Self-funded PhD students only

Project code



School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences

Start dates

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. Please see the Earth and Environmental Sciences Postgraduate Research Degree page for further opportunities. 

This 3-year self-funded PhD will be based in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences and will be supervised by Dr Julia Brown.

The work on this project will:

  • investigate the different spaces produced during the most recent refugee ‘crisis’ and examine the relationship between institutional and informal camps
  • investigate the procedures of identification, registration and rejection
  • identify centres (or other locations) that welcome asylum-seekers; to explore life in such centres
  • investigate the production and functioning of makeshift camps and examine their relation with institutional ‘camps’.

More than a million migrants reached Europe seeking asylum in 2015 alone, escaping war, oppression, famine and dictatorial regimes.

Despite a moral obligation and responsibility to offer asylum and protection to those in need, European states’ responses have alternated between reception and assistance, and episodes of refoulement (i.e. turning away asylum seekers, which under international law is illegal) and the erection of border fences and walls (e.g. Hungary).

This project aims to investigate the different spaces (institutional and informal) produced by the current refugee ‘crisis’ and will address the gaps in the European management of this.

The research is situated within the growing interest into the effects and impact of the recent episodes of forced migration. In particular, it will investigate European states’ management of migrants and their asylum applications by examining the different geographies that such management produces.

Indeed, concerns over security have seen European countries increasingly use both old detention facilities and establish new centres where migrants are hosted while their asylum applications are processed.

While these are technically set-up to provide humanitarian support and respond to migrants’ basic needs, these spaces and centres, in different ways, reinforce the logic of ‘emergency’ and often do not offer a proper and efficient integration process.

The logic of emergency with which arrivals have been handled in institutional centres has also led to the emergence of other and very different geographies.

Different reception and hospitality centres have become part of greater networks of refugee spaces. Migrants may be redistributed to different centres while they wait for their asylum application to be processed, but also ‘dispersed’ and ‘abandoned’ if their asylum applications are rejected (among others see Garelli and Tazzioli 2016).

In some cases, the lack of integration and/or the inefficiency of the system have resulted in the production of makeshift camps. These are spaces produced by migrants as they wait for an opportunity to regularise their position; get by through informal economies (often exploited or becoming victims or part of criminal networks); or cross a boundary to find fortune in another country or reunite with family members and personal connections. Situations like these have often led to the production of informal settlements in the peripheries of cities or in proximity of borders.

This research is part of a broader engagement within the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences with the lives and spaces of refugees and the need to find sustainable solutions in forced migration contexts.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

2021/2022 fees (applicable for October 2021 and February 2022 start)

PhD and MPhil

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,500 p/a**

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,250 p/a**

International full-time students: £17,600 p/a*

International part-time students: £8,800 p/a*

PhD by Publication 

External candidates: £4,407*

Members of staff: £1,720 

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2021/22 please visit this page.

*This is the 2020/21 UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) maximum studentship fee; this fee will increase to the 2021/22 UKRI maximum studentship fee when UKRI announces this rate in Spring 2021.

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university ( first or upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in geography or related subject area
  • In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications
  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0

How to apply

Please contact Dr Julia Brown ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency (if applicable) and an up-to-date CV.

Please also submit a research proposal (up to 1000 words), which includes:

  • An introduction to the topic, including background and context
  • Aims and objectives
  • Summary and justification of research methods
  • Timeline of work
  • Anticipated outcomes

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process and writing a research proposal.

Please note, to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code GEOG4860219 when applying.

October start

Apply now

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