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How to apply for a PhD

Specific guidance on Geography Department applications

Before making an application, you should satisfy yourself that advanced study in your chosen field can be undertaken at Cambridge. Acceptance of any applicant will be dependent on specialist supervision being available. Please consult our research webpages, to give you an idea of the types of research done by the department. If it appears that the department will be able to support your research, please look through our online staff list to determine if there is someone in the department able to supervise your topic.

If we cannot supervise your topic, we will decline your application regardless of its academic merit. Therefore, please do make sure there is someone able to supervise you before you apply.

Identification of a potential supervisor, while an essential requirement, does not, however, imply any sort of guarantee of admission and the full admissions procedure must be followed in all cases. If your potential supervisor's details are available from the web, you may e-mail the person with a research proposal. If contact details are not available, kindly e-mail the Graduate Office Administrator with your research proposal and the name(s) of whom you are trying to contact.

When you make your formal application, this should be through the University's Graduate Admissions office. Applicants should plan well in advance to ensure their papers can be processed in time.

General admissions requirements are as follows

  • The deadline for Geography (which includes Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI)) PhD applications for October 2014 admission is Friday, 28 March (PhD in Multi-disciplinary Gender Studies - 3 March) but please note that studentship or scholarship deadlines will be earlier
  • You must hold a good 2.1 or equivalent (minimum GPA 3.5) undergraduate honours degree. Normally, you must also have a high level of previous training in geography or a related discipline or have completed a Masters degree.
  • You must satisfy the English language requirements set by Graduate Admissions
  • In addition to a completed GRADSAF application with two references, you should include a statement (approximately 2,000 words) of your research proposal, including aims and methods, sources and the location of the proposed research. Please state which academic in the Department could supervise your research. Physical Geography applicants, choosing from the list of topics, do not need to include a research proposal but should include information about why they have chosen a topic or topics and their suitability for the chosen topic or topics.
  • A listing of specific resource needs for your research (such as travel budget, fieldwork, laboratory equipment, chemical, IT needs, etc)
  • An outline of relevant experience (including employment and non-academic experience) relevant to your application


There is no major funding available through the department to support your studies (although there are limited numbers of modest supports available for fieldwork, etc).

  • All fieldwork, laboratory work, access to data, archives and travel will have to be supported for the length of your study. You should ensure that your funding body provides sufficient support. (The department has only limited funds to help with these costs.)
  • Overseas applicants should look at the scholarships available at Cambridge. The major scholarships available at Cambridge are Gates Foundation, scholarships administered by the Cambridge Trust, and the Cambridge International Scholarship (CISS). You should apply for these by their advertised deadline using the on-line application form (Section B of the GRADSAF Form). They are listed in the University Graduate Studies Prospectus.
  • UK and EU students should look at the Research Council studentship information on this website. You must also have discussed your topic with your prospective supervisor and applied by the deadline for applicants wishing to be considered for Research Council funding. UK and EU applicants should also look at Cambridge Home and European Scholarship (CHESS). Apply by the advertised deadline using the on-line Graduate Application Form (Section B of the GRADSAF Form)

The procedure for applying for a PhD assumes you have easy access to the Internet. If this is not the case please contact the Graduate Office contact details.