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PhD in Architecture

PhD in Architecture

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 Martin Centre constitutes the research arm of the Department and is home to the Department’s; Cities and Transport, Sustainable Building, Digital Studio, History and Theory, Cambridge University Centre for Risk in the Built Environment (CURBE), Conflict in Cities, Natural Materials and Structures, Cambridge Design Research Studio and Cities South of Cancer. 

The Martin Centre is one of the leading architectural research units in Britain, with over four decades of successful global research for government and industry.  Research typically crosses traditional research boundaries:  transportation and buildings, history and philosophy of architecture, digital media design and communication, risk assessment and mitigation in the built environment, and territorial conflict in divided cities. A rich and exciting environment of collaboration exists, with other departments within the University, and with other institutions within the UK, Europe, the U.S, China, Africa and the Middle East.

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 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.

Course Structure & Examination

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.

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.

At a Glance

Course length and dates:

3 years full-time/5 years part-time, October start.


A dissertation of not more than 80,000 words. 

Academic requirement:

A 1st class or a high 2i honours degree in Architecture or a related discipline, and a Masters degree with distinction (if a distinction category exists).

English language requirement:

See Graduate Admissions Office

Applications accepted from:

The preceding September.

Application Deadlines:

The final deadline for applicants seeking funding is 4 January 2018, but earlier deadlines will apply (for example if you are an overseas applicant from outside of the EU). Even if you are not seeking funding, we strongly recommend that you submit your application by 4 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 31 May 2018.  No applications will be considered after this deadline.

Course Fees:

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.