Planning MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The School is internationally distinguished within the planning field and offers a unique hands-on learning environment for students, involving interaction with some of the leading urban planning academics and practitioners, through close supervision, creative project work and teaching innovation.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
October 2024
February 2025
May 2025
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

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.

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

The MPhil/PhD in Planning Studies is an advanced level doctoral programme geared to interdisciplinary post-graduates interested in pursuing a career in planning or related fields in policy, research and/or teaching. The course is individually-directed and motivated, driven by the scholarly research interests and project development of the applicant which is supported by a supervisory panel usually consisting of two members of academic staff. The final product is a thesis of 100,000 words and an oral examination assessed by a small panel of experts in the chosen field of study.

Who this course is for

Applicants should be prepared to undertake independent and original research design and implementation, with varying degrees of supervisory input over an extended period of continuous and intensive study.

What this course will give you

Research students at UCL are heavily involved in the academic life of the department, organising and contributing to seminar series, interacting with renowned academics from across the globe and adding their own expertise to the body of work that the department produces.

In order to best prepare our students for academic life we offer funds for international conference attendance, for training in teaching and research (to complement other formal training sessions offered by UCL Doctoral School) and above all else, we embed the fundamentals of academic teaching by employing our research students in the teaching of undergraduate and Master's level students.

We are the UK’s largest faculty of the built environment and REF 2021 has confirmed both our unique breadth, and excellence across this portfolio. Key highlights: The Bartlett is where the UK’s most ‘World Leading’ and ‘Internationally Excellent’ built environment research is undertaken; 91% of our research has been deemed ‘World Leading’ and ‘Internationally Excellent’; The Bartlett is number one for Research Power in the built environment.

The foundation of your career

At The Bartlett School of Planning our research informs our teaching. The school offers a unique hands-on learning environment for students, involving interaction with some of the leading urban planning academics and practitioners, through close supervision, creative project work and teaching innovation. These are the features that distinguish the School's teaching programmes within the planning field internationally. Through our undergraduate, taught Master's and doctoral programmes, students learn in a creative and highly stimulating environment about the form, planning, design and management of cities and about how to shape their future.


Students completing a research degree have been very successful in gaining subsequent employment. Graduates typically find employment with a wide variety of public and private employers in the UK and abroad, including universities, research institutes, consultancies and government organisations.


The school offers students numerous opportunities for networking with the professional community. Engagement with practising planners on taught programmes is reinforced through contact with visiting speakers in our extensive seminar series. Careers events are attended both by past alumni who have become successful planners and by employers seeking expertise within our student body.

Teaching and learning

The PhD Programme is largely self-directed with each candidate responsible for developing a training programme catering to their individual skill and knowledge advancement requirements. UCL Doctoral School offers a suite of extensive advanced level training opportunities and the School of Planning runs a bespoke series of research training seminars throughout the first year of study, which is augmented by regular in-house and external training opportunities via workshops, seminars and conferences.

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.

There are only two formal points of assessment within the PhD programme – the upgrade from MPhil to PhD candidacy (around 12-14 months since registration) and the Viva-Voce (oral examination following submission of the final thesis). Theses are either passed without corrections, passed with minor revisions or referred for resubmission.

The PhD is a self-directed, but supervised study pattern. Regular meetings with the primary supervisor are expected (minimum once a month), whilst joint supervisions with the second supervisor may be less frequent across the academic year. There will be periods of more or less intensive supervisory contact dependent on the agreed patterns of data collection, field work and writing up, which coordinate differently for each research student. There is no specified quantum of time that is ‘expected’ but timely completion on a full-time basis requires a pattern of time management consistent with a full-time job.

Research areas and structure

  • Economic development: diverse aspects of the economy in complex city-regions; processes of industry clustering and innovation; local and regional economic development; impacts of multinational companies; foreign direct investment and trade openness; political economy of urban regeneration
  • Housing, society and culture: housing design, development and planning; representation of space; questions of identity and the engagement of different groups in space; housing supply; affordability; mix and social cohesion
  • Property and regeneration: inter-relationship of property markets and planning; effectiveness and sustainability of urban regeneration in the UK, Europe and internationally
  • Spatial planning: planning systems, policies and processes in the UK, Europe and beyond
  • Sustainable development: lifestyle, consumption and production; investment and property development; eco-design and planning for climate change
  • Transport and infrastructure: sustainable modes of travel; inequalities in urban and rural mobility; delivering major infrastructure projects
  • Urban design: public space design and management; the design dimension of planning; questions of form, type and quality; the value of design

Research environment

The Bartlett School of Planning at UCL is one of the oldest and most respected in the world. It benefits from its location in Bloomsbury in the heart of London and additionally, London itself serves as an ‘urban laboratory’ providing a rich resource for urban and planning research: in its role as a world city, as a political and financial centre; with its historic city core and garden suburbs, the Docklands and Olympic park regeneration areas, and within close range are historically significant new towns such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City.

The school’s increasingly international and inter-disciplinary staff and student body are evidence of the distinctive reputation the Bartlett School of Planning has achieved, and is a testament to the school's commitment to excellence in planning-related education and research.

The school has made major contributions to socio-spatial knowledge that ranges from understanding the fundamentals of urban form, complexity, society and development, to critiquing the processes of planning, governance, regeneration and investment, and analysing the outcomes from planning as they affect urban quality, culture, sustainability and mobility. Staff and research student projects cover a vast range of UK, European and other international contexts, and relate to both the global North and South.

A PhD at The Bartlett School of Planning will allow you to pursue original research and make a distinct and significant contribution to your field. We are committed to the quality and relevance of the research supervision we offer and as an MPhil/PhD candidate. Furthermore as a research student, you will be an integral part of our collaborative and thriving research community. An end-of-first-year PhD workshop will give you the opportunity to present and discuss your research with peers and academic colleagues. Tailored skills seminars will provide you with a supportive research environment and the critical skills necessary to undertake your research. To foster your academic development we also offer additional faculty funds, which can assist you with the costs of conferences and other research activities.

There is no taught element to the programme, however as a first year you will usually be offered workshops that typically include the following timetabled sessions:

  • Identifying your research topic
  • Refining your research question(s), objectives and/or hypothesis/es
  • Choosing your theoretical framing
  • Thinking theoretically
  • Choosing your methods for data collection and data analysis
  • Introducing the progress review and upgrade processes
  • Relations with supervisors
  • Time management.

In addition there are a range of seminars, public lectures and training events on offer within the Bartlett School of Planning for the research student community. 

In common with a number of other UK Universities, UCL does not admit students directly onto a PhD programme in the first instance, but requires all research students to first enrol for an MPhil degree. After having completed the first year, the majority of students do not complete the MPhil and instead go through a process of transferring (upgrading) to the PhD programme. Providing satisfactory progress has been made in the first year, the transfer of registration from MPhil to PhD is usually approved. The normal time allocated for doing this MPhil/PhD programme is three years full time and five years part time. Within the School of Planning, research students generally upgrade between 12-14 months following registration, or 24-28 months for Part-time students. There are no compulsory taught modules as part of the programme, but it each research student is expected to complete a bespoke training plan in consultation with their supervisory panel.


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

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

The Faculty provides financial support to students through the Bartlett Student Conference Fund, Bartlett Doctoral Initiative 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.

In our faculty, The Bartlett Promise Scholarship aims to enable students from backgrounds underrepresented in the built environment to pursue PhD studies. Please see the UK PhD scholarship pages for more information on eligibility criteria, selection process and FAQs.

Any additional funding available from the Bartlett School of Planning 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 PhD Scholarship

Deadline: 19 May 2024
Value: Full fees, plus £19,668 maintenance (Normal duration of programme)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

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

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 (maximum 3000 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.

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.