complete that analysis? Will your project involve fieldwork? If so, to where? How will that fieldwork be financed and supported? Will the project involve laboratory work? If so, are specific equipment and resources required? 

Here, too, you should reflect on the ethical implications of your proposed topic. Which ethical issues are raised by your project? How do you intend to address them? 


List here, using any common citation system, the sources referred to in the proposal.

Further details 

For further information concerning applications for postgraduate research in the department, please contact Dr Innes M. Keighren, Director of Graduate Studies (Admissions and Recruitment).


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