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PhD Programme

Work together with other researchers, including around 135 PhD fellows and 200 MSc students from different countries all dealing with topics related to water and development. 

PhD Dissertations / theses

All UNESCO-IHE PhD Dissertations / theses are freely available in PDF format, visit the repository here

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.

PhD Research

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 135 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.

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 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.

Admission requirements

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.

Application process

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 you are interested in following a PhD Programme, you are requested to download one of the following forms:


If the information above still leaves you with questions, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page and scroll down to PhD programme or contact Jolanda Boots.

Graduate School

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.

Read more 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.