Anthropology MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

An Anthropology MPhil/PhD means being an unrivalled expert on human life, culture, society, ecology, biology, or some combination of those. Sustained fieldwork is normally required and graduates of this programme specialise in a wide range of research methods. Doctoral-level anthropologists are sought for work in government, policy, social research, design and high-tech industries, development, heritage, marketing and journalism, as well as academia.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

Ideal candidates will have a Master's degree with Distinction in Anthropology or a relevant discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of equivalent standard. Minimum entry requirements are a Master's degree with Merit or a Bachelor's Honours degree with Distinction in Anthropology or a relevant discipline. Applicants must contact their proposed supervisors prior to applying to secure support for their application.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Research may be pursued in or across five main areas, each of which is the focus of separate sections in the department: Evolutionary and Environmental Anthropology; Social Anthropology; Material Culture; Medical Anthropology; and Public Anthropology. We offer a wide range of specialisations within these fields.

Who this course is for

The programme is suited both for ambitious researchers who want to pursue an academic career and professionals who aim to continue their professional development.

What this course will give you

The advantage of undertaking advanced research in UCL Anthropology is the breadth of expertise available within the sections of the department. Most anthropology departments specialise in the sub-disciplines of social or biological anthropology. However, students at UCL can tackle research in interdisciplinary areas and expect to receive expert supervision in social and cultural, biological and medical anthropology, as well as material, visual and digital culture. Additionally, each of these sections in the department offers a diverse range of theoretical, methodological, topical and geographic interests and specialisms.

One factor that supplements this breadth and interdisciplinarity is the existence of a flourishing Research and Reading Group (RRG) culture in which staff and students informally come together outside of area sections to share knowledge and discuss individual research on subjects of shared interest. This leads to formal workshops, conferences, and publications that engage broader audiences and offer platforms for students to present their work.

Studying at UCL Anthropology also offers opportunities to post, edit and publish original work in the numerous academic journals and blogs associated with or managed by the department, as well as in Anthropolitan, the scholarly magazine edited by students. Other opportunities for research students include generous support for organising conferences and events, teaching assistantships and assistant curatorships, and research within the department's special collections and labs.

UCL Anthropology ranks fourth in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023, making it the top ranked institution in London, and third in the UK and Europe for the subject.

The foundation of your career

A majority of our MPhil/PhD graduates have taken up lectureships in universities in the UK and abroad, or continue their research interests through fellowships and other research posts.

Anthropology as a profession has become more sought-after in recent years. UCL graduates work in a range of areas. These include:

  • Academia
  • Social and market research
  • Government and policy (including senior levels of Government in the UK)
  • Digital and high-tech design
  • Development
  • Heritage, museums and environmental reserves
  • Journalism
  • Marketing


The MPhil/PhD cultivates advanced skills in qualitative and quantitative methods, expert knowledge of the anthropological issues pertinent to their field of study and original data collection. Anthropology doctorates are valued by employers for not only providing empirical data for known situations, but critical thinking skills enabling them to reflect on and re-think social, economic, medical, environmental, biological and political situations as they change.


Our graduate students attend and participate in seminars, workshops and conferences within the department and interdisciplinary research centres across UCL, providing opportunities to network with leading academics across a variety of research fields.

Teaching and learning

You will have continuous support to develop your research throughout the programme. In the first year, you will undertake rigorous training in research methods (Methods Seminar) and will explore the academic skills required to plan and carry out a successful PhD (ResDesPres Seminar), with a focus on writing skills, research ethics, wellbeing and policy and media engagement, etc.

The PhD is examined by a viva committee comprising of two experts in the field, an external examiner who can be based anywhere in the world, and an internal examiner who is normally from the University of London. You should not have had much prior contact with either examiner. Your supervisor nominates suitable examiners during your final year, in consultation with you, and the nominations are scrutinised by UCL’s examinations office who may approve or reject them. 

The examiners have several weeks, or sometimes months, to read your thesis in detail. The viva exam is a meeting in which the examiners and yourself discuss your work, both through direct questions and more informal conversation, and it normally takes two or more hours.

We expect you to use 15 hours each week for the taught element of the programme, and 20 hours for self-directed study and research planning.

Research areas and structure

The department provides supervision in the following areas, among others:

  • Anthropological Issues in Education and Learning (AIEL)
  • Art and Anthropology
  • Biosocialities, Health and Citizenship
  • Built Environment, Landscape and Public Spaces
  • Cognition and the Anthropology of the Mind
  • Cultures of Consumption and the Home
  • Cosmology, Religion, Ontology and Culture (CROC)
  • Culture and Human Wellbeing
  • Design Anthropology
  • Digital Anthropology
  • Dirt, Excrement, and Decay (DEAD)
  • Documentary Film and Film Ethnography
  • Ethics and the Person
  • Fashion and Clothing
  • Finance, Money, and Social Systems
  • Human Ecology Research Group (HERG)
  • Human Evolutionary Ecology Group (HEEG) London Latin America Seminar
  • Materials and Making
  • Medical Materialities
  • Object-based Research
  • Palaeoanthropology and Comparative Anatomy (PACA)
  • Pastoralism
  • Performance, Theatre and Ethnography of the Imagination
  • Politics, Criminality and the State
  • Primate Sexualities: Beyond the Binary
  • Reproduction and Sexuality
  • Risk, Power and Uncertainty
  • Social Media
  • Space, Exploration and Planetary Futures
  • Sustainability, Environment and Cultures of Materials (SEM)
  • Technology and Infrastructure
  • Visual Culture

Regional strengths include the UK, Caribbean, Central and Latin America, the Central Congo Delta, East Africa, Europe (East and West), Mongolia, Oceania, South Asia, and the US. Staff also regularly supervise beyond these areas and in conjunction with supervisors in other departments.

Research environment

The MPhil/PhD takes place in a research environment that includes the following components. These are:

  • Weekly research seminars, organised according to sub-disciplinary section. Doctoral Researchers are strongly expected to attend their seminar series every week.
  • RRGs – Research & Reading Groups which PGRs set up and/or join.
  • Supportive courses, notably Research Design and Presentation (Year 1); Thesis-Writing Seminar (Years 2 & 3); Research Methods (Year 1)
  • Peer-group interaction facilitated by common-room and hot-desk office spaces

Workshops organised in the department at the rate of up to 10 per year.

In Year One, you will crystallise your project with your Primary Supervisor, select a Secondary Supervisor and prepare for upgrade from MPhil to PhD as UCL requires. The upgrading normally comprises in a panel of staff, chaired by your subsidiary supervisor, who probe your detailed research review and proposal. This panel normally takes place after 9 months, before fieldwork commences but (a) may occur at 12 months and sometimes (b) after the period of fieldwork.

You will usually spend between 12 and 15 months undertaking data collection. For ethnographic projects this means being  ‘in the field’, but data collection can also take place in laboratory or archive settings (for example in Biological Anthropology or some Material Culture work). For some projects, shorter periods in the field are appropriate. Undertaking fieldwork is subject to approval as regards data protection, ethics, and risk issues.

You will usually return from fieldwork to write up in your third year and during the final CRS year (CRS means Completing Research Status, during which you do not pay fees). Your third year should ideally be devoted to writing exclusively. Assuming your PhD progresses well during that year, you are encouraged to gain teaching experience during your CRS writing-up year, or to undertake some similar vocational experience such as publications. Minor variations of this structure occur within the sub-disciplinary sections of the Department.

The degree promotes advanced skills in qualitative and quantitative methods and expert knowledge of the anthropological issues pertinent to their sub-disciplinary field of study. You will collect original data through methodologies that include but are not limited to participant observation, formal and informal interviews, ethnographic recordings, surveys, object and visual analyses, archival research, auto-ethnography, oral and genealogical histories, laboratory work, excavation, and participatory action research.

The MPhil/PhD programme is expected to be completed by full-time researchers in three years plus one in CRS (ie. it is officially three years of registration but researchers are permitted to take up to four years). For part-time researchers, the work is to be completed in five fee-paying years, plus two in CRS. You enter CRS when you are judged to be within less than one year of submitting, so if you have not made sufficient progress at the end of the third year, you may not be able to enter CRS.

A part-time MPhil/PhD takes place over five years, plus two in CRS.


There is no standard placement programme. Some anthropologists do work in institutions for up to a year as a part of their fieldwork, and many form collaborations with other institutions.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035 £3,015
Tuition fees (2024/25) £28,100 £14,050

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

For unfunded researchers, fieldwork is normally undertaken at their own expense.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

To apply for funding through the department, you must first apply for the MPhil/PhD.

Common sources of funding, which our researchers have benefitted from, include:

  • GRS/ ORS.
  • ESRC/ UBEL Doctoral Partnership (DTP): the UK's funding body for normal social science work.
  • AHRC/ LAHP DTP: Funding for Arts and Humanities, projects submitted here often have an artistic, design or material culture angle.
  • London NERC DTP: Funding for Environmental Science and related areas, for more scientific and environmental projects.
  • BBSRC: Biological Sciences funding, worth considering for Biological Anthropology work.
  • Soc-B CDT: a UCL Centre of Doctoral Training, relevant for some BioSocial projects.
  • Wellcome Trust: funds medical-related research, worth considering for medical anthropology and related areas.
  • Leverhulme Trust: charitable scheme funding annual Doctoral Research Scholarships.
  • Wolfson Awards: UCL scholarship scheme for work relating to History, Literature or Languages.
  • Mary Douglas Scholarships: scholarship scheme specific to our department, which may not run each year, depending on the benefactor.
  • Collaborative Awards: if your research envisages a collaboration between the university and another institution, check for collaborative awards (a collaborative student may have a supervisor at UCL, and another in a company/Government body). Both ESRC and AHRC have collaborative schemes.
  • The ESRC also has specific awards for Quantitative Projects (AQM awards, Biological Anthropology or Digital projects using quantitative data); and Interdisciplinary Awards.

Research students in the department have also received funding from CONCIETAS, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, as well as studentships provided by numerous governments.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Deadline: 12 January 2024
Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

We take account of three things in an application:

  • CV (ie. Does the candidate have the background to execute this work to a world-class standard of excellence).
  • Project proposal (ie. Is it anthropological and does it have academic merit for new knowledge).
  • Prospective supervisor (ie. Whether we have the expertise to advise on this research).

Every anthropology project is a little different. Normally candidates require the support of a prospective supervisor in the department, with whom they have talked through their proposal, their interests, experience and ideas.

It is not an official requirement to have a previous academic background which includes anthropology, but the project and the candidate should clearly be equipped to undertake research in an anthropology department and which contributes to anthropology. In general, projects supervised in the Social and Cultural Anthropology and in the Medical Anthropology subsections do tend to require you to have an anthropology background. Biological Anthropology and Material Visual & Digital Culture are more mixed, with some candidates coming from areas such as biological sciences, palaeontology, archaeology, design, design history, HCI, and museum studies.

Advice on these issues can be sought from prospective supervisors and from the departmental PhD handbook.

Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. You must identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information see our How to apply page.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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