The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Development Planning MPhil/PhD

The Development Planning MPhil and PhD offer opportunities for self-selected academic study in development, focusing on its political, economic, social and institutional dimensions.


About the course

Successful PhD research in UCL should make a distinct contribution to knowledge. The Development Planning MPhil and PhD research courses offer opportunities for our students to self-select their academic study of international, national, regional and urban development, and acquire thorough knowledge of an area of specialism.

Most of our doctoral research students undertake a period of fieldwork in a country relevant to their research, during which the PhD candidate will collect primary data applying to their context.

Our MPhil/PhD students embrace the research interests that are central to The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, including:

  • An interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral approach to urban planning, urban design, economic development, social development, housing, disasters, transport and urban agriculture
  • Cross-cutting issues such as gender, culture, environment and poverty
  • Trends such as globalisation, privatisation, climate change and increased socioeconomic inequalities.

Course highlights

The Development Planning MPhil/PhD provides:

  • The chance to gain a thorough knowledge of a particular subject area and an in-depth exploration of an empirical reality
  • Access to a large range of world-class libraries, including those in UCL and other universities, and the British Library
  • Easy access to a vast array of specialised lectures, conferences and other events relevant to DPU's research students around central London
  • Equal emphasis on both the process and content of research, within the very highest standards of scholarship and academic rigour.

Course structure

The Development Planning MPhil/PhD starts in September of each year with a nine-month period of intensive structured study. MPhil/PhD students should complete their research, submit their thesis and take the final examination within a period of 36 to 48 months of starting the programme. The minimum period of full-time registration for both the MPhil and PhD is two years, although some candidates complete their study for a PhD in less than three years.

One-to-one support

Our course places great emphasis on a close one-to-one working relationship between a candidate and their supervisor. In the first year, this is supported by an introductory course which comprises a doctoral seminar series and a research methodology seminar series. This introductroy course is taught across two terms and is compulsory for all first year students.

Additionally, new candidates must attend a specialisation module which you will select from the broad range of master's level modules taught within The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. Specialisation modules are taught across two terms. In some cases, your supervisor may suggest that you also enrol in, or audit, an additional taught module.


All higher research degree candidates at UCL must enrol, and are initially registered, for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree that, subject to satisfactory progress, is upgraded to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). If you are an MPhil student wishing to pursue a PhD degree, you are expected to upgrade to a PhD no later than 12 months after beginning your studies.

Following the upgrade, candidates maintain close contact with their primary supervisor and are expected to share the results of their work with other researchers, both within the DPU and elsewhere, particularly through academic conferences, as well as through articles for publication in refereed academic journals.

Why choose to study a development planning MPhil/PhD at The Bartlett?

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) is committed to offering the highest quality education at the MPhil and PhD levels. Our programmes are highly competitive, with successful applicants coming from a wide range of backgrounds. The DPU’s staff and student body originate from every corner of the globe, bringing together a diversity of interests, experiences, and knowledge to enhance your learning.

Furthermore, studying at UCL offers the following facilities to our MPhil/PhD students:

  • The Doctoral Skills Development Programme is open to all graduate research students at UCL to help you expand your generic research skills, personal transferable skills, life skills and employability. This is free to registered students.
  • UCL has 17 libraries which grant access to paper resources, electronic journals and a growing number of books for UCL students. The UCL campus is also conveniently located close to the British Library and the University of London libraries
  • UCL provides 1,000 study spaces including spaces for individual study and group working/project working.
  • UCL has over 20 computer workrooms across campus, available for use by all UCL students. Wi-Fi is widely available throughout UCL, including at the DPU. Additionally, we have several computers located in the DPU PhD Room that are available for MPhil/PhD students only.
  • The DPU also has facilities for photocopying and printing for MPhil/PhD students.

Our MPhil/PhD students

What is it like to complete of PhD with us? Watch Development Planning PhD student Rachel Valbrun sharing her experience.

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You can also:

How to apply

The application for the Development Planning MPhil/PhD course is a two-part process.
Step 1
We ask that you send to us a copy of your CV and a brief research proposal (between two to three pages) which outlines the work that you would like to accomplish with The Bartlett Development Planning Unit. Please send your CV and proposal to Professor Colin Marx via email (c.marx@ucl.ac.uk) for initial evaluation, and we will be in touch shortly thereafter.
You may also like to take a look at the profiles of our academics to familiarise yourself with their work and research. If any members of academic staff stand out to you as someone with whom you may want to work, please mention this in your email to us. We will then send your CV and proposal to potential supervisors within the department. 
Step 2
If we are able to adequately supervise your research, we will then invite you apply formally to UCL.


More information

  • Can't find what you're looking for? Contact the Development Planning MPhil/PhD course team via email: