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Department of Geography


PhDs in Geography and the Scott Polar Research Institute

The Department has a large community of around 80 PhD students working on their own projects. The PhD students at Geography and the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) study a broad range of topics that reflect the diverse interests of the academic staff in the Department.

1. Before making an application

Before applying, you should satisfy yourself that advanced study in your chosen research topic can be supervised by an academic at Geography or SPRI. Acceptance of any applicant will be dependent on specialist supervision being available. Unfortunately, if we cannot supervise your topic, we will decline your application regardless of its academic merit. Please check the research groups then look through the online staff list.

Identification of a potential supervisor does not imply a guarantee of admission and the full admissions procedure must be followed in all cases. If your potential supervisor’s details are available from our website, you may e-mail the person with a draft research proposal (maximum 2,000 words). If contact details are not available, kindly e-mail the Postgraduate Office Administrator with your research proposal and the name(s) of whom you are trying to contact.

2. Go to the University’s Postgraduate Admissions Pages

Go to the University’s Postgraduate Admissions pages which has all the information you need to make a formal application. Applicants should plan well in advance to ensure their papers can be processed in time. The deadline for all PhD applicants is March 26th 2024.

Please note this deadline does not apply to applicants for the Cambridge ESRC DTP Interdisciplinary Studentship, who should contact before making an application.

When making the formal application PhD applicants will need to provide a statement (maximum 2,000 words) detailing your research proposal, including aims and methods, sources and the location of the proposed research. Your proposal should include a list of specific resource needs for your research such as travel budget, fieldwork, laboratory equipment, chemical and IT needs. Please state in your application which academic in the Department your believe has interests that are closest to your own and therefore might supervise your research. It is advisable to approach the Academic identified in advance to discuss your proposal.

Physical Geography applicants choosing from the list of topics do not need to include a research proposal but should include information about why you have chosen a topic and the relevant experience you have for the chosen topic.

If you are applying for a PhD programme, and have only recently started a masters degree at a new institution, we understand that it may be more suitable for you to request references from your prior academic and/or professional environment.

3. Funding

Cambridge Funding Competitions deadlines:

GATES (US) – 11th October 2023;

GATES (non-US), Trusts and Research Councils – 5th December 2023;

NERC DTP (home and international students) – 5th January 2024 (although you are encouraged to apply by 5th December to be considered for other funding sources too).

Applications must be made in advance of these dates to be considered for funding, please note these deadlines are earlier than the final admissions deadline. Please also note these deadlines include submission of all your references which must have been submitted by your referees in advance of these funding deadlines.

Doctoral work in the Department is funded through Research Council funding (ESRC, AHRC and NERC), studentships from the Cambridge Trust, the Gates Foundation and other funding agencies. While the Geography Department has modest funds for fieldwork or conference attendance, it does not fund PhD studentships.

It is advisable to complete a Funding Search to help you find the most suitable funding options from those listed above.

4. Finance

Finance information for PhD courses run by the Department is to be found from the University’s Postgraduate Admissions pages.

In addition to fees and maintenance, you will need to ensure you have funds to cover all fieldwork, laboratory work, access to data, archives and travel needs for the length of your study. You should ensure that you have sufficient funds or that your funding body provides sufficient support.

Apply now for entry in 2024


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