Sustainable Futures

Find a programme
Run by Faculty of Social Sciences and Law
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time;
seven years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Open to international students Yes
Start date September 2017

Programme overview

The interdisciplinary pathway in sustainable futures seeks to produce a new generation of researchers who can address the pressing social issues of sustainability in the face of a growing global population.

Sustainability research asks how human wellbeing can be maintained and enhanced in the long term, given rising populations, limited natural resources and a fragile environment. The field, with its clear applied focus and strong strategic future-directed policy implications, has social sciences at its heart.

It also requires a broad interdisciplinary approach and an understanding of economics, law, the politics and psychology of sustainability, and the geography and demographics of those affected. We therefore deliberately expose students to a broad range of material to help them appreciate and understand interconnected perspectives and to provide them with skills to work effectively across disciplines. We welcome students from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds.

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Part-time fees


Fees quoted are provisional, per annum and subject to annual increase.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2017/18

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 and +3 ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also be interested in applying for funding from the University of Bristol scholarship fund or alumni PhD scholarship fund.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

A high honours degree from a social sciences or law discipline, and a Master's qualification (or equivalent) with appropriate research training.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Application method Online application form
English language requirements Profile B
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Research groups

The pathway draws on expertise from the schools, institutes and research centres at the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter and UWE.

University of Bristol

  • School of Geographical Sciences
  • University of Bristol Law School
  • School for Policy Studies
  • Global Insecurities Centre
  • The Cabot Institute (which draws together environmental research from across the University)

University of Bath

  • Department of Psychology
  • Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment
  • Water Innovation and Research Centre
  • Centre for Research in Education and the Environment
  • Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

University of Exeter

  • Human Geography
    • Climate and Society
    • Energy Policy
    • Governance, Ethics and Social Justics
  • Law
  • Centre for Energy and the Environment
  • Centre for Rural Policy Research
  • Climate Change and Sustainable Futures research theme

University of the West of England

  • Centre for Transport and Society
  • Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments
  • WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments

Key research interests

You will have two supervisors from different disciplinary perspectives and different institutions. Your supervisors convene joint meetings on a regular basis, and attend an annual one-day workshop for all pathway students.


The PhD in Sustainable Futures offers useful preparation for related careers in the public, private or civic sectors, as well as in academia. In the public sector, it will open opportunities in government departments and agencies at international, national and local levels. In the private sector, it provides training and analytical skills of relevance to careers in consultancy or environmental management, for example. In the civic sector, it can lead to careers with environmental NGOs or development bodies.

Staff profiles

Dr Matt Bamber MA(Wales), FCA, PGCert HE FHEA, PhD, (Lecturer in Accounting and Finance)

Prof. Simon Burgess MA(Cantab), DPhil(Oxon), (Professor of Economics)

Dr Ryerson Christie MA(Car), (Lecturer in East Asian Studies)

Prof. Michael Crossley BEd(Keele), MA(Lond), PhD(LaT), FRSA, AcSS, (Professor of Comparative and International Education)

Dr John-David Dewsbury BSc(Bristol), PhD(Bristol), (Reader in Human Geography)

Dr John Downer MA(Edin), MPhil(Cantab), PhD(C'nell), (Lecturer in Risk and Resilience)

Prof. Timothy Edmunds BA(Brad), PhD(Sheff), (Professor of International Security)

Dr Eldin Fahmy BA(York), MSc, PGCE, PhD(Bristol), (Senior Lecturer in Policy Studies)

Dr Malcolm Fairbrother BA(Victoria(Canada)), MA, PhD(Berkeley), (Senior Lecturer in Global Policy and Politics)

Dr Adrian Flint BA(Hons), MA(Rhodes), PhD(Dund), (Senior Lecturer in Development Politics)

Dr Geetanjali Gangoli PhD, MPhil, MA, (Senior Lecturer in Policy Studies)

Prof. David Gordon BSc(Sus), PhD(Bristol), (Professorial Research Fellow in Social Justice)

Prof. Paul Grout BA(Econ)(N'cle), MSc(Econ)(Lond), PhD(Essex), (Professor of Political Economy)

Prof. Richard Harris BSc, MSc, PhD(Bristol), (Professor of Quantitative Social Geography)

Prof. Paul Howard-Jones BSc(Manc), PhD(Exon), BSc, PGCE, (Professor of Neuroscience and Education)

Dr Mark Jackson BA(Hons), MA, PhD(Alta), (Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Geographies)

Prof. Kelvyn Jones BSc, PhD(Soton), FLSW, FAcSS, CGeogs, (Professor of Human Quantitative Geography)

Dr Patricia Kennett BSc, PhD(Bristol), (Reader in School for Policy Studies)

Dr Patricia Lucas, (Senior Lecturer in Policy Studies)

Prof. Alex Marsh BSc(Warw), MSocSci(Birm), (Professor of Public Policy)

Dr Naomi Millner BA(Cantab), MSc(Bristol), PhD(Bristol), (Lecturer in Human Geography)

Prof. Rachel Murray LLB(Leic), LLM(Bristol), PhD(WEngland), (Professor of International Human Rights)

Prof. Thomas Osborne BA(Oxon), MSc(Lond), PhD(Brun), (Professor of Social and Cultural Theory)

Dr Margerhita Pieraccini MA(Aberd), MPhil(Cantab), PhD(N'cle), (Lecturer in Law and Programme Director), conservation law and policy; Environmental law; legal pluralism and the commons.; socio-legal studies

Prof. Clive Sabel BSc (Hons), MSc(Edin), PhD(Lanc), (Chair in Quantitative Geography)

Dr Janine Sargoni BA, PGDL, LPC, LLM, MSc, PhD (Bristol), (Lecturer in Law)

Dr David Sweeting BA(Portsmouth), MSc(Lond), PhD(Portsmouth), (Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies)

Dr Karen Tucker PHD(Bristol), MSC(Bristol), MSC(Bristol), BA(Bristol), (Lecturer in Political Science)

Ms Chris Willmore LLB(Bristol), (Senior Academic Fellow)

How to apply
Application deadline:

The closing date for studentship applications is midday on 2 February 2017. The closing date for non-funded places is 1 July 2017.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

Please see full REF 2014 results for the University of Bristol.

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Senior Postgraduate Admissions Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 954 5357 or 5225 Email:

University of Bristol Law School
Wills Memorial Building
Queens Road
Bristol BS8 1RJ


Important disclaimer information about our programmes.

Edit this page