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.

Students will normally be registered in the school of their first supervisor. This may not be the school that processes your application.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second class honours degree from a social sciences or law discipline, and a master's qualification, normally achieving at least a merit (or equivalent) with appropriate research training.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level B.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,758 per year
UK: part-time
£2,379 per year
Overseas: full-time
£20,700 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 (MSc and PhD) and +3 (PhD) ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also be interested in applying for funding from the AHRC, the University of Bristol scholarship fund or the Law School Graduate Teaching Assistantship scheme.£ 

ESRC funding: Internal deadline - 11 December 2023. ESRC deadline - 12 January 2024 at 12 noon.

For details on applying for ESRC funding, please visit the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) website.

Please visit the school's fees and funding web pages for further information.

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

Career prospects

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 may 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.

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


Research groups

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

University of Bristol

  • 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 Justice
  • Law
  • Centre for Energy and the Environment
  • Centre for Rural Policy Research
  • Climate Change and Sustainable Futures research theme.

The 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.