Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability PHD/EngD

Why choose this course

The University of Surrey has been leading the way in environmental and sustainability research for over 25 years. The diversity of Surrey’s interests in environment and sustainability research, and the breadth of our staff’s expertise, means that 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 have 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 will 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 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.

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 will further your research knowledge in the academic field of sustainability and apply this to a real challenge, spending the majority of your time within the external partner organisation. 

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

You will have two academic supervisors, one from CES and one from another relevant University department. You will also have an industry supervisor who will 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 will closely collaborate with your supervisors, who will 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 will 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.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PHD/EngD Full-time 36/48 months January 2019
PHD/EngD Full-time 36/48 months October 2018
PHD/EngD Full-time 36/48 months July 2018
PHD/EngD Full-time 36/48 months April 2018

Additional costs

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

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).

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
  • Social research on sustainability
  • Lifestyles and resource consumption
  • Resource consumption and land use
  • Sustainable systems: design and modelling
  • Life cycle assessment, including social LCA and Life Cycle Costing
  • Carbon and water footprinting
  • Low carbon energy supply
  • Energy demand and efficiency
  • Policy and strategy: for governments and businesses
  • International development and sustainability

Our academic staff

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).

View 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. The University of Surrey is also an IELTS test centre.

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.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Oversees fees
Full-time January 2019 £4,260 £20,500
Full-time October 2018 £4,260 £20,500
Full-time July 2018 £4,195 £20,000
Full-time April 2018 £4,195 £20,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, 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 2018 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.


We have a host of partly and fully-funded studentship opportunities available.

Life Cycle Assessment: Composite Materials and Products

Funding information:
The successful candidate will receive a generous stipend of £18,000 per annum throughout this time (with potential to increase to c. £20,000 per annum after two years). Stipends are usually tax-free and DPs will also benefit from an additional £500 p.a. allowance for attendance at conferences etc. In addition to this, full-time tuition fees (£4,195) will be covered at the current Home/EU rate for the duration of the programme.

Development of novel radiation-grafted powder ionomers for use in high performance alkali membrane fuel cells

Funding information:
Funding status: Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students only) EU/UK  fees for 3 years: 2018-19 level £4195 Standard stipend for 3 years: 2017-18 level £14,553 £5k bench fees across three-year project

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