Research course

Physical Geography

The University of Manchester · School of Environment, Education and Development

Entry requirements

  • First or upper second class honours Bachelor degree (or international equivalent) and
  • A relevant postgraduate qualification, generally a Master degree, with Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% in the taught modules and a minimum grade of 60% in the dissertation (or international equivalent)

Months of entry


Course content

There are two research groups specialising in Physical Geography: Environmental Processes, and Quaternary Environments and Geoarchaeology. Research is done at a variety of timescales, from the present day to the Pleistocene ice ages. Themes include future prediction and modelling, present-day observation, monitoring and modelling, and reconstruction of past environments and environmental changes.

You will by supervised by world leading academics with very strong reputations for research quality. Geography in Manchester was ranked 8th in the world by the 2014 QS world university rankings. In the UK research assessment exercise 2008, 94% of our outputs were considered internationally recognised, with an exceptionally high proportion (65%) judged to be internationally excellent or world leading. Our Physical Geography staff members hold editorial positions with leading research publications, including major journals such as Journal of the Geological Society, Geoarchaeology and Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers and also serve on various panels of the UK Natural Environmental Research Council.

Recent PhD graduates have been appointed to positions at leading universities around the world, while others now work in government agencies and research institutes as well as conservation organisations. Many graduates have gone on to work in environmental consultancy in both the public and private sectors. Our graduates also have a strong track record in the energy and mining sector, including renewable energy, oil, gas, aggregates and minerals.

Key research and primary opportunities:

The work of the Environmental Processes research group includes the analysis of environmental processes at a range of spatial scales and geographical locations, but particularly in upland and urban environments. Fundamental and applied research is supported by the Research Councils and a range of government and non-government agencies, including DEFRA, DTI, UKCIP, Environment Agency, Natural England and Moors for the Future.

Specialisms include:

  • Geomorphology and earth systems processes
  • Peatlands and soils
  • Geographical information sciences, including terrain analysis and terrestrial remote sensing
  • Hydrology and freshwater environmental sciences
  • Urban climatology, climate adaptation and urban air pollution

The Quaternary Environments and Geoarchaeology research group is particularly interested in the analysis of the response of geomorphological systems and ecosystems to global climate change. This includes the study of glaciers, rivers, lakes, deserts and high mountain terrains as well as palaeoecology, geochemistry and a range of geochronological applications. We also have interests in geoarchaeology. This research involves work throughout the world, including the Arctic, British Isles, Mediterranean, Himalayas, North America, and Africa. Research is funded by various bodies, including the Leverhulme Trust, NERC, the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society.

Specialisms include:

  • Quaternary climate change
  • Geochronology, including OSL, cosmogenic exposure dating and U-series
  • Glacial geomorphology and glaciology
  • Fluvial geomorphology
  • Dryland environments
  • Palaeoecology and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, including a range of proxies: pollen, chironomids, diatoms and geochemical analyses
  • Geoarchaeology

Information for international students

Candidates whose first language is not English require one of the following certificates:

  • IELTS test minimum scores - 7 overall, 7 writing, 6 other sections
  • TOEFL (internet based) test minimum scores - 100 overall, 25 writing, 22 other sections
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum scores - 66 overall, 66 writing, 59 other sections
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) overall score of 185 or above, with writing 185 and no other sub-section below 169 -OR- Grade C if taken before 2015
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) overall score of 185 or above, with writing 185 and no other sub-section below 169 -OR- Grade B if taken before 2015

(Please note that the Cambridge First Certificate in English is not acceptable)

Please find full details, including country specific information, here.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Sources of funding include:

UK Research Councils:

Includes 1+3 and +3 studentships. Residency eligibility criteria apply. CASE studentships are normally advertised in January / February on our website and at

In addition, funding is sometimes possible from one of the following:

Internal awards are advertised on our funding page from November.

Qualification and course duration


full time
36 months

Course contact details

School of Environment, Education and Development
+44 (0)161 275 0807