The PhD programme in Sustainability Science aims to produce scholars who will become key researchers in the field of sustainability science. The programme takes an innovative approach to sustainability, seeking to promote a better understanding of the issues by incorporating global change perspectives, specifically those related to climate change and biodiversity.
The programme will equip graduates with comprehensive, multidisciplinary knowledge of sustainability problems, and deepen their understanding of the role of environmental sustainability in addressing current issues related to global change. Students undertake problem-oriented research, acquiring the quantitative and qualitative analytical research skills necessary to understand the underlying principles of various systems involved in sustainability issues and debates. Through coursework and research, PhD students gain critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as the technical literacy required to address sustainability problems.
The PhD in Sustainability Science programme duration is three years; the programme starts in September. Students are required to obtain 14 credits and are expected to complete all degree requirements by July of their third year. Students must complete a PhD dissertation in one of several UNU-IAS research themes, focusing on global change and sustainability. Students are also encouraged to take a joint PhD diploma offered by UNU-IAS and the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences (UT-GSFS) on Sustainability. For the joint diploma programme, students are required to take 18 credits, four of which should be from the courses offered by UT-GSFS.
Application deadline: 28 April 2017
For information on the specific courses offered as part of this degree programme, please visit the the curriculum information page on the UNU-IAS online learning website.
The programme is taught by an expert teaching faculty comprising both UNU-IAS academic staff and invited distinguished scholars and practitioners.
UNU-IAS provides students with opportunities to engage actively in the institute’s research projects.
Sharing a building with many UN agencies, UNU-IAS offers a unique learning environment for its diverse international student body.
The UNU Library offers access to a range of academic books, over 20,000 electronic journals, official UN documents issued since 1946, and publications in the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development e-libraries. All students are provided with a comprehensive library orientation session at the beginning of the course. Students also have access to the libraries of International Christian University, Ochanomizu University, Sophia University, Temple University Japan, and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
A dedicated computer lab is provided for students, with software to cater to the needs of each course, including GIS, environmental modelling applications, and statistical analysis tools. In addition, students have access to a number of international conferences, workshops, and symposiums at the university.
UNU-IAS assists students from the time of their registration to graduation, acknowledging that students may experience difficulties adjusting to a new country and culture.
An induction programme is conducted at the beginning of the academic session, introducing students to the staff responsible for specific student services, and familiarizing students with the campus through a tour of the facilities.
Students are provided with a handbook about living in Tokyo prior to their arrival, including information on how to find and secure accommodation.
The Academic Calendar shows important dates and university holidays for the academic year.
Applicants for the PhD in Sustainability Science are required to have met ALL of the following requirements by the application deadline in order to be considered:
1. A strong interest in sustainability studies;
2. A demonstrated commitment to study and understand global issues;
3. A completed Master’s degree in disciplines related to sustainability studies and a minimum of 2 years of practical field experience related to UNU-IAS research themes
Two completed Master’s degrees, at least one of which must be in a discipline related to sustainability studies;
*Those who expect to receive a second Master’s degree before the entrance period – September 2017 – may also apply.
4. A GPA of 3.5 or above on a 4.0 scale for at least one of the Master’s degrees earned; and
5. English language proficiency
The minimum score requirements for English language qualifications required by UNU-IAS are:
Applicants, except for the cases below, must submit original TOEFL or IELTS score reports (from a test taken within the last two years) to the Admissions Office at the time of application:
UNU-IAS requires original TOEFL/IELTS score reports (no photocopies accepted).
Estimated total expenses for the PhD degree programme for 3 years including tuition are approximately 83,500 USD. Applicants must show financial resources adequate to meet the full costs of educational and living expenses.
The award of the scholarship below is based on application selection results. Only applicants that are accepted for enrolment in the UNU-IAS PhD in Sustainability Science programme can be considered as candidates for the scholarship. There is no separate application form for the scholarship as it is a part of the online application for admission. Interested applicants must provide necessary information and documents for the scholarship together with the required documents for admission to the PhD degree programme.
The JFUNU scholarship provides a monthly allowance of 120,000 JPY* for living expenses for a maximum of 36 months. However, travel costs to and from Japan, visa handling fees, and health/accident insurance costs must be covered by the student. The tuition fees are fully waived for the scholarship recipients.
*The amount of monthly allowance has been changed to 120,000 JPY effective 2017.
*Developing countries included in the latest OECD DAC list.
PhD in Sustainability Science
Each student is required to (i) obtain at least 14 credits, in keeping with the instructions that will be provided during orientation, and (ii) complete all degree requirements by July of his/her third year. Students must complete a dissertation on one of several UNU-IAS research themes focusing on global change and sustainability.
Note: The curriculum is reviewed on a yearly basis, so the course offerings may not be identical to the ones listed below.
Detailed descriptions of these courses are available to download here.
Overview Courses (Compulsory)
These three courses are held over a short period as part of the UNU Intensive Core (IC) Courses:
A wide range of elective courses offered by partner universities are also available to UNU-IAS students through credit exchange arrangements.
These courses are compulsory for first-year MSc and PhD students:
If your question is not covered in the FAQ, please contact us using the online inquiry form. Please ensure that “PhD Degree” is selected as the topic of your inquiry. If you have already submitted an application to us, please use the same email address on the inquiry form.
United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS)
53-70, Jingumae 5-chome
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-8925, Japan
T: +81 (0)3 5467-1212