Postgraduate research opportunities

Sustainable urban development in theory & practice

Research will investigate sustainable urban development (SUD) strategies, involving international comparative research with a strong policy focus.

Number of places



Home fee, Stipend


28 May 2021


1 July 2021


3 years


Applicants are required to have:

  • a Masters degree from a UK or overseas university
  • training in qualitative and quantitative methods is desirable
  • prior degrees in the following disciplines are desirable: urban and economic geography, planning, politics, public administration, policy studies

Project Details

The European Policies Research Centre (EPRC) is offering four fully-funded PhD scholarships to investigate sustainable urban development (SUD) strategies, involving international comparative research with a strong policy focus. Several European countries have introduced mechanisms to integrate support for sustainable development in urban areas. These efforts take a variety of forms: integrated governance, aligned strategic planning, harmonised regulatory frameworks, coordinated implementation of instruments, delineation of functional spaces and dynamics (such as urban-rural linkages) etc. The goal is to integrate interventions for economic development, employment, innovation, transport, housing, environment and other fields in order to address complex territorial challenges.

The PhD framework takes a multi-dimensional approach to investigating how SUD can be effectively supported by policymakers, addressing sectoral, ‘place based’ and governance aspects. The four scholarships will cover different aspects of the SUD agenda, with particular attention being paid to:

  • Sustainable urban mobility. Developing theoretical insights and innovative policy and planning approaches to address sustainable urban mobility as part of wider urban challenges. Exploring interrelations between sustainable transport and wider sustainable urban development, such as improving liveability, prosperity, employment and housing, as well as addressing the environmental and social impacts of interventions in these areas. Potentially drawing on theories and methodologies from urban and human geography, sociology, urban planning, mobilities studies, politics and policy studies.
  • Participatory urban management and budgeting. Addressing the role of participatory budgeting and deliberative engagement in fostering informed citizen participation in policy-making; and in engaging citizens that feel disconnected from political and policy processes. The empirical analysis of the quality of citizen deliberation in participatory budgeting exercises across different countries, informed by theories of democracy, such as deliberative and participatory democracy and the public sphere.
  • Port-City relations. Exploring policy challenges that arise from the co-existence of port and urban functions. Analysis of the rules governing strategic and spatial planning and resource allocation processes across the port-city interface, and if these rules allow reconciling the quest for economic and environmental performance with the wellbeing and aspiration of the population.
  • Measuring the impact of sustainable urban development strategies. The capacity to assess the outcomes, results and impacts of integrated urban strategies (including Sustainable Urban Development and Community Led Local Development) which are a feature of EU Cohesion Policy. Exploring the challenges and solutions measuring SUD initiatives that integrate sectoral and territorial dimensions, responding to multi-level governance frameworks, capturing functional geographies etc. Developing a database of existing evaluation methodologies and results and providing theoretical and practical recommendations. Comparative case studies involving, but not necessarily limited to, examples of EU-funded SUD.

This PhD framework programme is part of a collaborative PhD cluster that involves close cooperation between the University of Strathclyde and the Delft University of Technology. Specifically, it is contributing to research collaboration between EPRC and the Chair of Spatial Planning & Strategy (Department of Urbanism, TU Delft), and there will be opportunities for research visits to TU Delft and participation in seminars/methods training at TU Delft. An interest in sustainable urban development in the Netherlands and the UK would be welcome. Successful candidates will have the opportunity to contribute to ongoing EPRC research projects. EPRC is an international and vibrant research centre within the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde. The centre comprises a multi-disciplinary staff with a distinguished track record of international research excellence in the field of comparative public policy.

Funding Details

The scholarship will cover the ‘Home student’ tuition fees and provide a full stipend (starting at £15,285 p.a.) for three years. EU and International students can apply by demonstrating that they have sufficient additional funds to cover the difference between the Home and International tuition fees (currently approximately £10,000 per annum.)


Primary Supervisor: Martin Ferry

Additional Supervisors: John Bachtler, Carlos Mendez

Number of places

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview.

Contact us

Prospective candidates should contact the European Policies Research Centre postgraduate coordinator, Dr Martin Ferry (

How to apply

Applicants are requested to email the following documents to by the closing date:

  • a cover letter, max. 500 words (letter indicating which of the four PhD topics they are applying for explaining how you will address the topic)
  • two academic references
  • a curriculum vitae
  • degree transcripts and certificates
  • an English language qualification (if required)