How to contact us

Geography & Environment
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

PhD enquiries
Sam Colegate
+44 (0)20 7955 6089

Department Manager
Elaine Gascoyne

Fax: +44 (0)20 7955 7412

PhD Programme in Planning Studies

The Planning Studies programme offers students the chance to study for a Master of Philosophy or Doctorate in either regional or urban dimensions of planning. The approach is interdisciplinary and it is international in scope. It is offered in either Full-time or Part-time mode and the normal length of study is three years full time and the equivalent part-time. An applicant should submit a research proposal of two/three pages setting out the desired area of study. Before acceptance it is necessary to ensure that there are suitable staff interested in the topic and available to provide supervision.

Students' background

We make a distinction between students who come to us with an MSc in research training or in a subject that is very closely related to their research topic (+3 students), and those that do not have such a background (1+3 students). 1+3 students will be admitted to the MSc Human Geography Research with a view to progressing onto a research degree after successfully completing that MSc with an overall merit grade plus a mark of at least 65 in the dissertation component (GY499) and having established a viable research proposal. +3 students will be admitted directly onto the research degree programme. Where they have done a research training MSc, they will be exempt from most of our research training programme; holders of other relevant MSc degrees will take those elements of our research training programme that are considered necessary by their supervisor and the Graduate Director.

Some guidance to the focus of the programme can be obtained by looking at the preferred research interests of staff, the topics of current students, the list of preferred research topics as well as the research being undertaken by the research centre LSE: London. Many of the staff contributing to the programme are involved in this research centre. The staff currently include Andy Thornley, Diane Perrons, Christine Whitehead, Andres Rodrigues-Pose, Ian Gordon, Gareth Jones, and Murray Low. 

The central mode of teaching on the programme is the tutorial with a supervisor. This is supported by the Doctoral Seminar in Planning Studies in which students from all years of the MPhil/PhD meet regularly for discussion. These seminars include debates over current planning topics and literature, talks from visiting researchers and discussion of individual student's progress with their research. In addition students in their first year are required to undertake a research training programme. A range of courses are often taken in the LSE Methodology Institute. This programme has three aims:

  • To provide students with transferable research skills
  • To expose students to the critical debates in planning research
  • To provide a foundation for the student's own topic.

Students will be able to attend units within the Masters programmes throughout the LSE and this will often help to build up a foundation of knowledge to support their MPhil/PhD research.

MPhil/PhD students in Planning Studies have a dedicated study room with good computing, e-mail and phone facilities. The LSE Library is an unparalleled facility for exploring social science and planning material. The LSE Language Centre provides the opportunity of learning a wide range of languages. There is also a student-run Planning Studies Society that organises a wide range of social and educational activities including an annual study visit abroad.

Apply for your course online

Preferred research topics for prospective students in the MPhil/PhD in Planning Studies programme

The Regional and Urban Planning Studies Programme, based in the Department of Geography and Environment, hosts its own Research Degree Programme, with a distinctive pattern of research training. It welcomes applications for research degrees on any topic in regional and urban planning. The main requirement is that topic is explored from a social science perspective.

Supervisors for these research degrees are drawn from the range of staff in the Department of Geography and Environment, and also, where possible, from staff in associated Departments, notably Economics and Social Policy. Applicants should, therefore, be aware that the decision on any research degree application will partly depend on the availability of a suitable supervisor within the Department and the School. Other factors, of course, include the quality of the applicant and of the research proposal.

Applications are particularly welcomed for research topics on the following areas:

  • British and European planning systems, with linkages to contemporary planning theory

  • Planning of World Cities and major urban projects

  • The interface of local economic development and planning policies and practice

  • Processes of globalisation and urban planning

  • Urban sustainability and planning, with an emphasis on processes of urban governance.

Applicants are reminded that the purpose of a research degree is to promote understanding and knowledge on, in this case, planning topics. Proposals seeking to establish best practice or normative standards for planning, on their own, are unlikely to be successful.

Topics of current PhD Planning Studies students

The following list comprises a selection of the topics being studied by current students. However applications from students interested in other topic areas are very welcome. 

  • Impact of globalisation on the decision-making process of Istanbul Municipality.

  • The globalisation effect on the economic structure of Mexico City.

  • Competition between Hong Kong and Guangzhou in the context of globalisation.

  • European Union urban policy - the north/south issue.

  • The effect of central/local government relations on planning in Turkey.

  • National innovation systems in Taiwan.

  • Approaches to economic development in Eastern Europe.

  • The concept of 'public interest' and the development of the Japanese planning system.

  • Planning obligations and developer's contributions in the UK.

  • Urban space and the informal economy in the planning of Cape Town.

  • The politics of development in Tokyo.

  • Agglomeration and external economies in Mexico.

  • The impact of NAFTA on Mexico's regional development.

  • Effects of public infrastructure capital on the economic development of Greek regions.

  • City Marketing: Madrid case studies