Sustainable Resources MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The interdisciplinary UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources provides evidence, expertise and training to respond to climate change, and to support sustainable transitions for people and planet. Our strong links with industry, policymakers and other academic institutions provide an excellent foundation for PhD study.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
October 2024
February 2025
May 2025
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Research degree students start their programme in BSEER in September or January each academic year. Starting at other times is by exception where a strong justification is made.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a relevant subject, is essential. Where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master's degree. Applicants with a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor's degree (2:2) (or equivalent) must possess a relevant Master's degree to be admitted. We expect any successful application to include a sufficiently strong and convincing proposal, and those holding a Master's degree are typically well prepared to provide one. Relevant work experience is desirable.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

PhD students at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources work on a range of research projects relating to the sustainable use of the world’s resources – including energy, food, minerals and ecosystems. Using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, our research analyses natural and human systems, on global, regional, and local scales.
Through undertaking a research degree, our PhD students demonstrate the capacity to organise, carry out and communicate a substantial piece of research, presented in a thesis that demonstrates academic rigour and originality.

If you have a research idea that falls within our research themes, an MPhil/PhD in Sustainable Resources could be the right path for you. To get started with your application visit our ‘How to apply for a Sustainable Resources MPhil/PhD’ page. On this page we cover the four steps you need to apply, from writing an outline proposal and choosing a supervisor, through to submitting an expression of interest ahead of making your formal application. 

Who this course is for

Our PhD students come from a wide range of backgrounds, at different career stages. They use their research degree as a stepping stone to careers in a range of sectors. They are united by their passion to make the world a better place, and their commitment to creating and communicating evidence to achieve this goal.

What this course will give you

You will work in a vibrant and cooperative academic research environment. While everyone has their own research project, we strongly encourage students to participate fully in the work of our Institute and to interact with other students and staff. We run internal and external seminar programmes, and the many universities and societies in London offer a rich academic environment for broadening your horizons in anything that interests you.

You will have access to a desk in the department, to libraries, to online resources, to specialist computing facilities, to software and to other resources as required.

You will have access to a wide range of formal and informal training opportunities, including taught courses, to underpin your personal development. The programme does not have a formal taught element. The only formal examinations are the upgrade from MPhil to PhD, at the end of the first year for full-time students, and the oral examination of your thesis.

You will be encouraged to attend and present your work at international conferences and workshops.

The foundation of your career

Our PhD graduates have become senior figures in international organisations (e.g. International Energy Agency, World Bank), government, academia (e.g. UCL, Yale, Columbia), research institutes (e.g. Asia-Pacific Energy Research Centre, EU Joint Research Centre), and companies. Discover some of our alumni’s experiences and career pathways.


You will learn to be an independent researcher with the ability to identify and understand issues, and design and carry out a research programme to address them.

A wide range of careers are available at the interface of the economy, resources and the environment.



Supervision and mentorship are available from world-leading researchers with national and international contacts and collaborations across policy, government, industry and academic sectors. These links provide real opportunities to network and collaborate with a wide variety of external partners. Students have the opportunity to showcase their research at national and international conferences. Our students also gain access to networking events, career workshops and exclusive seminars held by UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and the other institutes within the school.

Teaching and learning

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) consists of a piece of supervised research, normally undertaken over a period of three years full-time. Initially, you will be registered for the MPhil degree. If you wish to proceed to a PhD, you will be required to pass an 'Upgrade' assessment. The purpose of the upgrade is to assess your progress and ability to complete your PhD programme to a good standard and in a reasonable time frame.

Assessment is by means of a thesis, which should demonstrate your capacity to pursue original research based upon a good understanding of the research techniques and concepts appropriate to the discipline.

A full-time PhD is a significant time commitment. You should expect to dedicate around 35 hours per week to your research. You should meet frequently with your supervisors and engage with the departmental and UCL communities more widely through events, training, and networking opportunities.

Research areas and structure

Our research is built around five intersecting themes:

  • Abiotic resources
  • Biotic resources
  • Definitions and indicators of sustainable resource use
  • Green economy
  • Resource efficiency

Research environment

“My favourite part was that the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources culture gave me the perfect combination of the freedom to pursue my own research interests, and academic excellence through my brilliant supervisors and inspiring colleagues to exchange ideas, develop skills and build long-lasting links. “ - Florian Flachenecker, graduated 2018

UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources has a large PhD cohort working on a wide range of projects on natural and human systems, including global, regional and local studies. Our staff and students have a passion to make the world a better place, and a commitment to creating and communicating evidence to achieve this goal.

We are based in Central House in the centre of London. Desks are available for all students and academics using a hot-desking system.

In the latest national research assessment (REF 2021), our Faculty was number one for Research Power in the built environment, with 91% of research deemed ‘World Leading’ and ‘Internationally Excellent’. Most of our research is undertaken in partnership with government and industry, grounding our work and create real-world impact.


All students are initially registered for an MPhil degree. Those studying full-time for a PhD undertake a formal “upgrade process” at the end of their first year, including a presentation and viva, and if successful are registered as PhD students. Students have up to two upgrade attempts.

The PhD programme normally lasts for three years. Once you have completed this initial period, you are able to enter an additional year of “Continuing Research Status”, with no further fees, if your studies are sufficiently advanced. Some funders instead offer four-year scholarships with no possibility of entering Continuing Research Status. You submit a thesis for assessment in an oral viva at the conclusion of your studies.

It is possible to study for an MPhil rather than a PhD degree from the outset, but this is rare.

Part-time students follow the same programme as full-time students, except that the programme length is five years, with up to two additional years in Continuing Research Status, and the first upgrade attempt normally takes place after 18 months.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035 £3,015
Tuition fees (2024/25) £28,100 £14,050

Route code RRDEERSSUR01

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

As a research student, your additional costs may include expenses such as books, conference attendance and field research, in the UK or overseas.

The Bartlett Faculty provides financial support to students through the Bartlett Student Conference Fund, Bartlett Doctoral Initiative Fund, Bartlett External Training Fund and Bartlett Extenuating Circumstances Fund. However, please note that these funds are limited and available through competition. Find out more on 'The Bartlett Scholarships and Funding' page.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

UCL offers a range of financial awards aimed at assisting both prospective and current students with their studies.

The Bartlett Promise Scholarship is a long-term project from our Faculty to attract students from a broader range of backgrounds and tackle the lack of diversity in the built environment. Please see the UK PhD scholarship page for more information on eligibility criteria, selection process and FAQs.

The ESRC UCL, Bloomsbury and East London Centre for Doctoral Training (UBEL) offers a number of scholarships each year. Please see details of the 'Social and Policy Studies of Energy and the Environment' grouping.

We also occasionally have funded studentships available. These are advertised on the Funded Research Opportunities page and can be found by filtering to the ‘Bartlett School of Environment Energy and Resources’. If you would like funded studentship opportunities sent to you via email, please register your interest in studying with us.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Bartlett Promise PhD Scholarship

Deadline: 19 May 2024
Value: Full fees, plus £19,668 maintenance (Normal duration of programme)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship (ROS)

Deadline: 12 January 2024
Value: UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Criteria Based on both academic merit and financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

Are you ready to start your application for an MPhil/PhD at UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources? Follow this four step process to start you application and read the guidance on our ‘How to apply for a Sustainable Resources’ MPhil/PhD page. Once you have identified your project and supervisor, and have submitted an expression of interest to them, they will be able to give you feedback before you submit your formal application. Further details on how to apply to an MPhil/PhD can be found on the UCL Graduate Admissions website.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

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