Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability PhD/EngD

Key information

Full-time - 36/48 months

Start date:
September 2023

Part-time -

Start date:
September 2023

Why choose this programme

The University of Surrey has been leading the way in environmental and sustainability research for more than 25 years. The diversity of Surrey’s interests in environment and sustainability research, and the breadth of our staff’s expertise, means we can support PhD/EngD studies ranging across a full spectrum of sustainability research, including pure social science approaches, natural sciences and engineering. The majority of our research in these areas adopts multidisciplinary approaches, which we’ve pioneered for many years.

Our PhD/EngD in Sustainability allows you to pursue research studies at doctoral level while gaining invaluable research experience in a prestigious organisation external to the University, enabling you to apply your knowledge to real-life sustainability issues. You’ll have the unique opportunity to further your research knowledge in the academic field of sustainability and apply this to an external partner organisation.

This programme is aimed at high-achieving researchers and graduates whose vision is to become a sustainability leader in industry. You’ll receive in-depth industry experience with a bespoke taught programme of advanced technical and specialised business modules.

The Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability PhD/EngD falls within the world-leading Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES), internationally recognised for multi-disciplinary research and teaching across all areas of sustainability. Collaborative research is carried out across the University, giving you an excellent opportunity to learn from, and contribute to, this vital domain of human development.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

This unique programme offers you the opportunity to pursue your research studies at doctoral level and take a role in industry, applying your knowledge in the ‘real world’. You’ll further your research knowledge in the academic field of sustainability and apply this to a real challenge, spending the majority of your time within an external partner organisation.

You’ll be based at the University for the first 12 weeks of the programme. Here you’ll undertake a series of sustainability modules and personal development workshops, which will equip you for your time in industry. You’ll then move to your industry premises where you’ll integrate into the company, making your applied research relevant to the company and potentially the wider sector.

You’ll have two academic supervisors, one from CES and one from another relevant University department. You’ll also have an industry supervisor, who’ll work alongside you on a day-to-day basis. The academic role of the supervisors is to guide and help train you in becoming an independent researcher whose thesis and associated publications and conference presentations make a contribution to academic and practical knowledge. You’ll closely collaborate with your supervisors, who’ll monitor your research progress at monthly and formal appraisal points.

The programme is assessed by formal progress reports at six-monthly intervals, a confirmation report, a viva, and by submission and oral examination of a final thesis by independent external and internal examiners.

You’ll also have the opportunity to complete four specified taught modules from the CES masters programme in order to qualify for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) professional membership at Associate level. Completion of the PhD also provides strong support for application for the Managerial Full IEMA membership and Chartered Environmentalist level. Depending on the focus of the PhD research, it would similarly offer strong contributions to chartered status with other professional bodies, such as those in engineering.

Each year, researchers come together for a variety of events including our annual conference, the Roland Clift Lecture, the P3Connect series of talks, a writing retreat, the CES retreat, and various seminars and training activities.


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

Research themes

The following give some examples of areas that our PGR students work on:  

  • Sustainable development policies and practices 
  • Energy, water, food nexus 
  • Behaviour change 
  • Waste systems 
  • Sustainable transportation 
  • Built environment 
  • Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage 
  • Smart local energy systems 
  • Social research on sustainability 
  • Lifestyles and resource consumption 
  • Resource consumption and land use 
  • Vertical farming 
  • Sustainable systems: design and modelling 
  • Life cycle assessment, including social LCA and life cycle costing 
  • Carbon and water foot printing 
  • Low carbon energy supply 
  • Developing futures pathways 
  • Energy demand and efficiency 
  • Policy and strategy: for governments and businesses 
  • International development and sustainability.

Find out more about the Centre for Environment and Sustainability.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Centre for Environment and Sustainability.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual component.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

Due to the challenging nature of the research projects and the fact that DPs will work at the partner organisation’s premises, it is likely that candidates with some work experience (eg, at least a year of professional training that is assessed and integrated into the degree programme) will have an advantage in the selection process.

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Start date: September 2023


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

How to apply

In order to be on this research course, you will first have to apply for a relevant studentship, and then will be enrolled onto this course following a successful studentship application. All studentship opportunities are subject to industry funding. Positions will therefore be advertised on the studentships site,,, and via Twitter, once a project has been agreed between the programme and the relevant company concerned.

Applications will be via email only until the interview process has been completed. All studentships start in October and there are no other starting points during the year.

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

Read more information on the application process.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2022/2023 academic year as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH