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Frequently asked questions

  1. What is distinctive about the PhD degree in the Cities Programme? How does it differ from comparable courses offered at LSE and in other institutions?
  2. Who can apply to the MPhil/PhD Cities Programme?
  3. How long will it take to complete the PhD?
  4. Can I undertake a PhD on a part-time basis?
  5. Do I need to have a specific research proposal to apply?
  6. Can I undertake fieldwork away from the LSE?
  7. Is there a coursework requirement for the MPhil/PhD Cities Programme?
  8. Does the Cities Programme offer financial support to research students? 

 

1. What is distinctive about the PhD degree in the Cities Programme? How does it differ from comparable courses offered at LSE and in other institutions?

Our PhD degree sets the analysis of cities and the built environment in a social, political and historical context.  Our teaching and research focuses on issues of urban design and development within a major international social science institution, drawing on social as well as spatial research methods to understand the relationship between the physical and social aspects of cities. 

This social scientific context sets our programmes apart from many of those offered in architecture or design schools, while our central concern with the built environment and the design of urban spaces distinguishes our programmes from others in the social sciences.  We see design as a mode of research and practice that shapes urban environments, responds to urban problems, and connects visual, social and material forms in the city.  The Cities Programme takes a multi-disciplinary approach to these issues, drawing on expertise and insights from the social sciences, architecture, urban design and other fields.  

2. Who can apply to the MPhil/PhD Cities Programme?

Successful applicants for this degree come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some are trained in architecture, urban design and engineering; others hold first degrees in sociology, urban planning, geography or politics; others have a humanities background. Applicants to the PhD programme are expected to hold a qualification beyond a first university degree, or to have relevant professional experience that gives them appropriate research skills and demonstrated potential for undertaking original research.  

3. How long will it take to complete the PhD?
Two years (six terms) is the minimum period of registration for full-time students, and three years (nine terms) is the minimum period of registration for part-time students.  Three to four years' full-time registration is a more realistic expectation for the successful completion of a PhD degree.  All students are registered initially for the MPhil degree, upgraded to PhD registration if progress is satisfactory - usually by the end of the second year of full-time registration.  

4. Can I undertake a PhD on a part-time basis?
Yes, students can study on a part-time basis, the minimum completion time being three years (nine terms).  Part-time study is an option for those students wishing to continue working throughout the degree.  

5. Do I need a specific research proposal to apply?

Yes. Applications to the MPhil/PhD Cities Programme are assessed according to:

    (i) the quality and feasibility of your research proposal;
    (ii) your academic qualifications/relevant work experience as appropriate;
    (iii) the availability of an appropriate supervisor or supervisors.

While you are expected to revise and refine your research design during the first year of MPhil registration, our assessment of your application is based not only on your academic abilities or theoretical interest in an area, but also on your identification of a clear field of research and the outline of a viable research proposal.  

6. Can I undertake fieldwork away from the LSE?

For a number of projects it is necessary to undertake fieldwork away from LSE.  In all cases the objectives of the fieldwork must be carefully specified before leaving.  Students are expected to be in attendance throughout their first year of study, taking a number of research methods and other courses, and completing the Aims and Methods seminar assessment convened by the Department of Sociology.  A research programme which means being away from LSE for the bulk of the time is probably best undertaken at another university.  An important part of the PhD experience involves taking an interest in the work of other students, and active participation in seminars and other events.  

7. Is there a coursework requirement for the MPhil/PhD Cities Programme?

First year MPhil students will normally be expected to spend about 60% of their programmed study time in courses related to methods of social research. Students are required to attend and pass the assessment for SO500 Research Class for 1st Year MPhil Students, taught in the Sociology Department. They are also normally expected to attend and pass the assessment for at least one further course unit (or two half units) from relevant courses offered by the Methodology Institute (details of these course are available under the entry for the Methodology Institute in the LSE Calendar). All students who have satisfactorily passed the first year requirements are required to audit at least one further course and some may, at the discretion of their supervisor, be required to complete further assessed coursework in their second year.

In the Summer term of each year the progress of each student registered in the Cities Programme and Department of Sociology will be discussed at a general meeting of all research student supervisors, the Sociology MPhil/PhD Board. This Board will decide whether to permit students to proceed. Various courses of action to assist students to reach performance standards deemed appropriate by supervisors may be required.

All full-time research students are expected to have made the transition from the MPhil to PhD (upgrading) within two years of first registration and to have completed their PhD theses within four years. Part-time students will normally be expected to be upgraded to PhD by the end of their third year, and to complete their theses within six years. The decision to upgrade from MPhil to PhD is taken by a panel consisting of two faculty members, both having read and commented on the student's work.

There is a bi-weekly Research Seminar on Cities and Space for MPhil/PhD students in the Cities Programme. This Seminar is a forum for discussion of issues of common interest to the participants, including reading and discussion of key theoretical and research texts, presentations by visiting speakers, and presentations of students' own research. This is an important forum for making links between the different disciplinary backgrounds and research interests of doctoral students in Cities.

In addition to supervision, course work and the Research Seminar, there are a variety of events at the London School of Economics that are relevant to this Programme. Some are put on by the Cities Programme, but many are organised by other parts of the School. The LSE offers a rich environment of public lectures and other events that enhance the PhD experience. 

8. Does the Cities Programme offer financial support to research students?

The Cities Programme does not independently provide grants in support of research students, though all candidates accepted onto the MPhil/PhD programme will be eligible to apply for support through the LSE Research Studentship Scheme.  Further information on these and other awards is available from the LSE Financial Support Office|.  Students planning to undertake the MPhil/PhD degree are strongly advised to seek funding before starting the Programme.

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