Geography, Environment and Development Studies (MPhil / PhD)

Year of entry


Start date

October 2017, January 2018 or April 2018


Fully Approved


Up to four years full-time or seven years part-time


Regular meetings with your supervisor(s)

Other entry years for this course


PhD researchers can specialise in geography, geographical information science, environmental studies, development studies, international childhood studies, or community, youth and voluntary sector studies. Our MPhil/PhD programmes aim to train you to conduct research of the highest academic standard and to make an original contribution to the subject through your research. Our doctoral programme aims to respond to the needs and interests both of students seeking an academic career or other professional employment and of those who wish to pursue a line of intellectual enquiry for its own sake. We aim to recruit both recent graduates and mature students who now have the time to pursue an intellectual enthusiasm, perhaps after a lifetime of professional work.

Our students benefit not only from the advisory insight of specialist academics within the department, but also from a wider culture of support and advice from staff and other research students. We see our research students as a central part of our community, who play a key role in the vitality of the wider research process. Those completing our research degrees in the past have often moved on into highly skilled occupations in both the commercial and academic worlds.

Research students in GEDS are able to participate in subject-specific doctoral seminars and can attend relevant modules on any of the MSc degrees offered within GEDS as part of their research training. Students also have the opportunity to participate in guest lectures, films and workshops offered both within the department and in wider groupings such as the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, the Institute of Voluntary Action Research, and the London International Development Centre. We offer financial assistance for conference attendance where appropriate.

Studying for an MPhil or PhD in any of the areas offered in GEDS involves working closely with a small group of staff on an independent research project. This means that we are only able to accept students whose proposed research project lies within the areas of expertise of our staff. If there is a particular member of staff you would like to work with, please contact them to discuss your project before applying.

Community, Youth and Voluntary Sector Studies

The department offers supervision in theoretical perspectives and understandings of community theory and practice and youth and voluntary sector studies. Staff in this research area have established excellent links with professional organisations in their fields and also have international links with academic institutions in the USA and South Africa, working collaboratively on issues concerning religion and race in public life.

Development Studies

The department offers supervision in theoretical and empirical research on practices and experiences of development. Our research areas include ageing, childhood, gender and development, migration, NGOs and political activism, regional specialisation in Latin America and South Asia, rights, social policy, urban and rural poverty, and visual culture and development.


Research study in geography can take a wide variety of forms across the social and physical sciences dependent on topic, but the common thread is the distinctive perspective, often interdisciplinary, that a geographical approach to research offers. Key research interests are: cities and socio-spatial inequality, coastal geomorphology and coastal policy, food security and climate change, flooding and flood insurance, impact of environmental change on nature and agriculture, long-term river behaviour and climate change, remote sensing, renewable energy, and social and urban geography.

Geographical Information Science

At Birkbeck, we pride ourselves in offering one of the longest-running GISc programmes. The Birkbeck GISc academic team works in a broad range of areas of geographic information knowledge, including spatial analytical methods, cartography and visualisation, remote sensing, and geocomputation and their research activities are at the forefront of GIS development.

International Childhood Studies

The department offers supervision in theoretical and empirical research on practices and experiences of childhood. Our research areas include cultures of childhood, visual culture and representation of childhood, the governance of childhood, childhood and social identities, and histories of childhood.

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  • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • In the 2014 REF, Sociology at Birkbeck was ranked 13th in the UK.
  • The Department of Geography, Environment and Development Studies' students come from a range of geographic and professional backgrounds, many (but not all) having research interests related to their employment. There are now around 15 research students currently undertaking a PhD or MPhil, some of which are linked to staff research projects, which means students benefit from the research infrastructure built up by the department's major programmes.
  • The department provides excellent support for students and will do its best to help you succeed at your research. Most part-time research students only come to the department for occasional meetings with their academic supervisors or for research seminars, and those who require computing or physical laboratory equipment can also come in the evenings or at weekends.
  • Watch videos of our students discussing their experience of studying and researching at Birkbeck.
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