MPhil/PhD in Anthropology

MPhil and PhD

Anthropology is the comparative, evolutionary and historical study of humankind. It is both a theoretical and a field-based discipline. UCL anthropology looks at the biological, cultural, social and material culture aspects of human beings as well as their evolution. We cover the entire human story, from its origins to the present day.

The breadth of Anthropology at UCL distinguishes our programme from those offered by most other British Universities and our excellent results in the 2001 and 2008 Research Assessment Exercises put us in the lead for broad-based anthropology departments in the UK.

UCL has one of the largest and most vibrant postgraduate research student groups of any Anthropology (in the UK and worldwide), with outstanding postgraduate facilities, both academic and social. Our research-active academic supervisors, our postgraduate research methods courses, and specialized research and reading groups give a strong framework of support to research students, from the first formulation of research ideas through to thesis completion and the professional opportunities that follow. UCL Graduate School leads the UK in pioneering professional training in general and transferable skills for research students, as well as in a range of specialised skills, led by Anthropology among other research-intensive departments. UCL Anthropology’s research training programme for PhD students won special mention in the ESRC’s recent award of a Doctoral Training Centre to UCL.

The department offers two graduate research degrees, the MPhil in Anthropology and the PhD in Anthropology. A general outline for each degree is given below.

MPhil Qualification

The MPhil degree is designed for students who wish to follow an advanced research-based degree without intending to enter academic anthropology. However, the MPhil programme may lead on to PhD graduate work. On its own, qualification for an MPhil degree usually consists of a two-year programme in which the student may complete training course work in the first year while preparing for his or her dissertation, normally based on non-field reading and research, in the second year.

PhD Qualification

The PhD is a full academic research degree which almost always involves field, museum or laboratory research. All students applying for the PhD are initially enrolled in the MPhil programme, except in the event that the applicant already holds the equivalent of the University of London MPhil degree.

For those initially enrolled in of the MPhil programme, completion is not a requirement to move on to the PhD in Anthropology. Rather, after the first year of graduate study and the successful submission of a suitable upgrading proposal, the student transfers to PhD status.

A PhD in Anthropology will normally take between three and four years of full-time study (or the part-time equivalent). Students must be registered for at least two years, full-time, or three calendar years, part time, before they will be allowed to submit their theses for examination.

The Postgraduate Student Handbook offers more in depth information about the research experience. A thorough reading is strongly advised before submitting your application.


The MPhil and PhD programmes are an exercise in personal development through guided investigation of a particular social, biosocial or evolutionary phenomenon of one’s choosing. Under the direction of two or three experienced scholars, research students hone invaluable skills over a number of years dedicated to preparing for and working on their research.

Literature analyses: locating, analysing and revising relevant literature is a necessary aspect of the pre-field work preparation stage. The challenging process of filtering through the wealth of chronicled knowledge available within your area of focus will polish your ability to draw thematic connections in support of your research proposal. The skills involved in the collection and refinement of sources in support of an argument are universally valued beyond the academic arena.

Data collection: Whether in the field, laboratory or museum collections, research students meet the challenge of designing their methodology and carrying out practical data colletion activities that will yield the data necessary to answer their research questions.

Schedule design: time-management and prioritisation are key skills involved in the successful completion of a highly personalised research degree. Under guided supervision you will learn how to organise and adhere to a research schedule carefully plotted to your own specifications. The need to anticipate and meet deadlines under pressure will improve your flexibility, ingenuity, self-discipline and capacity to put your plans into action.

Analysis and interpretation of field data: Whether you deal with qualitative data or quantitiative and statistical analysis, the ability to decode patterns and to draw connections amongst raw, unpolished findings will be developed through critical subjective and objective interpretation of the fruits of your own labour. After conducting your research you will learn how to translate your results into sound conclusions and theoretical positions that can be argued and supported.

Presentation and publication skills: communication, debate, translation and delivery are key areas of personal and professional development that will be improved upon as you learn how to frame and present your research findings. Participation in Anthropology’s in-house reading and research groups, thesis writing groups, external conferences, reviews and round tables as well as engagement with popular media and audiences at all levels will challenge your oral and written skills with a view to professional and academic success.

Graduate School Courses: In addition to skills honed during your time in Anthropology, UCL’s Graduate School offers a wide range of courses. In consultation with your supervisor you can choose those you will find most useful for your research training at Graduate School's Skills Development Programme Website.

Doctoral Training Centre (DTC): ESRC 1+3 and +3 Awards

UK/EU Students

Overseas students via the AQM route only.

Deadline: Monday 1st February 2016

The Department of Anthropology invites applications for ESRC (Economics and Social Science Research Council) studentships covering the full costs of a degree programme in Anthropology leading to the award of MPhil/PhD. These awards are being made by the ESRC through the Doctoral Training Centre at UCL.

The funding will cover fees, standard maintenance and a London allowance where students meet the ESRC UK requirements. EU students who are non-UK residents are eligible for a FEES ONLY studentship.

Specific awards are made for students proposing to undertake anthropological research involving advanced quantitative methods (AQM) and these awards are also OPEN TO OVERSEAS STUDENTS. Further details on AQM can be found at ESRC Advanced Quantitative Methods (AQM) webpage.

Two types of award are on offer:

1+3 awards (whereby applicants have an undergraduate degree or will hold one by June 2016)


+3 awards (whereby applicants have a Masters degree or will have been awarded one by September 2016)

Eligibility for receipt of an award can be ascertained at ESRC website. Proposed research should fall within the thematic remit and area covered by the ESRC.

Applicants who do not hold a UK Masters degree (or equivalent) and/or not presently enrolled on one should apply for a “1+3” grant. Successful applicants will initially be expected to register for the degree of MRes in Anthropology. During the first year (the “1” of the “1+3”), the applicant will pursue a course of study leading - where successful - to the award of an MRes, details of which can be found on MRes Anthropology webpage. Upon successful completion of the MRes, students move onto the MPhil/PhD programme with the additional 3 years funding.

Applicants already holding a UK Masters degree or its equivalent, should apply for a +3 grant (3 years funding)

The successful applicant will normally have obtained a First Class undergraduate degree from a UK university (or its equivalent) or be predicted to obtain a First Class degree. Where a Masters degree has been taken, the successful candidate will also normally be in possession of a Distinction (or its equivalent) or be predicted to gain one.

All applicants must complete the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre application form, and return to Chris Russell by email (christopher.russell@ucl.ac.uk). Your application MUST be signed by your prospective supervisor and it is YOUR responsibility to ensure this has been obtained.

All applicants must have applied for a place on the either the MRes or MPhil/PhD Anthropology programme and ideally be holding an offer. Applications can be made online via UCL's Graduate Application System but it is strongly advised that you contact potential supervisors and submit a research proposal first.

Successful students will be notified and then put forward for nomination by the DTC Steering Committee in March. If you have not heard back from us by Friday 19th February 2016 then your application has been unsuccessful. 

Deadline: Monday 1st February 2016

For the academic year 2013/14, 36 of our PhD students are receiving full PhD funding. These include:

Individual funding awards

  • 2x AHRC
  • 1x AXA
  • 11x ESRC
  • 2x ESRC/AHRC
  • 1x ESRC/NERC
  • 1x NERC
  • 1x Wellcome Trust

Research Grant funding

  • 2x EPSRC (Dr Victor Buchli)
  • 6x ERC (Professor Ruth Mace; Professor Daniel Miller)
  • 9x Leverhulme Trust (Dr Andrea Migliano)

Visiting Research Students

The department invites applications from visiting students registered for a graduate degree at their home university. This opportunity allows the student to spend up to a year at UCL and to take advantage of the wide range of available specialist courses. Fees are payable pro rata. Detailed information in relation to visiting research students from overseas is available from the UCL International Office.