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Geology (MPhil / PhD)

The MPhil/PhD programme provides an excellent forum for students to develop and enhance their specialist, as well as more general transferable, research skills. The programme allows you to gain insight into different research methods and to acquire valuable experience both in carrying out large-scale research projects and in teaching.

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation of 60,000 to 100,000 words. At Birkbeck, you are initially registered on an MPhil and you upgrade to a PhD after satisfactory progress in the first year or two. You need to find a suitable academic supervisor at Birkbeck, who can offer the requisite expertise to guide and support you through your research. Find out more about undertaking a research degree at Birkbeck.

Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences shares resources, facilities and expertise with UCL’s Department of Earth Sciences, thus offering you access to a unique, world-class research environment.

Our key research interests include:

  • clastic sedimentology
  • earthquake geology
  • environmental geochemistry
  • geochemistry
  • geochronology
  • geomorphology
  • geophysics
  • paleoenvironmental analysis
  • planetary geology
  • seismic hazards
  • tectonics
  • volcanic hazards.


  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    Good degree in science.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months' duration.
    • Courses of less than six months' duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

  • Fees


    Part-time home/EU students: £2338 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £4407 pa
    Part-time international students: £6525 pa
    Full-time international students: £12925 pa

    Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

    Fees and finance

    PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of over £26,000 to cover the cost of tuition fees, maintenance and other study-related costs.

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

    The NERC London Doctoral Training Partnership offers fully funded studentships.

    The School of Science attracts funding for studentships that ensure researchers of the highest standard can pursue their research with us. Find out more about research funding opportunities at Birkbeck.

  • Our Research Culture

    Our Research Culture

    As a research student, you will benefit from a vigorous programme of formal and informal research seminars, and close attention to research supervision. As well as working on your research project, you will also be encouraged to participate in a general training programme of lectures, workshops and seminars designed to provide methodological and theoretical frameworks for your research and structured according to Research Council guidelines. You will also be encouraged to attend lectures within the MRes programme and will have access to the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network.

    The Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck has close links to the Department of Earth Sciences at University College London (UCL). Together, they form the Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences, facilitating access to a wide range of research resources and expertise. Well-established links with other London colleges and the Natural History Museum provide ready access to further facilities in the capital.

    In addition to standard equipment such as EMP, SEM and XRD and generous networked computing facilities, the Department has specialist laboratories and operates a worldwide fieldwork programme. Facilities such as the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) isotope geoscience laboratory at the British Geological Survey in Keyworth, ICP-MS facility at Kingston University and ICP-AES facility at Royal Holloway are also potentially available to research students. In the past, some research students have gone abroad to such places as Utrecht and Vienna to use specialist analytical facilities.

    Read more about our vibrant research culture.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    Follow these steps to apply to an MPhil/PhD research degree at Birkbeck:

    1. Check that you meet the entry requirements, including English language requirements, as described on this page.

    2. Find a potential supervisor for your MPhil/PhD research. You can look at the Find a Supervisor area on this page for an overview, or search our Experts’ Database or browse our staff pages for more in-depth information. You may also find it helpful to view the research projects of our current students.

    3. Contact the academic member of staff - or the department they teach in - for an informal discussion about your research interests and to establish if they are willing and able to supervise your research. (Please note: finding a potential supervisor does not guarantee admission to the research degree, as this decision is made using your whole application.) Find out more about the supervisory relationship and how your supervisor will support your research.

    4. Draft a research proposal. This needs to demonstrate your knowledge of the field, the specific research questions you wish to pursue, and how your ideas will lead to the creation of new knowledge and understanding. Find out more about writing a research proposal.

    5. Apply directly to Birkbeck, using the online application link on this page. All research students are initially registered on an MPhil and then upgrade to a PhD after making sufficient progress.

    Find out more about the application process, writing a research proposal and the timeframe


    • Igneous petrology and geochemistry
    • Petrology and mineralogy of mantle and lower crustal xenoliths
    • Geochemistry of peridotite massifs
    • Palaeontology
    • Echinoderm palaeoecology in Middle Jurassic marginal marine settings
    • The effect of the end Cenomanian extinction event on high marine predator communities
    • Designing tidal creeks for managed coastal defence
    • Ground-penetrating radar applications in sedimentology
    • Palaeoclimate controls on the formation of coastal dunes
    • Sedimentary controls on the distribution of arsenic in the Ganges Brahmaputra Delta
    • The evolution of coastal dunes in response to Holocene climate change
    • Studies of displacement and strain along active normal fault zones in Italy and Greece

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply at any time during the year. Entry months for the programme are October, January and April of each year.

    If you wish to apply for funding, you will need to apply by certain deadlines. Consult the websites of relevant bodies for details.

  • Finding a supervisor

    Finding a supervisor

    A critical factor when applying for postgraduate study in geology is the correlation between the applicant’s intellectual and research interests and those of one or more potential supervisors within the Department.

    Find out more about the research interests of our academic staff: