Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Geography & Environmental Studies

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Considering a PhD in Geography?

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.

University and Faculty PhD Studentships

Each year, usually around March, the University, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the Department of Geography may offer a number of fully-funded studentships (fees, maintenance grant and some research expenses). These studentships are open to all candidates, 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 jobs.ac.uk. Any informal enquiries about these should be made to the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor.

Other sources of funding

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%.


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.

If you have more questions, you might find the answers in our FAQs and, if not, feel free to contact us at fass-geog-pg-admissions@open.ac.uk.

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