Any questions about the PhD in Land Economy should be directed to the Department's Postgraduate Admissions Office via the following email address:

The course director for the PhD in Land Economy is Professor Jorge Viñuales, who can be contacted via the following email address:

Application Information

When applying to study for the PhD in Land Economy applicants are required to submit a detailed research proposal outlining their intended research topic, objectives and proposed methodology. The topic of research is the Candidate’s own choice and will be provisionally approved by the Degree Committee when accepting the applicant to the course.

Applicants are advised to consider carefully the topic of their PhD research. The research proposal submitted with the application should be sufficiently developed to give a clear indication of the research to be undertaken and to show that the topic is suitable for research at PhD level. It must cover the background and aims of the research; the methodology and data to be applied (if relevant); the analysis to be adopted; the possible conclusions to be reached.  The PhD is independent, student-led research and the Department does not provide applicants with suggestions for research topics or provide guidance on how an initial research idea should be developed.

In all cases a suitable and available supervisor must be identified before the Department will make an applicant an offer of a place. Normally, it will be a member of the Department.

The Department expects applicants to investigate the research interests and expertise of the academic and research staff prior to making a formal application. More information on the research interests of academic staff in Land Economy can be found at:

The name(s) of academic and research staff who have been identified by the applicant as possible supervisors for the research should be clearly stated in the relevant field of the application form.  Information on the Department’s research and the work of academic staff are available from this website.  The Department will not accept a student whose proposed research falls outside its areas of interest or if it believes that Cambridge is not the most appropriate place to undertake the research both in terms of location and the expertise available. If a suggested supervisor is unable to accept a candidate, the Department will ensure the application is reviewed by any other members of staff who may be suitable.

Ultimately allocation of a supervisor is the responsibility of the Department's Degree Committee. Informal agreement between a member of staff and a student is therefore not in itself guarantee that an offer of a place will be made, or that the relevant member of staff will be the allocated supervisor.  This will only be confirmed following consideration of a formal application.

Please note the Department and its academic staff are not in a position to enter into lengthy discussion with applicants about potential research topics and/or supervision arrangements prior to receipt of a formal application. 

Structure of the PhD

Land Economy offers a full-time PhD programme. The Department currently has over 70 PhD students at different stages of the programme, working in a range of areas.

The Department is part of the University's ESRC Doctoral Training Centre for Social Sciences.

Candidates are not registered for the PhD programme in the first instance. They are required instead to come into residence and commence their research, and to be assessed towards the end of their first year of full-time study, or equivalent for part-time study. This assessment is based on a written report submitted by the candidate and a discussion with two assessors. The assessment will take stock of the progress made by the candidate to date, the scope and method of the research and the expected contribution to knowledge. For those then registered for the PhD programme, credit is usually given for all the terms of study successfully completed.

Early in the seventh term there will be a further formal assessment of progress. This assessment follows a similar format to the first year assessment.

Additional research training
Part Time Study

Examination for the PhD is by submission of a thesis (up to 80,000 words) and oral examination. The Degree Committee will usually appoint one internal and one external examiner to undertake the examination. Depending on the time of year, the thesis can be “under examination” for between two to four months.


Whilst there are no mandatory taught elements to the PhD degree, on the recommendation of their supervisor Candidate’s may be required to undertake specific additional research training. This will usually be undertaken in the first year of the PhD and may range from advanced research methods to more generic skills. Such training may be desirable either to build upon existing skills, or to equip a Candidate with essential new skills (i.e. those not gained through their Masters course or other relevant prior experience). Students may draw upon modules offered by the Social Science Research Methods Centre (SSRMC) Training Programme, as well as those run by other Departments.

The Department also operates a series of weekly seminars throughout the Michaelmas and Lent terms aimed specifically at PhD students. These seminars cover areas such as the development of individual research programmes, choice of research methodologies, ethics, as well as other transferable skills such as presentation, career development and publication. This programme compliments the University’s own Graduate Development Programme.

Land Economy offers a part-time route to the PhD. This might be suitable for someone who is employed in the Cambridge region and whose employer views such a programme of study as representing valuable staff development; or who works part-time, or who is home based for whatever reason, and wants to develop his-her research skills. Current employees of the University of Cambridge are also eligible to apply. Details on the terms of study are available on the University's website here.

Applicants should note that the part-time route is not a distance learning degree. Students will be expected to live close enough to Cambridge to fulfil attendance requirements and meet regularly with their supervisor. In all cases, applicants to the part-time route are required to undergo an interview before any formal offer of a place can be made.

Further information is available here.


MPhil to PhD

MPhil candidates wishing to pursue a PhD with the Department may apply to continue as a Graduate Student via the Board of Graduate Studies. Each application is considered carefully by the Department and by the Degree Committee. Approval of an application will depend on three criteria:

  • availability of a supervisor;
  • the approval by the Degree Committee of a research proposal; and
  • the achievement of a minimum overall mark and minimum dissertation mark in the MPhil examination as prescribed by the Degree Committee.

Full details of the application procedure for continuing students are given on the Graduate Admissions Office website. Students wishing to continue are advised to apply early in the academic year and to be aware that funding deadlines are also often early in the applications cycle. In all cases, approval to continue is subject to the final examinations results and approval from the Degree Committee.

In brief

Course information

Course Length 

Full-time - a minimum of 9 terms of study (3 years)

The PhD can also be taken on a part-time basis - please see below for more information.