Geography

Degrees
  • MPhil/PhD Geography (Human and Physical)
  • MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures
  • MSc by Research Geography
Degree typesTypes of research degrees explained
DurationDegree duration details
LocationCornwall (Penryn), Exeter (Streatham)
Study modesFull time and part time
Split-site research available Study mode details
Start date September, January or April

Research overview

Human Geography

In human geography our research is established around the following five groups:

Cultural and Historical Geographies

Focusing around six key themes:

  • Geographies of creativity
  • Creative geographies
  • Historical geographies of science and exploration
  • Geographies of landscape
  • Visual, haptic and material geographies
  • Theory and geophilosophy

Space, Politics and Society

This group is concerned with the question of ‘Who Gets What Where and How?’ We investigate contemporary geographies of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and seek to understand new scales of governance, the emergence of oppositional practices, and innovative forms of popular participation.

Natures, Materialities and Biopolitics

Research focuses on the geographies and politics of living and material systems. We address key questions around geography, life science and bio-politics. 

Environment and Sustainability

This is a group of leading and emerging social scientists who undertake interdisciplinary research on frontier issues of environment and sustainability. The group bring spatial and geographical dimensions to research on sustainability theory and policy, and undertake cutting-edge research in distinctive areas such as place attachment, political economies of energy, climate justice and ecosystem services.

Energy Policy

Based at our Penryn Campus, Energy Policy is a core element of our wider environment and sustainability research and has a focus on placing sustainability and change at the heart of debates about energy policy and governance.

Physical Geography

In physical geography our research is focused around the following two groups who work on past, present and future environmental change:

Environmental Change

This group undertakes world-leading research, using cutting edge palaeoecological and palaeoclimatic analytical and dating approaches, to:

  1. document periods of major past climate and environmental change;
  2. to reconstruct and model glacial and ice-sheet dynamics over multiple Quaternary timescales; and
  3. to understand the effects of environmental change on contemporary terrestrial and marine environments.

Landscape and Ecosystem Dynamics

This group builds on Exeter’s established strengths in water, sediment and nutrient cycling, but integrates expertise in ecosystem functioning, carbon dynamics and climate modelling. A key focus is on the links between landscape processes and ecosystem responses to human activity and climate change.

Geographers at Exeter also contribute to the cross disciplinary Earth System Science group.

Inter-disciplinary research initiatives

Geography has been at the fore-front of developing two major cross University research initiatives:

Climate Change and Sustainable Futures (CCSF)

CCSF research has three main themes: predicting climate change and its effects on ecosystems and human and animal health; developing technologies to mitigate these effects; and public attitudes and government policy to climate change.

Humanities and Social Science (HASS)

The HASS strategy is a focus for Exeter’s world-leading research across the humanities and social sciences, and Geography leads two core themes in Science, Technology and Culture, and Environment and Sustainability.

Geography also contributes to the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) on our Penryn Campus in Cornwall which has allowed us to expand our expertise in environmental and social change into areas focused explicitly on ecosystem services.

Research degrees

MPhil/PhD

Successfully completing an MPhil or PhD entails undertaking an in-depth study of a particular topic and making an original contribution to knowledge in the field. Our MPhil/PhD students are actively involved in work at the cutting edge of research across the School’s research activities.

We welcome applications for MPhil/PhD study in human and physical geographies, and are particularly interested in projects that complement and extend existing strengths within and across our research groups.

Geography undertakes a clear upgrading process at the end of the first year of postgraduate research study. We will provide hands-on support throughout the duration of PhD study, working with you to ensure you achieve your potential and graduate within the stipulated timeframe.

The normal study mode is full-time, however home/EU students may be able to study part-time.

Assessment

The MPhil is assessed through a dissertation of up to 60,000 words. Assessment of a PhD is normally by a written thesis of up to 100,000 words and viva (oral) examination.

Split site study for international students

Visa regulations normally prevent international students from following the part-time option, although it may be possible to undertake your research at a distance via split site study. This involves spending the majority of your time in your home country, although you will normally be expected to attend the University for limited periods and you will need to prove you have access to appropriate academic facilities locally such as libraries, labs, computers and desk space.

Split site students are normally employed by, or registered with, a local institution, but receive support and supervision from staff at the University of Exeter. Some international students have also been resident in Exeter but returned to their home country to collect data.

MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures

The Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Bath have created the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) which draws together the established research excellence of academic and research staff at the three institutions. As part of the MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures programme you will have supervisors from more than one discipline and more than one institution. Your home institution will be wherever your lead supervisor is based. Thus you will be able to benefit from the expertise of staff from a much wider base than is usual.

As a student of this programme you will undertake research that explores the interface between security, energy and the environment through engaging the latest critical thinking on risk management, critical infrastructure, public regulation, policy studies and the environmental sciences. Students on this programme could undertake research in the following areas: understanding the impacts of living with environmental change, the uncertainties of environmental change for energy and food security, and the diverse responses needed to foster behaviours, practices and policies that promote sustainability and resilience.

You will have access to numerous sessions, activities and resources through the SWDTC such as summer schools and advanced training events. In addition, you will have the opportunity to engage with events offered within the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, including reading groups and research seminar series. Further skills development is encouraged through our Researcher Development Programme.

MSc by Research

Our MSc has been developed to allow you to undertake a research project in an area that interests you and successful students have the option to transfer to an MPhil or PhD on completion.

We welcome applications for study in human and physical geographies, and are particularly interested in projects that complement and extend existing strengths within and across our research groups. View staff profiles for more details of the research interests of individual members of academic staff.

The programme gives you the flexibility to shape your own research in an area of particular interest to you. Like other research degrees you will be required to work independently, but with the support and guidance of an appropriate supervisor.

As a postgraduate research student you will also be able to take advantage of the University's Researcher Development Programme.

Support and supervision

We are committed to providing you with an effective and appropriate level of support. Our research studies culture promotes an inclusive and supportive environment and accessible supervisors.

Assessment

You will be assessed by a written thesis or scientific paper of up to 40,000 words in length.

Training

Training for all geography research students

We are committed to ensuring that all Geography research students receive tailored research training to suit their individual needs. Postgraduate research students are permitted to attend Masters lectures and there is a suite of Masters modules that would enable you to acquire particular skills that may be a specific area for development.

In addition, you will be encouraged to participate in the University's Researcher Development Programme. This offers training in a wide range of generic and transferable skills in key areas such as research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management. There will also be opportunities to gain teaching experience, to broaden the scope of your knowledge, and to make presentations about your work in various forums. You will also be encouraged to publish your work as you progress through your research studies.

Training specific to human geographers

We are a recognised ESRC training outlet for Human Geography, which means that we can bid for studentships from the research council. As such, we offer a four-year PhD programme (1+3) where the first year of study provides you with the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake a three year PhD on successful completion. Should you progress to PhD, you will then be eligible to apply for open studentships.

Training specific to physical geographers

We are also a recognised research training outlet for Physical Geography. As such, training is given to all Physical Geography research students in line with that approved by NERC and covering a range of topics including methodology, data collection and data analysis. We have been very successful in securing NERC funded studentships which currently last three and a half years.

Support and supervision

We are committed to providing you with an effective and appropriate level of support. Our research studies culture promotes an inclusive and supportive environment and accessible supervisors.

Projects

We offer a variety of research projects covering ocean, ice and terrestrial systems from physical geography but also research projects on urban futures form human geography.

The following projects provide a flavour of research areas in the Geography department, however if you are interested on a related area that does not appear on this specific projects, please do contact Lina Mercado  (L.Mercado@exeter.ac.uk) and we will be able to put you in contact with relevant academics that can help you tailor the research project you would like to pursue.

Projects by topic

  • Ocean
  • Ice 
  • Vegetation 
  • Soils & Peatlands
  • Rivers & coasts 
  • Human Geography: urban futures

Find out more about the projects available.

Facilities

We have invested heavily in state of the art facilities across both campuses.

Streatham Campus boasts many experimental and analytical laboratories for physical geography (radiometry; palynology; luminescence spectrometry; soil, sediment and water analysis). It also offers the £3.7 million Sediment Research Facility funded by the Science Research Investment Fund which provides additional laboratories, experimental facilities (flumes and rainfall simulators) and a wide range of state of the art analytical equipment.

Penryn Campus also offers outstanding analytical and experimental laboratories for environmental change and process studies. It boasts the Beowulf high performance computing facility and a College laboratory which includes more than £100,000 worth of high-tech equipment, including 40 27-inch iMac screens and 70 iPads.

For full details of Geography facilities see the CLES pages.

Careers

No matter what your ambitions, aspirations or career choice may be there has never been a better, or more significant, time to study geography. Key global issues such as climate change, migration, environmental degradation and social cohesion are not only at the forefront of socio-political philosophies and attitudes, but are also deep-rooted within geography, making it one of the most relevant courses that you could choose to study.

You can be confident that a Geography research degree from the University of Exeter will serve you well upon graduation. Our students graduate with a wide range of skills desirable to employers including data gathering, problem solving, project planning, report production, presentation skills and team work. Almost all our research students have the opportunity to train to teach or teach, acquiring and practising additional transferable skills.

Opportunities on graduation are diverse and include work in academia, the voluntary sector, the public sector (eg, Environment Agency, councils), the private sector, and consultancy.

Alumni Profile - Dr Anna Jackman

Dr Anna Jackman completed her PhD in Human Geography at the University of Exeter. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and entitled ‘Unmanned geographies: Drone visions and visions of the drone’, Anna’s PhD research involved the study of the drone through engaging with those technological communities who variously compel and propel the drone into action. In conducting the fieldwork for her PhD, Anna attended a range of military, defence, and commercial drone events and workshops, engaging with and interviewing a range of practitioners in the field. Following her PhD, Anna was employed as a part time Associate Research Fellow on the ‘ludic geopolitics’ project, and as a part time Research Assistant on the ‘mapping sense of place’ project. Alongside these roles, Anna continues to both write up papers from her thesis and develop fieldwork and contacts with a range of practitioners. Prior to undertaking her PhD, Anna completed the MRes Critical Human Geographies course at the University of Exeter, graduating in 2012 with a Distinction. Before beginning her Masters, Anna spent a number of months working at the Google EU HQ office in 2011 after completing her undergraduate studies in 2010. Anna received a First in her Geography and Management Flexible Combined Honours BA at The University Exeter.

Entry requirements 2018

Normally students will have a good undergraduate Honours degree (UK Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent) and in some cases, a Masters degree.

As part of your application you will need to be able to prove that you have the research skills, vision and motivation to make your research project a success. Find out more about preparing a research proposal.

If you are seeking funding through one of the Research Councils (UK/EU students only), you will need to hold a minimum Upper Second Class Honours degree, although often these awards are won by those with First Class Honours due to high levels of competition.

Start date

You can start in September, January or April but we strongly encourage a you to enrol in Term 1 in September as induction events are focused around this start date. However, we do permit MSc by Research/MPhil/PhD students to enrol either at the start of Term 1, Term 2 or Term 3 (see the University's term dates), or on the 1st of any other month except August, September and October.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.

TOEFL IBT*

Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

Human Geography research

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,250 part-time
  • International: £16,400 full-time

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

Physical Geography research

  • UK/EU: £4,500 full-time; £2,250 part-time
  • International: £19,800 full-time

Current available funding

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the degree, for further information contact:

WebEnquire online
Phone
: +44 (0) 1392 725150

Potential applicants should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor before an application to study can be made.

Research degrees

MPhil/PhD

Successfully completing an MPhil or PhD entails undertaking an in-depth study of a particular topic and making an original contribution to knowledge in the field. Our MPhil/PhD students are actively involved in work at the cutting edge of research across the School’s research activities.

We welcome applications for MPhil/PhD study in human and physical geographies, and are particularly interested in projects that complement and extend existing strengths within and across our research groups.

Geography undertakes a clear upgrading process at the end of the first year of postgraduate research study. We will provide hands-on support throughout the duration of PhD study, working with you to ensure you achieve your potential and graduate within the stipulated timeframe.

The normal study mode is full-time, however home/EU students may be able to study part-time.

Assessment

The MPhil is assessed through a dissertation of up to 60,000 words. Assessment of a PhD is normally by a written thesis of up to 100,000 words and viva (oral) examination.

Split site study for international students

Visa regulations normally prevent international students from following the part-time option, although it may be possible to undertake your research at a distance via split site study. This involves spending the majority of your time in your home country, although you will normally be expected to attend the University for limited periods and you will need to prove you have access to appropriate academic facilities locally such as libraries, labs, computers and desk space.

Split site students are normally employed by, or registered with, a local institution, but receive support and supervision from staff at the University of Exeter. Some international students have also been resident in Exeter but returned to their home country to collect data.

MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures

The Universities of Exeter, Bristol and Bath have created the South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) which draws together the established research excellence of academic and research staff at the three institutions. As part of the MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures programme you will have supervisors from more than one discipline and more than one institution. Your home institution will be wherever your lead supervisor is based. Thus you will be able to benefit from the expertise of staff from a much wider base than is usual.

As a student of this programme you will undertake research that explores the interface between security, energy and the environment through engaging the latest critical thinking on risk management, critical infrastructure, public regulation, policy studies and the environmental sciences. Students on this programme could undertake research in the following areas: understanding the impacts of living with environmental change, the uncertainties of environmental change for energy and food security, and the diverse responses needed to foster behaviours, practices and policies that promote sustainability and resilience.

You will have access to numerous sessions, activities and resources through the SWDTC such as summer schools and advanced training events. In addition, you will have the opportunity to engage with events offered within the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, including reading groups and research seminar series. Further skills development is encouraged through our Researcher Development Programme.

MSc by Research

Our MSc has been developed to allow you to undertake a research project in an area that interests you and successful students have the option to transfer to an MPhil or PhD on completion.

We welcome applications for study in human and physical geographies, and are particularly interested in projects that complement and extend existing strengths within and across our research groups. View staff profiles for more details of the research interests of individual members of academic staff.

The programme gives you the flexibility to shape your own research in an area of particular interest to you. Like other research degrees you will be required to work independently, but with the support and guidance of an appropriate supervisor.

As a postgraduate research student you will also be able to take advantage of the University's Researcher Development Programme.

Support and supervision

We are committed to providing you with an effective and appropriate level of support. Our research studies culture promotes an inclusive and supportive environment and accessible supervisors.

Assessment

You will be assessed by a written thesis or scientific paper of up to 40,000 words in length.

Training

Training for all geography research students

We are committed to ensuring that all Geography research students receive tailored research training to suit their individual needs. Postgraduate research students are permitted to attend Masters lectures and there is a suite of Masters modules that would enable you to acquire particular skills that may be a specific area for development.

In addition, you will be encouraged to participate in the University's Researcher Development Programme. This offers training in a wide range of generic and transferable skills in key areas such as research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management. There will also be opportunities to gain teaching experience, to broaden the scope of your knowledge, and to make presentations about your work in various forums. You will also be encouraged to publish your work as you progress through your research studies.

Training specific to human geographers

We are a recognised ESRC training outlet for Human Geography, which means that we can bid for studentships from the research council. As such, we offer a four-year PhD programme (1+3) where the first year of study provides you with the necessary skills and knowledge to undertake a three year PhD on successful completion. Should you progress to PhD, you will then be eligible to apply for open studentships.

Training specific to physical geographers

We are also a recognised research training outlet for Physical Geography. As such, training is given to all Physical Geography research students in line with that approved by NERC and covering a range of topics including methodology, data collection and data analysis. We have been very successful in securing NERC funded studentships which currently last three and a half years.

Support and supervision

We are committed to providing you with an effective and appropriate level of support. Our research studies culture promotes an inclusive and supportive environment and accessible supervisors.

Projects

We offer a variety of research projects covering ocean, ice and terrestrial systems from physical geography but also research projects on urban futures form human geography.

The following projects provide a flavour of research areas in the Geography department, however if you are interested on a related area that does not appear on this specific projects, please do contact Lina Mercado  (L.Mercado@exeter.ac.uk) and we will be able to put you in contact with relevant academics that can help you tailor the research project you would like to pursue.

Projects by topic

  • Ocean
  • Ice 
  • Vegetation 
  • Soils & Peatlands
  • Rivers & coasts 
  • Human Geography: urban futures

Find out more about the projects available.