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MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development

About the MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development

Available since September 2011, the new MPhil/PhD Programme in Environmental Policy and Development reflects growing research at LSE on the social science dimensions of environmental policy as it interfaces with development issues. Department of Geography and Environment academics are at the forefront of scholarly and policy debates concerned with the formulation and implementation of governance mechanisms addressing the challenges of environmental sustainability and development. The Environmental Policy and Development MPhil/PhD Programme is designed to equip students with the skills and subject-specialist knowledge to develop effective research proposals which result in significant original contributions to academic knowledge. The programme will benefit most those candidates with strong motivation and research capabilities, who are comfortable within an interdisciplinary context. There is no prescribed theoretical template for individual research projects, but the programme encourages students to familiarise themselves with a range of conceptual frameworks before selecting, and justifying, those seen as most appropriate to their research. Environment and development research at LSE is undertaken by Department of Geography and Environment staff as well as by colleagues in the Department of International Development. The MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development is offered by Geography and Environment, while the Department of International Development offers an MPhil/PhD programme in Development Studies. Potential applicants are advised to consider the research themes and staff expertise of both Departments before applying to the MPhil/PhD programme.

Structure of the programme

The programme is offered in the following alternative formats:

Either 1 (MSc Environmental Policy and Regulation/MSc Environment and Development) + 3 (MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development) = 4 years;

Or +3 (MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development) = 3 years

The 1+3 pathway – suitable for those individuals who do not hold a relevant postgraduate degree – is aimed at students graduating with an undergraduate degree in a related subject. In the first year of the 1+3 route, core research and subject-specific training will be provided within the framework of the MSc Environmental Policy and Regulation (EPR) or the MSc Environment and Development (E&D). Individuals who have already completed a graduate degree in a relevant subject (including research methods training) can apply directly to the +3 path. If you are currently enrolled in an MSc programme at the LSE or elsewhere and planning to apply for a PhD at the Department, please be advised that you need to take some methods training. Contact the PhD Programme Director or the Director of Postgraduate Studies to discuss this requirement. 

For further details of the programme structure and available courses please see the Programme Regulations.

Progression and upgrade requirements

Students in the 1+3 programme must complete the MSc EPR or MSc E&D in Year 1 with a minimum classification of a solid merit (65 per cent or above) overall and distinction (70 per cent or above) in the dissertation component in order to be able to progress to the MPhil/PhD programme. Under exceptional circumstances, students not meeting these requirements will be considered for progress (eg, on the basis of an outstanding dissertation not matched by a solid merit in the MSc programme overall; or on the basis of a narrowly missed distinction in the dissertation coupled with an excellent performance in all other relevant courses).

Once students are in the MPhil/PhD part of the programme, they will go through a First Year Progress Review taking place in the Summer Term of their first research year. This is Year 1 for students in the +3 programme and Year 2 for students in the 1+3 programme. For the First Year Progress Review, the student submits a written progress report containing an extensive and updated research proposal (typically including an introduction to the topic and justification for the research; aims and objectives/research questions; contribution to knowledge; summary of methods to be used; and outline of the work to be done) and either a comprehensive literature review or a substantive draft of a chapter/paper as evidence of progress made during the year. Normally, there will be a progress review meeting between the student and the supervisors (main supervisor and review supervisor) to discuss the written material presented. The work has to reach an acceptable standard to enable the student to progress. There is provision for a second Supplementary Review, in cases where there are doubts as to whether progress has been sufficient to allow the student to enter the second year (third year of the 1+3 pathway). Progression is also dependent on students having passed all required examinations and obtained at least one merit, and having presented their work satisfactorily in the doctoral presentation workshops.

All research students are initially registered for an MPhil and have to be upgraded to PhD status. The upgrade from MPhil to PhD usually occurs during the second year of full-time registration. This is Year 2 for students in the +3 programme and Year 3 for students in the 1+3 programme. The exact timing depends on the student's progress. Students are required to submit a formal written upgrade report consisting of an extensive revised research proposal, two substantive draft papers/chapters, of which one can be a literature review, and a detailed plan for completion. The material is evaluated by an upgrade committee that will recommend transferral to PhD registration if the work is judged to be of sufficient quality and quantity. The upgrading committee is normally formed by the student's main supervisor, review supervisor and a third member of staff with relevant expertise. The upgrade is also dependent on students having completed all required training courses and having made a satisfactory research presentation in their doctoral presentation workshop.

In addition to these formal arrangements, each year during the Summer Term and throughout the course of their studies, all PhD students and their supervisors have to complete a yearly Progress Report Form, detailing progress made, problems arising and plan/timeline for completion. The forms are sent to the relevant Doctoral Programme Director for approval before students are able to re-register for the following session. If perceived lack of progress is identified, it can trigger a more formal annual review of progress in which the student is asked to produce specific written documents to be evaluated by a review panel.

About the Department

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework the Department was ranked first overall in the UK for quality of published research, and fourth overall when including research impact and research environment. 

It has for many years been a recognised ESRC research training outlet (full-time and part-time). The Department is distinctive in that it concentrates on the social scientific aspects of geography and environmental studies, placing great emphasis on multi-disciplinary teaching and research, and focuses strongly on policy relevant work.

Department research primarily takes place in three thematic clusters: Economic Geography and Regional Science; Environmental Economics and Policy; Cities and Development. The first two clusters are closely associated with two large externally-funded research centres: the ESRC Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (incorporating the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy), respectively.

Departmental staff are also actively involved with the School's other interdisciplinary institutes and research centres (including the Centre for Economic Performance, Department of International Development, LSE London, Media@LSE, Gender Institute, and Urban@LSE) and undertake collaborative research with colleagues in other disciplines.

The Department runs PhD programmes in human geography, economic geography, environmental economics, and environmental policy and development. There is one research-orientated master's degree (Human Geography Research) and a range of others focused on developing the ability to integrate theoretical developments with practical experience. Staff come from a wide range of subject backgrounds. Most of those involved in teaching graduate students have a wealth of experience in working for, or acting as advisers to, a range of international agencies and governments across the world. Furthermore, the Department hosts a holder of the prestigious European Investment Bank (EIB) - European Prize in Regional Science, several holders of the Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award, the August Lösch prize, the Geoffrey Hewings Award for Regional Science Research, the recipient of a Major Leverhulme Research Fellowship and three holders of the highly competitive Philip Leverhulme Prize Fellowships for researchers under 36.

About the Environmental Economics and Policy cluster

The Environmental Economics and Policy cluster – which is directly responsible for the management of the MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development and the MPhil/PhD Environmental Economics – has what is the largest group of full-time academic environmental economists in any UK university and very strong expertise in environmental policy, with several faculty members being regularly involved in high profile policy work. Staff have acted as advisors and consultants for the United Nations, World Bank, UNEP, OECD and other international organisations, as well as for UK government departments (such as Defra) and the private sector.

The Cluster's research agenda covers state, market, and civil society actors and explores the interrelationships with other policy spheres and regulation (social, economic, and political) across a range of geographic scales, from the local to the global, both in the developed and developing worlds. This includes diverse studies of the social costs of climate change, renewable energy in the Middle East, water resource management in Spain and Cyprus, market-based conservation in biodiversity-rich countries, valuation and investigation of the impacts of environmental change on well-being, and welfare impacts of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Recent appointments in the Cluster have also strengthened the department's research expertise on environment and development, and including expertise on biofuels in India as well as community forest management in Namibia and Malaysia.

The Cluster has attracted substantial grants from the European Commission, British Government and the Alcoa Foundation. Perhaps the biggest achievement in terms of grant application has been the successful bids for an ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (CCCEP) and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. As a result, the Cluster enjoys close links with the Grantham Research Institute, chaired by Lord Stern of Brentford, as well as the research programmes of CCCEP. With these awards, the LSE has been recognised as one of the leading places in the world to research and study the economic and social science aspects of the environment and climate change.

Opportunities for research and admission criteria

Research in the Department concentrates on the socio-economic aspects of geography and environmental studies, and places great emphasis on rigorous and multi-disciplinary methods to address policy relevant questions.

The MPhil/PhD programme in Environmental Policy and Development aims for the highest international standard of training and competence. The intellectual climate benefits from a large number of highly motivated and international students, as well as close interaction with staff in the Department and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

For admissions to the 1+3 PhD programme via MSc EPR or MSc E&D:

An upper second class (or equivalent) honours undergraduate degree programme in a related subject. Student selection also takes into account relevant work experience (if applicable) and the academic references provided with the application. Applicants must meet the School's minimum English language requirement (7.0 in IELTS or 627/263 in TOEFL). There are no requirements with regard to GMAT and GRE. 

For admissions to the +3 PhD programme:

A minimum of 65 per cent average mark in a relevant postgraduate degree, with 70 per cent or higher in the dissertation component. Under exceptional circumstances, students not meeting these requirements will be considered (eg, on the basis of an outstanding dissertation not matched by a solid merit in the MSc programme overall; or on the basis of a narrowly missed 70 in the dissertation coupled with an excellent performance in all other relevant courses; or on the basis of an outstanding research proposal; see next). Students must also meet the School's minimum English language requirement and have some research methods training.

All prospective students are expected to submit a three-page long (excluding references and appendix) research proposal, which will form part of their application package. Submitted proposals should briefly address: research questions and hypotheses; relevant literature and previous research in the field; potential contribution to knowledge; likely methods and approaches to be adopted; likely data and information sources to be used. An outline three-year research timetable must be included as an appendix. Note that we only accept PhD topics that are close to relevant staff interests, so we recommend prospective applicants to check our staff publications and current research agenda (our departmental web pages list key research topics).

Selection is based upon the quality of your research proposal, references, prior achievement, and the appropriateness of your research topic to the Department's research focus. While we normally interview prospective research students (in person or over the phone), your written proposal is of the utmost importance.

ESRC funded students will take either the MSc Environmental Policy & Regulation or the MSc Environment and Development as part of their 1+3 programme of study. Most elements of the MPhil/PhD graduate programme are completed in Year 1 of the +3 pathway or Year 2 of the 1+3 pathway. Students take core methodological, subject-specific and seminar courses in order to reach the leading edge of their chosen discipline and topic. Students can also select courses offered by other Departments within the LSE, subject to the supervisor's and course manager's approval. In addition, throughout the programme, we offer a series of study skills workshops, research seminar series where graduates present their current research to staff and colleagues, and Departmental seminars where visiting speakers and staff present their work.

We emphasise supervisors and students working together on research design, strategy and methodology, and the timetable and plans for dissemination of the work. Students receive regular feedback on their work and progress is monitored by an annual review. 

Taught programme


MPhil/PhD Environmental Policy and Development
Visiting Research Students

Application code: L7ZS (MPhil/PhD), L8EG (VRS) (check availability)

Start date: 22 September 2016. For January/April start, contact the Department

Duration: +3 route: 3 years; 1+3 route: 4 years; VRS: up to 9 months (renewable)

Entry requirement: If enrolling for the +3 route, a taught master's degree in related disciplines (including research methods training) with a minimum of 65 per cent average mark and 70 per cent or higher in the dissertation component. If enrolling for the 1+3 route, a minimum of an upper second class honours (or equivalent) undergraduate degree

English requirement: Research (see English requirements)

GRE/GMAT requirement: None

Fee level: See Tuition fees

Financial support: LSE scholarships and studentships (see Fees and Financial support). UK/EU students may apply for ESRC funding (see Economic and Social Research Council)

Application deadline: 27 April 2016. The selection process for LSE PhD and Research Council Studentships will take place in two rounds, and all students are advised to aim for the first round if possible. The funding deadlines are 11 January and 27 April 2016. Selection for funding is based on receipt of an application for a place - including all ancillary documents