You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.
Research degrees
Research areas


Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
(MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October January to April
PhD (MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
January to April

Space law and governance seeks to understand and develop the legal and governance structures around and within astrobiology.

Our objectives are to:

  • promote best practice for the development of governance frameworks within astrobiology
  • ensure the cross-pollination of ideas between Astrobiology and the disciplines of law, governance and regulations.

Within AstrobiologyOU, we have a desire to protect the scientific value of space for future study, particularly in relation to future life detection missions. The ‘planetary protection’ guidelines are designed to avoid ‘harmful contamination’ of planets and other Solar System bodies so that if (or when) we find life we can be sure that it is indigenous and has not been transported there from Earth.

Our governance research within astrobiology therefore looks at whether the existing planetary protection guidelines are adequate and how they might be further developed and strengthened. We also evaluate governments’ responsibility for ensuring that the activities conducted in space avoid ‘harmful contamination’ of the planets and other celestial bodies in the Solar System, as required by the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

As our activities beyond Earth expand and multiply the need for effective governance will only become more imperative.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Current/recent research projects

  • Lessons learnt from Earth: Can COSPAR be used for the enhancement of planetary protection and the cooperation and promotion of explorations of outer space activities by utilising space governance and astrobiology?

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,500 per year Full time: £14,769 per year
Part time: £2,250 per year Part time: £7,384 per year

For detailed information about fees and funding, and to see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, visit Fees and studentships.


Footprint on the moon

How to apply

Get in touch

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Email: AstrobiologyOU

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.