Geography Studentships

Recently announced US-Ireland Studentship

UrbanARK: Assessment, Risk Management, & Knowledge for Coastal Flood Risk Management in Urban Areas

The School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast currently offers a fully funded PhD position (3 years with the possibility of a 1 year post-doctoral extension) as part of the UrbanARK project.

The UrbanARK project is an international multi-disciplinary collaboration between Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), University College Dublin (UCD) and New York University (NYU) funded under the US - Ireland Research & Development Programme.  The multinational project brings together leading researchers across the areas of geomatics, spatial data analysis, hydrology, computer science and risk communication to investigate innovative approaches for the collection and management of spatial data to refine flood risk assessments for urban coastal cities and to support immersive risk communication tools. 

The researcher will be based with the Centre for GIS and Geomatics and the Environmental Change & Resilience Research Group at QUB under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer McKinley and Dr. Ulrich Ofterdinger.  The researcher will focus on the acquisition and analysis of mobile LiDAR Scanning and other Remote Sensing data in the urban environment and support the integration of these data into numerical flood risk models and risk communication tools.  Research activities will include field-based activities in Belfast, Dublin and New York and data analysis in collaboration with collaborating research groups at UCD and NYU. 

Qualifications sought:

BSc/BEng 2(i) or higher and/or or an MSc/MEng; Geomatics, Geography, Geoscience, Environmental or Civil Engineering or related subject; must be numerate & familiar with IT; experience of Geographical Information Science (GIS) and digital data acquisition and analysis is advantageous

Interested candidates should contact Dr. Jennifer McKinley ( or Dr. Ulrich Ofterdinger ( for further details.



Fully Funded PhD based in the School of Natural and Built Environment, QUB

Cohort Life Chances 1991-2011 Using the Census Longitudinal Studies 

The project

Suitably qualified candidates to undertake research leading to a PhD using the NILS and at least one of the other UK longitudinal studies on the general theme of cohort life chances 1991-2011 are sought.  Applicants are at liberty to develop and to suggest topics within this general research area.  Ian Shuttleworth ( would be happy to discuss these informally as they are developed but some general guidance is useful as a starter.  Life chances may include health, labour market or educational outcomes as well as premature mortality.  There may be differentials in these by demographic sub groups (eg ethnic or religious background), parental background, or geography (eg residents of some large cities such as Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool may fare very differently to people brought up in the rural South of England). Analyses might follow the fortunes of young people in 1991 through time or alternatively could trace the trajectories and life paths of older age cohorts.  There are a number of possibilities and the suggestions above are by no means exhaustive.  Strong applications would explore these or similar topics and how they could be investigated using the census longitudinal studies, grounding them in the literature on social inequality, neighbourhood context, and life chances. Ideally, they would also address policy questions.

The application process

Applicants are invited to write a short A4 four-page (maximum) research outline (font size no smaller than 11) which gives details of:

  • The project title
  • The context for the research question(s) in terms of relevant literature and policy

And which:

  • Shows how the longitudinal studies can be used to answer the chosen research question
  • Outlines some possible appropriate analytical approaches

This should be accompanied by a CV showing academic qualifications and experience.  Candidates may be called to an interview based on a short PowerPoint presentation and questions and answers.  Applicants should have a least a first degree at 2:1 or higher in a subject such as Geography, Sociology, Economics, or Public Health and some experience of statistical methods.  A postgraduate qualification such as a master’s degree is desirable especially if it involved independent research and statistical methods. The closing date for applications is May 18th 2018 at 11pm by email to Dr Shuttleworth.  A project start in Autumn 2018 is envisaged for this fully-funded studentship which gives an opportunity to work in an established research community in Northern Ireland and networked across the UK. 

The data

The Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study (NILS) is a 28% sample of the Northern Ireland population. The NILS links administrative and census data together for research purposes.  It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and the Public Health Agency (PHA).  These data are accessed in a secure environment maintained by the NILS Research Support Unit (NILS-RSU) which is supported by the ESRC.  The NILS is a member of a wider UK family of similar longitudinal studies with the ONS LS for England and Wales and the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS).  Information on the data held by the NILS and the other UK longitudinal studies can be found at as well as outlines of current and past research projects using these resources.

How to apply?

To apply for one of the staff-driven projects detailed below, please complete an application form on the Queen’s University Postgraduate Applications Portal. Please indicate that you wish to be considered for ‘funding administered by Queen’s University Belfast’ on the online application form. Note that the DfE Studentship application deadline is Friday 16 February 2018 at 5pm.

To be eligible for consideration for a DfE studentship (including a stipend of £14,777 and Home/EU fees), the candidate must have been ordinarily resident in the UK for 3 years (with no restrictions). EU residents may be eligible for studentship covering fees-only.

Further details regarding eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) are available at the following link:

General Information on Postgraduate Research In Geography

The School warmly welcomes all enquiries regarding MPhil and PhD research in geography (physical and human).

There are two possible routes to devising a suitable PhD / MPhil topic. The first is to construct a proposal in consultation with a potential supervisor based in the School. The second is to apply for a staff-driven proposal. It is possible to apply for a place to study towards a PhD at any time. Part-time study is possible for self-funded students. Deadlines for funding competitions relevant to UK/EU applicants vary and details are provided below. We are delighted to receive applications from international/non-EEA students at any time. APPLY HERE: Postgraduate Applications Portal


Doctorates are awarded for the creation and interpretation of knowledge through original research. This requires the ability to conceptualise, design and implement projects for the generation of significant new knowledge and understanding. The programme runs for 3 year full-time or 6 years part-time.


An MPhil is similar to the PhD, but is undertaken over a shorter period of time. Entry to the MPhil programme normally requires at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate discipline. The programme runs for 2 years full-time or 4 years part-time.


For a place to pursue PhD and MPhil postgraduate studies, we normally require an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) as a minimum in geography or a related subject. Please note that there are differences between entrance requirements and requirements for funding, which are assessed separately. 

The School is normally allocated a number of research studentships each year relevant to UK/EU applicants. These studentships are managed through School. To apply, please indicate that you wish to be considered for ‘funding administered by Queen’s University Belfast’ on the online application form. 

Suitably qualified applicants applying for a project orientated towards the humanities will also be eligible for a Northern Bridge (AHRC) studentship. For further details of this competition, please visit the Northern Bridge website: Note that the deadline for applications is 5pm Wednesday 10 January 2018. If you have further inquiries about this funding opportunity, please contact Dr Diarmid Finnegan (

Suitably qualified applicants applying for a project orientated towards the social sciences may be eligible for a NINES (ESRC DTP) scholarship. Further details can be found here: Note that the deadline for applications is 5pm Friday 12 January 2018.

There is a residency requirement (UK, EU) for all three funding schemes. Funding for non-EEA students varies by country. For examples of international funding opportunities through Queen’s for 2018-19 please see here: Applicants who are non-EEA nationals must satisfy the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) requirements for English language for visa purposes.


Staff-Driven Projects offered for DfE Studentships

Hidden Heritage: Understanding Rapid Environmental Change, Cultural Adaptation and Heritage Resilience in Majuli

Supervisors: Dr. M. Satish Kumar, Dr William Megarry and Prof. Ruth Morrow

Majuli, Assam is the largest inhabited river island and carbon neutral- biodiverse heritage site in the world. Home to over 160,000 people, the island of Majuli as a living testimony of the 450-year-old cultural heritage, housing 243 small and large villages whose population has demonstrated incredible ability to adapt their existence to the changing dynamics of its ecosystem over the centuries. Situated in the Brahmaputra river, the island is seasonally flooded during monsoon season. Erosional and depositional processes annually change the landscape however increasing meltwater caused by global warming has resulted in more severe flooding during the last century. Some reports suggest that as much as 60% of the island has been lost over the last 100 years. Much of this loss has also been exacerbated by deforestation. The loss of both settlements and agricultural land continues to have a huge impact on local communities. It also threatens the island’s rich cultural heritage. The island is home to a unique continuous 16th century Vaishnavite religious and cultural traditional traditions based in over 30 Satras (religious monastic institutions). It is also home to a wealth of intangible cultural heritage including rich traditions of pottery making and weaving. This heritage led to the island being placed on the Indian Tentative World Heritage List in 2004. This interdisciplinary project will explore how local communities in Majuli have adapted to (and continue to adapt to) rapid landscape change and how these adaptations might be applied elsewhere to respond to climate change. It will also explore how cultural heritage (both tangible and intangible) can be preserved as the pace of landscape change increases.   

Resilience and adaptation of muddy flooding mitigation to climate change

Supervisors:Dr D. Mullan and Dr J. McKinley

Muddy flooding occurs when prolonged or intense rainfall generates runoff on agricultural land, triggering the detachment and transport of considerable quantities of suspended sediment and resulting in its deposition in the neighbouring natural and built environment1. Spanning parts of southern England and northwest continental Europe, the European Loess Belt is particularly vulnerable to muddy flooding. Damages to private property and public infrastructure from muddy flooding events incur considerable expense. In the UK, cost estimates include figures up to €1.45 million from a single event in 2001, while an event in May 2016 was costed at €4.4m in Riemst, Belgium. Annual costs of up to €172 million have been estimated for central Belgium. Policy across Europe to directly tackle soil erosion and muddy flooding is lacking. The most comprehensive of the few direct policies within the EU is the ‘Erosion Act’ of 2001 implemented by the Flemish government to fund mitigation measures. A pilot project set up in the 200km2 Melsterbeek catchment in Flanders found that mitigation measures such as conservation tillage, grass buffer strips and earth dams/retention ponds considerably reduced muddy flooding and are cost-effective within three years2. A recent pilot project for a case study hillslope within the Melsterbeek catchment revealed that these currently successful mitigation measures may become compromised under a changing climate3. Using a mix of field monitoring, computer modelling and consultation with stakeholders, this project aims to examine how existing muddy flooding mitigation measures can be adapted to make them more resilient to future climate change.


1Boardman J. 2010. A short history of muddy floods. Land Degradation and Development. 21, 303-309.

2Evrard E, Persoons E, Vandaele K, Van Wesemael B. 2007. Efeectiveness of erosion mitigation measures to prevent muddy floods: A case study in the Belgian loam belt. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 118, 149-158.

3Mullan D, Vandaele K, Boardman J, Meneely J, Crossley LH. 2016. Modelling the effectiveness of grass buffer strips in managing muddy floods under a changing climate. Geomorphology. 270, 102-120.



Dr Merav Amir

Dr Iestyn Barr

Dr Oliver Dunnett

Dr Paul Ell

Dr Diarmid Finnegan

Dr Nuala Johnson

Dr Satish Kumar

Professor Keith Lilley

Professor David Livingstone

Dr Jenny McKinley

Dr William Megarry

Dr Donal Mullan

Dr Helen Roe

Dr Alastair Ruffell

Dr Ian Shuttleworth

Dr Tristan Sturm

Dr Patricia Warke