PhD Browser

PhD in Architecture

University of Cambridge
Department of Architecture
Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
United Kingdom
Architecture & Design

The PhD in Architecture is a three year research degree offering the opportunity for independent research under the supervision of a departmental member of staff. Unless the student becomes a member of a research group, the research is undertaken entirely by the candidate on their own, with regular supervisions on progress with their supervisor.


The Department welcomes applications from graduates to undertake research towards an PhD degree in most areas or architectural research, but is unable to offer places to candidates for whom no supervisor is available. Applicants are admitted who meet the course requirements and whose research interests match those of an available member of the academic staff.


Please note that the Department does not offer a taught PhD programme, unlike, for example, many North American Universities.




The PhD in Architecture is a three year programme which commences in October each year. It is also available on a five year part-time basis. Students submit their dissertations at the end of their third full-time year (or part-time equivalent) and will be invited to attend an oral examination up to three months after submitting.


The programme involves minimal formal teaching. Students will usually have their supervisors confirmed before they have begun their course in October and will typically meet for 45 minutes on a fortnightly basis during term time. A bespoke programme is evolved by the student in conjunction with their supervisor and will include attendance at the Department’s programme of research seminars and other relevant graduate courses. Attending lectures is optional but students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of lectures offered in the Department, their college and other departments and faculties relevant to their research topics.


As well as the research and skills training programme offered by the Department of Architecture, students have the opportunity to develop their research skills by attending numerous courses, such as those related to the use of bibliographic resources and other databases, and specific computer skills. Informal opportunities to develop research skills also exist through mentoring undergraduate students, contributing to our departmental journal, Scroope and other opportunities presented by fellow students and members of staff.


Students will be provided with feedback via supervisions and their supervisor’s termly reports which are available to them via their self-service pages on CamSIS.





Students will be provided with feedback via review exercises, supervisions and the supervisor’s termly reports.






Submission of a thesis, which is not to exceed 80,000 words. The thesis is examined by two examiners, and includes an oral examination which is usually held at the Faculty.


Footnotes, references and text within tables are to be counted within the word limit, but captions, appendices and bibliographies are excluded. Appendices (of no determined word length) may be permitted subject to the approval of the candidate’s supervisor (in consultation with the Degree Committee). Appendices should be confined to such items as catalogues, original texts, translations of texts, transcriptions of interview, or tables. Permission to include such appendices must be requested well in advance of the submission of the final thesis.




Candidates for the PhD are reviewed formally on an annual basis. In the third term, candidates submit a First Year Report. Candidates’ reports are assessed by two assessors and the candidate is invited to attend an oral assessment.


During their sixth term, candidates are required to give a presentation of their work to the Graduate Director(s), their supervisor and any other appropriate assessor approved by the supervisor. The candidate’s progress is assessed and documented in a short report.


The tenth term review ensures that candidates are on track to submit by the end of their fourth year at the very latest.


Candidates submit a log of their research activity which is assessed at each of the annual reviews described above.


Annual Reviews of Work


Students undertake an annual review of their work throughout their programme which is realised in different ways; for example, the production of a report or undertaking a presentation. The purpose of the reviews is to ensure that students are on track to submit a successful dissertation by the submission deadline. The first review also serves as a registration exercise, for which students have to submit a report of 10,000 words which is orally assessed by two assessors. The purpose of this exercise is to determine whether the student is suited to the demands of PhD research and to address any concerns if there are any.




Students submit a dissertation, of not more than 80,000 words (60,000 words for the MSc degree). The dissertation and the general field of knowledge within which it falls is orally examined by two examiners. At least one of the examiners will be external to the University.



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Admission Requirements



Course requirements:


Candidates accepted for this course will have a 1st class or a high 2i honours degree and, a Masters degree with 70% overall (or equivalent) in Architecture or a related discipline.


The University requires all applicants to demonstrate competence in the English language at a very high level before they begin their proposed course of study – adherence to this requirement is strict. You must be able to demonstrate that you are able to communicate in English at a level and in an idiom suitable to the subject. You will, therefore, need to provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum requirements for competence in English. For further information see Graduate Admissions Office.


How to Make an Application for the PhD in Architecture


If you do meet the course requirements, you are recommended to consult the list of our established University Teaching Officers (UTOs) and their research interests (see below for links to information about each of our UTOs). If one of our UTOs has relevant research interests to your own, please email them directly with a short research proposal of about 300 words, an example of your writing and a CV to determine whether they are potentially available to work with you as a supervisor before you make a formal application. See:



– Dr Ronita Bardhan – Data-driven built-environment design, spatial analysis and climate change, Big data for sustainability in the built-environment, design for demand side energy management


– Dr James Campbell – history of building construction, history of library design


– Dr Felipe Hernández – architectural and urban design, participatory design, social urbanism, history and theory


– Dr Ying Jin – city planning, urban design, and urban modelling


– Dr Michael Ramage – designing and building structural masonry spans using traditional techniques and new materials


– Professor Alan Short – passive and hybrid resilient, low-energy design strategies for new-builds and interventions in non-domestic buildings in different climates


– Dr Nicholas Simcik Arese – Social theory and urban planning, international development, property rights, youth, masculinity, migration, Middle East, Mediterranean, Mexico, legal geography, science and technology studies, anthropology of value, ethnography


– Dr Emily So – casualty estimation in earthquake loss modelling, risk in the built environment (Please note that she will not be taking PhD students for Entry 2019).


– Mary Ann Steane – light quality and the design of the visual environment, environmental issues


– Professor Koen Steemers – architectural and urban implications of environmental issues ranging from energy use to human comfort


– Dr Max Sternberg– architecture & philosophy, socio-politics of architecture, urban conflict, architectural history


– Dr Minna Sunikka-Blank – sustainable building policies, thermal retrofit, energy use behaviour, aesthetics of sustainable architecture


You are recommended to only make a formal application via the University’s Graduate Admissions Office, once an established UTO has confirmed that they would be interested to consider a formal application. Please note that an offer of admission to the University is subject to final approval by the University’s Graduate Admissions Office. Do not assume that you will be made an offer on the grounds that your prospective supervisor has suggested you make a formal application – this just represents the first stage of admission administration.


All applications must be made via the Applicant Portal available on the Graduate Admissions Office website. It is important that you read through the information available on the Graduate Admissions Office website before submitting your application. If you are already a current graduate student at Cambridge you will be referred to as a ‘Continuer’ on the Graduate Admissions Office website.


You will need to arrange for the following documents to be submitted with your application:


– Academic Reference(s)


– A Personal Reference will be required if you are applying for the Gates Cambridge Scholarship


– Transcript


– Evidence of Competence in English if English is not your first language


– Sample of Work – this could be a journal publication or a chapter from your undergraduate dissertation


– Research Proposal of 1000 – 1500 words should consist of a topic and a hypothesis, a literature review, a statement on method, and key references




The PhD in Architecture commences in October each year and applications for the course can be made from the preceding September. All applications must be made via the Applicant Portal available on the Graduate Admissions Office website. It is important that you read through the information available on the Graduate Admissions Office website before submitting your application.


The final deadline for applicants seeking funding is 7 January 2020. Even if you are not seeking funding, we strongly recommend that you submit your application by 7 January, as no applications will be accepted once this competitive and popular programme is full.


If places are still available on programmes beyond this deadline; self-funded applicants will continue to be considered until the final deadline of 15 May 2020. No applications will be considered after this deadline.




Information relating to the fee for this course is available from the Graduate Admissions Office.




If you are seeking funding for your course via one of the University’s main funding competitions, there are specific deadlines and eligibility criteria for each competition. Please check the Funding Section of the Graduate Admissions Office website for information and application deadlines.


Applicants classed as ‘Home’ or ‘EU’ for fees purposes and wish to research an AHRC approved research subject are eligible to be considered for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship. Applicants wishing to be considered for these awards need to check the appropriate box on the application form. Applicants will also need to ensure that they make their application by the funding competition deadline for Home/EU students. Please see the University’s AHRC DTP funding website for more information: together with the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP website:


The Department sometimes offers EPSRC awards for students classified as ‘Home’ or ‘EU’ for fees purposes. These awards are advertised on the Department’s website and other media during the Easter Term (Summer Term) if available. Applicants who have already applied for the PhD degree will automatically be considered for these awards if they meet the criteria for them.




When the application reaches the Department, it will be considered by the Department’s Graduate Admissions Team. Applicants may be invited for an interview in Cambridge, or, via Skype if it is not possible to travel to Cambridge. The Faculty’s Degree Committee will then consider the application and make a recommendation to the Graduate Admissions Office as to whether an offer of a place on the course should be made, and if so, with what academic conditions.


Please be aware that this process may take several months. You can check the status of your application at any time via your Applicant Portal.


Full information about making your application, Colleges, fees and funding opportunities is provided on the Graduate Admissions Office website pages.


For further information on graduate admission to the Department of Architecture contact:


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General information
3 years full time / 5 years part time
James W.P. Campbell
Not Confirmed
+44 01223 332950
Department of Architecture 1-5 Scroope Terrace Cambridge
Campus Location
The information of this PhD was extracted from the Official Website of the program.
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