PhD Physical Geography

Year of entry: 2023

Overview

Degree awarded
PhD
Duration
3 years
Entry requirements
  • A First or Upper Second Class Bachelor's degree (or its international equivalent).
  • A relevant master's degree, with Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% in both the taught course units and your dissertation (or international equivalent of 60%).

Full entry requirements

How to apply

Apply online

Please ensure you include all required supporting documents at the time of submission, as incomplete applications may not be considered.

Application Deadlines

Most funding opportunities (internal and external partners – list here ) require you to have submitted a PhD application by 1 st February 2023, at the latest. However, we recommend that you apply in advance of this date as it can be advantageous to have a PhD offer already in place prior to application for funding.   

If you are applying for, or have secured, external funding (for example, from a government or employer) or intend to self-fund then you will need to have submitted an application by 30 th June 2023, at the latest. Unfortunately, you will not be able to apply to the PhD programme after this deadline has passed.

Programme options

Full-time Part-time Full-time distance learning Part-time distance learning
PhD Y Y N N

Programme overview

  • Become part of a stimulating and supportive research community at one of the top ten Geography departments in the UK (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022).
  • Undertake research on a topic of your choice, supervised by an expert in that field.
  • Benefit from being based in a department with a 125-year history of geographical studies

Open days

The University holds an annual PGR Open Day, where you will have the opportunity to tour the campus and find out more about our facilities and programmes.

On this day, you will find out more about the School of Environment, Education and Development , our Department of Geography , and our resources.

You'll also be able to meet academic and admissions staff who will be able to answer any questions you have.

For more information and to book your place, see Open days .

Fees

Fees for entry in 2023 have not yet been set. For reference, the fees for the academic year beginning September 2022 were as follows:

  • PhD (full-time)
    UK students (per annum): £6,000
    International, including EU, students (per annum): £20,000
  • PhD (part-time)
    UK students (per annum): £3,000
    International, including EU, students (per annum): £10,000

Further information for EU students can be found on our dedicated EU page.

Your fees will cover the cost of your study at the University, as well as charges for registration, tuition, supervision, examinations and graduation (excluding graduation robe hire).

Payment of tuition fees will also entitle you to membership of The University of Manchester library, the Students' Union and the Athletic Union.

Scholarships/sponsorships

We receive money from a range of sources to help you fund your research and have a variety of awards on offer, covering tuition fees and a generous stipend, including school and departmental studentships.

Application deadlines for internal funding opportunities are often at the beginning of February for programmes starting the following September, and many external funders have earlier application deadlines.

If you're planning to apply for a scholarship or award that is not attached to a particular project, you'll normally need to hold an offer of a place from the University before applying.

Search for current funding opportunities by country and research programme using our funding database search tool .

Programmes in related subject areas

Use the links below to view lists of programmes in related subject areas.

Entry requirements

Academic entry qualification overview

  • A First or Upper Second Class Bachelor's degree (or its international equivalent).
  • A relevant master's degree, with Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% in both the taught course units and your dissertation (or international equivalent of 60%).

English language

Candidates whose first language is not English require one of the following certificates:

  • IELTS test minimum scores - 7 overall, 7 writing, 6 other sections;
  • TOEFL (internet based) test minimum scores - 100 overall, 25 writing, 22 other sections;
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum scores - 66 overall, 66 writing, 59 other sections;
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) - overall score of 185 or above, with writing 185 and no other sub-section below 169, or Grade C if taken before 2015;
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) - overall score of 185 or above, with writing 185 and no other sub-section below 169, or Grade B if taken before 2015.

English language test validity

Some English Language test results are only valid for two years.

Your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the programme.

Application and selection

How to apply

Apply online

Please ensure you include all required supporting documents at the time of submission, as incomplete applications may not be considered.

Application Deadlines

Most funding opportunities (internal and external partners – list here ) require you to have submitted a PhD application by 1 st February 2023, at the latest. However, we recommend that you apply in advance of this date as it can be advantageous to have a PhD offer already in place prior to application for funding.   

If you are applying for, or have secured, external funding (for example, from a government or employer) or intend to self-fund then you will need to have submitted an application by 30 th June 2023, at the latest. Unfortunately, you will not be able to apply to the PhD programme after this deadline has passed.

Advice to applicants

Your completed application should include:

  • two references, one of which should be familiar with your academic work, on headed paper from the institution, signed, dated and stamped; 
  • a degree certificate and transcript for your bachelor's and master's degrees; 
  • a research proposal; 
  • evidence of your English language proficiency; 
  • a detailed CV.

Admission to studying for a PhD or a Professional Doctorate is highly competitive, so please allow as much time as possible to prepare your application, browse our research pages and academics' profiles, and familiarise yourself with the application process and any important deadlines.

Your supervisor will be an important part of your PhD programme.

It's a close relationship over more than years, through which you develop your ideas, skills, thinking and research.

Your supervisor's research interests should therefore closely align to yours.

If you aren't applying for a specific project, you'll need to find potential supervisors who will support your research.

Details on recent publications, ongoing projects and particular research interests are all available on our  academics' profiles .

We strongly recommend that you approach academics who complement your research interests before you apply.

Your potential supervisor will give you advice on developing your research proposal as well as critical feedback to help make your proposal strong and competitive when it comes to applying for funding.

If you'd like us to match you to a suitable supervisor, providing clear details of your research area or group within your application will make it easier for us to identify suitable opportunities for you.

Include any details in section six of your application from under 'Proposed programme of study'.

Although guarantees cannot be made, we'll do our best to match your area of research to the most suitable supervisors within the field.

How your application is considered

In reaching a decision on applications, we review a number of criteria, including:
  • the availability of two appropriate supervisors;
  • the relevance and strength of your research proposal;
  • your academic standing and relevant professional experience.

When you submit an application, you will receive notification that it has been received. Our admissions team will contact you to let you know if we require any further information.

We aim to process all applications within six weeks and will contact you with our decision as soon as possible.

Interview requirements

You may be required to attend an interview.

Programme details

Programme description

PhD Physical Geography will allow you to benefit from the supervision of world-leading academics that have very strong reputations for research quality.

The University of Manchester is one of the best places in the world to study physical geography, and our department has a global reputation for its research and teaching.

Our physical geography staff members hold editorial positions with leading research publications, including major journals such as Journal of the Geological Society, Geoarchaeology, Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, and Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

They also routinely serve on various review panels of the UK Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC). There are two research groups specialising in physical geography:

The work of the Environmental Processes research group includes the analysis of environmental processes at a range of spatial scales and geographical locations, but particularly in upland and urban environments.

Fundamental and applied research is supported by the UK Research Councils and EU H2020, as well as a range of government and non-government agencies, including Defra, UKCIP, Environment Agency, Natural England and Moors for the Future.

The Quaternary Environments and Geoarchaeology research group is particularly interested in the analysis of the response of geomorphological systems and ecosystems to global climate change.

This includes the study of glaciers, rivers, lakes, deserts and high mountain terrains, as well as paleoecology, geochemistry and a range of geochronological applications.

This research involves work throughout the world, including the Arctic, British Isles, Mediterranean, Himalayas, North America, and Africa.

Research is funded by various bodies, including the Leverhulme Trust, NERC, the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society.

Explore our research groups to find out more about the specialisms available at Manchester, and the academics who are keen to supervise in each area.

In addition, some of our physical geographers with interests in GIS and mapping are also part of the Mapping: Culture and Geographical Information Science  research group, which spans geographical sub-disciplines.

You can find out more about our academic staff and their research specialisms on our People page .

Recent PhD graduates have been appointed to positions at leading universities around the world, while others now work in government agencies and research institutes as well as conservation organisations.

Many graduates have gone on to work in environmental consultancy in both the public and private sectors.

Special features

Geography has been studied at Manchester for more than 125 years, and we're one of Europe's best-equipped universities for the subject.

We're also home to world-class academics and the Manchester Urban Institute (MUI) .

Our researchers are investigating the complexities of the world's physical landscape, past and present, to help create solutions to global environmental problems.

Research Physical Geography at Manchester and you'll benefit from worldwide fieldwork opportunities and strong industry links.

The School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) is a unique interdisciplinary collaboration between the disciplines of Architecture, Education, Geography, International Development and Planning and Environmental Management.

What unites us is a shared commitment to highlight and address the uneven relationships between societies, economies and the environment.

We want to understand better the world in which we live, and to offer solutions to the problems within it.

We acknowledge that a complex and interconnected world presents many challenges for analysts, but researchers in SEED are pioneering new evidence, measures, concepts and theories in order to address these challenges in practice.

SEED's world-leading research is rooted in everyday life but international in relevance and scope, addressing social, economic and environmental concerns across the globe.

Our PhD and professional doctorate research community, grouped around a range of dynamic centres and themes, is central to the SEED research agenda across all our disciplines.

Teaching and learning

When you become a postgraduate researcher, you'll join a diverse and vibrant community of doctoral students from nearly 100 different countries, all studying within the Faculty of Humanities.

You'll be assigned to a specific research grouping that complements your research interests and have access to a variety of interdisciplinary research institutes.

Our working environments are often spacious and open plan, giving you plenty of opportunities to communicate with colleagues and staff within the School, and you will have your own desk space as well as access to our fantastic range of libraries on campus.

All our academic supervisors are research active and will support you to work on challenging research problems and develop rigorous, creative and original research.

You can expect to meet with your supervisor at least once a month to discuss progress on your project.

As a postgraduate researcher, you'll have access to a large and diverse community of internationally recognised academic experts offering an environment that will stimulate intellectual debate and development. We provide additional financial support for several activities related to your PhD, including:

  • presenting at international conferences;
  • attending workshops that provide relevant professional opportunities;
  • conducting fieldwork in the UK and overseas.

Important notice

The School of Environment, Education and Development (SEED) aim to run advertised fieldwork in the 22/23 academic year and we very much hope that students will be able to enjoy the fieldwork experience in the usual way. The ability of fieldwork to proceed, and whether any changes to proposed fieldwork might be necessary, will remain subject to the current global situation and factors such as the:

  • rules and guidance on travel and activities implemented and published by the UK and overseas governments;
  • outcome of any risk assessments conducted by the University;
  • educational value and student experience of the fieldwork, if significant changes to the proposed fieldwork would be necessary;
  • availability of appropriate insurance cover;
  • availability of appropriate travel and accommodation and any significant changes to their financial costs.

We will therefore assess on a regular basis the viability of any travel and fieldwork and communicate any decisions to our students at the earliest possible opportunity.

Any fieldwork that does go ahead will be subject to a rigorous risk assessment process and the implementation of any protective measures identified by the risk assessment to ensure the health and safety of all our students and staff.

If the fieldwork does not go ahead as planned, then the School's focus will be on seeking to offer a suitable alternative and ensure that the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) of the programme are met.

What our students say

Discover what it's really like to conduct postgraduate research at The University of Manchester on our student spotlights page.

Facilities

We are one of Europe's best-equipped universities for geography, with numerous laboratories.

These include the main teaching laboratory, microscopy laboratory, and sediments and project laboratories.

You can also learn professional skills such as coding and programming specialist, industry-standard software such as image processing, GIS, GPS and cartographic representation.

The University's Main Library is the largest university library system in the UK apart from the copyright libraries and has several different working spaces.

It is home to the University Map Collection, which comprises about 100,000 map sheets of every part of the world.

For more information, please see our Facilities website .

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service.

For more information, email  dass@manchester.ac.uk

Careers

Career opportunities

As a postgraduate researcher, you'll have access to a dedicated Researcher Development Team who will support your professional development throughout your PhD journey and beyond.

Our researcher development programme will enable you to become more aware of your developing researcher identity, equipping you with the skills you need during your PhD and prepare you to integrate into the researcher community.

At every stage of your career, you'll receive relevant, effective and comprehensive professional development opportunities.

We offer training sessions to build your skills and confidence in writing and presenting, with specific sessions on viva preparation, thesis submission and preparing for your Review Panel. You'll also have access to a range of workshops, covering areas such as:

  • increasing research impact;
  • making the most of social media;
  • publishing in journals;
  • applying for fellowships;
  • designing academic posters;
  • improving time and self-management.

In addition, our Humanities training hub - ProGRess@humanities - gives you additional training opportunities within the University.

You can choose courses in public engagement, wellbeing, language training and teaching, alongside more specialist courses in tools and software such as Python, R and NVivo.

methods@manchester , meanwhile, is an initiative that gives you the chance to learn from the very best in research methods expertise at Manchester and beyond.

Regular talks, workshops and other methods-related events are organised throughout the academic year, bringing in experts from across the University and externally.

Finally, taking a placement provides a great opportunity to engage in knowledge exchange and to develop professional networking opportunities for your future career development.

We have established Postgraduate Researcher Exchange programmes with a small number of institutions around the world, offering you the opportunity to visit another institution, access research resources and experience another academic culture as well as build professional networks.

Successful applicants will receive some funding towards travel expenses, accommodation, subsistence, education materials and/or other education-related costs for anything from two weeks to a three-month visit.

Recent PhD graduates have been appointed to positions at leading universities in Europe, North America and East Asia, while others now shape national and international policy agendas through their work in government agencies, research institutes and activist organisations.

For more information, see Careers and employability .

Careers support

The University has its own dedicated Careers Service that you would have full access to as a student and for two years after you graduate.

At Manchester you will have access to a number of opportunities to help boost your employability .