Sustainable Development Doctoral Programme

Application Process
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Programme Overview

There are a number of taught modules which will follow a matrix structure with four contextual modules that have specific relevance to the research groups, and students. There are also four generic modules that will provide the cross cutting and core skills for engaging in ‘real world’ research.

Contextual Modules:

  • Investigating sustainable development – a triple bottom line approach;
  • Researching communities and organisations;
  • Towards resource efficient, sustainable design;
  • Life cycle assessment

Generic Modules:

  • An introduction to sustainable development
  • An introduction to research and research ethics (research paradigms and traditions, the research process; writing practice and ethical considerations);
  • Action and participatory research (including qualitative and quantitative approaches and tools);
  • Systems thinking and sustainability;

Existing Masters courses will also be made available to the research students; this will include access to lectures and Blackboard based Distance Learning material.  An important feature of this DTP will be the running of bi-monthly workshops and seminars with practitioners and policy makers; the teaching team have an extensive network of contacts to support this.

There are opportunities to build on DMU the Green Academy Programme that is currently being taken forward by the University's Sustainable Development Task Force.  The research students will have the opportunity to contribute to several undergraduate and Master’s level courses from within all the Faculties; there will also be the opportunity to work with, and lecture, to practitioners in local authorities and commercial organisations in the UK and abroad.

International and national commitments on sustainable development require a future workforce with knowledge of a broad range of interdisciplinary skills to address the complex challenges facing society.  Students studying through this DTP will therefore be well placed to address such issues.
The training will be based on a recognition that research skills, and particularly those that are action and participatory based, are becoming a significant asset in the employment market.  These skills relate both to the ability to manage and evaluate change and to evaluate projects from an independent perspective.  The research team have good relationships with Local Authorities and regularly undertake such research for and with them e.g. energy efficiency within buildings.  Similar work, which integrates physical and behavioural factors, has been undertaken with Health Authorities, commercial organisations, Social Housing Groups and architects practices.

Research community initiatives
The proposed research team have all worked together on different interdisciplinary research proposals over the past few years. However, very few of these proposals have been successful to date. This DTP should produce student research projects that can form the basis of successful future research proposals.

The key research community initiative will be to facilitate a training capability that is systems based and provides clear guidance for undertaking the cross-disciplinary research necessary for understanding complex ‘real world’ issues and for engaging with the problem owners.  This approach will require both specialist and generic skills but most importantly will ensure that a systematic and replicable approach is communicated whereby the researchers can recognise where their own expertise is necessary but, potentially more importantly, where, and how, other expertise can be utilised.

The DTP will generate a research community that can share unique research ‘stories’ while providing insight into the relevance and utility of different disciplines, tools and approaches.  A focus for this activity and will be a dedicated researcher’s space where small group activities can take place and where research students can share stories and experiences.  This will also provide a potential forum for engaging with practitioners who will be encouraged to form an active part of the research community. The IESD runs a seminar series for staff and students with internal and external lecturers and has run a similar series of seminars with the ACE (Adapting to changing climates) research group at the University Leicester

The standard offer of a PhD place at De Montfort University is on to a four year doctoral programme. All students on Sustainable Development Doctoral Programme are research students of De Montfort University and are subject to the University's Code of Practice. You should always consult this when you submit any paperwork, such as your registration, transfer, extension requests etc. to ensure you are filling in the correct form.

Application Process

Applicants should complete the Application Form and submit it to De Montfort University. Reference forms should be passed to the two referees for completion.

The admission points onto the Doctoral Programme are 1 October, 1 January and 1 April.

Applications are accepted for full time (typically 36-48 months) and part-time (typically 56-66 months) modes.
It is possible for students based overseas to study on the 'International Programme' where the students spends almost all their time in their home country. However, the admission requirements for such students are higher than they are for students who study in Leicester, an experienced local supervisor to the student is also required.


Supervision in Sustainable Development doctoral programme is carried out in teams consisting of at least a first and second supervisor. In many cases we will have an additional second supervisor and external advisors. This is due to the interdisciplinary nature of our research, which often requires different areas of expertise.


All DMU students have at least two supervisors, sometimes three. The first supervisor should be your first port of call for any queries. We typically meet with all supervisors about once a month for full time students.
It is important to realise that ownership of the research project lies with the research student. Your supervisors do not tell you what to do or how to do it. They provide guidance and give input to shape your thinking. Responsibility for accepting or rejecting this guidance lies with the student.

Your first supervisor is also your personal tutor: the member of staff in the University who you should go first to if you have personal, emotional, family, health, money or other welfare issues. Do not worry about going to the same person who comments on your academic work: indeed if they know the personal issues going on, they might be more sympathetic about you not having done as much work as they were hoping.

For an informal discussion or for more information please contact Rick Greenough, +44 (0) 116 207 8714 or Paul Fleming +44 (0) 116 257 7963

Energy and Industrial Sustainability