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School of Geography

Types of Research Degrees

Types of research degrees

Research degrees in the School of Geography are awarded to students who successfully complete a thesis presenting original research on an approved topic. The key characteristic is that the thesis represents a substantive original contribution to knowledge within its own geographical field.

The following types of research degree are available:


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 assessment to full ‘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 with an interest in your research area and who can provide support,feedback and help 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.

MA or 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. For more information and a list of possible projects, please click here The School also offers taught masters degrees which are structured courses with taught elements, providing 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 to a 2(i)British bachelor degree(honours)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.

The stipulated periods of study and word limits for each of the three research degrees are given below:

Degree Full or part-time Study Period (years) Word Limit
- - Min Normal Max -
MA (by Research) FT 1 - 1 20 / 30,000
MA (by Research) PT 2 - 2 20 / 30,000
MSc (by Research) FT 1 - 1 20 / 30,000
MSc (by Research) PT 2 - 2 20 / 30,000
MPhil FT 1 2 3 60,000
MPhil PT 2 4 6 60,000
PhD FT 2 3 4 100,000
PhD PT 3 5 7 100,000

Alternatively, you may like to look at our taught postgraduate courses.