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PhD Opportunities

Disaster management and resilience research has been conducted at Salford for over 20 years and related research is funded by research councils, national and international government bodies, and industry. Disaster management and resilience research is based within the Centre for Disaster Resilience (CDR) which promotes research and scholarly activity that examines the role of the built environment industry to anticipate and respond to disasters that damage or destroy communities and their built, natural and human environment.

The Centre is world leading, and the only centre in the UK that promotes the multidisciplinary nature of the field and that undertakes cooperative research with a large number of international partners. Our research has:

  • Contributed to the development of resources to enhance professional practice in the humanitarian sector across the world
  • Shaped and influenced policy made by governments and other official bodies; and
  • Been used to develop resources to enhance professional practice in the humanitarian sector.

Researchers are working with communities to increase their resilience to the threat posed by natural and human hazards. Its researchers undertake real world, rigorous research; advise governments and other decision makers; provide education and training opportunities; deliver relevant research outputs and positive outcomes; and draw upon and share expertise internationally.

CDR’s capacity development, education and awareness raising activities are underpinned by this world-class, inter-disciplinary research. The Centre's success in postgraduate research is due to:

  • The quality of the research supervision
  • The breadth of their research interests
  • Research training offered to researchers
  • Cutting-edge facilities

Researchers and practitioners worldwide are supported in achieving higher qualifications and CDR offers doctoral study on a full- or part-time basis for professionals wishing to achieve academic recognition of their specialism and further the development of theory and practice in their field.

Several research degree programmes are on offer for prospective applicants to suit their personal circumstances:

  • MPhil: full-time/part-time /split-site/distance learning
  • MSc by research: full-time/part-time/split-site/distance learning
  • PhD: full-time/part-time
  • PhD split-site
  • PhD distance learning/online
  • Professional doctorate

Find out details about each degree programme...

For more details on disaster management related research opportunities, please contact Dr Udayangani Kulatunga

A full range of styles of research can be undertaken, from fundamental theory building to highly applied. Examples of areas that you can undertake research include:

  • Capacity building for disaster mitigation and reconstruction
  • Project management for post disaster reconstruction
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Risk management and sustainability
  • Post-conflict reconstruction
  • Stakeholder management and corporate social responsibility
  • Community engagement and participation in reconstruction
  • Social impact of reconstruction
  • Protection and empowerment of women and other vulnerable groups
  • Role of women in mitigating and managing disasters
  • Livelihood development
  • Micro finance and community co-operatives
  • Knowledge management and integration
  • Impact of culture towards disaster risk reduction
  • Post disaster waste management
  • Disaster management and theory building
  • Extreme weather events and coping strategies
  • Business continuity analysis and planning; and
  • Resilience and adaptive capacities of SMEs.

More on these PhD research topics can be found via the Research Centre’s homepage.

You can also visit the CDR member's web pages to read about the specific research interests of Centre members.

You should have a first degree that provides a foundation in the principles of disaster resilience, mitigation and reconstruction, and this can be from various backgrounds.

The programme aims to develop the skills and knowledge of the built environment professions and other professions working in disaster mitigation and reconstruction, so that they may reflect on and strengthen their capacity in strategic and practical aspects of disaster preparedness, rehabilitation and reconstruction to mitigate the effects of disasters nationally and internationally.

We promote innovative inter-disciplinary working and co-operation among scientific communities tackling the challenges associated with natural and human induced hazards. The complex nature of disasters, their origins, causes and consequences, has led to widespread recognition that risk reduction through increased resilience will hence require a multi-sectoral approach that explores what resilience is, what it means to society, and how societies might achieve greater resilience in the face of increasing threats from natural and human induced hazards.

Accordingly, we will accept students with multi disciplinary backgrounds including built environment, sociology, engineering, financial management, business continuity. Evidence of ability to study and critically appraise literature independently is essential and candidates with Masters qualification are preferred. Experience of research involving human participants is also preferable but is not essential.

Our postgraduate research degree programmes are for researchers and academics, policy makers and other professionals working with disaster prevention, mitigation, response and reconstruction responsibilities who wish to improve their working knowledge of both theory and practice in making cities resilient to disasters. These professionals may be working with or for local and national government agencies, relief agencies, private sector companies, public sector agencies, UN organisations, national and international aid agencies, civil and military services, academia and insurance appraisers and investigators.

As a student embarking on a postgraduate research degree you will be assigned a supervisory team, to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University. However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need and be proactive in your approach to study.

These study programmes address capacity gaps and shortcomings in current disaster management practices that were exposed by recent disasters. The programme addresses the two phase cycle of disaster management, with post-disaster reconstruction informing pre-disaster risk reduction, and vice versa.

The programme provides an opportunity for students to study contemporary issues surrounding disaster management theory and practice, combined with the wider study of built environment applications across the disaster management lifecycle, thus providing a unique and intellectually challenging course of study. Students will be equipped with the skills needed to practice disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and long-term reconstruction of disaster affected built environments.

There is consistently an emphasis on the critical need to shift the focus of disaster management from advocacy to practical actions, and to support efforts that build capacities for implementing disaster management principles. As a result, qualified disaster professionals are in high demand. Our doctoral researchers are much sought after by a range of organisations, including, governments, NGOs and private sector organisations.

The programme’s goal is to enhance graduates’ employability by giving students the knowledge and skills necessary to critically evaluate and apply key elements of disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery, including the ability to conduct assessments of hazards, risks, vulnerability and capacity. Also, through providing students with an understanding of approaches that may be used internationally to reduce and manage risk, the programme aims to prepare students for employment in a wide range of careers focused on disaster intervention. Accordingly, We will help you to upskill your knowledge and practical skills to ensure an interesting and rewarding career in the specialist area of disasters and its management.

Routes our graduates have pursued:

  • Aid organisations
  • Environmental organisations
  • Academia
  • UN agencies
  • Civil sector roles
  • Insurance appraisers and investigators local and national government agencies
  • Relief agencies
  • Private sector companies
  • Public sector agencies,
  • National and international aid agencies
  • Civil and military services,.

Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics. We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor. This means the University can become part of the developing professional network that students take forward into their future careers.

Examining the State of Community Capacity Building For Disaster Risk Reduction in Eastern Africa

Stuart Katwikirize - 1st year researcher

Synopsis: Eastern Africa, which includes the Horn of Africa countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, is a region exposed to various disaster risks ranging from cyclic droughts and famines, floods, landslides, epidemics to conflict induced people displacements. The region also benefits from enormous donor and local government development funding where unfortunately, development gains are repeatedly reversed or wiped out by aforementioned cyclic disaster shocks.

Given the above humanitarian landscape and level of donor investment in the region, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) ought to be a priority consideration supported and mainstreamed by all major relief and development practitioners in the region. Consequently, one would suppose that support to community capacity building for DRR is already a top priority among major relevant stakeholders in Eastern Africa. However, evidence from related case studies in South Africa, Colombia and Indonesia suggests that poor local capacity for DRR remains a major impediment to making required progress. To date, there is very little known and written about the level of prioritization and subsequent support given to community capacity building for DRR in Eastern Africa and this research sets out to close this evidence gap.

Gender mainstreaming in sustainable post disaster reconstruction

Tri Yumarni – 2nd year researcher

Synopsis: Gender inequalities are barriers to achieve sustainable post-disaster reconstruction. Mainstreaming gender equality within post-disaster reconstruction process can enhance sustainability of reconstruction. This research identifies pre-requisite conditions for mainstreaming gender within sustainable postdisaster reconstruction as: awareness of gender needs and concerns, a strong gender policy framework, women participation and leadership as an agent of change, gendered institutional capability, flexible and decentralised structure of gendered policy planning.

Empowering Local Governments in making Cities Resilient to Disasters

Chamindi Malalgoda – 3rd year researcher

Synopsis: Cities are complex systems of human creations, consisting of interdependent physical systems and human communities, which are vulnerable to disasters in varying degrees. Urban areas are growing very rapidly all over the world particularly in developing countries. As a result of rapid urbanisation, the world’s population is increasingly concentrated in large cities leading to unplanned urban development with inappropriate and lower quality housing, infrastructure and services. This excessive unplanned urban growth leads to various physical, social and economic vulnerabilities. As a result, the consequences of disasters are very undesirable especially when they occur in urban environments. Furthermore, any disruption may result in domino-effects due to inter dependent nature of the cities. Thus, it is important to strengthen the cities by concentrating on city’s resilience to disasters in order to mitigate their vulnerabilities.

The local governments being the first responder and the one responsible for local area development, has a key role to play in achieving a city’s resilience to disasters. Several incidents have been reported on the inadequate contribution of local governments in taking the lead role of disaster risk reduction initiatives. This could mainly be attributed to inadequate financial, manpower and other resources available with local governments, and their failure to make timely decisions due to lack of authority. Therefore the aim of this research is to develop a framework for empowering the local governments in creating resilient cities to disasters within the context of the built environment. Accordingly this paper focuses on emphasising the need for concentrating on urban vulnerabilities.

In this context, this research highlights the growing need for concentrating on urban areas and the ways and means of making urban cities resilient to disasters. The literature review technique will be used to address this potential issues and the findings will be justified through various literature gathered from research papers in electronic databases along with conference proceedings and reports published by various institutions.

Taufika Ophiyandri

PhD: Project risk management for community-based post-disaster housing reconstruction, 2013

Current position: Lecturer at Civil Engineering Department, Andalas University, Indonesia

After completing my PhD at Centre for Disaster Resilience, University of Salford in 2013, I returned to Andalas University, Indonesia. This area is highly prone to disaster. As a result, implementation of disaster management, from the mitigation stage to the recovery stage, is immensely important. With knowledge and research skills I gained through my PhD journey, I am very confident that I can significantly contribute to improve the disaster management practices in Indonesia

The Centre for Disaster Resilience is really a fantastic place to study. During my study, I felt that the research environment and all the facilities provided were really great. The staff members were the expert in their field. They supervise their students to the right direction and always encourage producing research publications. What more can I say, this Centre is really the right place to study about disaster management.

Gayan Wedawatta

PhD : Resilience of Construction SMEs to Extreme Weather Events, 2013

Current Position : Lecturer, Aston University, UK

I conducted PhD research on resilience of construction SMEs to extreme weather events at the Centre for Disaster Resilience. During my time at the University of Salford I got the opportunity to work on a number of externally funded research projects including EPSRC funded “Community Resilience to Extreme Weather -CREW”, RICS Education Trust funded “Developing Flood Expert Knowledge in Chartered Surveyors – DEFENCES” and British Council funded “CEREBELLA”. Skills and qualifications gained at the Centre for Disaster Resilience helped me to obtain a teaching position at Coventry University before the completion of my PhD research. Following the completion of my PhD research in 2013, I moved to Aston University as a lecturer in construction management; where I am currently employed.

Siti Uzairiah Mohd Tobi

PhD: Social Enterprise Applications in an Urban Facilities Management Setting

Current position: UTM RAZAK School of Engineering & Advanced Technology, UTM International Campus, Malaysia

Focus of the research is to have an approach to develop a new service delivery model that meets the needs of social enterprise principles in an urban FM setting for managing community facilities operations. The applicability of the proposed model in this research shall be adapted into Malaysia perspective.

Roshani Palliyaguru

PhD: Influence of integrating disaster risk reduction within post-disaster infrastructure reconstruction on socio-economic development

Current position : Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, UK

After completing my BSc in Quantity Surveying at the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka I decided to pursue a PhD in the field of construction management Centre for Disaster Resilience in the University of Salford, UK in 2006. My specific interest was to pursue my studies in the area of ‘Infrastructure development and environmental concerns in disaster management’. My doctoral project was concerned with investigating the influence of integrating disaster risk reduction strategies within infrastructure reconstruction projects in achieving the socio-economic development needs of disaster affected communities. My research involved working closely with the Sri Lankan post-tsunami (2004) reconstruction sector and the experts in the disaster resilience filed in the UK. It allowed me to broaden my experience and knowledge of the deficiencies in the post-disaster reconstruction post-disaster reconstruction practices and develop skills into formulating strategies to streamline the ineffective processes in relation to integration of disaster risk reduction into reconstitution.

After completing my PhD in 2010, I started at Heriot-Watt University as a Lecturer in Quantity Surveying. Apart from lecturing I am continuing with my research in the field of disaster resilience in the built environment. The experiences which I gained during my stay in the Centre for Disaster Resilience in the University of Salford have strongly influenced the activities I develop in my new role as an active researcher in the field.

Research excellence attributed to CDR for over more than ten years by the UK’s competitive research assessment exercise represents its excellence in training, developing, nurturing and encouraging newer researchers into research careers. Students will be benefited from such training activities.

CDR provides a multi disciplinary research environment to students and support is given to them to determine how their specific research projects fits with the larger picture of built environment research.
Within CDR, protocols are designed and applied to ensure postgraduates have sufficient time, authority and responsibility to conduct and develop their activities. This mechanism also helps to maximise the opportunities to invest in for the benefit of postgraduates under the mentoring of senior researchers. Nurturing of postgraduates includes engagement on existing projects and involvement with embryonic publications. The career expectation of all postgraduates is to aspire to a doctoral level of qualification.

CDR is committed to fostering a vibrant research environment for postgraduate research students from across the world. Following are a comprehensive range of support services and development opportunities available for researchers:

More details of the support available for postgraduate students is available here.

As a student embarking on a postgraduate research degree you will be assigned a supervisory team, to help guide and mentor you throughout your time at the University.

Duties and Responsibilities of Supervisors are available on the Postgraduate Students' web pages.

You can also view more specific details on the supervisory arrangements on the School of the Built Environment website.

However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need and be proactive in your approach to study. Accordingly, Duties and Responsibilities of Research Candidates are available here.

As a postgraduate research student at the University of Salford, you are required to meet a number of milestones in order to re-register for each year of study. These ‘progression points’ are an important aid for both you and your supervisory team and it is essential that you complete them on time.

Learning Agreement

This is completed by you and your supervisor collaboratively in the first 3 months of your research programme. It encourages both of you to develop a thorough and consistent understanding of your individual and shared roles and responsibilities in your research partnership.

Annual Progress Report

This report is completed by your supervisor at the end of each year of study, and reports on your achievements in the past year, the likelihood that you will submit on time, confirmation of the Learning Agreement and relevant training undertaken.

Self Evaluation Report

This is completed by you at the end of each year of study. It asks you to comment on your academic progress, supervisory arrangements, research environment, research training, and relevant training undertaken.

Interim Assessment

This is an assessment of your progress by a panel. It takes place towards the end of your first year, and is designed to ensure you have reached a threshold of academic performance, by assessing your general progress. The assessment comprises a written report, presentation and oral examination by a Panel. You must successfully complete it in order to register for your second year.

Internal Evaluation

This will take place towards the end of the second year and successful completion is required in order to continue onto your third year of study. You will be expected to show strong progress in your PhD study reflected in the submission of a substantial piece of work, generally at least 4 chapters of your thesis.

Further information and guidance on postgraduate research lifecycle can also be found on the Postgraduate Students' web pages.