PhD in Human-Environment at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin, Germany

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin • Berlin 9 Semesters
Germany Full Time
Dr rer nat, Dr phil Onsite

Research in the Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys) focuses on sustainable land and resource use, urbanization in the 21st century, climate change impacts, and intra-/intergenerational environmental justice.

Our activities are developed along with three themes:

  • Respecting Planetary Boundaries: Transformation of Nature and Culture

Mitigation and adaptation strategies will trigger deep transformations of coupled human-environment systems. Their implementation will be affected by and will in return affect societal organization and norms, institutional settings, and technological advances. Problem analysis and implementation strategies will both require an interdisciplinary research program.

  • Science for and with Society: Contesting Global Change

Scientific knowledge is a vital element in the process of negotiating societal change related to global change. However, knowledge transfer from science to society is a complex process in light of the social and cultural heterogeneity of modern societies. Communication of knowledge on global change, taking into consideration different value systems and existing social realities, thus constitutes a fundamental challenge.

  • Spatial Structures of the Anthropocene: Patterns of Change

The Anthropocene creates sweeping spatial changes, regionally, and globally. These changes relate to land use, urban sprawl, or urbanization, amongst others. Increasing globalization also deepens existing and creates additional tee couplings. Sustainable management must therefore be based on a deep understanding of spatial matrices in order to facilitate multidimensional goals, create win-win situations, and minimize trade-offs.

Read More: MSc in Global Development at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark

Course Details:

The thesis graduate research training program is designed to enable a maximum of flexibility, in order to serve the individual needs and interests of an interdisciplinary student group. The curriculum covers four modules:

Module A – Developing interdisciplinary competencies
This module brings doctoral students together with postdocs and senior scientists. Your work is challenged by an interdisciplinary community of scholars. This module comprises the following:

  • the thesis lectures and the lecture seminars (two times per semester)
  • participation and presentation in the bi-weekly thesis colloquium
  • thesis Introductory Course – Fundamentals of Human-Environment Research
  • participation in one (THESys) summer school

Guests and scientists who are not members of the thesis graduate program are welcome to participate in Module A after consultation with the coordinator of the thesis graduate program.

Module B – Deepening disciplinary specialization
This module is designed to deepen disciplinary knowledge. Apart from attendance at the colloquium in the department to which the doctoral researcher is admitted, we offer a methods laboratory: doctoral students in our graduate program who have the same interest in methodology have the chance to work together in groups, and they already participate in the organization of the course (as regards the choice of potential lecturers and content).

Module C – Discovering new disciplines
This module encourages students to be curious about other research fields. Doctoral students can choose either a lecture or a seminar from the teaching program of the participating institutes in a field that is different from their own disciplinary background. This field must have an affinity with the research themes at the IRI thesis.

Module D – Training of soft skills / entrepreneurial skills
This module is entirely linked to the academic training offered by the Humboldt Graduate School. Doctoral students may choose from these courses and workshops in key competencies once a year.

Enrollment Requirements:

Excellent Master’s degree in agricultural sciences, earth, and environmental sciences, ecology, economics, geography, philosophy, political science, social anthropology, or related disciplines

  • Successful candidates are admitted as doctoral researchers at the faculty of Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin.

Formal requirements:

  • Admission as a doctoral researcher at a faculty of Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin
  • The topic of the doctoral research project must be within the scope of the IRI THESys science agenda and at least one supervisor should be a member of the IRI thesis. If the doctoral research is not being supervised by a thesis member, support on the part of a thesis member is required in order to confirm eligibility.

Teaching Language:


Costs/Tuition Fees:

Free of ost

Level/Field(s) of Study:


Language Requirements:

Very good English language skills
German language skills are not required.

About the University/Institution:

The Humboldt University of Berlin (German: Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin, abbreviated HU Berlin) is a university in the central borough of Mitte in Berlin, Germany. It was established by Frederick William III on the initiative of Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Friedrich Ernst Daniel Schleiermacher as the University of Berlin (Universität zu Berlin) in 1809, and opened in 1810, making it the oldest of Berlin’s four universities. From 1810 until its closure in 1945, it was named Friedrich Wilhelm University (German: Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität).[7][8] During the Cold War, the university found itself in East Berlin and was de facto split in two when the Free University of Berlin opened in West Berlin. The university received its current name in honor of Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt in 1949.

Application Deadline:

15 March (registration for summer semester)
15 September (registration for winter semester)
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