Sustainable Resources MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The cross-disciplinary UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources (ISR) conducts research, teaching and enterprise work on the sustainable use of natural resources, with a focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. Our strong links to industry, policymakers and other academic institutions provide an excellent foundation for PhD study.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2022/23)
Overseas tuition fees (2022/23)
3 calendar years
5 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

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. Exceptionally: where applicants have other suitable research or professional experience, they may be admitted without a Master's degree; or where applicants have a lower second-class UK Honours Bachelor's degree (2:2) (or equivalent) they 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 highly desirable.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

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. International Preparation Courses

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

Who this course is for

What this course will give you

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.


Many of our graduates have gone on to careers in teaching and research as well as in consultancy, industry, government and policy. A wide range of careers are available at the interface of the economy, resources and the environment.


Supervision and mentorship is 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 ISR and the other institutes within the school. More widely, the many universities and societies in London offer a rich academic environment for broadening your horizons in anything that interests you.

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. 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.

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. It is expected that a full-time student will attempt upgrade within 18 months of registration.

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

UCL ISR has a large PhD cohort working on a wide range of projects on natural and human systems, including global, regional and local studies. We use a range of quantitative and qualitative methods. Our research themes are:

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.

ISR is based in Central House in the centre of London. Desks are available for all students and academics using a hot-desking system. Central House is being redesigned following the pandemic to encourage collaborative work between students and academics.

Students are expected to come into the office regularly for meetings with their supervisors and with other students and academics. We expect full-time students to be based in London, except for fieldwork and holidays.

ISR runs internal and external seminar programmes. More widely, the many universities and societies in London offer a rich academic environment for broadening your horizons in anything that interests you.


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 & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2022/23) £5,690 £2,845
Tuition fees (2022/23) £23,350 £11,860

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 Built Environment Faculty Office 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.

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.

More information about the funding available for studying in ISR is available from the Institute for Sustainable Resources and the Built Environment Faculty Office are advertised on the respective websites.

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.

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

Scholarships relevant to this department are displayed below.

Bartlett Promise Scholarship - Research

Applications Open: 1 February 2022. Deadline: 29 April 2022
Value: Full fees, plus £17,631 maintenance (Normal duration of programme)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

The first step is to approach a potential supervisor by completing an  expression of interest form. Only those supervisors who are taking on new students at present are listed. Please do not contact more than one potential supervisor at any time.

Prospective MPhil/PhD applicants are encouraged to send an informal research enquiry before applying. This should be sent directly to the academic you would like to supervise you. Please refer to the staff list on the department website and see UCL's Institutional Research Information Service (IRIS) for staff profiles. Please attach to your e-mail a referenced research proposal of around 1,000 to 2,000 words and your curriculum vitae (CV).

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 in any application cycle.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.