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MPhil/PhD Economic Geography

About the MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography

The MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography aims to provide students with a rigorous and quantitative approach to the study of socio-economic phenomena that have a spatial and geographical nature, as well as their implications. This focus follows a general trend in the discipline and the growing need of policy advice to be solidly grounded in well-documented empirical regularities and properly established causal links. In order to satisfy these demands, the doctoral programme will provide students with advanced and up-to-date training in both traditional areas of economics – such as economic geography and spatial, urban and real estate economics – as well as more institutional approaches to these issues, such as those encompassed by regional science and local economic development. Moreover, the doctoral experience at LSE will expose students to an international, vibrant and multidisciplinary research environment.

Students can expect to leave the programme with a solid command of the following skills: (i) a critical understanding of the extent, nature and consequences of spatial disparities in economic performance, and the ability to identify appropriate policy responses; (ii) a rigorous analytical, methodological and quantitative approach to the subject; (iii) a solid understanding of the recent developments in the fields of economic geography and spatial economics; (iv) the ability to apply knowledge to new problems and contexts; and (v) the background required for a successful career in research and academia, as well as in consultancy or government policy.

Given the high profile of our programme, previous doctoral students in the “Economic Geography” cluster have found employment in academic and public research institutions, as well as work in international organisations (eg, OECD, UNCTAD/WTO, European Commission, World Bank), the private/consultancy sector (eg, McKinsey, Ernst & Young), or in high-profile positions in governmental institutions (eg, regional development bodies, ministries of business, innovation and foreign affairs).

Research in Economic Geography at LSE is undertaken by Department of Geography and Environment staff as well as by colleagues in the Department of Economics. The MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography is offered by Geography and Environment, but 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 course can be accessed after entering and graduating from the MSc in Local Economic Development (LED) or the MSc in Real Estate Economics and Finance (REEF) offered by the Department. In this case students follow the 1+3 PhD programme structure. The course can also be accessed after obtaining a master's degree in a related discipline, including research methods training (eg economics, economic geography, regional science, local economic development). In this case students follow the +3 PhD programme structure. 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.

The 1+3 route is suitable for those individuals who do not hold a relevant postgraduate degree and is aimed at students graduating with an undergraduate degree in economics or closely related subject (economic geography, regional science, local economic development). In the first year of the 1+3 route, core research and subject-specific training will be provided within the framework of the MSc Real Estate Economics and Finance (REEF) or MSc Local Economic Development (LED). Students who have already completed a graduate degree in a relevant and related subject can apply directly to the +3 format.

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

Progression and upgrade requirements

Students progressing from the MSc LED or MSc REEF to the MPhil/PhD programme must complete their MSc programme with a minimum classification of 65 per cent overall (a solid merit) and 70 per cent (distinction) in the dissertation in order to be able to progress to the MPhil/PhD. 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 a remarkable performance in all other relevant courses). 

Students in the MPhil/PhD programme 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 motivation 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 programme). Progression to the second year (3rd year of the 1+3 programme) 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 route. 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. Students are asked to discuss their research paper/thesis outline during an Upgrade Meeting in front of an Upgrading Committee normally formed by main supervisor, review supervisor and a third member of staff with relevant expertise. The material is evaluated by this Upgrading Committee who will recommend transferral to PhD registration if the work is judged to be of sufficient quality and quantity. 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

The Department was ranked amongst the leading departments in the country in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. 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, places great emphasis on multidisciplinary teaching and research and focuses strongly on policy relevant work.

Our 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 three large externally-funded research centres: the ESRC Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC), the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (incorporating the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy).

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 – including the World Bank, United Nations Development Programme , United Nations Environment Programme , European Commission, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – as well as 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 Economic Geography cluster

The Economic Geography and Regional Science Cluster – which is directly responsible for the management of the MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography – hosts what is considered the largest group of full-time academic economists in Europe working on the issues of economic geography, urban and spatial economics, regional science and local economic development and policy. The Economic Geography cluster has performed very well in international ranking of research groups in the fields of economic geography and spatial economics. A study for the European Economics Association in 2002 shows that the 'Economic Geography' cluster ranked as either 9th, 6th or 4th best 'economics sub-centre' in Europe depending on the weights attached to the various indicators used for the benchmarking exercise. This was ahead of any other economics group in the UK.

The cluster's research agenda covers a large number of topics, including: spatial disparities in income, earnings, employment and quality of life in the UK; spatial issues in entrepreneurship; skills, migration and labour market; agglomeration economies; institutions; housing and land use planning; regional and spatial evolutions; the spatial impact of globalisation; the geography of innovation and regional technological spillovers; trade, industrial organisation and development.

The vast majority of the staff in the cluster is also involved in the activities of the Spatial Economics Research Centre (SERC) and in the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth.

Moreover, students can expect close interactions with members of other clusters within the Department of Geography and Environment, visitors of the affiliated research centres as well as staff from the Economics Department of the School and affiliates of the Centre for Economic Performance with which the Department has close ties.

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 quantitative, rigorous and multidisciplinary research to address policy relevant questions.

The MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography aims for the highest international standards 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 at the Department and related research centres, such as the Spatial Economics Research Centre and the Centre for Economic Performance.

For admissions to the 1+3 PhD programme via MSc LED or MSc REEF

For applicants who are graduates from British universities, a good 2:1 or equivalent in Economics (single of joint) or a closely related subject (economic geography, regional science, local economic development). Applicants with qualifications from other countries will be expected to have a similar academic background. They will also normally submit a GRE or GMAT score. There is no threshold score, but a high score will count in the applicants' favour (students are usually in the top 10 per cent on the quantitative part and in the top 20 per cent on the qualitative component of the tests). Applicants must also meet the School's minimum English language requirement.

For admissions to the +3 PhD programme

Students with MSc degrees in related disciplines (eg, economics, economic geography, regional science, local economic development) are welcomed. It is normally expected that students will have achieved a solid overall merit (ie, 65 out of 100 or equivalent) in the MSc classification and obtained a distinction in their MSc dissertation (ie, 70+ out of 100 or equivalent) where this applies. 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 a remarkable 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 of the 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 strongly advise 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 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 in Local Economic Development (LED) or the MSc in Real Estate Economics and Finance (REEF) 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 both subject-specific and methodological MSc and PhD level courses in order to reach the leading edge of their chosen discipline and topic. Students can select courses offered by other LSE Departments, including Departments of Economics and Methodology, 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 (doctoral student research presentations) where graduates present their current research to staff and colleagues, and departmental seminars where visiting speakers and staff present their work (staff/research student seminars).

We emphasise the importance of 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 Economic Geography
Visiting Research Students

Application code: L7ZQ (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 (including research methods training) in related disciplines 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