Governance and ethics

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

The question of whether life exists beyond Earth is eons old, yet it is only relatively recently that space missions have been launched to help answer this. These missions undoubtedly provide benefits to society, with innovations and technologies that make our lives better, but they are not without challenges. Searching for life beyond Earth has specific scientific, governance and ethical dimensions that our research explores, including engaging with planetary protection principles, exploring who has the right to space and for what purpose, identifying practices and conduct on Earth that underpins space research and ensures sustainability.

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.

Potentialresearch projects

  • Anti-colonial and decolonial approaches to outer spaces
  • Indigenous cosmologies and conceptions of space exploration
  • Uses of space technologies in the Global South
  • Conflicts around space infrastructure on Earth

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?
  • The use of space technologies in International Development, Opportunities and Challenges

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £15,698 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £7,849 per year

Some of our research students are funded via Doctoral Training Partnerships; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current 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.