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New 4-year PhD position at Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies in Sweden

Lund University

PhD in Sustainability Science

LUCSUS

Lund University was founded in 1666 and is repeatedly ranked among the world’s top 100 universities. The University has around 46 000 students and more than 8 000 staff based in Lund, Helsingborg and Malmö. We are united in our efforts to understand, explain and improve our world and the human condition.

Lund University welcomes applicants with diverse backgrounds and experiences. We regard gender equality and diversity as a strength and an asset.

Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) is host to both graduate and postgraduate education. In research and teaching, we strive to integrate critical and problem solving approaches while focusing on global sustainability challenges such as biodiversity loss, climate change, major land use changes, and water conflicts.

Sustainability Science PhD programme

The PhD programme in sustainability science consists of 240 credits (equivalent to four years of fulltime studies); it concludes with the public defence of a doctoral thesis. The appointed doctoral student will receive a salary from the University for the four years, where their primary obligation is to complete the PhD studies. The PhD position also may involve departmental duties, mainly in the form of teaching of up to 20 per cent of full-time working hours, in which case the position appointment will be extended by the equivalent number of hours. The terms of employment for doctoral students are regulated in the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance (HF), Chapter 5, Sections 1– 7.

The research project

The successful candidate will work within the 4-year research project entitled “Environmental Human Rights Defenders – Change Agents at the Crossroads of Climate change, Biodiversity and Cultural Conservation”, funded by the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development (FORMAS). In a collaborative and ambitious research environment, participating researchers will collaborate to produce high level and cutting-edge research at the nexus of academia, society and policy.

Environmental human rights defenders (EHRD) are increasingly being recognized as pivotal actors in transformations towards sustainability, biodiversity protection and climate action. In addition, EHRD often defend the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities and other marginalized groups.  However, they may also be facing intimidation and violence for their efforts. Rarely are the struggles for political, cultural, social, economic and environmental rights made visible in international policy arenas. In this inter-disciplinary project, we seek to investigate how and to what extent are EHRD confronting these challenges, and acting as agents of change for cultural and biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In the project we seek to develop an overarching conceptual understanding of EHRD that can be applied to different social and regional contexts from the the global to a more regional level. The regional focus of our analysis is on Colombia, where EHRD assume a prominent yet precarious role as change agents. We analyze their goals, motivations and underlying discourses, and then investigate the practices they apply for protecting cultural and biological heritage and promoting sustainable development.

The project also seeks to analyze the effects these strategies have, such as the achievements but also the obstacles and implications for the vulnerability of EHRD. Across the different stages of our analysis, we use an interdisciplinary mixed-methods approach drawing on a diversity of disciplines including sustainability science, political science, social anthropology, human geography and law. In addition, we draw on a range of relevant theories and concepts for instance environmental justice, social movement theory, bio-cultural diversity, human and indigenous rights and political ecology. Our expected findings will provide multiple perspectives of the nexus of cultural heritage, biodiversity and climate change.

The PhD candidate will be based at the Lund Unviersity Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS). The PhD candidate will support and carry out their research in close collaboration with an interdisciplinary team on the following questions:

  1. Which major motivations, goals and underlying discourses inform the work of EHRD
  2. To what extent is their work linked to different understandings of the cultural, biocultural and climate change crises?
  3. Which practices and strategies do EHRD employ to pursue their goals?
  4. Which successes and obstacles have EHRD faced in Colombia since the signing of the peace agreement in 2016?
  5. Which lessons can be learned with a view to supporting and protecting EHRD in Colombia across scales?

General qualifications

The requirements for admission to third cycle courses and study programmes (in accordance with HF, Chapter 7, Section 35) are that the applicant:

Meets the general and specific entry requirements that the higher education institution may have laid down, and is considered in other respects to have the ability required to benefit from the course or study programme (Swedish Code of Statutes 2010:1064).

A person meets the general entry requirements for third cycle courses and study programmes if (s)he: has been awarded a second cycle qualification, has satisfied the requirements for courses comprising at least 240 credits of which at least 60 credits were awarded in the second cycle or has acquired substantially equivalent knowledge in some other way in Sweden or internationally.

Required qualifications

The main research tasks for the position will be linked closely to the broader project objectives and research questions (specified above). The successful candidate will carry out independent and interdisciplinary research involving both desk-based and and field-based methods, including inter alia a systematic review of sources and literatures and case-study research in Colombia. Case studies from countries other than Colombia may serve as complementary research. The geographical focus entails that the PhD student will need to engage with national and local actors, social movements and particular Environmental Human Rights Defenders in Colombia through e.g., interviews, focus group interviews, and other ethnographic, social science or legal methods deemed useful. The successful candidate should demonstrate an awareness of the sensitivity of the research topics and the importance of careful, reflexive research approaches that are fully embedded in communities’ needs and priorities, whilst respecting prior, informed consent and appropriate feedback mechanisms.

The ideal PhD candidate for the position will have the following specific qualifications:

A Masters degree in Sustainability Science, Political Science, Human Geography, Human Rights Law, Sociology, Political Ecology, Anthropology or a related field. A strong interest in interdisciplinary research, for instance combining anthropology with sustainability science and political science, or similar. Excellent skills in written and spoken Spanish and English.

  • A strong and documented interest on the interlinkages between social science and global environmental change and the capacity to combine insights and methods from different scientific disciplines as well as alternative forms of knowledge creation


Ability to work both independently and as part of an interdisciplinary, inclusive and international research environment. Enthusiasm to contribute to teaching at LUCSUS and to work with masters students. Experience with research methods relevant to the project (e.g., qualitative interviews, ethnographic research methods, stakeholder workshops).

  • Experience in practicing ethically sound research in challenging environments and/or being ethically informed or experienced in working with vulnerable and at-risk populations.
  • Willingness to undertake extended fieldwork across Colombia.


Desired qualifications

In addition, the following qualification strengthen a candidate’s profile:

Demonstrated analytical abilities.

  • Experience working with social leaders, environmental human rights activists.


Experience with scientific publishing and visual tools (videos, blogs, popular scientific writing) to communicate activities and findings. Familiarity with theories and concepts relevant to the project (e.g., environmental justice, social movements, bio-cultural diversity, human and indigenous rights, political ecology).

Assessment criteria

Only applicants who are eligible for third cycle studies may be appointed to a doctoral studentship. Admission is primarily to be based on the applicant’s ability to benefit from the third cycle programme.

The applicants will be assessed based on the criteria named above and, in particular, their ability to conduct independent research and their ability and interest to contribute to a new and developing research field. As third cycle studies in sustainability science are demanding, the applicant must be highly motivated and able to work independently under multiple time constraints. Good collaboration and communication skills are also required, as is proficiency in written and spoken English and Spanish.

Application procedure

Applications are to be submitted electronically via the Lund University application portal. The application must include:

 A cover letter in English of max. 2 500 words. This should contain a brief presentation of yourself, your motivation and qualifications for carrying out PhD research. The letter should also contain a statement on why you would like to work on this specific project, how your qualifications make you suitable for the position (with reference to the specific qualifications and research questions listed above), and what individual interests and priorities you would like to pursue within the project’s overall aims, provided your application were successful. A CV in English (2 pages max) that demonstrates your qualifications for the third cycle programme in Sustainability Science (including publications, if relevant) Degree and grade certificates. A copy of your degree thesis/theses, corresponding to at least 30 credits (30 credits Master’s degree thesis, or 15 credits Master’s degree thesis plus 15 credits Bachelor’s degree thesis). Name and contact information of three professional references (note: letters of reference are not required in the first stage of application).

Interviews will be conducted with a shortlisted number of applicants during the final stages of the admission process.

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