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Geography and Planning

Established in 1966, the School of Geography and Planning is a leading international centre of excellence in teaching and research in spatial planning, human geography and urban design.

The school offers Postgraduate Research (PGR) degrees. These principally include our PhD degree in Geography and Planning, as well as the possibility to pursue an MPhil degree.

As a Russell Group university, we welcome applications from high-calibre candidates committed to pursuing innovative, cutting-edge research that will contribute to academic and policy debates, nationally and internationally.

With our international and interdisciplinary research profile, we offer a rich and lively scholarly environment in which to conduct doctoral research. Currently, the school has a total of 55 full-time and part-time PhD researchers.

What we offer

We attract graduate talent who aspire to become future research and community leaders. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to develop their postgraduate research project in a vibrant and collaborative School at the cutting edge of research and impact. You will be supervised by two supervisors, who are leading the development of their discipline nationally and internationally; and one reviewer, who will assess written work and help prepare you for the viva examination.

The school has a tailored induction programme that develops the academic skills necessary for the successful implementation of your research project. Throughout your PhD project, you will be guided to prepare yourself for a successful academic career, as well as to acquire skills and knowledge for non-academic careers, including developing industry-focused relationships and collaboration activities. Postgraduate research students are supported to develop publishing skills and publish academic research independently or in collaboration with their supervisors.

The school also provides postgraduate research students with paid teaching opportunities in its undergraduate and MSc programmes and supports PGR students in acquiring teaching qualifications.

You'll also have access to a dedicated Doctoral Academy Team and Careers Service who further provide excellent training and skills development and will support your professional development throughout your PhD journey and beyond. Alongside discipline-specific research training, the Doctoral Academy also host a series of interdisciplinary community events and activities that help our PhD researchers connect with other students and research staff in your cohort, discipline, school and college.

Each postgraduate research student (including self-funded and part-time) is provided with a personal research budget (currently £750 per annum) which can be used according to individual research, IT or training needs. Furthermore, we provide additional research grants, on a competitive basis, for international conference participation. The conference fund is self-managed by the school PGR community.

Shared offices are allocated to PhD researchers at the School of Geography and Planning in the Glamorgan Building (grade I listed) and every full-time student has a dedicated desk and PC.

The University has a range of excellent research facilities and libraries, as well as outstanding social, study, sports and recreation facilities.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Student Disability Service. For more information, email Student Connect.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time, part-time
Qualification PhD
Full-time duration PhD 3 or 4 years
Part-time duration PhD 5-7 years
Start dates April, October

We have been awarded ESRC recognition for 1+3 and +3 PhD programmes.

Thus, first-year PhD students can gain the opportunity to undertake a scheme of study directly related to research training in planning, environment and housing.

First year PhD students will be expected (depending upon prior learning and experience) to undertake some or all of the MSc in Social Science Research Methods. Distinct routes through the course in planning, housing, sustainability, transport and regeneration are available.

A series of shared offices are available for PhD students and each full-time student has access to computer facilities.

As the largest Geography and Planning university department in the UK, we have over 60 full-time academic staff with a wide range of specialisms and expertise to supervise your PhD project. The school was recognised by the Government’s Research Excellence Framework 2021 as 9th in the UK for Research Power, reflecting the scale, scope and strength of our research and impact.

Doctoral students represent an important part of our research community and are fully embedded in the research life of the school through active membership in our research groups and contribute to the school research culture. Our wide range of impact and engagement events provide students with a wealth of opportunities to present, listen, debate, read, learn from and meet with others in a supportive environment. Research is organised into four main groups with a number of crosscutting research centres:


The Environment Research Group is a large cluster of human geographers and planners interested in understanding and resolving contemporary global environmental challenges. Key concerns for group members range from climate change and food security to renewable energy and green infrastructure, through to rural development, biosecurity and sustainable food systems, energy transitions and post-Brexit environmental governance. Researchers draw on cutting-edge theoretical approaches from human geography, science and technology studies and political ecology, and utilise a range of methodological approaches such as ethnographic, participatory methods and ecological footprinting.

Social and Cultural Geography (SCGRG)

The school has one of the largest groups of social and cultural geographers in the UK, and SCGRG has an established track record in making theoretical contributions to feminist, Marxist, postcolonial, pragmatist, post-structural and ‘more-than-representational’ theory, and combining this with socially-engaged scholarship and impact. SCGRG research addresses a wide range of topics, including, platform economies; breastfeeding; gentrification; Fairtrade; housing and homelessness; drugs and alcohol; cycling; food banks; voluntary sector welfare; religion and spirituality; surfing; fashion; music; humour; dance; animal-human interactions; and allotments and community gardens.

Spatial Planning and Analysis in City Environments (SPACE)

The SPACE research group specialises in theoretical and applied research that actively engages with external audiences in the public, private and third sectors in the UK and international spheres. Its research covers a wide range of topics, including; housing and land markets, valuing built environment and infrastructure externalities, active travel and transport, spatial variations in social and health inequalities, accessibility and health outcomes, social capital and service provision, public participation, engagement and social justice in planning processes, urban design responses to social and natural problems, flood and wildfire risk and disaster planning, and urbanisation and urban poverty reduction in the developing world.

Economic and Political Worlds (EPW)

This group advances theoretical debate on the nature of urban, regional and city-regional spaces, and how they are shaped and transformed by various social, political, economic and environmental actors and processes. EPW members have made key theoretical, methodological, and policy-engaged contributions to understanding the foundational economy; energy and water security; antifascism; informality, economic development and regeneration; innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems; global production networks; corporate responses to Brexit; austerity and local governance; and the variegated geographies of welfare and the voluntary sector.

Research Centres

The school also plays a major role in several Research Centres and Research Institutes. These provide a platform for more significant programmes of cross-disciplinary research, combining the interests of several research groups and connecting with other schools in the University.

Impact & Engagement

Alongside multiple links and collaborations with industrial, consultancy and business partners, our staff and PhD community are committed to socially-engaged research with policymakers, practitioners and community groups. We have a strong track-record working with the United Nations (on urban food policy; low-carbon cities; sustainable housing and the urban informal economy), the European Union (for example, shaping legislation on animal welfare; regional innovation policy), and UK government and devolved governments (for example, on the societal barriers facing breastfeeding mothers; serving as Commissioners and Independent Review Panel members for Welsh Government on issues of transport and air-quality; helping protect the rights of religious minorities in the planning system; providing support to the Welsh National Food Policy and Rural Development Plan, the Scottish National Public Procurement Policy and DEFRA’s management of animal disease and biosecurity; and bringing legislative change in Wales that significantly improved accommodation outcomes for homeless people). Researchers also are engaged locally as part of the University’s civic mission: for example, improving outdoor education and child-friendly spaces in Grangetown; food procurement and food cooperatives; and developing the Cardiff City Region through the South Wales Metro project.

As well as dedicated support from our Impact and Engagement Unit, the school convenes Research Group and a school-wide seminar series. These give international visitors, academics and key politicians and policymakers a chance to discuss the latest research and translate this into policy and practice.

Information on forthcoming events can be found here.

Admission consists of several steps. Initially, candidates need to submit a research proposal of 1000 words and a personal statement of no more than 500 words. These should be sent to the Postgraduate research Admission team: Ruth Leo and Andrew Williams. If successful at this stage, the applicant will be invited to provide a full package of documents consisting of degree certificates, recommendation letters, CV and English language qualifications on the online portal.

The research proposal, which should include the following:

  • an account of research aims, significance, originality, and timeliness
  • the principal research questions you will be posing
  • theoretical approach and a critical overview of relevant academic literature
  • proposed design/methods
  • ethical considerations

The proposal should be no longer than 1000 words (excluding ethical considerations and references).

Personal statement

Potential applicants are required to identify the degree of "fit" between their proposed research and one or more of the school research groups. Applicants must identify two potential supervisors and gain a provisional supervisory agreement from at least one of them prior to application. Details on recent publications, ongoing projects and particular research interests of our staff are all available here.

How your application is considered

Applications are reviewed on the following criteria, including:

  1. the availability of 2 appropriate supervisors;
  2. the originality, relevance and strength of your research proposal;
  3. Academic qualifications and/or relevant professional experience.

We aim to process all applications within six weeks and will contact you with our decision as soon as possible. Proposals are reviewed by a specialist in the field. You may be required to attend an interview in person or via Zoom. For international students wishing to start in October please submit your application by the end of May to allow time to process visa application.

Equality and Diversity

As a School we are committed to supporting and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. To address historic and ongoing inequalities in Higher Education we seek to increase recruitment of currently underrepresented groups. Applications from Black/Black British, Asian/Asian British and minority ethnicity candidates are particularly encouraged and welcomed.

Academic requirements

Applicants should normally hold a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) or a Master’s degree in human geography, planning or a related social science discipline, with a minimum average grade of 60% in both the taught course units and your dissertation (or international equivalent of 60%).

English language requirements

We look for the following standard: IELTS minimum score of 6.5 overall with at least a score of 7.0 in the writing section, and no less than a score of 6.0 in other sections. TOEFL test minimum scores - at least 100 overall, 25 in writing, and a minimum of 20 in each subskill.

Please read our English language requirements for more details.


Academic contact(s)

Dr Andrew Williams

Dr Andrew Williams

Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, PhD Admissions Tutor

 +44 (0)29 2068 8680


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See the range of PhD studentships and projects currently available.

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