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School of Geography

MA/MSc (By Research)

MA, MSc (by Research)

About the course

Studying for an MA or MSc by Research (MbR) can be an excellent opportunity to develop your intellectual skills and your academic interest in a particular field. The MbR is a 12-month research project (24 months part-time). It is distinct from our taught masters programmes and involves planning, implementing and writing up a research project. You will be supervised by two members of academic staff and will be encouraged to submit your work for publication at the end of the course.

We have projects you can apply for but you are also welcome to propose your own research project.

By undertaking an original piece of research you will develop a mixture of high-level subject-specific and generic skills. These include:

  • Project management (the ability to organise, plan and carry through to completion a complicated project).
  • Technical expertise (project dependent but may also include good laboratory and fieldwork practice and advanced health and safety skills).
  • High-level oral communication skills (especially on projects involving external partners and sponsors with whom you will liaise).
  • Strong written communication skills (in writing up your research project you will become proficient at explaining complicated ideas in simple language).
  • Data analysis skills (data handling, collation, and, where appropriate, statistical and graphical analysis).
  • Self-motivation. Although you will be closely supervised, you will have to be strongly self-motivated to succeed.

The MbR is suitable for:

  • Recent graduates who wish to follow up their first degree with more in-depth study of a particular field of interest, linked to further study such as a PhD or to a job in a particular sector (e.g. water company).
  • Mid-career candidates who are currently employed, for instance in education, local government, or environmental consultancy, who want a continuing professional development opportunity that allows them to enhance their skills in areas relevant to their job.

As a MbR student you will have regular meetings with your supervisors and will receive training in research skills on the University of Leeds's research student training programme. You will join a large and dynamic community of research students in one of the UK's highest-rated Geography departments.

The MbR is assessed by a thesis of up to 30,000 words (typically 15,000-20,000 words in physical geography), and by an oral examination. One key learning outcome of the MbR is that your research should be of a publishable standard, and once you have passed your exam we will offer advice about preparing your work for publication.

An attractive feature of the MbR is that you can start at any time of year (on the first day of any month) giving you maximum flexibility in organising your post-BSc/BA learning.

Entry requirements and fees

You will need at least a UK 2.i honours degree or equivalent. English language requirements are as follows if English is not your first language:

  • TOEFL score (internet-based test) of at least 92 overall with at least 21 in listening and reading, 22 in writing and 23 in speaking
  • IELTS (Academic) score of at least 6.5, with at least 6.0 in all components
  • PTE (Academic) score of 64, with at least 60 in all components

Note that, for part-time students who combine their studies with paid employment, their employment should normally be related to the research project they are undertaking.

Tuition fees

2017/18 - £4,250 UK/EU; £17,750 international

2018/19 - £4,400 UK/EU; £19,500 international

Part time fees are 50% of the full-time rate.

These fees include some laboratory expenses, to be discussed prior to application with your proposed supervisors. For masters projects involving extended periods of laboratory work or field work, students may have to meet additional expenses, typically in the range of £1000 - £2000. However, in most years we are able to offer project specific bursaries of £1000 or more, some of which are funded by project partners or outside sponsors.  It is now also possible for UK students to obtain a postgraduate loan for masters study


The Ecology and Global Change Research Cluster is offering 3 UK/EU fee bursaries of £1000 each and the Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy is offering 1 UK/EU fee bursary of £1000 for Masters by Research study in 2018/19.  To be considered, your research should fall within the remit of one of these clusters and you should submit your Masters by Research application and supporting documents by 29 June 2018.  Please indicate under Section D "Finance" that you wish to be considered for a bursary.

Masters by Research projects

Within physical geography it is usual to apply for a particular topic, while in human geography it is more usual to propose your own topic. However, we welcome topic proposals on both sides of the discipline. We will consider any topic provided it can be supervised by our staff. To see our staff web pages follow this link. Staff will be happy to discuss your project ideas with you and to discuss existing projects to which you can apply.

For general Masters by Research questions/advice, please contact:

River Basin Processes Management: Prof. Andy Baird (a.j.baird(at)
Ecology and Global Change: Dr Karen Bacon (k.bacon(at)
Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy:  Dr Luke Burns (l.p.burns(at)
Social Justice, Cities,Citizenship: Dr Nichola Wood  (n.x.wood(at)  

Available projects

River Basins Processes & Management

  • Projects on (i) understanding and monitoring erosion processes in UK peatlands, (ii) applying high resolution modelling techniques to inform river restoration, and (iii) tropical river geomorphology and hydraulic modelling. For more details contact Dr Mark Smith (m.w.smith(at)
  • Projects on wetland hydrology, wetland ecology, and wetland palaeoecology, with partners including the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Email Prof. Andy Baird (a.j.baird(at) for more details.
  • Projects on measuring and modelling the ecohydrology of restored mangrove forests in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Email Prof. Andy Baird (a.j.baird(at) ) for more details.
  • Projects on freshwater ecology examining macroinvertebrate communities through the lenses of biological traits, functional diversity measures and community assembly processes, with a specific focus on river restoration projects. Contact Lee Brown for more details (l.brown(at)
  • Projects on the processing and composition of organic matter in peatland river catchments. For further details contact Dr Catherine Moody (c.s.moody(at)

Funded (fees only) Masters by Research project in collaboration with Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust and Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
Testing the effectiveness of land use management as a natural flood management technique
Closing date 23 July 2018

Ecology and Global Change

Please click on the link and scroll to the relevant project description.

  1. Understanding underground biomass in Japanese knotweed
  2. The impacts of preservation on leaf traits and leaf chemistry
  3. Assessing pixel-level uncertainty in land-cover classification
  4. The Seasonal Phenology of Amazonian Forests
  5. Assessing plant blindness
  6. Ecological value of stately homes
  7. Analysing the water household of an Amazonian tropical forest in an increasingly hot environment
  8. Climate effects on tropical tree growth: light vs. drought limitations
  9. Why do hiatuses and spontaneous recoveries in peatlands occur?*
  10. Testate amoebae as environmental indicators in natural and artificial peat pool?*

* indicates that projects are not eligible for £1,000 EGC fee bursary

Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy




Application guidance

The first step is to decide on a project. You may apply to one of our named projects or propose your own.

What you do next depends on whether you are applying for an existing project or proposing your own.

  • For existing projects, you should write a Statement of Motivation of 500-1000 words explaining which project you have applied for, why you are suited to the project, and how you see the project developing (in outline indicate what work you would undertake to complete the project successfully).
  • If proposing your own project you should write a 1000-2000 word Research Proposal in which you include the project title, the members of Geography staff you have consulted, the project's aims and objectives, and your planned work programme. We need sufficient information to judge whether your project is novel and achievable in the time available for the MbR.

You should then submit an online application and all listed supporting paperwork as outlined here. Applications are welcome at any time of year unless you are applying for a funded project or scholarship/bursary with a deadline attached.