The Department is one of the oldest in Britain, offering excellent opportunities for research in both Human and Physical Geography.

Our research is organised into three broad research themes spanning the breadth of Geography and beyond, with academic staff producing research of the highest international quality. We have first-class facilities including specialised scientific laboratories, international and national connections with academic institutions and government agencies and a diverse population of postgraduate students which reflects these links. We have a track record of undertaking research locally, nationally and in some of the remotest parts of the world and an interdisciplinary perspective is evident in active links with other Departments across the University including, Archaeology, Biological Sciences, Computing Science, Engineering, Geology, Mathematics, Sociology and Economics.

The Graduate School offers an induction programme and skills training opportunities for all research students to support their studies and to help with career planning.

MSc by Research

Students undertake a research project under the guidance of an academic supervisor and, unlike a postgraduate taught degree by coursework and dissertation, there are no formal lectures or seminars and work is not formally examined until after the final thesis is submitted. The thesis is required to display evidence of originality or present a satisfactory, orderly and critical exposition of existing knowledge within the field concerned.


A PhD is a Doctorate of Philosophy, a prestigious qualification that demonstrates talent, academic excellence and a thirst for knowledge. It usually culminates in a thesis based on research carried out over the course of 3-4 years. The research must “make a distinct contribution to knowledge and afford evidence of originality as shown by the exercise of independent critical powers”. There are no formal lectures or seminars but your work will be periodically qualitatively monitored by the Graduate School.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Degree Qualification
MRes, MSc or PhD

Our Research

Our research is organised into three broad research themes:

Smart Sustainable Futures

Human Geography research at the University of Aberdeen focuses on core strengths centred around the theme of Smart Sustainable Futures. Key elements include our Low Carbon Society theme, which focuses on the global challenge of transitioning to a low carbon and sustainable society; our well-established work in Rural Sustainability, which includes work on rural resilience, agricultural policy, and digital divides; and Transport and Mobility, which focuses on the sustainability of transport systems, emphasising public transport and intelligent mobility. Our vision is to build successful and vibrant research collaborations that identify theoretical insights and practical pathways to enhance environmental, social, and economic wellbeing through high quality, impactful research.

Earth Surface Processes

This Physical Geography grouping focuses on Cryosphere and Climate and Hydrology and hosts the Northern Rivers Institute.

Cryosphere and Climate Change research spans a range of both spatial and time scales with the main focus on; ice-climate interactions (past, present and future), ice sheet mass balance and dynamics, glacial landform genesis and palaeoglaciology. Hydrological research is organised through the Northern Rivers Institute and focuses on; the application of tracing and tracer-aided modelling in the characterisation of hydrological systems and the ecohydrology of headwater catchments.


This Physical Geography grouping focuses on the reconstruction of long-term changes to environment, landscape and climate, with links to human activity during prehistory and early history. This is achieved through application of multiple techniques, using dedicated labs, including; palynology, plant macrofossil analysis, the use of non-pollen microfossils, peat geochemistry and stable isotopes. Most work is interdisciplinary involving work with archaeologists, biologists, chemists, historians, and climate modellers.

Fees and Funding

View the tuition fee rates

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


There are many opportunities at the University of Aberdeen to develop your knowledge, gain experience and build a competitive set of skills to enhance your employability. This is essential for your future career success. The Careers Service can help you to plan your career and support your choices throughout your time with us, from first to final year – and beyond.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Postgraduate Research School
University of Aberdeen
Crombie Hall
AB24 3TS