UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction


PhD Study--old

The IRDR is devoted to producing world-leading research across the natural, social and human sciences, dedicated to global risk and disaster reduction. Our research students are crucial to this mission. We pride ourselves on welcoming and supporting excellent research students from all around the world who wish to contribute to our goals and to our research community.

In the IRDR, we have a welcoming and inclusive scholarly community in which research students play an integral part. As a research student, you will actively contribute to the research that we collectively produce. In addition to the supervisory team, we have regular annual events and workshops in which doctoral students play a central part and in which we showcase the research being carried out in our department.

Why choose us

With global hazards and risks presenting increasingly complex challenges to people around the world, the IRDR offers the opportunity to help us understand and respond to these challenges.

  • IRDR is one of the handful of academic departments in the world that combines both natural and social scientists in pursuing risk and disaster research. Our combined expertise includes but is not restricted to hydrology, international law, geophysical hazards, vulcanology, gender-related risk, conflict, history, conflict – and more besides.
  • Excellent supervision by world-leading researchers across a range of specialist fields with decades of experience of supervising doctoral students to completion.
  • IRDR has a diverse, integrated and welcoming scholarly community.
  • Intellectual diversity, across disciplines, methods, expertise and background.
  • A strongly international faculty and student body.
  • IRDR and UCL offers a range of generous scholarships and financial support for research students (see further below).
  • IRDR has a strong sense of public mission embedded in what we do. Our research is intended to help us better understand and reduce risks and disasters.
  • An extensive support network incorporating peers, professional services staff and academic faculty in the department and the wider UCL community.
  • Strong formal and informal networks within the department, UCL and across other institutions around the world to help support your research, fieldwork and career after completion of your doctoral study.
  • Annual departmental events that are either dedicated to our research students.
  • Up to £3,000 total per student for research expenses including conferences, if not already provided by external sponsors, via application to the IRDR Office.
  • Opportunity to apply for additional funding for fieldwork, conferences, lab consumables etc. from the IRDR and UCL including the Graduate School.
  • Option to request financial and administrative support for student-led activities promoting IRDR, such as external partnerships, workshops, social activities, or other creative proposals.
  • Support for any disabilities and for pastoral challenges.

Find out what some of our current PhD students are studying

How to apply

If you are interested in PhD study at UCL IRDR, we recommend that you first explore more about our research, academic staff, and current PhD students from our website and our annual report, or come to meet us at one of our events. 

The application process is as follows:

  1. Applicants should identify primary and secondary supervisors with suitable expertise in their field of study whom they would like to supervise their PhD.
  2. Make contact with your primary supervisor before submitting a formal application to study for a PhD in UCL IRDR. You can find out more about the application and eligibility requirements here. Please avoid contacting multiple staff (more than 2 or 3) – if you are unsure who might be the most appropriate supervisor, contact irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk and they can contact potential supervisors on your behalf. Please note, no PhD student can start at IRDR without having at least two supervisors in place and ready to supervise.
  3. If your formal application is accepted, the nominated supervisor will compose an interview panel. The interview will be carried out with several members of academic faculty, including the nominated supervisor, online. Each panel member will have had formal training from UCL in equality, diversity and inclusion requirements for interviews.
  4. Prior to the interview, each prospective PhD student needs to submit to the prospective primary supervisor a sample research proposal. This is to demonstrate that they can put together a research proposal. The length, contents, and style should be discussed with the prospective supervisory team.
  5. If your interview performance is deemed satisfactory, you will be issued with a formal letter of acceptance that will outline the formal process of joining IRDR and UCL. All applicants will be informed of the outcome within two weeks of the interview. Any candidates still on a ‘reserve’ list will also be informed.
  6. There are dates across the year for joining UCL: You will be asked to choose one of these dates to formally join us.
    PhD/EngD entry
     dates 2024/25:

    1 October
    1 February
    1 May
  7. Once you arrive, there will be a formal induction process at both the faculty and departmental level at which you will be welcomed to the institution and given access to its processes and services, as well as enjoying the opportunity to meet staff and fellow students.


Standard entry requirements are as follows:

  • A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree in a relevant discipline; OR an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.
  • A Master’s degree is helpful but not required.
  • Excellent English oral and written communication skills are required. Please note, while research may take place and sources used in other languages, the only language in which a dissertation is accepted is English.


PhD funding is exclusively the responsibility of the PhD student. IRDR strongly recommends that full funding for the three years of a PhD is secured prior to starting, which includes covering tuition, London living expenses, attending relevant conferences/meeting/workshops appropriate to your field and discipline, and any fieldwork, equipment, and software that your research may require over the course of your studies.

Self-funding a PhD is possible, but please bear in mind that self-funding adds significant stress. IRDR offers numerous paid opportunities to our PhD students for career-supporting tasks such as teaching, running social media, and supporting our events, but this work is not sufficient to cover the full costs of pursuing a PhD.

IRDR sometimes advertises PhD scholarships and funded project-related PhD opportunities. We advertise them via our website and social media. 

UCL has a website dedicated to 
possible funding sources although it does not and cannot cover all opportunities. UCL Student Support and Wellbeing as well as Students' Union UCL might at times be able to provide advice on emergency funding for sudden, unforeseen circumstances.

UCL funding available for 2024 entry

UCL Research Excellence Scholarships (RES)

UCL Research Excellence Scholarships (RES) aim to attract high-quality students to undertake research at UCL. The application deadline is usually in January for September entry. For September 2024 entry, applications should be made by 4pm on 12th January to irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk under subject line "UCL RES Application". Full instructions and details of application materials to submit can be found here.

UCL's Research Excellence Scholarship for Cross-disciplinary Training (RXD)

UCL's Research Excellence Scholarship for Cross-disciplinary Training (RXD) is our UCL new award for current research students to spend a year in another department acquiring new research skills.

UCL is offering up to four scholarships annually are available to full-time UCL MPhil/PhD and EngD students from any country wishing to spend an additional year of their MPhil/PhD or EngD in another UCL department acquiring research skills and knowledge from a different discipline, which can be applied in their normal area of research. Training should be of one year's duration to permit sustained exposure to the new discipline. 

The scholarships can be taken at any point during the fee-paying period of their MPhil/PhD or EngD programme.

Applications should be made by 4pm on 12th January to irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk under subject line "UCL RXD Application 2024". Full instructions and details of application materials to submit can be found here.

    The Dean's Prize

    The Dean's Prize supports overseas-fee-paying students who have won a competitive scholarship to cover their stipend, by waiving the international fees. This is often used in conjunction with the China Scholarship Council - UCL Joint Research Scholarship (CSC), for which the Dean's Prize should be secured before applying for the CSC scholarship. 

    UCL Dean's Prize application instructions can be found here (for IRDR, submit materials to irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk under the subject line "MAPS Deans Prize Application" by 4pm on Friday 12th January 2024).

    Contact us 

    • If you have any questions about the process of applying for a PhD at IRDR please email irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk. Please also see the application guidance detailed above.
    • If you have a specific supervisor in mind, or would like to explore possibilities for doctoral research, please feel free to contact our academic staff directly through their personal email addresses available on this website.
    • If you would like advice about which supervisor might be a good fit for your project, please email irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk

    Frequently asked questions

    I am thinking of studying at IRDR, but am unsure who would be a good supervisor for my project. Whom should I contact?

    Please avoid contacting multiple staff (more than two or three). If you are unsure who might be the most appropriate supervisor, contact irdr-pgr@ucl.ac.uk and they can contact potential supervisors on your behalf.

    I have a supervisor in mind for my proposed doctoral research. May I get in touch with them?

    Yes. Their email address can be found on their personal web profile on the UCL website.

    How long does doctoral study at the IRDR normally last?

    Three years full-time, five years part-time. Each project is different, and will take a different track depending on the nature of your research and discussions with your supervisors.

    Does the IRDR support doctoral research in both natural and social science?

    IRDR has academic faculty in natural, applied and social sciences as well as the humanities. Please feel free to explore our academic faculty and their respective fields of expertise on our staff profile web pages.

    How often would I see my supervisors during my research?

    We have formal reporting requirements throughout your tenure as a doctoral candidate (called Research Logs) which needs to be regularly filled out to ensure your project is on track. Beyond formal requirements, the regularity and frequency of meetings is something to be decided on each supervisory team, although generally we would expect supervisors to meet with their students on average at least once a month.

    Does IRDR offer formal training in research methods and skills?

    The IRDR runs a PhD forum in which best practices, tips and research strategies can be discussed and shared, in addition to faculty training. [LINK]

    What happens if I have problems with my supervisory team after I arrive?

    In the unlikely event that you might have insuperable disagreements with your supervisor, we have support structures in place to resolve any issues and if necessary, compose a new supervisory team to ensure completion of your research

    Is there a forum for presenting my research at the IRDR?

    There are numerous opportunities to present your research both at internal and external events, in IRDR, at UCL and further afield. As part of our mission, we strongly encourage our students to take every opportunity to present their research in public and to a variety of audiences. We have an annual forum dedicated to our doctoral students.

    Will I have the opportunity to do undergraduate teaching during my doctoral study?

    Yes, there are opportunities to teach on our undergraduate programmes [link]. There is an open recruitment and formal application process to become a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant (PGTA), although we cannot guarantee posts for all those apply. Full-time PhD students are expected to accept paid teaching opportunities within the IRDR. Teaching outside the IRDR and total work (teaching and other) above 200 hours per year must be with the agreement of the student’s primary supervisor. Students with a visa must ensure they obey UK law for any work undertaken, whether at UCL or not.

    What kind of questions will come up during the interview?

    The interview will could cover a range of topics. The kinds of issues that you might discuss could include (but is not restricted to) exploring further your application, your academic background and / or career experience, your motivation for study and why you would like to study at IRDR specifically.

    Do you accept publication by dissertation?


    How long is a PhD dissertation at IRDR?

    A maximum of 100,000 words.

    Can I apply without a nominated supervisor?

    No. No PhD student can start at IRDR without having at least two supervisors in place and ready to supervise.

    Can I apply twice to the doctoral programme?

    Yes – although please note, you will need to start the entire application procedure from the beginning even if you are applying for the second time.

    What does IRDR provide to incoming students?

    UCL provides a formal university email address, access cards and IRDR provides office keys, a laptop, and accessories. 

    What IT systems does IRDR / UCL use?

    IRDR operates an Apple and UNIX policy. Other platforms (e.g. Windows) are only supported for operation in the field and in the laboratory where Macs are not an option.

    Should I publish during my PhD study?

    IRDR encourages publication, including with supervisors, during a PhD. This process can help enhance PhD students’ career-related skills as well as increase post-PhD employment opportunities, especially to pursue research-related careers.

    What can I expect after I complete my PhD?

    Not only is an IRDR PhD a great starting point for an academic or research career, but we also have strong connections with government agencies, think tanks, commercial companies, consultancies, non-governmental organisations, the United Nations, and other international agencies. We also continually work with universities and research organisations around the world, providing opportunities to hold post-doctoral fellowships or to apply for jobs including lecturer positions.

    To support our PhD students in finding the most suitable post-PhD career for them, we run an annual Careers and Opportunities Fair which offers expert and targeted advice, and hosts stalls from a range of employers and headhunters in the field of risk and disaster reduction.

    Our alumni are highly sought-after in the following sectors, among many others: insurance, catastrophe modelling, risk management, public policy, humanitarian development, NGOs, business continuity, government, emergency services, consultancy, and academia.

    UCL Careers offers a wide range of resources, events, and advice, including an officer specifically to assist IRDR students. Contact them early in the PhD in order to use their extensive expertise, networks, and support.