Development Planning Unit MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit conducts world-leading research and postgraduate teaching that helps to build the capacity of national governments, local authorities, NGOs, aid agencies and businesses working towards socially just and sustainable development in the Global South.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2023
Applications accepted
All applicants: 17 Oct 2022 – 01 Jun 2023

Applications closed

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a relevant subject, is essential. Exceptionally: where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master's degree; or where applicants have a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor's degree (2:2) (or equivalent) they must possess a relevant Master's degree to be admitted. We expect any successful application to include a sufficiently strong and convincing proposal, and those holding a Master's degree are typically well prepared to provide one. Relevant work experience is highly desirable.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 1

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. International Preparation Courses

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

What this course will give you

Our MPhil/PhD programme will allow you to pursue independent research into the political, economic, social and institutional dimensions of development planning. Our research and teaching staff are a multi-disciplinary group, with extensive academic and professional experience in various fields of urban, regional, environmental, social and institutional development throughout the world.

As a research student, you will have access to a large range of world-class libraries, including those in UCL and other London universities, and the close by British Library. Also, you will have the opportunity to attend an array of specialised lectures and other events in central London.

In REF 2021, 51% of The Bartlett's research was rated 4* i.e. world-leading, with a further 40% recognised as 3* i.e. internationally excellent.* The Bartlett submitted the largest quantity of 4* world-leading research outputs of any university submitting to the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning sub-panel. On Research Environment, which grades the vitality and sustainability of the research environment, the Bartlett received the highest score for submission to the Architecture, Built Environment and Planning sub-panel.

The foundation of your career

Our programmes are practically orientated, providing students with the academic skills they will require after graduating but also with a wide range of real-world skills, e.g. report writing and public speaking. 


Recent PhD graduates have gone on to 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.


The Bartlett Development Planning Unit supports networking with individuals (including alumni), community organisations, governmental and intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, and public sector institutions which share the DPU vision, and our graduates pursue a wide range of occupations within these areas.

Teaching and learning

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) consists of a piece of supervised research, normally undertaken over a period of three years full-time. Assessment is by means of a thesis, which should demonstrate your capacity to pursue original research based upon a good understanding of the research techniques and concepts appropriate to the discipline.

Initially, you will be registered for the MPhil degree. If you wish to proceed to a PhD, you will be required to pass an 'Upgrade' assessment. The purpose of the upgrade is to assess your progress and ability to complete your PhD programme to a good standard and in a reasonable time frame. It is expected that a full-time student will attempt upgrade within 18 months of registration. 

Research areas and structure

Currently the DPU has four research clusters, each with sub-clusters which reflect the development of different, but intersecting, strands of their work. MPhil/PhD students are strongly encouraged to participate in one or more of these clusters:

  • Urban transformations explores the multiplex urban transformation processes and its aim is to explicitly increase the room for manoeuvre for a variety of city actors to harness key levers of transformatory change;
  • Environmental justice, urbanisation and resilience explores so-called 'urban transitions' faced by the Global South, by unearthing emergent relationships and contradictions between resilience and environmental justice in the contemporary geographies of capitalist urbanisation and accumulation;
  • Diversity, social complexity and planned intervention comprises two overlapping sub-clusters, dealing in different ways with the relationship between social diversity, development processes and planned interventions;
  • State and market governance and policy in development provides a forum for discussion and the development of collaborative research ideas on long-term approaches to the governance of development transitions.

Research environment

Research is an important part of the learning that the Development Planning Unit (DPU) promotes around 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, but intersecting, strands of their work.  You will be strongly encouraged to participate in one or more of these clusters:

  • Urban Transformations;
  • Environmental Justice, Urbanisation and Resilience;
  • Diversity, Social Complexity and Planned Intervention;
  • State and Market Governance and Policy.

Working alongside staff, you will be generally involved in intellectual research situated at the interface of theory and practice. This orientation affects the way we tend to approach research, the issues of study and the types of knowledge that are produced.

The MPhil component of the PhD consists of a structured programme which while it trains rigorous researchers, also builds a supportive peer support network that will provide you with a safe, secure and stimulating environment for testing and developing new ideas and practices at the frontiers of development planning research. The DPU's PhD programme is the only development-oriented PhD programme in London to offer this structure.

The DPU’s PhD Programme is a 3-year programme (5 years  part-time). In the first year of the programme, you will be enrolled initially for the MPhil with the expectation of transfer to the PhD.  The MPhil/PhD programme places great emphasis on a close one-to-one working relationship between you and your supervisors. You will be supported in the first year by an introductory, compulsory two-term taught programme comprising a Doctoral Seminar series and a Research Methodology Seminar series. You will also be required to attend a two-term Specialisation Module selected from the broad range of MSc modules taught in the Unit.  Additionally, your supervisor may suggest that you enrol in, or audit, an additional taught module. The auditing of these taught modules is not a formal part of your MPhil/PhD programme, and so you will not be formally assessed on these.   You will be required to attend on a full time basis in your first year while you complete these requirements. In the second year, you will prepare an upgrade viva, with the goal of successfully upgrading to the PhD.  Once you have upgraded, generally 14-16 months after your initial enrolment, you  may opt for part-time enrolment. For the remainder of the PhD programme, you will be conducting independent research, with guidance and supervision, while writing your thesis.  You are expected to submit your thesis after three years but if you are not ready to submit at the end of your third year you may be able to enter a period of CRS – Completing Research Studies.


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

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2023/24) £9,770 £4,825
Tuition fees (2023/24) £26,200 £13,100

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

As a research student, your additional costs may include expenses such as books, conference attendance and field research, in the UK or overseas.

The Built Environment Faculty Office provides financial support to students through the Bartlett Student Conference Fund, Bartlett Doctoral Initiative Fund, Bartlett External Training Fund and Bartlett Extenuating Circumstances Fund. However, please note that these funds are limited and available through competition. 

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

UCL offers a range of financial awards aimed at assisting both prospective and current students with their studies.

Any additional funding available from the Bartlett Development Planning Unit and the Built Environment Faculty Office are advertised on the respective websites.

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

Bartlett Promise Scholarship - PhD

Deadline: 12 May 2023
Value: Full fees, plus £19,668 maintenance (Normal duration of programme)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Deadline: 13 January 2023
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

Please note that Development Planning MPhil/PhD students must commence their studies in September and full-time, because the first year of the programme includes timetabled doctoral seminars.

Prospective MPhil/PhD applicants are encouraged to send an informal research enquiry before applying. This should be sent directly to the academic you would like to supervise you. Please refer to the staff list on the department website and see UCL's Institutional Research Information Service (IRIS) for staff profiles. Please attach to your e-mail a referenced research proposal of around 1,000 to 2,000 words and your curriculum vitae (CV).

Further details on how to apply to an MPhil/PhD can be found on the UCL Graduate Admissions website.

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.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.