Skip to content

Toggle service links

Postgraduate Research in Geography

Postgraduate Research

In addition to our highly successful undergraduate level courses, the Geography at the OU has a strong postgraduate research programme. We supervise MPhil and PhD students in the same way as at other universities - on a face to face basis. We strongly encourage full-time registration for these degrees, although part-time registration is also available under certain circumstances.

Our research environment for postgraduate students

Geography PhD student presentation

We have a lively postgraduate student community that forms an important part of our research culture. Students are regarded as valued members of the department, able to interact with research-active academic staff and post-doctoral fellows based on campus in Milton Keynes, as well as with other staff and students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Science and its associated research centres. Students are expected to participate in the full range of on-campus research events ranging from relaxed forums where academics and students can discuss topics such as the practicalities of fieldwork and thesis writing, to more formal seminars given by invited external academics. Students can become members of the OpenSpace Research Centre which generates cutting-edge debates on the following broad themes:

  • Culture and Practice
  • Space and Power
  • Environment and Politics

Besides conference attendance, the Department encourages postgraduates to organise events to build networks with students and academics from other departments and universities. For example, Praxis is an informal student-run conference that takes place once a year for students working in the Social Sciences, and is a space where theory meets practice, where students catch up, present and discuss research issues and share experiences.


All postgraduate students are provided with two supervisors for the duration of their studies. Supervisors meet regularly with students, acting as academic advisors, providing guidance on research topics, on the skills needed to successfully complete a research degree, on planning research and on writing a thesis. They read and discuss students work, helping to develop ideas and to encourage critical and independent thinking.

Current PhD students

Staff represent a wide range of research interests and will consider supervising topics in many different areas. Please visit the current PhD students profiles for further information on our current PhD research.

Many students who have recently completed a PhD in the Department have gone on to further post-doctoral research or to permanent academic posts.

Admissions Process

The first step in thinking about a MPhil or PhD is to identify a topic that you would like to research. You might do this from your previous study, professional life, personal interests, or by looking through the research interests of our academic staff. In order to find out about the kinds of work we do, and to see whether any individual members of staff have interests within your proposed research area, please start by browsing our academic staff profiles and the website of the OpenSpace Research Centre in Geographical and Environmental Research.

Please note that our expertise is generally concentrated in the field of human geography, although we can also cover interdisciplinary (social and natural sciences) environmental research in conjunction with colleagues from the School of Environment, Earth & Ecosystem Sciences in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We regret that we are unable to supervise projects in physical geography or GIS (but please enquire about opportunities in this area with the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

We request that prospective applicants approach us with an outline of a proposed research topic. What we would like to see as a proposal is 3-6 sides (A4) covering:

  1. precise topic of study
  2. research question(s)
  3. background and context
  4. research methods
  5. selected bibliography

This proposal should be sent in the first instance to the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor (contact details at the bottom of this page), who will consider your proposal in consultation with relevant colleagues, and contact you in due course.

If your proposal is of an acceptable standard, and comprises a topic that can be supervised by the department, we will encourage you to submit a formal application to the University's Research School. The application process also requires a research proposal, and we may be able to offer you some feedback on your outline. At this stage, we will also discuss possible funding options with you.

Funding Opportunities

University and Faculty PhD Studentships

Each year the University, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Department of Geography may offer, normally around March, a number of fully-funded studentships (fees, maintenance grant and some research expenses) open to all candidates regardless of nationality. These are awarded on a competitive basis and typically match the grants received by students funded by the UK Research Councils. These will be advertised through the Open University job opportunities website and at Any informal enquiries about these should be made to the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor.

Other sources of funding

Depending on your nationality, there may be other sources of funding available to you, such as Commonwealth Scholarships or Fullbright Awards and Doctoral Training Partnership Studentships. We are happy to discuss these with you on an individual basis when we invite you to submit a formal application to our PhD programme.

If you are to identify a sponsor (such as a research organisation, charity or company) who may be willing to fund 50% of a full studentship (fees and stipend), The Open University may consider contributing the other 50%.

If you would like more information about studying for a research degree at The Open University, please consult the Research Degrees prospectus.

If you have a query that is not addressed here, please write to:

Postgraduate Admissions Tutor
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes
United Kingdom


Request your prospectus

Request a prospectus icon

Explore our qualifications and courses by requesting one of our prospectuses today.

Request prospectus

Are you already an OU student?

Go to StudentHome