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Geography (PhD)

2023-24 (also available for 2022-23)

This course is eligible for Doctoral loan funding. Find out more.

Start date

2 October 2023

15 January 2024

15 April 2024


The maximum duration for a PhD is 3 years (36 months) full-time or 6 years (72 months) part-time with an optional submission pending (writing-up) period of 12 months.

Sometimes it may be possible to mix periods of both full-time and part-time study.

If studying on a part-time basis, you must establish close links with the University and spend normally not less than an average of 10 working days per year in the university, excluding participation in activities associated with enrolment, re-registration and progression monitoring. You are also expected to dedicate 17.5 hours per week to the research.

Application deadlines

For October 2023

09 June 2023 for International and Scholarship students

30 June 2023 for Home students

For January 2024

20 October 2023 for International and Scholarship students

17 November 2023 for Home students

For April 2024

26 January 2024 for International and Scholarship students

23 February 2024 for Home students

About the research degree

A PhD is the highest academic award for which a student can be registered.This programme allows you to explore and pursue a research project built around a substantial piece of work, which has to show evidence of original contribution to knowledge.

A full-time PhD is a three year full-time programme of research and culminates in the production of a large-scale piece of written work in the form of a research thesis that should not normally exceed 80,000 words.

Completing a PhD can give you a great sense of personal achievement and help you develop a high level of transferable skills which will be useful in your subsequent career, as well as contributing to the development of knowledge in your chosen field.

You are expected to work to an approved programme of work including appropriate programmes of postgraduate study (which may be drawn from parts of existing postgraduate courses, final year degree programmes, conferences, seminars, masterclasses, guided reading or a combination of study methods).

You will be appointed a main supervisor who will normally be part of a supervisory team, comprising up to three members to advise and support you on your project.

Entry requirements

The normal level of attainment required for entry is:

  • a Master's degree from a UK University or equivalent, normally with a classification of merit or distinction, in a discipline appropriate to the proposed programme to be followed, or
  • an upper second class honours degree (2:1) from a UK university in a discipline appropriate to that of the proposed programme to be followed, or
  • appropriate research or professional experience at postgraduate level, which has resulted in published work, written reports or other appropriate evidence of accomplishment.

If your first language is not English, you will need to meet the minimum requirements of an English Language qualification. The minimum for IELTS is 6.5 overall with no element lower than 6.0, or equivalent. Read more about the University’s entry requirements for students outside of the UK on our Where are you from information pages.

What can I research?

There are several research topics available for this degree. See below examples of research areas including an outline of the topics, the supervisor, funding information and eligibility criteria:


We welcome research proposals that address the underlying drivers of disaster risk, which are particularly related to poor economic and urban development choices and practice, degradation of the built, human and natural environments, poverty and inequality and climate change. Addressing these underlying risk drivers has the potential to reduce disaster risk, lessen the impacts of climate change and, consequently, maintain the sustainability of development.

Research may focus on the policy objective of anticipating and reducing risk, usually referred to as disaster risk reduction (DRR), or disaster risk management that addresses the implementation of DRR and the actions that aim to achieve the objective of reducing risk.

Doctoral students are aligned to the University of Huddersfield’s Global Disaster Resilience Centre, which is based in the School of Applied Sciences. The Global Disaster Resilience Centre is a leader in inter-disciplinary research, education and advocacy to improve the resilience of nations and communities.

This topic can be addressed from a range of perspective, including but not limited to: Physical, social and economic resilience Disaster resilient cities Disaster resilient infrastructure Urban development and disaster risk Reconstruction and sustainable development Empowerment of women and vulnerable groups Multi-hazard early warning Displacement Business continuity management Investment for disaster risk reduction Integrating risk reduction and climate change adaptation Disaster risk governance Conflict sensitive reconstruction Poverty alleviation and international development Risk communication


Self-funding applicants are welcome. In addition to tuition fees, bench fees of between £3-£15,000 per annum are required depending on the nature of the project.


Home/EU – for September- June 30th, for January-October 31st and Overseas for September- May 31st, for January- September 30th


How to apply


Anthropogenic litter (i.e., solid manufactured waste items, including plastic pollution) is a growing environmental risk to aquatic ecosystem functioning (van Emmerik and Schwarz, 2020). Plastic production rates are increasing globally with approximately 300 million metric tons produced annually (UNEP, 2014). Plastic products have been defined based on size (i.e., the largest dimension). Macro-plastics are typically defined as plastic particles > 5mm (Wright et al., 2013; GESAMP, 2015), microplastics occupy a size range of 101nm to 5mm, and nanoscale plastics are particles of 1-100nm (European Commission, 2011). All types of plastics have been found in marine and freshwater ecosystems (Barnes et al., 2009; Windsor et al., 2019); including in river sediments (Nel et al., 2018), ponds and canals.

Inputs of anthropogenic litter to freshwaters include food and drink containers (which often breakdown from macro to microplastics), fibres from synthetic clothes, industrial waste, and cosmetic products (Kershaw and Rochman, 2015; Biginagwa et al., 2016). The impacts of anthropogenic pollution to river system functioning, processes and aquatic biota were raised in the late 1970s (Gregory, 1978; Laist, 1997), but increasing public and political interest has prompted studies to examine the ecological effects of anthropogenic litter in freshwater systems. Although, the impacts of anthropogenic litter have been recognised, previous research has largely concentrated on marine ecosystems and organisms rather than on multiple freshwater ecosystems that are closely connected to terrestrial anthropogenic litter sources (Wagner and Lambert, 2017; Santillo et al., 2019). Therefore, a fuller understanding of the different types of anthropogenic litter and their effects of freshwaters ecosystems is needed. In the UK, anthropogenic litter is widespread in freshwaters (Santillo et al., 2019), but its effects on physical habitat characteristics and macroinvertebrates are largely unknown. In freshwaters, increased physical habitat offers a wider range of niches for more species and more habitats for breeding and foraging, and typically leads to higher biodiversity (Ward and Tockner, 2001). Anthropogenic litter may increase physical habitat heterogeneity to homogenised bed sediments, especially in urban freshwaters. Wilson et al., (2020) found anthropogenic litter supported more diverse macroinvertebrate communities than rocks, in urban gravel-bed rivers in Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, UK. However, no study has explored the effects of anthropogenic litter on physical habitat and macroinvertebrate diversity in multiple urban freshwater ecosystems.

Aims and Objectives The aim of this research project is to examine the effects of anthropogenic litter on physical habitat and macroinvertebrate diversity and community composition in multiple urban freshwater ecosystems, including rivers, ponds, and canals. Macroinvertebrates inhabiting anthropogenic litter will be compared to those on natural gravel/cobble substrates in rivers, and different mesohabitats in ponds and canals. The objectives are: 1. Identify the macroinvertebrate diversity (alpha diversity) and community composition (beta diversity) of different types of anthropogenic litter in urban rivers, ponds, and canals. 2. Quantify the contribution of macroinvertebrate diversity in urban river, ponds, and canals at a landscape level (gamma diversity). 3. Characterise the heterogeneity of macroinvertebrate communities inhabiting different anthropogenic litter between urban rivers, ponds, and canals. 4. Identify the importance of urban rivers, ponds and canals to landscape-scale biodiversity conservation and management.

References GESAMP (2015) Sources, fate and effects of microplastics in the marine environment: a global assessment. In: Kershaw, P.J. (Ed.), (IMO/FAO/UNESCO-IOC/UNIDO/WMO/IAEA/UN/UNEP/ UNDP Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection). Rep. Stud. GESAMP No. 90. 96.

Nel H. A., Dalu T. & Wasserman R. J. (2018) Sinks and sources: Assessing microplastic abundance in river sediment and deposit feeders in an Austral temperate urban river system. Science of the Total Environment. 612: 950-956.

Santillo D., Brigden K., Pasteur V., Nicholls F., Morozzo P. & Johnston P. (2019) Plastic pollution in UK’s rivers: a ‘snapshot’ survey of macro- and micro-plastic contamination in surface waters of 13 river systems across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Report 04-2019, June 2019. Available at: [Accessed 14/05/2021].

Van Emmerik T. & Schwarz A. (2020) Plastic debris in rivers. WIREs Water, 7 (1): e1398/

Wagner M. & Lambert S. 2017. Microplastics are contaminants of emerging concern in freshwater environments: an overview. In: Wagner M. & Lambert S. (Eds.), Freshwater Microplastics. The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry vol. 58. Springer, Cham.

Ward J. V., Tockner K. & F. Schiemer F. (1999) Biodiversity of floodplain river ecosystems: ecotones and connectivity. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management, 15: 125–139.

Wilson H. L., Johnson M. F., Wood P. J., Thorne C. R. & Eichhorn M. P. (2021) Anthropogenic litter is a novel habitat for aquatic macroinvertebrates in urban rivers. Freshwater Biology, 66 (3) 524-534, DOI: 10.111/Feb.13657

Windsor F. M., Tilley R. M., Tyler C. R. & Ormerod S. J. 2019. Microplastic ingestion by riverine macroinvertebrates. Science of the Total Environment. 646, 68-74.


Self-funding applicants are welcome. In addition to tuition fees, bench fees of between £3-£15,000 per annum are required depending on the nature of the project.


Our standard University deadlines apply. Please see our Deadlines for Applications page to find out more


How to apply


Computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modelling of wind flow has become a common tool in aeolian geomorphology over the last decade. Initially used as a method to calculate wind flow over simple two-dimensional dune shapes (Parsons et al., 2004), it is now employed over a range of complex aeolian landforms (Smyth, 2016). However, despite increasing computational capabilities and accurate modelling, its use remains confined to only modelling near-surface wind flow dynamics. The utility of CFD to assist better understanding and modelling of topographic surface change and sediment transport over a range of dune forms remains untested. The key foci of this project are to expand the usage of CFD beyond near-surface wind flow and develop CFD as a tool to understand and predict sediment transport in regions of complex secondary wind flow, to further understand the dynamics of sand dunes and the processes that drive those dynamics.


Self-funding applicants are welcome. In addition to tuition fees, bench fees of between £3-£15,000 per annum are required depending on the nature of the project.


Home/EU – for September- June 30th, for January-October 31st and Overseas for September- May 31st, for January- September 30th


How to apply

To find out more about the research we conduct, take a look at our Research, Innovation and Skills webpages, where you will find information on each research area. To find out about our staff visit ‘Our experts’ which features profiles of all our academic staff.

You should enter the project title and supervisor in the online application form.

No research proposal is necessary in your application.

Student support

At the University of Huddersfield, you'll find support networks and services to help you get ahead in your studies and social life. Whether you study at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you'll soon discover that you're never far away from our dedicated staff and resources to help you to navigate through your personal student journey. Find out more about all our support services.

Researcher Environment

The University of Huddersfield has a thriving research community made up of over 1,350 postgraduate research students. We have students studying on a part-time and full-time basis from all over the world with around 43% from overseas and 57% from the UK.

Research plays an important role in informing all our teaching and learning activities. Through undertaking research our staff remain up-to-date with the latest developments in their field, which means you develop knowledge and skills which are current and relevant to your specialist area.

Find out more about our research staff and centres

Important information

We will always try to deliver your course as described on this web page. However, sometimes we may have to make changes as set out below.

When you are offered a place on a research degree, your offer will include confirmation of your supervisory team, and the topic you will be researching.

Whilst the University will use reasonable efforts to ensure your supervisory team remains the same, sometimes it may be necessary to make changes to your team for reasons outside the University’s control, for example if your supervisor leaves the University, or suffers from long term illness. Where this is the case, we will discuss these difficulties with you and seek to either put in place a new supervisory team, or help you to transfer to another research facility, in accordance with our Student Protection Plan.

Changes may also be necessary because of circumstances outside our reasonable control, for example the University being unable to access its buildings due to fire, flood or pandemic, or the University no longer being able to provide specialist equipment. Where this is the case, we will discuss these issues with you and agree any necessary changes.

Your research project is likely to evolve as you work on it and these minor changes are a natural and expected part of your study. However, we may need to make more significant changes to your topic of research during the course of your studies, either because your area of interest has changed, or because for reasons outside the University’s control we can no longer support your research. If this is the case, we will discuss any changes in topic with you and agree these in writing. If you are an international student, changing topics may affect your visa or ATAS clearance and if this is the case we will discuss this with you before any changes are agreed.

When you enrol as a student of the University, your study and time with us will be governed by the University’s Terms and Conditions and a framework of regulations, policies and procedures, which form the basis of your agreement with us. It is important that you familiarise yourself with these as you will be asked to agree to abide by them when you join us as a student. You will find a guide to the key terms here, along with the Student Protection Plan, where you will also find links to the full text of each of the regulations, policies and procedures referred to.

The Office for Students (OfS) is the principal regulator for the University.