MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies

  • Graduate research
  • Department of Geography and Environment
  • Application code L8ZG
  • Starting 2020
  • UK/EU full-time: Closed
  • Overseas full-time: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

This programme offers the chance to undertake a substantial piece of work that is worthy of publication and which makes an original contribution to the field of Human Geography and Urban Studies. You will begin on the MPhil, and will need to meet certain requirements to be upgraded to PhD status.

This PhD offers training both in human geographic research and in interdisciplinary approaches to understanding/ responding to the challenges of an era of rapid urbanisation and urban redevelopment around the world. Urbanization and development are the main focus of work by both staff and students associated with this programme. But it also provides opportunities for research on topics and issues within human geography which are not specifically “urban” but which relate to other areas of expertise and interest of academic staff within the Urbanization, Planning and Development cluster.

The MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies aims to: (i) provide advanced knowledge of the principles and conceptual foundations of human geographic and urban social science research, together with the research skills and methodological understanding needed to develop original research in the field; (ii) expose you to the most recent developments and debates in human geography and urban studies; (iii) prepare you for careers in research, academia, international organisations, urban planning and governance, the consultancy sector and NGOs.

The Urbanization, Planning and Development cluster of the Department of Geography and Environment involves a concentration of researchers with particular interests in how social, economic and political processes interact across a range of urban contexts in all continents, and in different conditions of development. Issues related to the urban economy are also strongly represented within the Department's Economic Geography cluster. Research students on this programme are strongly encouraged to engage with the full range of urban research, teaching and scholarship within LSE's wider urban research community.

Teaching and learning in Michaelmas Term 2020 
Information on how LSE will deliver teaching and learning in Michaelmas term can be found here.

Programme details

Key facts

MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies
Start date 28 September 2020
Application deadline 27 April 2020. However please note the funding deadlines
Duration Three-four years (minimum 2) full-time
Tuition fee UK/EU: £4,435 (for the first year) - provisional
Overseas: £19,368 (for the first year)
Financial support LSE PhD Studentships (deadlines 10 January 2020 and 27 April 2020)
ESRC funding (+3 and 1+3) (deadline 10 January 2020)
Minimum entry requirement Taught master’s degree, with a minimum of 65 per cent average and at least 70 in dissertation, in a related discipline
GRE/GMAT requirement None
English language requirements Research (see 'Assessing your application')
Location  Houghton Street, London

For more information about tuition fees and entry requirements, see the fees and funding and assessing your application sections.

Entry requirements

Minimum entry requirements for MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies

The programme is offered in the following alternative formats:

Either the standalone MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies (+3 route)

Or Combined with the MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies progressing onto the MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies (1+3 Route)

+3 Route: MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies (2-4 years)

The minimum entry requirement for the standalone PhD +3 programme, is a taught master’s degree (or equivalent), with a minimum of 65 per cent average and at least 70 in the dissertation, in a related discipline.

1+3 Route: MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies (1 year) + MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies (2-4 years)

The 1+3 route – suitable if you do not hold a relevant postgraduate degree – is aimed at students graduating with an undergraduate degree in geography or similar social science subject. See entrance requirements for the MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies.

The 1+3 Combined PhD Programme is only available as part of an ESRC Funded pathway (EU applicants only). The 1+3 scheme provides funding for a one year research training master's linked to a PhD programme and is designed for students who have not already completed an ESRC recognised programme of research training. The ESRC 1+3 scholarship covers the master’s and the PhD programme and so takes up to 5 years in total. Progression from the master’s onto the PhD programme is dependent upon performance in the master’s programme (students must score 65 per cent overall and at least 70 in their dissertation to comply with the department’s usual PhD entry criteria).

To apply for the 1+3 route, an application must be submitted for the MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), including a research proposal for the PhD aspect of the pathway. Applicants must also indicate their wish to be considered for the 1+3 pathway and associated funding within their personal statement. Students who apply for the PhD programme directly, will not be considered for the 1+3 pathway.

Research proposal

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. A research timetable (of three or four years) 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 agendas (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/Skype), your written proposal is of the utmost importance.

Competition for places at the School is high. This means that even if you meet our minimum entry requirement, this does not guarantee you an offer of admission.

If you have studied or are studying outside of the UK then have a look at our Information for International Students to find out the entry requirements that apply to you.

Assessing your application

We welcome applications for research programmes that complement the academic interests of members of staff at the School, and we recommend that you investigate staff research interests before applying.

We carefully consider each application on an individual basis, taking into account all the information presented on your application form, including your:

- academic achievement (including existing and pending qualifications)
- statement of academic purpose
- references
- CV
- outline research proposal
- sample of written work.

See further information on supporting documents

You may also have to provide evidence of your English proficiency. You do not need to provide this at the time of your application to LSE, but we recommend that you do. See our English language requirements.

When to apply

The application deadline for this programme is 27 April 2020. However to be considered for any LSE funding opportunity, you must have submitted your application and all supporting documents by the funding deadline. See the fees and funding section for more details.

Programme structure and courses

In addition to progressing with your research, you are expected to take the courses listed below. You may take courses in addition to those listed but must discuss this with your supervisors.

First year

(* denotes a half unit course)

Training courses

Compulsory (not examined) 
Staff/Research Students Seminars

Weekly seminar 
This involves presentations by speakrer from both inside and outside the Department

Compulsory (examined)
Course(s) to the value of a half unit from the list of options available on MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies.

Relevant advanced qualitative research methods course(s) to the value of one unit from the following:

Fundamentals of Social Science Research Design* 

Qualitative Research Methods*

Doing Ethnography*

If appropriate, other advanced research methods courses – for example in quantitative methods - can be chosen, subject to the supervisors' and the course teacher's approval. 

If you have completed MSc Human Geography and Urban Studies you must take different course(s) to those you have already taken.

Transferable skills courses

Compulsory (not examined except where student presentation forms part of the Annual Review or Upgrade process)
Research Project Seminar
Presentations by research students of aspects of their own research, stressing problems of theory, methodology and techniques.

Workshop in Information Literacy 
Finding, managing and organising published research and data.

Writing the World

Second, third and fourth years

Training courses

Compulsory (not examined) 
Staff/Research Students Seminars

Transferable skills courses

Compulsory (not examined except where student presentation forms part of the Annual Review or Upgrade process)
Research Project Seminar

Writing the World

At the end of your second year (full-time), you will need to satisfy certain requirements and if you meet these, will be retroactively upgraded to PhD status.


For the most up-to-date list of optional courses please visit the relevant School Calendar page.  

You must note however that while care has been taken to ensure that this information is up to date and correct, a change of circumstances since publication may cause the School to change, suspend or withdraw a course or programme of study, or change the fees that apply to it. The School will always notify the affected parties as early as practicably possible and propose any viable and relevant alternative options. Note that that the School will neither be liable for information that after publication becomes inaccurate or irrelevant, nor for changing, suspending or withdrawing a course or programme of study due to events outside of its control, which includes but is not limited to a lack of demand for a course or programme of study, industrial action, fire, flood or other environmental or physical damage to premises. 

You must also note that places are limited on some courses and/or subject to specific entry requirements. The School cannot therefore guarantee you a place. Please note that changes to programmes and courses can sometimes occur after you have accepted your offer of a place. These changes are normally made in light of developments in the discipline or path-breaking research, or on the basis of student feedback. Changes can take the form of altered course content, teaching formats or assessment modes. Any such changes are intended to enhance the student learning experience. You should visit the School’s Calendar, or contact the relevant academic department, for information on the availability and/or content of courses and programmes of study. Certain substantive changes will be listed on the updated graduate course and programme information page.

Supervision, progression and assessment


You will either be allocated a principal supervisor and a review supervisor, or two joint supervisors. One or both will be specialist in your chosen research field, though not necessarily in your topic. The Department encourages – whenever possible – joint-supervision arrangements. However, please confirm your supervisory arrangements during your first meeting with your supervisor(s).

Joint supervisors will have a joint leading role throughout your studies, and you will be able to meet them separately or jointly. Students with a main and a review supervisor should be aware that the main supervisor will have a leading supervisory role during the doctoral studies, whereas the review supervisor will be involved less frequently, being primarily responsible for progress monitoring and participating in review and upgrading decisions (see below). However, please keep your review supervisor abreast of your progress throughout the year and discuss with him/her any matters arising as soon as possible.

Progression and assessment

Once on the MPhil/PhD programme you will go through a First Year Progress Review, taking place in the Summer Term of your 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, you must submit 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 you and the supervisors to discuss the written material presented. The work has to reach an acceptable standard to enable you 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 entry to the second year (third year of the 1+3 programme). Progression to the second year (third year of the 1+3 programme) is also dependent on you having passed all required examinations obtaining at least one merit, and having presented your 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 your progress. You 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. You will be asked to discuss your research paper/thesis outline during an Upgrade Meeting in front of an Upgrading Committee normally formed by your main supervisor, your review supervisor and a third member of staff with relevant expertise. The material is evaluated by the Upgrading Committee, who will recommend transferral to PhD registration if your work is judged to be of sufficient quality and quantity. The upgrade is also dependent on you having completed all required training courses and having made a satisfactory research presentation in your doctoral presentation workshop.

In addition to these formal arrangements, each year during the Summer Term and throughout the course of your studies, you and your supervisors have to complete a yearly Progress Report Form, detailing the progress made, problems arising and a plan/timeline for completion. The forms are sent to the relevant Doctoral Programme Director for approval before you 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 you will be asked to produce specific written documents to be evaluated by a review panel. 

Preliminary reading

Howard Becker, Writing for Social Scientists: how to start and finish yout thesis, book, or article (University of Chicago Press, 2007)
Patrick Dunleavy, Authoring a PhD: how to plan, draft, write and finish a doctoral thesis or dissertation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003)


Students who successfully complete the programme often embark on an academic career. The programme will also prepare you for careers in international organisations (eg the World Bank, OECD, UNEP or European Commission), urban planning, governance, the consultancy sector, infrastructure providers and NGOs.

Further information on graduate destinations for this programme

Support for your career

Many leading organisations give careers presentations at the School during the year, and LSE Careers has a wide range of resources available to assist students in their job search. Find out more about the support available to students through LSE Careers

Fees and funding

Every research student is charged a fee in line with the fee structure for their programme. Programme fees cover registration and examination fees payable to the School, lectures, classes and individual supervision, lectures given at other colleges under intercollegiate arrangements and, under current arrangements, membership of the Students' Union. Fees do not cover living costs or travel or fieldwork.

Scholarships, studentships and other funding

The School recognises that the cost of living in London may be higher than in your home town or country, and we provide over £13 million in scholarships each year to graduate students from the UK, the EU and outside the EU.

This programme is eligible for LSE PhD Studentships, and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding. Selection for the PhD Studentships and ESRC funding is based on receipt of an application for a place – including all ancillary documents, before the funding deadline. Most School administered funding opportunities cover fees. For information on School funding opportunities, please see Fees and funding opportunities.

Funding deadline for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding: 10 January 2020.
Second funding deadline for LSE PhD Studentships: 27 April 2020. 

In addition to our needs-based awards, LSE also makes available scholarships for students from specific regions of the world and awards for students studying specific subject areas. 

Tuition fees 2020/21 for MPhil/PhD Human Geography and Urban Studies

UK/EU students: £4,366 for the first year (provisional)
Overseas students: £18,624 for the first year

The fee is likely to rise over subsequent years of the programme. The School charges UK/EU research students in line with the level of fee that the Research Councils recommend. The fees for overseas students are likely to rise in line with the assumed percentage increase in pay costs (ie, 4 per cent per annum).

Fee status

The amount of tuition fees you will need to pay, and any financial support you are eligible for, will depend on whether you are classified as a home (UK/EU) or overseas student, otherwise known as your fee status. LSE assesses your fee status based on guidelines provided by the Department of Education.

External funding 

There may be other funding opportunities available through other organisations or governments and we recommend you investigate these options as well.

Further information

Fees and funding opportunities

Request a prospectus

  • Name
  • Address

Register your interest

  • Name

Speak to Admissions

Content to be supplied