Human geography at the University of Plymouth

To apply for a PhD at the University of Plymouth please use the online application form. Simply search for MPhil/PhD Human Geography, then clearly state that you are applying for a SWDTP studentship and name the project at the top of your personal statement.

Online application

Take a look at the Doctoral College information on applying for a research degree.

We welcome applications for PhDs in all areas of human geography. You will be joining a vibrant research community with wide ranging interests in human geography. The 2014 REF confirmed that the University of Plymouth is the top-rated post-92 University for research in geography; it was placed 20 out of 41 (Research Power) and 28 out of 41 (GPA). Two-thirds of the papers submitted for REF 2014 were classed Internationally Leading or Internationally Excellent.

Human geography at Plymouth forms part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) South West Doctoral Training Partnership for the South West (SWDTP), offering opportunities for funded PhD studentships. Research in human geography at Plymouth is centred on two research groups, i) Environment, Development and Governance and ii) Society, Culture and Mobility that form part of the Centre for Research in Environment and Society (CeRES) and has examined the following themes:

  • big data and quantitative methods
  • culture, landscape and nature
  • environmental management and climate policy
  • migration, identity and place
  • mobility and transport
  • political and military geographies
  • risk and resilience  
  • rural and agricultural geography
  • spatial planning and governance.

For more details of staff interests, please see our geography web page.

A particular strength of our research is its applied nature, evidenced in a 4* graded REF case study on smart ticketing with South West Smart Applications and the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership. The Sustainable Earth Institute (SEI) connects academic researchers with relevant stakeholders through seminars, training and targeted initiatives

The University offers an extensive range of resources to meet the needs of the postgraduate students. Students in the MSc programmes benefit from access to The Charles Seale-Hayne Library, which is open 24/7 and provides access to approximately 350,000 books and multimedia items, 14,000 current journal subscriptions, a variety of different study environments and an information specialist in geography. The University’s Technology and Information Service and Library Teams provide an enquiry service and information training support for all students when requested and representatives of these services attend Programme Committees.

Students are given access to University computing facilities and provided with an e-mail address. A base room is available for masters students for study or meetings (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and bookings can be made through the SoGEES office. The Faculty of Science and Engineering has dedicated information technology suites of computers that include software for word-processing, spreadsheets and graphics and a computing lab, with social space, is available for the use of MSc students. Open access computing facilities are also available to all students offering a full range of software packages, including e-mail and web access. The University has a well-equipped Media Workshop, where qualified technicians are available to assist students in the use of a range of equipment to produce presentations, whether printed or visual, to a professional standard.

The Doctoral College provide support for applications to PhDs at Plymouth as well as organising the Researcher Development Programme to provide CPD and enhance research skills. Students are also able to access a wide range of human environments in the ‘outdoor laboratory’ of the South West peninsula, which has been the spatial focus for much research by geography staff, bringing with it local contacts, networks and opportunities to enhance local fieldwork.

We offer studentships in the 1+3 and +3 routes. Students with a masters degree that fulfils the ESRC’s training requirements may register directly for an MPhil/PhD on the three year +3 route. Students without a suitable masters can apply for the 1+3 route that involves studying for a masters in human geography research (the +1) followed by the three year MPhil/PhD (+3). Our MSc Human Geography Research is an exciting and tailored course that meets ESRC requirements and provides the foundation for doctoral study.

Initial enquiries

For more details and informal enquiries, please contact Professor Richard Yarwood

How to apply

The ESRC SWDTP encourages collaboration across the universities of the partnership and with external organisations.

Closing date: 19 January 2021 (12:00 noon UK time)

Start date: *1 October 2021 (*dependent on +3 or 1+3 route)

The studentship is supported for three to four years depending upon the pathway and includes full home tuition fees plus a stipend which is currently £15,285 per annum for 2020/2021. 


Information on the eligibility criteria for full awards can be found on the South West DTP website

Application process

You will need to submit the following documentation in order for us to consider your application:

  • Completed University of Plymouth online application form.
  • Completed SWDTP Studentship Application form.
  • Completed SWDTP Equal Opportunities form.
  • Completed SWDTP Supervisor Statement.
  • Copies of your academic qualifications (both certificates and transcripts of module/course marks).
  • Two references (at least one should be an academic reference from the institution where you gained your highest degree).
  • Please include a CV with your application.
  • If applicable, appropriate proof of English proficiency.
  • Documents not included in the online application form can be emailed to by the application deadline.

Your application will only be considered if it contains the above and you have met our minimum criteria. If we need further details or additional documentation we will contact you.

If researchers in the appropriate pathway are interested in your research proposal, we will invite you to a formal interview for a more in-depth discussion about your application.

Your proposal will be initially considered and ranked by the University of Plymouth and other DTP institutions. If your proposal is ranked highly, you will proceed to the next application stage, which is an interview by the human geography pathway leads of all the SWDTP’s institutions. Your application and  interview will then be considered by the SWDTP to determine whether a studentship is awarded.

Application pack

Download and complete the SWDTP Student Statement and ensure that you read the guidance notes carefully before submitting your application online. Missing or incorrect information will delay the processing of your application.