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School of Geography

Training & Facilities

What are your entry qualifications?

The normal entry requirement for research degrees is a first class or upper second class honours degree, or equivalent, in geography or a related subject. Many of our students also have a Postgraduate Masters degree in a relevant subject area. Applications may also be considered from individuals who do not have these qualifications, but who have substantial employment or other experience providing a suitable foundation for a research degree. It may be that we can offer such applicants a place in the School however, to be competitive for scholarship funding, high academic grades are required. Most University scholarships for international students require applicants to have the equivalent of a 1st class UK honours degree and to be in the top 5% of their cohort. UK/EU scholarships require at least a high 2(i) degree but having a first class honours degree will increase your chances of obtaining funding.

To establish the equivalence of international qualifications, the University uses the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC). This is the National Agency providing the only official source of comparison information and advice on international education and training systems and overseas skills and qualifications.

If you would like to come and visit the School, please contact the Research Postgraduate Administrator to arrange this.  The University also offers campus tours on Wednesday afternoons. You can book your place here.

What research degree can I do?

You can study for the following research degrees in our School:


The Doctor of Philosophy is our main research degree. The PhD is awarded on the basis of a thesis (300 pages or 100,000 words) and examiners must be satisfied that you have discovered, interpreted and communicated new knowledge through original research, worthy of publication in international and national peer reviewed journals, which might reasonably be expected from a competent, hard-working student after three or up to four years of full-time study (five years or up to seven years for part-time or split-site study). Examiners must also be satisfied that you possess good general knowledge in your area of research.

You will be admitted as ‘Provisional PhD’ in the first instance. Within 12 months of your start date you will need to undergo a transfer/upgrade to ‘PhD’; this involves submitting a written report and having a formal oral examination with your supervisors and your Research Support Group. Each PhD student has a Research Support Group (RSG) which comprises your supervisors and two or three other members of staff who have an interest in your research area. Research Support Groups also meet every 6 months to provide feedback and monitor your progress.


The Master of Philosophy is awarded on the basis of a thesis (200 pages or 60,000 words) and examiners must be satisfied that you have been able to interpret and communicate knowledge through research and/or scholarship of publishable quality which would satisfy peer review, and which might reasonably be expected to be completed after two or up to three years of full-time study (four or up to six years for part-time study). You must also satisfy the examiners that you possess a good general knowledge in your area of research. This degree would be suitable if you have 2 years of sponsorship for your research degree study.

MSc by Research

The Masters by Research is a completely research focused degree and is awarded on the basis of a thesis (100 pages or 30,000 words). The candidate must satisfy the examiners that all of the research AND the thesis was completed within 12 months (24 months part-time). This is a demanding degree and the entry requirement is a UK undergraduate honours degree 2.1 (or equivalent) or higher. It is therefore necessary to have the research question and research project description confirmed and in place before the research commences Our School does offer taught Masters courses which may be more suitable to your needs.  They are structured courses with taught elements, which provide training for research methods and skills. Further information about these courses is available at:

Split-site PhD (international students)

This is a combination of part-time and full-time study and is intended for highly qualified individuals. The standard period of study is five years, with a maximum time limit for submission of your thesis of seven years. The entry requirement is a relevant degree equivalent of a British Bachelor (Honours) 2.1, and a Masters degree. The English Language requirement is higher than normal and is IELTS 6.5 with not less than 6.0 in any skill area (or equivalent).

You would be required to be in full-time residence in Leeds for at least eight months within the five year standard period of study. At least six months must be spent in Leeds in Year 1 so that appropriate training can take place. You must be present in Leeds during Year 2 for the formal assessment for transfer to full PhD registration and then at a later stage for the examination of the thesis.

The supervisors are appointed at the University of Leeds and a “local” advisor must also be appointed. The “local” advisor should be employed by a HEI, Research Institute or Commercial or Industrial Organization with significant research component or reputation and should be readily available for consultation. The “local” adviser must be familiar with the UK system for the award of research degrees, and must be approved by the University of Leeds. You must provide a statement of support confirming that relevant resources and facilities are in place for your research.

A clearly planned research project must be in place before the research commences.

When can I start my degree?

Research degrees at Leeds can start on the first day of any month. However, most of our research degree students commence study on 01 October and this is when we hold our two-day induction programme. Attendance on this programme offers a great opportunity to meet other students and staff, as well as learning how we run our research degree programmes and the facilities that are available. If you start on at any other time, you will be invited to the next scheduled induction event and be provided with individual induction arrangements.

How do I secure a supervisor?

If you have written a research proposal, it is often a good idea to look at the web pages of the individual research clusters (i.e., Ecology and Global Change, River Basin and Process Management, Centre for Spatial Analysis and Policy, Citizenship and Belonging, Cities and Social Justice) and find out which members of staff are working in your research area of interest. You may then choose to email them sending them your research proposal and CV, to find out whether they are interested in your proposal and also whether they may be available to provide supervision. If so, you will still need to submit a formal application but you should indicate who you have approached in the School and this will hopefully speed up the time needed to process your application.

If they are not able to provide supervision, they may suggest alternative supervisors or they may refer you to the Postgraduate Administrator for advice. Please bear in mind that our staff have a lot of demands on their time and so may not be able to reply to all of the emails that they receive. Further, if you approach more than one member of staff in our School, please include all of them in the circulation list, so that staff can, in turn, see who else you have contacted. Your initial communication with staff should always say how you propose to fund your study.

Alternatively you can submit a formal study application including all supporting documents and we can try and find appropriate supervision for your project although it is helpful if you have identified potential supervisors from our website Please note that if we do not receive all of the required documents, your application is likely to be subject to long delays when receiving consideration.

How do I fund my Research?

International Students

You will normally need to secure your own sponsorship for your research degree study.  Occasionally we advertise funded projects that include tuition fees at the overseas rate, but this is quite unusual. If you have not already secured sponsorship, we recommend that you visit your Local Education Authority to find out what opportunities for funding exist in your country.  It is also worth looking on The British Council website.

The University of Leeds does have some competition scholarships for students with exceptionally outstanding academic track records however these are very tough to secure. The University of Leeds also has a partnership agreement with the China Scholarships Council (CSC) for PhD scholarships.

Full details of the University scholarships are at and on our website at

UK/EU students

Each year there are some funding opportunities available through the Research Council and University scholarships. We receive a high number of applications for these so you need high grades to be competitive. We welcome applications from self-funding students if you already have funding for the duration of the course (three to four years full-time). This is important as full-time PhD students are not usually permitted to work outside their research programme except for a limited numbers of paid work within the University (e.g., assisting with teaching, lab work etc).

What English Language qualifications do I need?

International Students

If English is not your first language, you will be required to produce evidence of an English language qualification before registration as a postgraduate research student at Leeds (please note that for some scholarships, you need this qualification before applying for the scholarship). The University accepts the following qualifications and scores:

  • IELTS: An overall band of 6.0 with 5.5 score in ALL components (Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening)
  • iBT TOEFL (Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language): An overall score of 87, with no less than Listening 21; Reading 22; Speaking 23; Writing 21

These scores meet the UK Border Agency (UKBA) minimum requirements for English Language competency on the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). If an applicant does not meet the UKBA standard for English Language, the University cannot issue a CAS which allows the student to apply for a Tier 4 General Student visa.

If you have obtained a British Bachelors (Honours) degree or a UK Masters degree within 2 years and 4 months of your proposed start date then this normally meets our English Language requirements. Occasionally, other qualifications may be acceptable; please check here for further details

Requirements for split-site research degrees

Undertaking research remotely from the supervisor presents its own challenges and so split-site candidates are required to have higher English Language entry qualifications. The higher requirements are:

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall with not less than 6.0 in any individual skill
  • TOEFL (iBT): An overall score of 94, with no less than Listening 21; Reading 23; Speaking 23; Writing 24
EU students

If you are an EU student who has completed your Bachelors (or equivalent) outside of the UK, you will be required to meet the University English Language requirements (see above) before registering at Leeds. If we can offer you a place in the School but you haven’t yet met the English language requirements, we can issue you with an offer that is conditional on you doing so before you register.

When and how do I apply?

If you have secured your own sponsorship, you can apply for research degree study at any time. If, however, you are relying on a scholarship to fund your study, you need to consider the scholarship application deadline. That is because you will often need to demonstrate that you have either (a) applied for a PhD position, or (b) have secured an offer, in order to be considered for the scholarship.
Information on how to apply can be found at You will need to provide all supporting documents before we will be able to give consideration to your application.

UK/EU Students
  • If you are applying for a fully funded PhD project, the deadline for applications will be listed on the PhD project listings
  • If you are applying to the competition for one of the funded UK Research Council Doctoral Training Awards (NERC/EPSRC/ESRC), the closing date will normally be in February and will be advertised on the web page that has the list of PhD projects
  • If you are applying for one of the University scholarships, you will normally need to have made a study application BEFORE you apply for the scholarship.  The scholarship application deadline will be listed at

How much does it cost?

You will need to demonstrate that you have secured funding for the whole of your period of study. For information about current fees, please view: . If you are an international undergraduate or international postgraduate research student you will pay the same fixed fee for each year of your programme allowing you to plan your finances for the duration of your studies.

If you are supported by your government, employer, or other sponsor, you should provide a letter from them addressed to the University, confirming that the fees will be paid directly. Sponsors cannot pay by installments.

Further details on how to pay:

Information on living costs is also available at: .

Depending on the nature of your research, a bench fee may also be charged. This will be to cover the fieldwork and/or exceptional consumables needed for you to undertake your research degree study.

How does the selection process work?

International Students

Once you have submitted your on-line study application AND all supporting documents, your application is sent to staff working in your area of research interest or your named potential supervisor(s), for consideration.

Staff may then either enter into discussion with you about the topic; conduct an interview with you (telephone, Skype or in person) or advise that they are unable to offer supervision.  If they are unable to offer supervision, it may be because their research interests do not sufficiently match your own; they cannot identify a co-supervisor that would be necessary for you to undertake your project at Leeds; they do not consider that your proposal is sufficiently original; your academic background is considered to be too weak to warrant a place for research degree study in our School (even though you may meet the academic requirements, we have a limited number of places for research degree students and are interested in attracting the best qualified students with the most potential); or, they are currently at full capacity for research student supervision.

If we can confirm suitable supervision arrangements for you, we will make a recommendation to the University for your acceptance.  The University will then send you the offer of an academic place, and will instruct you how to accept that place.  You will then need to ensure that your funding arrangements are in place.

UK/EU Students

Research Council quota awards (NERC/ESRC)

If you are applying for one of our departmental scholarships, your application will still go to the relevant members of staff and you may have email correspondence and/or an informal interview with the potential supervisor (usually by phone) so that they can determine whether they wish to support your application. If they wish to do so and put you forward for funding, your application will also be considered by a scholarship selection comprising three to four academic staff after the closing date for the funding. The selection committee will look at all of the nominated applications and draw up a shortlist of around five or six candidates to interview. These awards are offered to the candidates with the strongest academic record and who most impress the panel at interview.

Funded Projects

The supervisors of projects advertised in our ‘funded’ category will normally offer the award to the candidate that they consider to be most suitably qualified for successful completion of the project. Candidates will normally be shortlisted and invited for interview.

University scholarships (international and UK/EU)

Applicants for university scholarships (e.g University Research Scholarships, Leeds Anniversary Scholarships, Chinese Scholarships Council/University of Leeds scholarships and Endowed awards) - your applications will be considered first by the appropriate academic staff. If they wish to support your application for funding, it will be put forward to the relevant School shortlisting committee who will select the best two or three applications to put forward to the University selection committees. The University’s Postgraduate Scholarships office will announce the results of any University scholarship competitions via email.

What training and support will I get whilst studying for my PhD?

  • When you start your study at Leeds, you will have an induction to brief you on the progress monitoring for research degree students; an introduction to skills training; an introduction to outreach and public engagement; health and safety; our School computer systems; finance and purchasing.  You will attend courses on ‘Equality and Diversity, Getting Started on your PhD and can opt to do many other courses such as Library Skills: finding and managing information and Training for Teaching’.
  • You will undertake a training analysis and complete a training plan within one month of starting your research degree study, and this will then be reviewed regularly. You are required to undertake 10 days of training each year. This can be generic skills training, research specific training, and participation and attendance at seminars and conferences. It is hoped that you will participate in the Faculty of Environment conference or the University Researcher Conference at some time during your study relevant School/Faculty/University conferences as well as national and international conferences. You will have access to the University's Postgraduate Development Record where you should keep a record of all your training and supervision meetings on the University's bespoke online postgraduate recording system.
  • Training will be available to you on research skills and techniques, the research environment, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and team working, and career management.  This will be offered to you by the University and/or the Faculty Skills Training teams.
  • Pastoral support will be readily available to you by your supervisor, the Postgraduate Research Tutor and Deputy Tutor, and the administrative support team.

What careers do your PhD graduates enter?

When are interviews held?

UK/EU Students

Interviews for the UK Research Council Doctoral Training Awards (ESRC/NERC) will normally be held in February between January and February. The dates will be advertised on our website: We will normally shortlist for interviews in February and contact those candidates immediately by email.

Interviews for funded studentships will normally will normally take place several weeks after the closing date for applications. Most funded projects start on 01 October but they occasionally start at other times during the year.