University of Gothenburg
Globe lying in green grass.
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PhD Programme in Environmental Social Science

The PhD Programme in Environmental Social Science provides a platform for interrogating how we understand and investigate the relationships between society and the environment. The PhD programme aims to educate researchers in undertaking the complex issues created by today's global challenges, and to contribute to the research field through a doctoral dissertation.

The PhD programme

The interdisciplinary Phd Programme in Environmental Social Science meets the growing demand for researchers, policy makers and experts that can work across research fields and develop new theoretical and methodological tools to study the dynamics between society and the environment. The PhD programme approaches different social and natural systems from a social sciences perspective and includes relevant insights from the natural and biological sciences. The aim of the doctoral programme is to educate researchers in undertaking the complex issues created by today's global challenges.

The PhD programme comprises 240 credits in total. Of the total credits, the dissertation comprises 180 credits, and the course work comprises 60 credits. 

The PhD programme is governed by the Higher Education Ordinance, The University’s and the Faculty’s rules and regulations for third-cycle studies, and the General Syllabus.

More extensive information about the PhD programme can be found in the General Syllabus.

Specific entry requirements 

In order to be eligible for the PhD Programme in Environmental Social Science, you must, in addition to the general entry requirements, fulfill the specific entry requirements.

You must have completed a degree at second cycle level in a social and behavioural science discipline including 30 credits at either first- or second-cycle that have an environment focus and a thesis in the second-cycle with an environment focus, or the equivalent degree/knowledge obtained within or outside Sweden.

Doctoral employment

If you are accepted for doctoral education, you will be employed as doctoral students at the department. As a doctoral student, your employment typically lasts four years. Up to 20 percent of the doctoral studies can consist of departmental service, and the doctoral position is then extended by the corresponding time. This means that the total period of employment will be a maximum of five years. Exceptions apply to sick leave, parental leave and union trust assignments.

Salaries for doctoral students are made according to local agreements at the University of Gothenburg and are negotiated by trade union representatives.

Doctoral positions are funded through faculty grants, external research grants or funding from other employers. When financing from another employer, a special agreement is required, that regulates the relationship between the University of Gothenburg/the department, the doctoral student and the employer. The type of financing that is relevant for the position always appears in the position announcement. Please note that student loans or private means are not accepted.

Doctoral students at the University of Gothenburg are government employees and are thus covered by a number of benefits and insurance.


Supervisors are assigned in consultation between the doctoral student, and the Director of PhD Studies. Each doctoral student is assigned a main supervisor and an assistant supervisor. Prospective doctoral students do not need to obtain supervisors before applying for a PhD programme.

The dissertation

The dissertation can be written in the form of a compilation, which means several articles and/or papers preceded by an introductory chapter so-called Kappa, or as a monograph, i.e. a coherent book.

Doctoral students are expected to present their work at a number of occasions during the PhD programme. At the beginning of the second year at the programme, the doctoral student presents a detailed project proposal, the dissertation PM, for the entire department, and receives questions and feedback from commentators. When approximately half of the programme is completed, the doctoral student presents parts of the dissertation at a so-called mid-term seminar.

When about six months remain to work on a dissertation, the doctoral student presents the entire dissertation script on a mock dissertation, and receives comments from an external opponent and an third reader.

Finally, the doctoral student defends their dissertation in a public defense, where the student discusses the dissertation with an opponent, and a grading committee decides whether the dissertation is approved.

Future careers

A doctorate in Environmental Social Science can lead to a research career within or outside the academia, to teaching at various levels within the university, or to a career as an environmental analysts in the public sector, in international organizations, in civil society organizations or as environmental managers in companies.

Programme courses

The first two years of your doctoral studies comprise a number of mandatory and elective courses on third cycle level.

Year 1

7.5 credits

Environmental Governance and Transitions to Sustainability 


7.5 credits

Political Ecology: Power, Conflict and Sustainability 


7.5 credits

Research Design in Qualitative Inquiry


7.5 credits

Ethical and Methodological Challenges in Field Research


5 credits

Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 1: Basic course (PIL 101)

Year 1-4

7.5 credits

Applied hTeorizing (elective)


7.5 credits

Pedagogy PIL 102 (elective)


2.5 credits

Teach Your Research (elective)


2.5 or 7.5 credits

Individual reading course (elective)