School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MPhil/PhD Physical Geography

Physical Geography involves the study of environmental processes and change, and pressures on the environment arising from human activity. Undertaking a PhD or MPhil gives you the opportunity to lead your own research project, supported by staff at the forefront of their academic disciplines across physical geography, including disciplines such as catchment science, glaciology, geomorphology, and Quaternary environmental change, in addition to interdisciplinary research themes.

This programme allows you to conduct an advanced research project with a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You are normally registered as an ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and will apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status 12–21 months after registration, based on your progress to date. You are expected to fully engage with your personal skills development and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. Even if you already have a masters degree, you will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 10–22 months after registration, based on your progress to date.

    You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (up to 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal. We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications (for instance, you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level but have worked in and/or developed an interest in your sector since then).

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a research proposal.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Centre for Research in Environment and Society (CeRES)

Our research activities encompass a broad range of work in physical and human geography. There is a substantial postgraduate community, and a lively and active research culture. All our research is underpinned by excellent facilities and support staff.

Research is organised around four themes which make up the Centre for Research in Environment and Society (CeRES).

Learn more about CeRES