You participate in problem oriented research with relevance for development, by joining an existing research programme or by defining your own research topic within UNESCO-IHE’s research themes. As a PhD fellow at the Institute, you benefit from the possibility of linking MSc research to your own.
Through your research, you address the global water agenda, and solve problems relevant to the water and environment sectors world-wide, as a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and other mandates from the international community. You will often do so in collaboration with the Institute’s vast network of research institutions throughout the world.
UNESCO-IHE's PhD programme leads to a deepening of a field of specialisation. PhD fellows do scientific research, often with conclusions that directly influence their region. At UNESCO-IHE, around 150 PhD researchers from around the world are brought together to participate in problem-focused and solution-oriented research on development issues, resulting in an inspiring research environment. PhD fellows work together with other researchers from many countries - including 200 new MSc students annually – dealing with topics related to water and the environment.
While following a PhD you will be part of the UNESCO-IHE International Graduate School for Water and Development. The aim of the Graduate School is to create a vibrant and intellectually exciting research and development environment at the heart of the institute. The Graduate School supports the PhD fellows and the institute to contribute to the global challenges for sustainable water use.
PhD research is often carried out in the ‘sandwich’ model. Preparation and final reporting – the first and last portion of the programme – are carried out in Delft, while actual research is done in the fellow’s home country, under co-supervision of a local institute. Regular contacts with the promotor are maintained through visits and long-distance communication. This enables researchers to employ solutions directly to problems in their geographical region.
UNESCO-IHE’s PhD degrees are awarded jointly with a Dutch partner university. The degrees are highly valued and fully recognised in all parts of the world. The nominal time span of a PhD programme is four years.
A list of PhD fellows is available here.
UNESCO-IHE is a member of the Research School for Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE). This Dutch research school focuses on both the natural sciences and socio-economic fields of environmental research. SENSE is accredited by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW), and brings together excellent academic research groups from nine universities and research centres.
Full text versions of most of the UNESCO-IHE PhD Dissertations are available through NARCIS. NARCIS provides access to over 160,000 full-text publications and research output from all Dutch universities, KNAW, NWO and a number of scientific institutes.
Candidates for the PhD programme at UNESCO-IHE should have a UNESCO-IHE MSc degree with high qualification. An MSc degree from another university or institute - equal to UNESCO-IHE's standards - may also be acceptable.
If a candidate is not yet in the possession of an MSc degree, but has an interesting research proposal and proven track record, he or she may be admitted to UNESCO-IHE's MSc programme first, as part of and in preparation for the PhD research.
PhD candidates will only be accepted after their research proposal has been approved by UNESCO-IHE’s Academic Board. UNESCO-IHE's PhD degrees are awarded jointly with a relevant partner university, ensuring that it is embedded in the prevailing higher education legislation.
Click here for the English language requirements for all UNESCO-IHE programmes.
If you meet the admission criteria, you need to submit the following documents to UNESCO-IHE:
- a detailed curriculum vitae;
- originally certified photocopies of academic BSc and MSc transcripts/marksheets (the stamp on the copy should be original), in English and the original language, if applicable;
- originally certified photocopies of academic BSc and MSc diplomas/degrees/certificates (the stamp on the copy should be original), in English and the original language, if applicable;
- PhD research proposal (1): a brief outline of the topic on which you wish to work (not more than 5 typed sides of A4);
- an abstract of your MSc thesis;
- 2 reference letters;
- copy of your passport;
- results of an English language test;
- proof of funding (if applicable): in case you already have a sponsor: the confirmation letter written by this sponsor
Upon receipt of this information we will send your diplomas and transcripts to the Diploma validation office of Nuffic. In case your diplomas are found adequate, we will send your documents to a promotor. The promotor will be one of the UNESCO-IHE Professors who will consider whether to propose you for academic admission. A phone call or skype session may be part of this process. If the professor accepts you, you will be sent an unconditional admission letter.
(1) for a complete overview of research possibilities, please visit the academic department page of your interest. The chair groups belonging to the departments are listed there, with an overview of UNESCO-IHE staff and their expertise. Please contact a staff member directly to discuss possible mentorship for your PhD research.
If the information above still leaves you with questions, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.