PhD FAQ

MPhil / PhD Admissions

Frequently Asked Questions

If your question is not answered on this page, please contact geog.phd@lse.ac.uk.

The funding process – 2020 announcements

12 February

Re. LSE PhD Scholarships: The LSE’s Financial Support Office (FSO) has now contacted all those who will be offered LSE PhD scholarships in the 1st funding round. If you have not been contacted by the FSO by now, you have not been successful in acquiring a department-controlled LSE PhD scholarship. Please do not email geog.phd@lse.ac.uk or your interviewers asking for feedback about funding decisions (as we cannot provide this) or whether you will be nominated for an ESRC scholarship. For information about the ESRC scholarship process, please see immediately below.

Re. ESRC PhD Scholarships: The department funding panel has now determined which applicants will be nominated to the School funding panel. Applicants who are to be nominated to the School’s PhD Scholarships Awards Panel will be contacted directly by the department no later than 21 February. Please do not chase geog.phd@lse.ac.uk or your interviewers asking whether you will be nominated for an ESRC PhD scholarship. Instead, please wait for an email from the department, and keep an eye on this page. NB: If you have not been contacted by geog.phd@lse.ac.uk by 21 February, you have not been successful.

Once all of the department’s:

(i) PhD Scholarship offerees;

(ii) reserve listed applicants for LSE PhD scholarships; and

(iii) ESRC scholarship nominees;

have been contacted, this page will be updated to reflect the closure of the 1st round of the departmental funding process.

Re. the next round of funding: The number of scholarships available after the department’s 2nd application deadline (27 April) depends on how much funding is distributed in the 1st application round. Consequently, we cannot currently confirm how much funding will be available. All applicants (including those who submitted before 10 January but were not offered/nominated for funding) will be considered for all available funding opportunities in the aftermath of the 2nd funding deadline. The post submission deadline (i.e. 27 April) schedule for funding opportunities consideration by the department will be published once the School confirms the number of scholarships available in the 2nd round.

10 February: The interview period for the first funding round is now complete, and the department funding panel has now met.

The funding process – how does it work?

Decisions about School-administered funding opportunities are made at the departmental level by the Department of Geography and Environment (G&E) Research Degrees Funding Panel (‘the department panel’). The department panel is composed of the department’s five programme directors, plus the G&E Director of Postgraduate Studies. Some scholarships are awarded directly by the department panel. Others are awarded by the School’s PhD Scholarships Awards Panel (‘the School panel’). Others are awarded in collaboration with other sources of funding within the School. The different processes for each of the scholarships available for 2020/21 applicants are outlined below.

The vast majority of School-administered funding opportunities will be awarded in the aftermath of the 10 January application deadline. Accordingly, it is highly recommended that you submit your application by 10 January. Very little funding will be awarded after this point. Accordingly, submitting after the 10 January deadline is not recommended unless you have already secured non-LSE funding for your studies.

FYI: You do not need to apply separately for School administered funding opportunities, or indicate a preferred funding stream. All applicants who are offered a place on a G&E MPhil/PhD programme will be considered for all School-administered funding opportunities for which they are eligible. However, as competition for places is very intense, and competition for scholarships is even more intense, G&E cannot provide School-administered funding to all offer-holders. Accordingly, applicants are required actively to explore all potential sources of funding at all stages in their application, including before and during the LSE’s funding consideration process.

There are 3 routes to acquiring funding via G&E.

1. LSE PhD Scholarships
To be considered for a guaranteed LSE PhD Scholarship, you must have submitted your application by 10 January 2020.

For the 2020/21 intake, G&E will be able to award four guaranteed LSE PhD Scholarships, and to nominate four further reserve candidates for those scholarships. (Any declined guaranteed LSE PhD Scholarship offers will be re-offered to applicants on the G&E reserve list.) These scholarships are awarded directly by the department panel. Successful applicants will be contacted directly by the School’s Financial Support Office (FSO) in the weeks following 10 February, and this page will be updated once the department’s guaranteed LSE PhD Scholarships have been awarded. If you have not been contacted by the time this page is updated, you have not been successful.

2. ESRC PhD Scholarships

To be considered for an ESRC scholarship, you must have submitted your application by 10 January 2020.

Each year, the department panel is also permitted to make ESRC PhD scholarship nominations to the School panel. (NB: The department panel nominates applicants for ESRC scholarships, but the School panel makes the final decision about who to award an ESRC PhD scholarship). The deadline for submission of departmental ESRC PhD scholarship nominations to the School panel is 21 February. If you are nominated to the School panel, you will be contacted directly by geog.phd@lse.ac.uk. This page will also be updated once the department’s nominations have been made. If you have not been contacted by the time this page is updated, you have not been successful.

The date for the next meeting of the School panel has not yet been announced. Accordingly, we cannot currently confirm when the results of the ESRC scholarships awards process will be released. However, successful applicants will be contacted directly by the FSO, and this page will be updated once the ESRC scholarships awards process have been completed. If you have not been contacted by the time this page is updated, you have not been successful.

3. Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (GRI)

The department has a close relationship with the GRI. Each year, the department works closely with the GRI to decide which candidates should be offered GRI funding. Decisions about GRI funding are likely to be made during the second half of February 2020. Successful applicants will be contacted directly by the GRI, and this page will be updated once the GRI’s scholarships have been awarded. If you have not been contacted by the time this page is updated, you have not been successful.

2020 Schedule

10 January: Deadline by which applicants must have submitted their applications in order to be considered for School-administered funding opportunities.

31 January: Deadline for completion of interview process.

7 February: Next meeting of the Department of Geography and Environment Funding Panel.

21 February: Deadline for submission of departmental paperwork to the School panel for ESRC PhD scholarship decisions.

The funding process – how competitive is it?

The LSE does not publish School-wide information on funding-application success rates. However, of the 272 applicants for doctoral study starting in the academic year 2019/20 with the Department of Geography and Environment, only 13 (4.78%) were successful in acquiring an offer of a place to study with the department as well as a School-administered scholarship. As the department strongly discourages self-funded study, applicants are encouraged to be realistic about their chances of securing funding via the School’s admissions processes, and should actively pursue all other potential sources of funding while applying.

Will the department accept applications from those who have already secured funding?

Yes, of course!

Where can I find information about the Department of Geography and Environment’s MPhil/PhD and Visiting Research Student programmes?

This can be found here.

Please note: the Department of Geography and Environment is not responsible for the PhD in Cities. This programme is delivered by the LSE’s Department of Sociology. If you would like to ask questions about the PhD in Cities, please contact sociology.phd@lse.ac.uk.

How can I apply?

Applications must be submitted via LSE’s Online Application System and are processed through the LSE’s central Graduate Admissions Office.

How can I get help with the application process?

Questions about the mechanics of the application process should be submitted to LSE’s central Graduate Admissions Office via the online enquiries system, and not to the department.

Before contacting the admissions office, please check to see if the information you are looking for can be found on the LSE’s graduate study webpage, the School’s general admission enquiries page, or the Graduate Admissions Office’s tailored guidance pages for prospective applicants and applicants in progress. You can also track your application and find out how to carry out the most common tasks online using the “How Do I” page.

If you cannot find the information you are looking for, please first try to find the answer to your question by running a search in the online enquiries system, where you will be given the option to 'send a written enquiry' directly to Graduate Admissions.

When should I apply?

The department operates a rolling admissions system for MPhil/PhD programmes. However, funding opportunities offered by the LSE are subject to deadlines. Information on the deadlines relevant to each programme can be found on the relevant webpage for each programme, which can be found here. 

Can I apply to one of your MPhil/PhD programmes while I’m still studying for my masters/before my masters results are released?

Yes, as long as you will be able to prove your final results by the time you are required to register for the programme.

Which documents do I need to submit in order to apply?

Information on this can be found at the following School webpage.

How long/detailed does my PhD proposal need to be? How long/detailed does it need to be if I’m applying for ESRC 1+3 funding? What if I get ESRC 1+3 funding and I want to change my research proposal during/after-I-finish my MSc?

Research proposals for MPhil/PhD programmes

Detailed information on what your research proposal should include, and how long it should be, can be found here. In general, however, your research proposal is an indication of your research interests, how you developed them, and how you intend to pursue them. We recognise that your research interests will continue to develop while you complete our taught courses. Accordingly, your proposal is not a fully binding commitment, and you will be able to refocus and redefine your proposal later on in the programme before you begin work on the first chapter of your PhD thesis. The admission process will judge the proposal purely on its potential to produce high quality research, regardless of the field or topic.

 Research proposals for those applying to the ESRC 1+3 funding stream

Your research proposal should conform to the expectations set out above, and should be the same length as those required for our MPhil/PhD programmes. (Detailed information on what your research proposal should include, and how long it should be, can be found here.) If you would like to diverge from the research proposal set out in your initial application for one of our MSc programmes, you would have to negotiate this with your supervisors. However, as we will expect you to mature as a researcher during the course of your studies, we fully understand and expect that your research proposal will mature, develop and change as well. Consequently, if you are successful in acquiring ESRC 1+3 funding, you will not be bound to fulfil every aspect of your research proposal in finite detail.

Will you recommend a research topic to me?

No.

 

Will you recommend a supervisor for me, to include in my application?

No.

If you would like to include the names of potential supervisors in your application, it is your own responsibility to research our faculty’s research interests.

Will you consider my application without a research proposal?

No. 

How much does it cost to study with the department?

Information on fees can be found on the page relevant to each programme, which can be found here.

Will my financial status play any role in the selection process?

No, admissions decisions are based on academic merit alone, without any reference to an applicant’s financial situation. Applicants who are able to fund themselves or succeed in securing a scholarship or sponsorship from any source will be considered for entry to the programme in exactly the same way as applicants who have no funding in place. The same procedures and standards apply to all applicants competing for entry.

What are the minimum entry requirements for PhD programmes in the Department of Geography and Environment?

Entry requirements may vary slightly between programmes. However, in general the minimum entry requirement is a merit in a relevant masters degree programme with a 65%+ average, and a 70%+ distinction. As the LSE is a world leading social sciences institution, only candidates with a strong academic social sciences background are encouraged to apply.

Please note: admission to the department’s PhD programmes is extremely competitive. Meeting the minimum entry requirement for our programmes does not guarantee acceptance.

Where the admissions standards for qualifications state ‘taught master’s degree (or equivalent)’, what does this mean?

This means that your previous qualifications are of a comparable standard and syllabus to a taught master’s degree featuring an independent research component. Determining whether your qualification/s are equivalent to this standard requirement is the function of the admissions process, and the department does not pre-screen applicants’ documents. Please do not ask members of the department to do this for you.

Can I apply to one of your PhD programmes while I’m still studying for my master’s degree (or other required qualification)?

Yes. So long as you will be able to provide official proof of degree results before the start date for our PhD programmes (see programme prospectus pages for details) your application will be considered.

I’m applying to more than one PhD programme. Should I submit different application documents (statement of purpose, research proposal etc.) for each application, or a single application document which covers both programmes?

Please see here.

Please also note the following.
- Of all the offers made for applicants to start on a Department of Geography and Environment (G&E) MPhil/PhD programme in the 2019/20 session, 94% were made to those who had listed a G&E PhD programme as their 1st choice.
- Of the G&E offer holders awarded funding by the School’s PhD Scholarships Award Panel, 100% had selected a G&E programme as their 1st choice.

Do I need to submit a GRE (Graduate Record Examination) or GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) with my application?

No. However, if these reflect positively on your quality as an applicant, you may wish to consider submitting these.

What level of English language proficiency do I need to demonstrate in order to be eligible to study with the department?

Information on the LSE’s English language requirements can be found here.

Do I need to secure the interest of a potential supervisor before submitting my application? Can I contact members of the department to discuss my research proposal? What should I do if they don’t respond?

You are not required to secure the support of a potential supervisor before submitting your application. (In the first instance, applications are reviewed by the programme director, not prospective supervisors.) Accordingly, please do not email members of the department asking them to review your application documents. The department does not pre-screen applicants’ documents, as reviewing applicants’ documentation is the purpose of the formal admissions process.

This does not mean that you are not permitted to contact members of the department. However, our academics’ time is very limited. Please do not be discouraged if members of the department do not reply to your email. This only reflects the fact that if our academics responded to everyone, they would have no time for their research and teaching. Instead, please focus on submitting the best quality application that you can.

The only things that you must never do are the following.

(i) Do not repeatedly chase members of the department who have not responded to your messages. This will make them less likely to respond, not more.

(ii) Do not send exactly the same message to multiple members of the department. Firstly, our faculty work very closely together. They will know if you have copied and pasted the same email to most (or all) of their colleagues. Secondly, they are unlikely to be impressed by requests to support research proposals which have not been tailored to reflect the specific research specialisms which they are able to supervise.

(iii) Do not ask members of the department to circulate or recommend your documentation (research proposal, CV etc.) to other faculty members or to the department in general. As above, the department does not pre-screen applicants’ documents.’

What is the maximum period of registration?

The maximum period of full-time registration is four years.

Do you offer distance learning or online PhDs?

No. All students are required to be in regular attendance at the School so that they can attend courses, supervision meetings and other seminars as required by their programme. Periods of study away from the School can be undertaken, but require departmental and central approval.

Why will I have to take courses in the first year of my programme? Am I able to skip this stage and apply for direct entry to the PhD stage of the programme if I already have a masters in a relevant discipline?

The department does not allow students to skip the taught phase of their doctoral studies.

Our programmes aim to produce world class researchers in the field. In order for students to be able to undertake research at this level, the department believes that students must have a sufficient range of 'tools' to do so. It therefore requires that its students complete, and pass to the required standard, a range of courses in order to provide them with these tools and techniques that can be applied in their research. 

How can I find out whether my research interests are similar to the department’s?

Information on the department’s research interests can be found on the department’s research page.

If I am unsuccessful, will the department provide feedback on my application?

Applications rejected without interview - in general, if an application is rejected after initial consideration, our academic staff will indicate briefly via the admissions system why it has been rejected. This information can be requested from the admissions service. The department cannot provide this to you.

Applications rejected after interview - you are free to enquire with those who interviewed you about their reasons for deciding not to offer you a place to study with the department. However, our academic staff are under no obligation to provide feedback.

Are MPhil/PhD courses in the department offered part-time?

The Department expects all students to undertake the taught phase of their MPhil/PhD studies full time, without exceptions. Only applicants who present a compelling case to convince the Department that they will be able to overcome the challenges inherent in part-time MPhil/PhD study will be permitted to undertake the research phase of their studies on a part-time basis. 

Are the department’s MPhil/PhD programmes only designed for those who are interested in academic careers?

Our graduates tend to be very successful in pursuing academic careers. However, many of our graduates pursue careers beyond academia. For information on our graduates’ career paths, please take a look at our graduate career destination pages.

Will the department support applications to third-party funding bodies (e.g. the Commonwealth scholarship scheme)?

You are free to contact members of the department to discuss applications to third-party funding bodies. However, in general, the department will only support applications to third-party funding bodies by those who have already been offered a place on one of our MPhil/PhD programmes. Accordingly, if you are planning to apply to a third party-funding body, please first apply to the department.

NB: the department’s admissions process will usually take no less than one month from the point at which you submit your application to the School, and can take six weeks or longer in periods of peak business. For information on the stages of the department’s admissions process, please see ‘What happens to my application after I press ‘submit?’.

What happens to my application after I press ‘submit’?

(i) Receipt of application by the School’s admissions service.
During this phase, the School’s central admissions service conducts basic checks to ensure that you have included all of the required documents with your application. NB: the department will not receive your application until you have supplied all of the required documents and the School has received your references.

(ii) Receipt and consideration of documents by the department 
Different programmes consider applications slightly differently. However, in general, once the department receives your application, relevant academic staff who may be interested in supervising your research will consider your application. Your application will be considered in relation to the following broad criteria:

a. Do your qualifications and experience meet the expected standard?
b. Does your research proposal have the potential to produce research of a sufficiently high calibre?
c. Do your research interests broadly align with those of the department?*
d. Will the department be able to accommodate you?**

If these staff consider that your application meets all criteria set out above, they will recommend to the programme director that you be interviewed.

* For example, as the department specialises in human geography, it is unlikely that we will be able to supervise physical geography research programmes.

** The School sets an upper-limit on the number of doctoral students which each member of staff can supervise, not all of our academic staff will be able to take on new research supervision every year, and the department’s resources are finite. Accordingly, the department cannot always accommodate every potential student’s needs.

(iii) Interview 

If you are invited to interview, this means that the department is strongly considering you as a potential candidate for doctoral study. All potential students are interviewed, regardless of any previous association with their potential supervisors, the department, or the LSE. Interviews will generally be conducted remotely, by telephone or VOIP. However, if you are able to come to the department your interviewers may be willing to meet you in person. Interviews will generally last 20-30 minutes, but may be longer than this.

NB: the interview process is not supposed to be intimidating, and your interviewers will not be trying to catch you out or trip you up. Rather, this is an opportunity for you to discuss the following topics with your potential supervisors.

a. Your motivation for doctoral study.
b. Your academic background.
c. Your research proposal.

This will also be a chance for you to ask questions about:
d. the next stages of the application process,
e. the particular MPhil/PhD programme to which you have applied; and,
f. the demands of doctoral study more generally.

(iv) Post-interview consideration of application
After your interview has been completed, a decision will be made about whether to offer you a place to study with the department.

(v) Decline or Offer
If the department decides to offer you a study-place, the admissions service will produce and send formal offer documentation to you.

All candidates who are offered a place to study with the department are also considered for funding offered by the School. NB: the department considers which candidates to put forward to the School’s funding panel, but the School decides which candidates to offer funding. Accordingly, though candidates from the department have a strong track record of securing funding from the School, the department cannot guarantee that all of those offered places to study with the department will also be offered funding by the School.

When will I be required to register? (What is EC400 and do I need to take it?)

Registration for Geography and Environment PhD programmes will take place during late September 2020.

The only exception to this rule is for students taking EC400, ‘Introductory Course in mathematics and Statistics’. EC400 is a pre-sessional course run by the Department of Economics, which is a pre-requisite for many graduate level courses run by the Department of Economics. If you opt to, or are required to take EC400, you will be required to register with the School at the end of August 2020.

EC400 is mandatory for students on the MPhil/PhD Environmental Economics, which means that offer holders will automatically be expected to register at the end of August 2020.

EC400 is optional for students on the MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography, depending on their proposed research, which means that offer holders will be expected to register:

- at the end of August 2020 if they choose to take EC400; but,

- at the end of September 2020 if they choose not to take EC400.

MPhil/PhD Economic Geography offer holders will be required to confirm by the end of June 2020 whether they intend to take EC400. Consequently, Economic Geography offer holders are encouraged to discuss with their prospective supervisors whether they will need to take EC400 as soon as they receive their offer letter from the School.

How do your MPhil/PhD programmes fit within the department’s research themes?

As a research unit, the department is split into three clusters. Each of our PhD programmes is associated with one of our research clusters.

Economic Geography research cluster
- MPhil/PhD Economic Geography

Environmental Economics and Policy research cluster
- MPhil/PhD Environmental Economics
- MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development

Urbanisation, Policy and Development (UPD)
- MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies
- MPhil/PhD Regional and Urban Planning Studies.

For each programme, the department appoints a doctoral programme director (DPD). Doctoral programme directors are responsible for their individual programme, and also meet together to discuss matters which affect all of the department’s PhD students. As the Department of Geography and Environment is slightly unusual in having five MPhil/PhD programmes, to ensure coherency, consistency and cohesion, the department also appoints a director of postgraduate studies, who operates in an oversight capacity in relation to the department’s doctoral research programmes as a whole.