The extended period of study associated with the 4-year EPSRC CDT PhD programme provides additional time, beyond the usual PhD period, for training in a broad range of sustainability issues and to foster multi-disciplinary collaborative skills that will create future leaders for both industry and research.

This is achieved through a taught component, Grand Challenge project and several cohort building activities throughout the four years. Below is overview of the four year training programme.

Overview The programme begins with a term of workshops which have specifically been created for the CDT and cover a broad range of sustainability issues and quantitative subjects that will assist students with their research. In the second term students work on a Grand Challenge project which provides a team building platform for interdisciplinary work and helps put their research into context.

From the start of the third term onwards, CDT students will be working on their doctoral research projects.

Breakdown of the training programme

Taught Component

It will be delivered during the first term and second term and will be in the form of a series of workshops which have been specifically designed for the CDT (apart from the Systems Approaches in Engineering, Systems Aspects of Advanced M & E Components and Sustainable Development workshops which are based on pre-existing MSc modules). The workshops will be scheduled in 2-day blocks each week.

All students are required to attend all workshops. Where appropriate, workshops will provide examples relating to the current Grand Challenge Projects and include input from different sections.

Taught Component Workshops
  • Matlab Primer

  • Statistical Analysis I - IV

  • Systems Thinking

  • Whole Life Cycle Issues in Civil Engineering

  • Resilience and Future Change

  • Infrastructure Monitoring

  • Delivering Maximum Value from Existing Infrastructure

  • The Circular Economy and Civil Infrastructure

  • Multiple Use Infrastructure

  • Low Carbon Construction

  • Processing and Managing Field Data

  • Reliability in Civil Engineering

  • Innovation and Enterprise

  • Sustainable Development

Summary of the table's contents

Grand Challenge Project

Grand Challenge Projects involve a specific challenge relevant to a research theme. A group of students with relevant research areas work in a team on a Grand Challenge Project.

This brings together a group of students and supervisors with different interests and core expertise to address the challenge. This encourages interdisciplinary team working and allows students to be part of a much broader project than normally involved in PhD training.

The aim is that Grand Challenge Projects will mimic the way leading companies in the Sustainable Civil Engineering sector address major problems and that this will provide additional skills and training to CDT students.

The Grand Challenge Project experience will also help to further define the research area associated with each student into a closely defined and industry relevant specific PhD research project.

Students have a period when they are focussed on their Grand Challenge Projects at the start of their training but these run throughout the entire CDT programme. In this way students will see how their individual research projects impact on the broader Grand Challenge Project and how the Grand Challenge Project impacts on their own individual research.


Delivering high quality research training is an absolutely key aim of the CDT in Sustainable Civil Engineering. Prospective students should view the Research Opportunities page to see the types of projects available through the CDT. The majority of these will involve working with a small team of supervisors from across the Department and beyond. We aim to provide the best possible supervisory team to deliver the best possible research training experience to CDT students.

We also expect that the majority of CDT projects will have significant industrial involvement, both in defining the project, providing input to the research and opportunities to see the benefits of the research.

Although CDT students will know their research area when they join the CDT it is not until after the taught component and the Grand Challenge project are completed at the end of the second term that CDT students are able to work full-time on their doctoral research. The CDT provides funding for four years and all CDT students will need submit their thesis within that time. In addition to the thesis we expect CDT students to publish their work in internationally leading journals and they should attend at least one relevant national or international conference.

CDT research projects are at the very forefront of research in sustainable civil engineering and will provide our students with the skills necessary to become future leaders in research and industry.