Human Geography MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

As well as providing world-leading disciplinary and interdisciplinary research training, our programmes provide outstanding opportunities for networking across public, private and third sector organisations. With extensive experience in building partnerships, knowledge transfer, applied research and public engagement and impact, UCL Geography enables doctoral students to enhance their employment prospects while pursuing cutting-edge research.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Research programmes may start at any time of the year, but typically begin in September.

Entry requirements

Normally a UK Master’s degree in a relevant discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

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

UCL Geography is an established international leader in geographical research. We are committed to theoretically informed empirical research on major social and environmental issues. The department is distinctive in the scale and diversity of its research, as well as its international scope, collaborative links and policy orientation.

Students are central to the department's research culture, and are offered access to specialist laboratories and computing facilities as well as professional development opportunities, including training, teaching experience and academic event hosting.

More information can be found on the departmental website: Human Geography MPhil/PhD

Who this course is for

Our MPhil/PhD is suitable for candidates wishing to pursue research in a dynamic and supportive environment.

What this course will give you

UCL Geography provides a world-class environment for research students. UCL has been ranked the leading university in the UK for its research strength and the department, which is consistently rated among the best geography departments in the country, is currently ranked ninth in the world (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022).

Students work towards an MPhil or PhD supported by seminars, training and a dedicated supervisory team of expert academics. The department attracts prestigious scholarships and studentships to support graduate research and enables students to conduct fieldwork around the world.

The foundation of your career

A significant number of our recent research graduates have gone on to lectureships and many others into university research, at institutions such as King's College London, the University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore and California College of the Arts. Having gained a variety of technical and analytical skills as well as in-depth substantive expertise in particular fields, others have entered professions within government, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.


Skills development is an important component of the research degree process, and UCL provides a strong and varied graduate skills development programme. Within UCL Geography, research students have access to state-of-the-art research equipment, a variety of data archives and receive research council-level training in methodology. The department also offers research students a range of teaching assistant opportunities that provide valuable experience. Our established track record in partnership working, knowledge transfer, applied research, public engagement and impact further enables students to gain broad experience to support career development.


Our graduate students attend and participate in seminars, workshops and conferences within the department and within interdisciplinary research centres across UCL, and are encouraged to make use of opportunities to network with leading academics across a variety of research fields. RCUK-funded students in the department have additional opportunities to interact with non-academic partners, to develop collaborations and to spend time developing their skills in public, private and third sector organisations. Students are also supported to participate in public workshops, seminars, conferences and other events related to their research, providing further occasions for networking.

Teaching and learning

You will have continuous support to develop your research throughout the PhD programme. In the first year, you will undertake rigorous training in to develop skills relevant to effectively completing your PhD and in transferable skills that will serve you well in any future career. These are delivered by leading researchers and professional staff in the department and include effectively communicating your research in written and spoken form, media engagement, risk assessment and ethics, critiquing the literature, 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 College 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.

Research students will normally have a one-on-one meeting with their primary supervisor once a month, but the frequency varies depending on the needs of the student and the point where they are at with their research and writing.

Research areas and structure

  • Past climates
  • Recent environmental change and biodiversity
  • Environmental modelling and observation
  • Global urbanisms
  • Environment, politics and society
  • Culture and migration
  • Geospatial analytics and computing

Please visit the departmental website for full details on the research areas.

Research environment

UCL Geography supports a multiplicity of styles and scales of research, nurturing the very best of individual scholarship, concentrating strategically in areas where we can make a distinctive, significant and conceptually innovative contribution.

The quality of individual researchers in Geography, allied with our institutional strengths, laboratories and computing facilities should provide you with the opportunity to develop your projects, upgrade to PhD status, and to realise your research at PhD level. The aim is to support you to complete your project within the timescales envisaged by UCL and funding bodies. In addition to developing necessary skills for your research with the supervisory teams, generic research training is offered in weekly seminars in term two of year one. This requires attendance on campus throughout Term 2 of year one. A wide range of professional development opportunities, including training, teaching positions and academic event hosting should also be available to you. The department also attracts prestigious scholarships and studentships for postgraduate research, enabling you to conduct fieldwork around the world. 

The length of registration for the research degree programmes is 3 years for full-time and 5 years for part-time. 

You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transfer to PhD after successful completion of an upgrade viva 9- 18 months after initial registration.

Upon successful completion of your approved period of registration, we would expect you to be completing or nearing completion of your thesis. In the majority of cases you may register as a completing research student (CRS) while you write up your thesis, but you would need to approve this with any funding body you are associated with.

In your first year, in the second term, you are required to take part in a departmental mandatory programme of weekly training seminars. The seminars aim to develop your understanding of what the (UCL) PhD is, build towards your research presentation and upgrade, and strengthen your ability to complete an excellent PhD in a timely manner. Importantly the seminars also serve to enhance the research student community by getting you together with your peers to discuss your projects.

In your second year you are expected to upgrade from an MPhil to a PhD. To successfully upgrade to a PhD you are required to submit a piece of writing (this is usually based on at least one chapter from your thesis and a chapter plan for the remainder). You are also required to present and answer questions about this work to an upgrade panel consisting of your subsidiary supervisor and another member of the department/faculty who acts as an independent assessor. You must also make a presentation in the department and have a web page on the Geography department website and ensure your student research log is up to date with key milestones completed.

The length of registration for the research degree is five years part-time. You are required to register initially for the MPhil degree with the expectation of transferring to the PhD after successfully upgrading. 
We will support you throughout your research. In your first year, you will be asked to plan the basic structure of your project and attend our departmental induction courses. 
In your second or third year, you are expected to upgrade from MPhil to PhD student status. 
To successfully upgrade to a PhD you are required to submit a piece of writing (this is usually based on at least one chapter from your thesis and a chapter plan for the remainder). You are also required to present and answer questions about this work to an upgrade panel consisting of your subsidiary supervisor and another member of the department/faculty who acts as an independent assessor. You must also deliver a presentation in the department and have a web page on the Geography department website and ensure your student research log is up to date with key milestones completed.
In subsequent years, you will be continued to be supported by your supervisors. As a part-time student, if you are not ready to submit at the end of the fifth year, you may be able to register as a Completing Research Status (CRS) student for two further years while you write up your thesis. While on CRS you will have continued access to UCL facilities and are not required to pay fees.


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

There are no additional costs for this programme.

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

Past research students have received funding through a range of awards such as the UK Research Council, University and Commonwealth Scholarships, and we also have a number of students who self-fund or obtain work-associated funding. Funding opportunities vary from year to year, so please check the UCL Geography website for up-to-date information.

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

The Geography Department favours a start date at the start of the academic year but will accept non-standard start times at the start of Term 2 (January). Please contact the Geography Postgraduate Research team prior to making an application if your intended start time would not be at the start of the academic year (end of September).

Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation.

Although Geography operates a rolling admission, in order to ensure necessary processes can be completed (such as for a visa for international/overseas students) we recommend making your application before the end of May at the latest for a start at the end of September. If we receive your application after this date we may need to defer your start date to the following January if you cannot ensure that you will arrive to campus for the start of the academic year.

Please follow the guidance on making your application and the required steps in finding a suitable supervisor before you apply via the UCL Geography postgraduate research webpages.

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

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.