Postgraduate study

Human Geography and Environmental Sciences PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This programme draws on the expertise of the Research Institute of Geography and the Lived Environment (RIGLE) at the University of Edinburgh.

It is a vibrant intellectual home for more than 100 researchers working across the physical sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Our research students are enrolled on PhDs, 3+1 degrees (a Masters degree followed by a PhD), or for MSc by Research degrees.

Research areas

We work with a broad range of geographic themes and approaches and have particular research strengths in:

  • critical and qualitative human geography
  • quantitative and statistical geography and GIS
  • geohumanities and environmental humanities
  • cultural, development, environmental and urban studies

We study:

  • critical and popular geopolitics
  • the cultural politics of ‘race’, gender and sexuality
  • energy futures and extractivism
  • food security and sovereignty
  • health inequalities
  • hazards and disasters
  • human-animal relationships
  • media and mobilities
  • political activism and protest
  • sustainable development and environmental resource management
  • urban change and gentrification

Much of our research applies and advances decolonial, feminist, political economy, postcolonial and poststructuralist theoretical debates and is focused not just on explaining the world in which we live but changing it for the better.


We work closely with communities and groups outside the academy in Scotland and across Europe, but also with communities and groups in:

  • Belize
  • Canada
  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • Guatemala
  • India
  • Jamaica
  • Mali
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • South Africa
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Uganda

We exchange knowledge regularly through the four research groups that sit within the Institute (Health, Population and Place, Historical and Cultural Geography, Human Geography and Environment and Society) through regular seminars and other events, reading groups, writing retreats, and collaborative research programmes.

We also work closely with colleagues in other schools on campus, especially:

  • Edinburgh College of Art
  • Education and Sport
  • History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Languages, Literatures and Cultures
  • Social and Political Sciences
  • Medical School

Decolonising initiatives

We are working hard to dismantle white supremacy and sexism within our institutional culture and research programmes and are developing a range of decolonising initiatives with this in mind.

We receive funding from all the UK Research Councils, including the AHRC, ESRC and NERC as well as from a number of other funders.

As a postgraduate research student at Edinburgh, you have access to an exceptionally wide range of training courses offered by the many interdisciplinary researchers across the School of GeoSciences, and more broadly across the university.

You will receive guidance both from your supervisory team and the postgraduate research office on appropriate training specific to your research needs and requirements.

Additionally, an academic advisor, separate from your direct supervisory team, is always available to help support you and track your progress and welfare throughout your research degree.

Multiple professional development opportunities are available to you throughout your studies, including support to publish your research and present to peers at internal workshops and national and international conferences, and opportunities and training to teach on the School’s undergraduate programmes in Geography.

Our research students are encouraged to develop their teaching experience while working with us.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a related subject.

We may also consider your application if you have other qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Additional programme costs

This programme has additional costs.

  • minimum £1000 per year (for full-time students)

Further research costs may be required, depending on your project requirements.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDGeography3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDGeography6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit two references with your application.

Please see our step-by-step guide to applying for a PhD in the School of GeoSciences:

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP