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MPhil/PhD Development Planning

A requirement of successful PhD research in UCL is that it should make a distinct contribution to knowledge. DPU's MPhil/PhD Programme is designed to support the formation of rigorous researchers by helping them strengthen their analytical skills whilst critically engaging with theoretical concepts and methodological tools. It provides them with a thorough knowledge of a particular subject area and an in-depth exploration of an empirical reality. This is achieved by giving equal emphasis to both the process and content of research, within the very highest standards of scholarship and academic rigour.

PhD research areas at the DPU embrace issues of direct and current relevance to development processes in a range of countries around the world. Most doctoral research includes a period of fieldwork in a country relevant to the research, during which the PhD candidate acquires a thorough knowledge of the context and collects primary data.

As additional support for their research, students have access, within walking distance of the DPU, to a large range of world-class libraries, including those in University College London and other universities, as well as the British Library, one of the largest collections of printed material in the world. Central London, where UCL is located, also hosts a vast array of specialised lectures, conferences and other events, many of which are likely to be of direct relevance to DPU's research students.

Programme Director: Colin Marx

Programme Coordinator: John Cosgrove

All higher research degree candidates in University College London enrol for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) degree that, subject to satisfactory progress, is upgraded to Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

The programme starts in September of each year with a six-month period of intensive structured study. MPhil/PhD students should complete their research, submit their thesis and take the final examination within a period of 36 to 48 months of starting the programme. The minimum period of full-time registration for both degrees is two years, though few candidates complete their study for a PhD in less than three.

The DPU programme, like all doctoral programmes in Britain, places great emphasis on a close one-to-one working relationship between the candidate and their supervisor. This is supported, in the first year, by an introductory two-term taught programme which is compulsory for all first-year students comprising a Doctoral Seminar series and a Research Methodology Seminar series. In addition, new participants must attend a two-term Specialisation Module selected from the broad range of MSc modules taught in the Unit. In some cases, supervisors may suggest that a candidate also enrols in, or audits, an additional taught module.

All students are initially registered for the degree of MPhil. Those wishing to pursue a PhD degree are expected to upgrade to PhD no later than 12 months after commencing their studies.

Following the upgrade, candidates maintain close contact with their primary supervisor and are expected to share the results of their work with other researchers, both within the DPU and elsewhere, particularly through academic conferences, as well as through articles for publication in refereed academic journals.

The Development Planning Unit (DPU) is committed to offering the highest quality education at the MPhil and PhD levels. Our programmes are highly competitive, with successful applicants coming from a wide range of backgrounds. The DPU’s staff and student body hail from every corner of the globe, bringing together a diversity of interests, experiences, and knowledge. For profiles of our current PhD and MPhil students, please click here.

Research Facilities

UCL has 16 libraries  In addition to paper resources, thousands of specialised electronic journals and a growing number of books are available for UCL staff and students. The Library also provides access to a variety of bibliographical databases and full-text resources.

The British Library  is located only a few minutes’ walk from the DPU. Its collection of well over 150 million items in most known languages, with three million new items added every year, makes it one of the most important libraries in the world.

The University of London Research Library Services
comprise the libraries at the center of London University – the Senate House Library, and those of the Institutes of the School of Advanced Study. These include almost three million volumes and provide over 12 miles of open shelf access to collections. In addition to this, students registered in UCL have access to most academic libraries in London, including those of the London School of Economics, School of Oriental and African Studies, Birkbeck, etc.

The Graduate School's Skills Development Programme  is open to all Graduate research students at UCL to help them expand generic research skills and personal transferable skills, intended to help in doing research and also to enhance life skills and employability. These are free to registered students.

Over 30 PC workrooms are available for use by all UCL students and there are about 50 open-access computer workrooms running centrally managed Windows desktops around campus and on some outlying sites. These can be used on a drop-in basis when they are not booked for classes.

Additionally, there are several computers located in the DPU PhD Room that are available for MPhil/PhD students only. Wi-Fi is widely available throughout UCL, including DPU.

The DPU also has facilities for photocopying and binding for Research students.

Application procedures and fees

For information, please see the faculty admissions information here

Funding and Scholarships

Please visit the UCL Scholarships & Funding portal for detailed information.


There are opportunities for 1+3 and +3 funding on the MSc Urban Studies programme at University College London (UCL). Applications must be submitted by late January 2014.

Visit the Urban Studies ESRC DTC Pathway website for more information. The ESRC website provides further information on funding and eligibility.


Before applying formally, you are strongly suggested to contact DPU Programme staff to advise on the suitability of your proposal. Please send a copy of your curriculum vitae and a 1-2 page summary of your research proposal to John Cosgrove, DPU Research Administrator.

Once you have received feedback from DPU staff, you can apply via the normal UCL procedures. More information and links are available here. Please note that our usual admissions process takes three months, and applicants who need to apply for Tier 4 Visas would need to submit a completed application no later than 1st of June to be considered in time for starting in September. Applicants who do not need a Tier 4 Visa to study in the UK should submit their applications by 30th of June to be in time for a September start. Later submissions will be considered for the following year.

In 2014 the DPU will celebrate 60 years of education, training, research, consultancy and knowledge sharing in urban and regional development policy and planning in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. DPU’s focus on urban development and planning in what is now often referred to as ‘the Global South’ was unique in the UK and abroad at the time of its establishment in 1954, and when it moved to UCL from the Architectural Association in 1971. In a world predicted to be 75% urban by 2050, we continue to feel the urgency of our historical commitment to contributing to social and environmental justice through building the capacity of current and future institutions and generations of practitioners addressing urban, regional and national development. Firmly rooted in our academic obligation to challenge orthodox development agendas, we have chosen our 60th anniversary year to offer the following scholarships and bursaries.

DPU 60th Anniversary Doctoral Scholarship

One award will be made for three years of study commencing September 2014. The scholarship will provide tuition fees, maintenance, two return flights home (where applicable) and fieldwork support. There are no restrictions regarding the nationality or domicile of the applicant. The award is to be assessed on merit. Complete applications must be received by the DPU Department Graduate Tutor, Dr Colin Marx, by 17.00 GMT on 16 May 2014. Only applications from new / prospective students who have applied formally to the Development Planning Unit research degree by 16 May 2014 will be considered. Notification of the award will be made by 3 July 2014. For further details, please download the guidelines and application forms below.

DPU Impact Doctoral Scholarship

One award will be made for three years of study commencing September 2014. The scholarship will provide tuition fees and maintenance. Applicants must be UK/EU nationals. Further details can be viewed here.

DPU PhD Bursary

In recognition of the costs of living in London as a research student, bursaries of up to £15,000 will be made available to current DPU students. Applicants must be currently enrolled on the Development Planning Unit research degree and have successfully upgraded to PhD status. The bursary is intended to allow students to remain in London and contribute to the scholarship of the department. Bursary payments may start from July 2014 and are for a maximum of one year. The award is to be assessed on a combination of merit and financial need. Complete applications must be received by the DPU Department Graduate Tutor, Dr Colin Marx, by 17.00 GMT on 2 May 2014. Notification of the award will be made by 30 May 2014. For further details, please download the guidelines and application forms below.

DPU 60th Anniversary Doctoral Scholarship
Application form (doc)
Guidance notes (pdf)

DPU PhD Bursary
Application form (doc)
Guidance notes (pdf)

Please also refer to the UCL Guidance for Scholarship Referees (pdf) when applying to any of the above.

Further funding and scholarship opportunities information for prospective and current research students is available on the UCL Graduate School website.

This list includes a selection of PhD theses from 2009 to 2012

Alaily-Mattar, N. (2010) Segregation for aggregation? The pattern and logic of spatial segregation practices of young affluent heads of households in the post-war city of Beirut. 

Aragón-Durand, F.d.J. (2009) Unpacking the social construction of 'natural' disaster through policy discourses and institutional responses in Mexico: the case of Chalco Valley's floods, State of Mexico. 

Auramaa, P.I. (2010) The production of infrastructure in partnership with communities: does participation make owners?

Dan-Azumi, J.J. (2011) Agricultural sustainability of smallholder floodplain agricultural systems: a case study of Fadama areas in North-Central Nigeria.

Haddad, F.de-M. (2010) Space and society: the contradictory roles of public parks in São Paulo.

López Morales, E.J. (2009) Urban entrepreneurialism and creative destruction: a case-study of the urban renewal strategy in the peri-centre of Santiago de Chile, 1990-2005.

Manoochehri, J. (2010) Social policy and housing: reflections of social values.

Tovivich, S. (2011) Architecture for the urban poor, the 'new professionalism' of 'community architects' and the implications for architectural education: reflections on practice from Thailand.

Veríssimo, C.F. (2012) Visioning the Agrocity: the significance of outdoor domestic space to an ecodevelopment model of medium size cities, the case study of Dondo, Mozambique

Walls, M.J. (2011) State formation in Somaliland: bringing deliberation to institutionalism.

Zeng, H.Y. (2010) The impact of fiscal decentralization and market transition on local public finance in China: fiscal inadequacy and unmet social security needs.