The Bartlett School of Planning


Planning Studies MPhil/PhD

The Planning Studies MPhil/PhD is designed for graduates of any discipline who wish to make a career in planning or in related fields in teaching or research.

Photo of students sitting on the UCL Portico during the summer

About the course

A PhD is awarded for the most advanced level of study available. It shows the ability to devise and carry out a programme of research with originality and critical judgement, and culminates with a thesis of 100,000 words as well as an oral examination of the thesis.

Course structure

MPhil to PhD upgrade

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). MPhil students wishing to pursue a PhD degree typically upgrade after the first year of their studies, and our students typically complete the Planning Studies MPhil/PhD over three years on a full-time basis, or over five years on a part-time basis.

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

At The Bartlett School fo Planning, we offer a wide range of activities and events for our MPhil/PhD students, and there are many opportunities for scholarships and grants to fund your studies with us on the Planning Studies MPhil/PhD.

Discover our activities and events
  • Regular events, including our public lectures, London Planning Seminars, careers events, OMEGA Centre Seminars, and China Planning Seminars. All events are open to MPhil/PhD students and contribute to a lively research environment.
  • The Bartlett School of Planning Postgraduate Research Day: held annually, this event provides an opportunity for both pre-upgrade and pre-submission students to make presentations to their peers and, in the case of more advanced students, to a public audience.
  • Conference paper presentations: departmental funding is available to support MPhil/PhD students who wish to present a paper at a conference and subsequently at The Bartlett School of Planning. These presentations take place periodically throughout the year.
  • Lonely Planner Seminars: informal talks on places and cultures known to and organised by MPhil/PhD students at The Bartlett School of Planning. Often, presentations are followed by meals at a restaurant from that culture and have previously covered cities of Iran, Galicia and Ankara.
  • PhD Grapevine: a networking forum open to all UCL MPhil/PHD students hoping to make contact with academics at home or abroad on theoretical and practical topics. The PhD Grapevine is run by students at The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, and can be accessed through the UCL MyPortfolio online platform.
  • The Bartlett Book Group: an informal opportunity to read and discuss a book for pleasure, and not for work. The group meets every month and is open to all MPhil/PhD students at The Bartlett.
  • The Bartlett Think Tank: a networking forum supporting the exchange of ideas and knowledge on current academic research in architecture and urban studies.
  • Competitions: The UCL Doctoral School runs a number of competitions throughout the year, including a poster competition, review competition, and research images competition and exhibition. In parallel, The Bartlett School of Planning also awards its own competition and prizes to Planning Studies MPhil/PhD students who enter the main competition.
  • Student-run activities: our MPhil/PhD students run a number of their own activities and events especially for research students.
Discover our scholarships and funding opportunities

Applications to the UBEL Doctoral Training Partnership (UBEL) are particularly welcomed on the following topics. If interested, please contact the relevant academics after checking your eligibility for the partnership on the UBEL website.

Discover more schoalrships and funding opportunities on the UCL Scholarships and funding page.

Please note: Except for UCL-RES, anyone that requires an offer to meet a scholarship application deadline should allow at least three months from their application for a final decision letter to be issued. Please check the relevant scholarships page for full details and eligibility requirements.

Our MPhil/PhD students

Learn more about our MPhil/PhD students through their profiles, research focuses, publications and achievements.

After graduating from the Planning Studies MPhil/PhD, our students have been very successful in gaining subsequent employment. Graduates  from our course take up jobs with a wide variety of public and private employers in the UK and abroad, including in universities, research institutes, as consultants, and within government organisations.

What our alumni say

Many authors in the planning realm have discussed the 'theory-practice gap' in the development of planning theory. The BSP addresses this concern superbly, with a staff deeply grounded in theory and backed by an equally robust practice." - Antoine Zammit, Planning Studies PhD alumnus

Who should apply? 

We strongly encourage applications from those who are currently under-represented within our research student community, including ethnic minorities from the United Kingdom, people with disabilities, those wishing to study part-time, and older applicants. We provide a supportive research community with considerable individual guidance and will do all we can to make your time at BSP smooth, enjoyable and productive, and we are happy to work with you in the run up to and during the application process. 

Please note that, due to constraints of space and supervisor time, we do not accept visiting research scholar applications unless there is a pre-existing arrangement between the two universities (as with an ERASMUS agreement) or if there is prior knowledge of the student’s project by the proposed supervisor and a close alignment of research interests. All visiting research scholar applications must be made through the UCL online system, a pro-rate fee is payable, and it may take at least 6 weeks for your application to be assessed.

How to apply

Please read the following information on the procedure for contacting your potential supervisor and on submitting your formal application to UCL.

Step one: Contact a potential supervisor

Before applying formally, we encourage prospective applicants to discuss their research with only one potential supervisor from our list of academics at The Bartlett School of Planning. If you are unsure who to contact, please email the Director of Graduate Studies, Susan Moore, with a selection of academic staff who you deem suitable potential supervisors, and Susan can then advise you. Please do not email multiple members of staff within The Bartlett School of Planning.

It is important to contact a potential supervisor to make sure that there will be a supervisor available and interested in your topic - a significant requirement for acceptance onto our Planning Studies MPhil/PhD. 

When contacting a potential supervisor, we recommend that you supply:

  • A short summary (one to two pages) of your research idea, including a title, specific research question(s), indicative method and any key references
  • A short CV (one to two pages).

A potential supervisor may also help clarify your research ideas and advise you on how to prepare your research proposal for your formal application. At this stage, we cannot guarantee that you will be accepted as a Planning Studies MPhil/PhD student as the recommendation to accept an application is made by the Departmental Graduate Tutor (and two further members of academic staff if considered a strong application), and not made by the potential supervisor alone. Your application will also undergo further checks by the University and Faculty. 

We also welcome applications to complete the Planning Studies MPhil as a standalone research degree. In this case, a shorter proposal (maximum 2,000 words) is required for your application.

Step two: Submit your formal application to UCL

If you are interested in studying a Planning Studies PhD at The Bartlett School of Planning, you must submit a formal application to UCL which should include a research proposal (maximum 3,000 words) outlining:

  • The subject of your proposed research
  • The questions you hope to answer
  • Why you think this knowledge will be of value
  • Your intended method and the sources you will use. 

Please clearly indicate the school and MPhil/PhD programme to which you are intending to apply - in this case, The Bartlett School of Planning for the Planning Studies MPhil/PhD.

While it is not essential to nominate a potential supervisor on your application form, it may help to speed up your application process. Any gaps and queries in the application will also delay the time taken to process it.

Please note that applications received outside of term time will take a little longer to process. You should allow at least three months from your application to the date of final decision from the university. 

In addition to the proposal, the admissions procedure takes account of your general educational background and evidence of your ability to meet the academic entry requirements, your references and other criteria. You may be invited for an interview as part of the application process.

Apply now

More information

For more information on the Planning Studies MPhil/PhD, please contact the course team: