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Sustainable Development - Research

This programme is a UCD Urban Institute Ireland (UII) initiative with support from three UCD Schools:

The UCD School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering

The UCD School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Policy

The UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

This is a four year programme following the UCD Structured PhD Framework,incorporating taught modules and a research internship, followed by a program of original research leading to the award of Doctoral (or Masters) degrees by research. The programme began in the academic year 2008/09 and there are currently 10 PhD students under the programme in the UII.

The existing PhD Programme in Sustainable Development was extended in 2009/2010 to include collaboration with TrinityHaus in Trinity College Dublin (TCD), where there are 3 additional PhD students.

This is a four year programme which follows the UCD Structured PhD Framework, incorporating taught modules and a research internship, followed by a program of original research leading to the award of Doctoral (or Masters) degrees by research.

Entry requirements

Who is the programme aimed at?
The PhD programme in Sustainable Development will produce graduates who are trained to apply technical and policy tools from different disciplines to complex problems for which there is no known solution. The programme is aimed at prospective postgraduate researchers from a range of disciplines who wish to pursue interdisciplinary research related to the challenges of Sustainable Development. This includes but is not limited to graduates from the following disciplinary backgrounds:

Human & Social Sciences
Life Sciences


3 years full-time.

Further enquiries

For queries please contact;
PhD Programme Administrator,
UCD Urban Institute Ireland,
University College Dublin,
Richview, Belfield,
Dublin 4,
Tel: +353 1 716 2721
Fax: +353 1 716 2690

Research areas

STAGE I - Taught Modules
Taught courses will be concentrated in the first two semesters. In the first semester, students will learn transferable skills and be introduced to the overarching themes of sustainable development. In the second semester students may choose relevant specialist modules. These modules, which are designed to aid the student in developing his/her area of expertise can be taken from within UCD or from our collaborating partner institutions (see list below), subject to availability and to the agreement of supervisor(s).

The Taught component specialisations will reflect the six research themes of the programme:
Biodiversity & Climate Change
Energy Efficient Build and District
Environmental Policy Analysis
Planning and Land Use
Sustainable Water Management
Transportation & Infrastructure

A number of these specialist modules will be available through several contributing partner institutions, who will be making specialist content available to UCD programme students:

Contributing partner institutions:
Trinity College Dublin (School of Natural Sciences)
Queens University Belfast , UK (Gibson Institute for Land and Food)
Göteborg University, Sweden (Environmental Economics Unit)
University of Nottingham, UK (Nottingham Transportation Engineering Centre)
International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), Enschede , Netherlands


Research Seminars
Every semester for the first three years, all students will present their ongoing research to their classmates. The presentations should combine a mixture of formal presentation (accompanied by slides) and interactive questions and answers. Presentations should be individual efforts. The research seminars are an opportunity for students to present and define the research that forms their PhD. The seminars alternate between UCD Urban Institute Ireland and TrinityHaus.

Professional placement/internship
Students can spend between three and six months in a professional placement. The internship will normally take place in a research-focused national organisation (e.g. Teagasc, Forfas, Comhar) or in a research institute abroad. The internship should be focused on research and should complement the academic programme. The internship should help define and illuminate the subject of the student's academic research and provide students with practical experience of the application of the academic tools and methods contained in the programme. The internship programme is also helpful in preparing students for their subsequent professional careers.

STAGE II - Research and final examination
Students will be required to complete a thesis based on original research, which will form the basis of the final examination. The thesis concludes a programme of research under which students will be required to produce Working Papers, co-author papers with their supervisors, attend conferences, etc. The research component of the degree programme will be based on the new protocols implemented for the UCD Structured PhD. This includes regular meetings with formal supervisory panels, a two-stage assessment of research progress and a student Research and Professional Development Plan which is regularly reviewed.

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