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MPhil/PhD at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources

About our MPhil/PhD Programme

Research degrees are awarded for the most advanced level of study available at UCL. The purpose of these degrees is to prove the capacity to organise, carry out and write up a substantial piece of research, presented in a thesis, which demonstrates academic rigour and originality.

At the UCL ISR, students work alongside experienced researchers in a dynamic, multidisciplinary environment. 

Read more about our students and current research projects.

Find out how to apply for Independent Study.

Programme objectives

The main and final product of the programme of study is the thesis, on the examination of which the result of the degree rests. At UCL there is no public oral examination: the oral examination of the candidate is conducted in private, usually by two examiners (and on occasion a third), at least one of whom is external to UCL and both of whom have read the thesis previously.

The award of an MPhil or PhD is considered proof of competence in the devising and carrying out of a programme of research. A PhD, in addition, is regarded as evidence of originality in thought and critical judgement.

At the end of your studies students are awarded a PhD in Sustainable Resources with one or more of the following sub categories;

- Sustainable Water Use, Sustainable Mineral Use, Sustainable Marine Use, Sustainable Biomass Use, Sustainable Energy Use, Sustainable Energy Use

- Economics, Engineering, Environment, Human Dimensions, Modelling, Policy. 

Sustainable Use of Resources and the Environment

In 2015-16 UCL ISR’s PhD cohort reached 21, a large proportion of whom are working on collaborative projects measuring regional progress towards or away from environmental sustainability. Eight of our students are focusing on defining ‘the sustainable use of resources’ for specific resource and environmental themes, and computing the ‘sustainability gap’ between current and sustainable use of the resources, before moving on to apply this understanding of sustainability to some other theme related to their resource. Another 4 students are using the concept of sustainability to explore cross-cutting aspects of resource use, related to cities, business, political economy and modelling the green economy. This will surely be one of the largest and most wide-ranging research programmes into sustainable resource use in the world.

UCL ISR hosts a number of PhD/doctoral studentships funded by BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and various research councils along with a number of other self funded students.

Spotlight on: Measuring Sustainability Gaps

By Melissa C. Lott, Doctoral Researcher, UCL ISR

Melissa Lott

In September 2013 the UCL ISR welcomed a new cohort of PhD students from countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. The group is developing a detailed indicator used in measuring regional progress toward or away from environmental sustainability. Broadly supervised by ISR Professors Paul Ekins and Raimund Bleischwitz, the team will bring contributions from its individual members together to form a more complete set of science-based sustainability indicators.

This work stems from Professor Ekins’ research at the University of London, where he developed the “sustainability gap” (SGAP) metric.  The SGAP is designed to measure the difference between current impact levels and sustainable limits. It is then used to calculate the “Years-to-Sustainability” (YtS) indicator, which describes a region’s progress over time either toward or away from sustainability. Over the next 12-18 months, the new group of PhDs will update the SGAP methodology and then expand their work into subareas according to their own interests.

A core group of eight resources

The SGAP methodology is based on the sustainability concepts of natural capital and ecosystem functions – that is, the value of the services that nature provides to society. To that end, it integrates several types of natural resources for many services. In order to more comprehensively cover this topic, the SGAP researchers are each working in one of eight focus areas:

Three additional projects will be completed on complimentary topics:

  • Environmental regulation and Creative Destruction – Nino Jordan
  • Modelling Paths to Sustainability, Climate Change – Victor Nechifor
  • Public Policies for Natural Resource Use – Ruya Perincek

In bringing together 14 researchers to look at a single sustainability metric, this group has a rare ability to refine a comprehensive set of indicators for the United Kingdom. As a result, their work will create a more complete picture of the relationships between natural resources in national sustainability trends.