The School of Geographical Sciences is a leading international centre for research. In the Times Higher Education analysis of the most recent Research Excellence Framework assessment, we were ranked the top geography department in the UK. The graduate school is integral to this success. We have a large and vibrant postgraduate research community, with students following PhD and MSc by research (MScR) programmes. The postgraduate community is international and interdisciplinary and offers an exceptional academic environment for postgraduate research.

Research opportunities encompass a wide range of subjects at the leading edge of geographical research. There are also many exciting possibilities for interdisciplinary research, spanning research groups and departments. Visit the School of Geographical Sciences webpages for more information about our research staff and collective research interests. You can see a list of current projects and their supervisors.

Alternatively, you may be interested in our MScR in Global Environmental Challenges, or our PhD in Geographical Sciences (Human Geography).

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or an equivalent qualification) in a relevant subject.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level E.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,758 per year
UK: part-time
£2,379 per year
Overseas: full-time
£26,000 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Bench fees

For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (such as training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will be made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

If you wish to be considered for NERC GW4+ DTP funding for this programme please refer to the NERC GW4+ DTP prospectus page for guidance in making a PhD application.

Each year the school is usually awarded between two and three NERC studentships (including CASE awards), and several China Scholarship Council, EU, and industry-funded studentships. Applicants should also check the School of Geographical Sciences website.

Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.

Career prospects

Students who complete a PhD in Physical Geography typically move on to careers in academia (post-doctoral research, lectureships), further research in government or private institutes, environmental consultancy, teaching, the civil service, computer programming, IT consultancy, among others.

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


Research groups

The school's physical geography research is focused on a number of themes. These are based on UK Research Council priority areas and the interests of industrial and other stakeholders. Our three research groups are:

Global Environmental Change

The Bristol Research Initiative for the Dynamic Global Environment (BRIDGE) group aims to improve the understanding of natural climate and environmental variability and the relationship between global carbon cycling and climate. This knowledge is used to improve our predictions of future change and its impact on all aspects of ecosystems and human society.


The Bristol Glaciology Centre leads world-class research into ice sheet processes, subglacial environments and sea level change. Its aim is to increase understanding of the present, past and future behaviour of ice sheets and glaciers, and the links between the cryosphere, oceans and atmosphere under changing climatic conditions.


The Hydrology Research Group focuses on research into the modelling of hydrologic and hydraulic problems using advanced numerical methods. In particular, it specialises in modelling river flooding, water quality monitoring, uncertainty analysis techniques, catchment and hillslope transport processes, combined with field monitoring and large-scale experimental work.

Contact us


Izzy Montgomery, Postgraduate Student Administrator

+44 (0) 117 928 7878
Dr Stephen Cornford, Postgraduate Research Director (Physical Geography)