MRes/PhD Anthropology

  • Graduate research
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Application code L6ZB
  • Starting 2020
  • UK/EU full-time: Closed
  • Overseas full-time: Closed
  • Location: Houghton Street, London

This programme offers you the chance to undertake a substantial piece of work that is worthy of publication and which makes an original contribution to the field of anthropology. You will begin on the MRes, and will need to meet certain requirements to progress to the PhD.

LSE has one of the most famous anthropology departments in the world. The research interests of our staff span all the major theoretical spheres of modern social anthropology. We carry out ethnographic research in diverse settings such as bureaucracies, corporations, NGOs, rural and urban communities and religious and social movements. Our expertise covers all the regions of the world including China, South Asia, South East Asia, the U.S.A, Europe, Latin America and post-socialist states. Our Department is well known for the rigour of its ethnography in settings such as these, and also for the pivotal contributions it makes to foundational topics in the social sciences such as politics, economics, religion and kinship.

The MRes/PhD programme is central to the life of the Department, and we support students with their field research and professional development. By joining this programme you will be actively involved in innovative research, which is rooted in our Department’s anthropological traditions of: long-term ethnographic fieldwork; a commitment to broad comparative inquiries into human sociality; and a critical engagement with social theory.

The programme is built around long-term participant observation fieldwork in locations throughout the world. You will normally undertake fieldwork for around 18 months. After fieldwork, you begin work on your thesis dissertation.

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

MRes /PhD Anthropology
Start date 28 September 2020
Application deadline 27 April 2020. However please note the funding deadline
Duration Five years (1+4) 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 (deadline: 10 January 2020)
ESRC funding (deadline: 10 January 2020)
Minimum entry requirement

We require a significant prior training in social anthropology at degree level (please see important additional information below under ''entry requirements”). 

GRE/GMAT requirement None
English language requirements Higher (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 MRes/PhD Anthropology

We require applicants to have a significant prior training in social anthropology at degree level. Normally, this will be evidenced by a merit or higher result on a taught MSc/MA in social anthropology from a UK university, or the equivalent of this from an overseas university; or by a 2:1 or higher result on an undergraduate BA/BSc in social anthropology from a UK university, or the equivalent of this from an overseas university. In brief, you need to have taken a significant number of anthropology courses at university level and to have a achieved a good result in your degree overall.   

Applicants who do not hold these qualifications should first complete a one-year MSc/MA programme in social anthropology, such as those convened by our Department, before applying for the MRes/PhD track. 

Note that for students who are already currently registered on one of the Department’s MSc programmes, specific additional conditions of admission to the MRes/PhD programme may apply. 

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

Assessing your application

We welcome applications for research programmes that complement the academic interests of our members of staff, 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
- 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


The first year focuses on fieldwork preparation and training in research methodologies. You will take courses and seminars based in the Department of Anthropology. Depending on your qualifications and background, you will also be asked to take additional coursework in social anthropology by attending lecture courses in, for example, economics, kinship or religion.

You will also audit (attend but not participate in assessment) one or two of the Department’s main lecture courses, to the value of one unit.

Throughout the pre-fieldwork year, your main task is to prepare – in close consultation with your two supervisors – a formal research proposal (with a 10,000-word limit). This is formally assessed by the Department. You will normally be upgraded from MRes to PhD registration if your proposal is approved, and if you have achieved the required marks in your coursework. You are then allowed to proceed to fieldwork. 

Qualitative and Quantitative Methods for Anthropologists
Provides you with insights into the process by which anthropological knowledge is produced, and trains you in the collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data. 

Evidence and Arguments in Anthropology and Other Social Sciences
Considers research practices across a range of social and natural sciences in order to explore methodological issues which are specifically relevant to ethnography. 

Supervised Reading Course and Fieldwork Preparation
Gives you a detailed knowledge of the regional ethnographic literature relevant to your proposed research project, as well as providing you with a firm grounding in the theoretical literature relevant to your research objectives. 

Research Proposal
Preparation of a formal Research Proposal of 8,000-10,000 words for submission to the Department on or before the deadline in June/August. 

Seminar on Anthropological Research


After meeting the progression requirements, you will be upgraded to PhD registration and will commence the fieldwork phase of the programme. Most students carry out fieldwork for approximately 18 months, however the timing and duration of the fieldwork and post-fieldwork stages may vary to some extent between students. During fieldwork – depending on the practicalities of communication – you are expected to maintain close contact with your supervisor about the progress of your work.

After fieldwork, doctoral candidates begin writing their PhD dissertations under the close guidance of their supervisors. During this period of your studies, you will also attend seminars on: thesis-writing; professional development and our departmental seminar in which external speakers present their latest research. Most students complete their dissertations between one and two years after their fieldwork has ended.

First and second year of the PhD (typically 18 months)


Second to fourth year of the PhD (typically 18 to 24 months)

Advanced Professional Development in Anthropology
Examines key theoretical concepts and approaches in anthropology at an advanced level that may be relevant to post-fieldwork doctoral candidates. Enhances your professional development by providing you with advanced training in writing and presentation skills and skills relevant to your career progression.

Thesis Writing Seminar
This non-assessed course involves you presenting draft dissertation chapters amongst your cohort.

Seminar on Anthropological Research

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 be assigned two supervisors who are specialists in your chosen research field, though not necessarily in your topic.

Progression and assessment

You will need to meet certain criteria to progress to PhD registration, such as achieving certain grades in your coursework, and earning a minimum mark on your research proposal, which includes a viva oral examination.

Your progress will also be reviewed at the end of each year of your PhD study, and will be based on written reports. The mandatory third year progress review for students in anthropology is held in the third term (or, exceptionally, in the fourth term) after your return from fieldwork; this entails a viva with both supervisors and one external examiner.

Your final award will be determined by the completion of an original research thesis and a viva oral examination.

More about progression requirements.


Students who successfully complete the programme often embark on an academic career. 

Students who graduated within the last ten years have gone on to a range of occupations such as:

Amit Desai (PhD 2007) – Research Fellow, Nursing & Midwifery Research Department, King’s College London
Fraser McNeill (PhD 2007) – Senior Lecturer of Anthropology at the University of Pretoria, South Africa
Andrew Sanchez (PhD 2009) – Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Elizabeth Hull (PhD 2009) – Lecturer in Anthropology, SOAS Food Studies Centre and the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research in Agriculture and Health
Judith Bovensiepen (PhD 2010) – Senior Lecturer, School of Anthropology & Conservation, University of Kent
Victoria Boydell (PhD 2010) – Rights and Accountability Advisor, Reproductive Sociology Research Group, University of Cambridge
Katie Dow (PhD 2010) – Senior Research Associate, Reproductive Sociology Research Group, University of Cambridge
Maxim Bolt (PhD 2011) – Reader in Anthropology and Africa at the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham
Indira Arumugam (PhD 2011) – Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore
Elizabeth Frantz (PhD 2011) – Senior Program Officer, Open Society Foundations
Tom Boylston (PhD 2012) – Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Edinburgh
Kimberly Chong (PhD 2012) – Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Sussex
Dina Makram-Ebeid (PhD 2013) –  Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology and Egyptology, The American University in Cairo
Giulia Liberatore (PhD 2013) – Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, COMPAS, School of Anthropology, University of Oxford
Ruben Andersson (PhD 2013) - Associate Professor of Migration and Development, International Migration Institute, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford
Jovan Scott Lewis (PhD 2014) – Assistant Professor, University of California UC Berkeley
Amy Penfield (PhD 2015) – Lecturer in Social Anthropology, University of Manchester
Méadhbh Mclvor (PhD 2016) – Teaching Fellow in Social Anthropology, UCL
Agustin Diz (PhD 2017) – LSE Fellow in Anthropology, LSE

Further information on graduate destinations for this programme 

Support for your career

Many leading organisations in the field 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

Student stories

Jiazhi Fengjiang 
MPhil/PhD Anthropology
London, UK 

 Fengjiang profile

The PhD programme in Anthropology at LSE is extremely stimulating and rewarding. The department of anthropology produces world-class research and enables students to access extensive academic resources and network beyond LSE in London. 

The programme allows me to conduct my doctoral research with close supervision and mentorship from my two academic supervisors as well as numerous consultations and advice from faculty members, research student cohort, and visiting researchers in the department through reading, research, and writing-up seminars. After one year of preparation on my research proposal, I conducted an eighteen-month fieldwork in China’s southeast coast. Over the course of writing up my thesis, I got chances to teach an undergraduate course and present my work at the Friday morning departmental seminar. I was also part of the Argonaut (the departmental journal) project as a cover designer and illustrator. Beyond the LSE academic community, London is a hub of exciting events and networks. I got to participate in varied workshops and collaborate with colleagues beyond LSE in reading groups, publications, as well as exploring visual and graphic anthropology. 

Following my PhD at LSE, my main plan is to publish my thesis as a book and publish a couple of journal articles while developing a new post-doc research project on grassroots transnational humanitarianism in Asia. I hope to continue my academic career as an anthropologist and deliver my research in varied forms to a wider audience. 

Megnaa Mehtta 
MRes/PhD Anthropology
London, UK 


Megnaa Mehtta Photo 1

I am a PhD student in the department of Social Anthropology. I was born in Udaipur, Rajasthan, and did my undergraduate degree at Yale University with short stints at Delhi University and the University of Cape Town. After my B.A, I worked as a community organizer in Buenos Aires on issues of urban waste and labour. I also taught social anthropology at a bachillerato popular (community college) in the city. After Argentina, I moved back to where I grew up in southern Rajasthan and worked as a community mobiliser and ethnographer focusing on issues around alternative politics.

My PhD research is based out of the Sundarbans mangrove forests that range across the borders of India and Bangladesh and are internationally famous as a protected habitat of the Royal Bengal tiger. Less well known are the 4.5 million people who live alongside these forests, and the many thousands who venture into them on a daily basis to earn a livelihood collecting fish, crabs and honey. During 22 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I lived with communities that ‘do the jungle’, sharing in their daily lives and venturing into the forests with them to fish, collect crabs, and understand the relationship they have to their labour and surrounding rivers and forests. As an environmental anthropologist interested in the intersection of political ecology and everyday ethics, my research explores what conserving life means to the people living alongside a global conservation hotspot. I delve into the fishers’ motivations for undertaking life-threatening work in the jungle, their notions of sufficiency and excess, what it means to sustain a household, and ultimately the kind of life they seek to conserve for themselves in relation to their surrounding landscape.

One of the most exciting aspects of LSE’s PhD program in Social Anthropology is the opportunity to do such long-term ethnographic fieldwork. In my pre-field year I had a completely different set of questions I wanted to explore.  However, when I arrived in the Sundarbans, I realized that the themes and issues most important to my interlocutors were completely different from what I had conceived of in my research proposal in London. I feel privileged to have been encouraged to pursue what I think is the truest way of doing anthropology, paying attention to people’s lives, the categories with which they themselves make sense of things, and their attempts to live a full life amidst the forces that constantly renegotiate their everyday realities.

An additional perk of studying at the LSE is the opportunity to participate in the departmental seminar series known as ‘Friday Seminars.’ Through weekly presentations, students and faculty get to hear some of the most intellectually stimulating research papers in contemporary anthropology that showcase the creative breadth the discipline allows for. In addition to ‘Friday Seminars’, Fridays are doubly fun thanks to a ritual of gathering at the pub with one’s colleagues. The Anthropology Department is a vibrant place distinguished both by its ideas and its people.             


Itay Noy
MRes/PhD Anthropology
Tel Aviv, Israel


The PhD community is very social and I enjoy the mix of students, from different countries and walks of life. It is an intellectually stimulating environment with lots of interesting speakers coming to our seminars. My thesis supervisors are also great, they are always encouraging and giving me lots of useful feedback on my work.

Fees and funding

Every research student is charged a fee in line with the fee structure for their programme. The fee covers 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. It does not cover living costs or travel or fieldwork.

Tuition fees 2020/21 for MRes/PhD Anthropology

UK/EU students: £4,435 for the first year (provisional)
Overseas students: £19,368 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.

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.  

Funding deadline for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding: 10 January 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. 

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


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