The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links, and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Research involves the full breadth of the earth sciences and has benefited from major investment in new laboratories and equipment in the past few years. Important initiatives include experimental and theoretical studies of the physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) in a discipline related to the PhD project for which you are applying, such as geology, biological sciences, environmental sciences, chemistry or mathematics.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level E.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,758 per year
UK: part-time
£2,379 per year
Overseas: full-time
£26,000 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Bench fees

For postgraduate research students who are not funded by UK Research Councils or (specific) UK charities, it is usual to charge a bench fee. A bench fee covers the costs of laboratory consumables, specialist equipment and other relevant costs (such as training) for the duration of the programme. The bench fee charged can vary considerably depending on the nature of the programme being undertaken. Details of specific bench fee charges can be provided on request and will be made clear in the offer letter sent to applicants.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

If you wish to be considered for NERC GW4+ DTP funding for this programme you need to apply for Geology PhD. Please also refer to the NERC GW4+ DTP prospectus page for guidance in making a PhD application.

Typically, around 20 new PhD students start their studies in the school each year. A group of these are funded by the NERC GW4+ DTP, but there are many other possible sources of funding such as BBSRC, EPSRC, STFC or industry funding, China Scholarship Council studentships, and other country-specific schemes.

Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.

Career prospects

A large proportion of our graduating PhD students continue to post-doctoral research and an academic career. Previous students have taken up post-doctoral positions in national and international laboratories, for example in New Zealand, Switzerland, Germany, the US and China. A number of recent alumni now have permanent lectureship positions in institutions including the University of St Andrews, University of Liverpool and Harvard University.

Some of our students embark on industrial careers in an area that relates to their PhD studies. Other careers include teaching, publishing and management consultancy.

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


Research groups

The research programme at Bristol is characterised by an expanding range of exciting subject areas. Research in the School of Earth Sciences encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between its six research groups, which in turn nurtures revolutionary research.


The Geochemistry group uses fundamental chemical techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This can be from single atoms on mineral surfaces and the environmental geochemistry of the modern Earth to the large-scale chemical structure of planets and the birth of the solar system. The group has considerable expertise in isotopic measurements, spectroscopy and first-principles calculations.


Geophysics uses physical properties of the solid Earth to measure structure and processes on scales from the single crystal to the entire planet. Members of the Bristol Geophysics group use gravity, seismic and satellite data to image the Earth in a variety of different contexts. These include the Earth's core, mantle and tectonic processes, volcanoes, oil and gas reservoirs and mines.


The MATES (Marine and Terrestrial Environments) research group uses a wide range of techniques and facilities across the school to understand processes of relevance to any and all environments (surface, subsurface, marine) or that take place in an environmental context. MATES is highly interdisciplinary in both membership and the research that is undertaken, and spans the fields of Earth surface processes, environmental geochemistry and mineralogy, marine geosciences, fluid-rock interaction and geomicrobiology.


The Palaeobiology group uses the fossil record to study the history of life. Research focuses on major diversifications, mass extinctions, dating the tree of life, phylogenomics and molecular palaeobiology, morphological innovation, biomechanics, and links between evolution and development; the organisms of interest range from foraminifera to dinosaurs.


The Petrology group uses a combination of high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, petrology, geochemistry and mineral physics to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth - from the core to the surface.


The Volcanology group at Bristol aims to understand the physical processes underlying volcanic phenomena and develop methods of hazard and risk assessment that can be applied to volcanoes worldwide.

Recent case studies and collaborators include the Met Office, Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland and INGEOMINAS in Columbia.

Research centres

The School of Earth Sciences is involved in a number of collaborative research groups on an international level. Inter-faculty research centres such as the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Cabot Institute involve collaboration across several departments and faculties.

  • Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows
    This interdisciplinary research centre brings together expertise from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. This creates diverse research activities and interests, from traffic flow to explosive volcanic flows, meteorology to oceanography.
  • Biogeochemistry Research Centre
    The Biogeochemistry Research Centre involves staff from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Chemistry. The research aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.
  • Bristol Isotope Group
    The Bristol Isotope Group is a world-class research facility for isotope measurements directed at understanding natural processes, from the formation of the solar system and the origin of Earth - its deep structure and atmosphere - through to the evolution of that atmosphere and contemporary climate change.
  • Interface Analysis Centre
    The Interface Analysis Centre specialises in the application of a wide range of analytical techniques and is used by the Schools of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics.
  • The Cabot Institute
    The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Interests include climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment.
  • Coral Reef Research at Bristol (CRAB)
    The research group reflects the interdisciplinary nature of coral reef science and strives to understand these beautiful, complex and highly important ecosystems, combining perspectives from biology, chemistry, geology and geography. Members of the group span the Faculties of Science and Life Sciences, coming from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences and Geographical Sciences.
  • Bristol Oceans Past and Present (BOPP)
    BOPP's main focus is to further understand the chemical and physical conditions of the oceans, both past and present. Our study of the oceans is made possible through the use of a diverse range geochemical techniques applied to geological, biological and oceanographic samples.

Contact us


Gillian Andrews, Postgraduate Administrator

+44 (0) 117 3315133