Development Planning MPhil/PhD

Research areas:

Research is an important part of the learning that the DPU seeks to promote between theory, methodology and practice in the field of international development. Currently the DPU has four research clusters, each with sub-clusters which reflect the development of different strands of their work:
  • Urban transformations: this cluster explores the multiplex urban transformation processes and its aim is to explicitly increase the room for manoeuvre or a variety of city actors to harness key levers of transformatory change. The cluster focuses on the following arenas: local governance and democracy, social mobilisation, resistance and collective action and design and planning for the just city
  • Environmental justice, urbanisation and resilience: this cluster explores so-called ‘urban transitions’ faced by the Global South, by unearthing emergency relationships and contradictions between resilience and environmental justice in the contemporary geographies of capitalist urbanisation and accumulation
  • Diversity, social complexity and planned intervention: this research cluster comprises two overlapping sub-clusters, dealing in different ways with the relationship between social diversity, development processes, and planned interventions. It explores the ways in which multiple social identities have (or have not) been addressed through the policies, plans and practices of development institutions, and the associated social and development consequences
  • State and market: Governance and policy in development: this cluster provides a forum for discussion and the development of collaborative research ideas on long-term approaches to the governance of development transitions. The cluster analyses the ethical implications to the competing frameworks that underpin these approaches, an promotes progressive interactions between state, society and market actors and institutions.

IRIS logo

Visit the IRIS research portal to learn more about researchers' activities, research groups, research centres and interdisciplinary networks across the whole of UCL.

IRIS department: Faculty of the Built Environment

Entry requirements

A UK Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Relevant work experience is highly desirable.

English level expected: Standard


Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September. Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit (contact listed in Next steps, right) to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information see our How to apply page.


  • UK/EU Full-time: £7,750
  • UK/EU Part-time: £3,850
  • Overseas Full-time: £16,200
  • Overseas Part-time: £8,250

Scholarships available for this department

David Thomas Award

Founded in 1995 by Jenny Rossiter, who graduated from the DPU in 1994, in memory of her husband, David Thomas, a Financial Times journalist who was killed on assignment in Kuwait in April 1991. The Scholarship is awarded to assist a DPU student to travel to a developing country to research on matters directly related to his or her Master's Dissertation or Thesis in the field of housing studies.

Full details of funding opportunities can be found on the UCL Scholarships website


Recent graduating PhD students work in a range of positions, mostly based in the Global South. These include lectureships in leading universities, postdoctoral research projects, international development institutions (e.g. Inter-American Development Bank, Asian Development Bank), government ministries and international non-governmental organisations. Others work in private consultancy firms.

Top career destinations for this programme

  • Poverty Action (Kenya), Company Director, 2009
  • National Assembly Nigeria, Special Assistant/Senate Resident, 2011
  • China Security , Director, 2010
  • Thammasat University, Faculty of Architecture and Planning, Lecturer, 2011
  • University of Chile, Lecturer and Researcher, 2010


The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) research programmes constitute a course of self-selected academic study in the area of international, national, regional and urban development, focusing on the political, economic, social and institutional dimensions of development. They embrace the range of areas of study that are central to the interests of the DPU and are designed to support the formation of rigorous researchers by helping them strengthen their analytical skills whilst critically engaging with theoretical concepts and methodological tools.

Next steps


Dr Steve Ridge

T: +44 (0)20 7679 1089


Development Planning Unit

Register your interest

Keep up to date with graduate news from UCL and receive personalised email alerts. Register your interest

Make an application


Prospectus subject

Development Planning

Faculty overview

Built Environment


View videos about UCL and its global impact on our YouTube channels: Study UCL and UCLTV.

Staff View

"The students at the DPU come from many international locations and backgrounds, which means we are always hearing about developments in different parts of the world from people who have first experience of them, whether this is in Syria, Indonesia, Congo or Brazil."

Dr Vanesa Castán Broto

Lecturer in Environment and Sustainable Development

Staff View

"London is the hub of the most interesting things going on in the UK, with governmental organisations, built environment consultancies and some great academic institutions."

Dr Robin Hickman

Senior Lecturer in Transport Planning