PhD opportunities

Research is vital to our University: it enables us to contribute new knowledge, underpins our creative and enterprise thinking and ensures we are delivering leading-edge teaching. Our researchers are making significant discoveries and partnering local, national and global organisations to find solutions to contemporary commercial, scientific and social issues.

Many of our academic staff engage in research and/or professional practice, and we have a thriving community of postgraduate research students.

Our specialist areas

We currently specialise in a range of subject areas within the built and natural environment, including:

  • Community engagement and enablement
  • Knowledge management and expertise in the construction industry
  • Local sustainability
  • Post-catastrophe urban reconstruction
  • Rural-urban fringe economy and management
  • Stakeholders and community engagement
  • Urban conservation.

Our work focuses on human intervention in the physical environment, with the aim of improving current and future conditions. We are particularly interested in work that explores the problematic gaps between professions, between planning strategy and policy and between the academic and professional worlds.

PhD study

We welcome inquiries in the fields of planning, surveying, property and new estate - please check the Research Centre websites listed below to find details of academic staff interests to see how your interests and research ambitions align with ours.

Property Space and Capital research group

Property, Planning and Policies

The Property, Planning and Policies research group focuses on the complex phyiscal interrelationships between people, space and the environment. 
Find out more >>
Planning shot

Transforming Building Lifecycle

Advancing knowledge related to the building life-cycle through the application of digital technology and process transformation as well as the application of novice management approaches.
Find out more >>
Urban sust

Global Environmental Challenges

The Global Environmental Challenges Research Group addresses global social-environmental challenges and opportunities at various scales.
Find out more >>

For general discussions about the studying for a research degree contact the School's Associate Head (Research), Professor Peter Larkham ( You can also view our PhD area, which includes helpful blogs, fees and finance advice and more.


Formal applications should be made on the University's online application form, which can be found under the 'How to Apply' tab of the Built Environment PhD course page. The form should be accompanied by an initial research proposal of 1,000-2,500 words (fully referenced) explaining your ideas about topic and how it might be studied - this allows us to match your ideas with staff experience and interests. To discuss the application process contact 

See below for details of active studentships:

Built Environment PhD Studentships

PhD Classic Doctoral Training Grant Funding Information 

This funding model includes a 36 month fully funded PhD Studentship, in-line with the Research Council values, which comprises a tax-free stipend paid monthly (£16,062 for 2022-2023) per year and a Full Time Home Fee Scholarship (£4,596 for 2022-2023) for up to 3 years, subject to you making satisfactory progression within your PhD research.

International students will be required to pay the difference between the International Fee Rate and Home Fee Rate. All applicants will receive the same stipend irrespective of fee status.

Closing Application Dates:

Home Applicants (including Pre-Settled and EU Settled)

23:59 on Monday 31st October 2022 for a February 2023 start.

International Applicants

These studentships are now closed to International Applicants.

Please include your start preference when applying.

How to Apply 

To apply, please complete the project proposal form, ensuring that you quote the project reference, and then complete the online application where you will be required to upload your proposal in place of a personal statement as a pdf document.

Formal applications should be made on the University's online application form, which can be found under the 'How to Apply' tab of the course page.

You will also be required to upload two references, at least one being an academic reference, and your qualification/s of entry (Bachelor/Masters certificate/s and transcript/s).

Project: Generating Digital Twins for underground infrastructure with advanced digital sensing technologies

Reference: CEBE-ST-08

Project Lead: Dr Saeed Talebi

Project Outline

The maintenance of the existing railway infrastructure, either above-ground infrastructure (e.g., bridges, tunnels, retaining walls) or buried infrastructure (e.g., water and gas pipes, electricity cables, telecom cables), is a significant investment to relevant authorities.For example, Network Rail spends nearly £2 Billion every five years for such a purpose. Maximising the benefits of those investments and, consequently, reducing the need for future spending is critical to ensure the medium and long term sustainability of the UK railway network. There is already a large amount of information (digital and non-digital) available on above-ground infrastructure but a lack of data and information on existing buried infrastructure. This lack of information creates challenges for the planning of the maintenance, repair and upgrade of railway assets as well as the installation of new buried infrastructure.

The Project

The performance of buried infrastructure relies on the choice of material, structural integrity and the ability to resist external loads. They can be damaged due to loads imposed by traffic and ground movements, scour, seismic activity and corrosion. Therefore, it is critical to have a detailed understanding of their condition through regular inspection. However, at present, it is extremely challenging to acquire meaningful condition data for the buried ageing infrastructure due to the lack of basic design information and practical investigation methods as most buried infrastructure in the UK has been built a long time ago with limited records of the design and construction. There have been initiatives to reconstruct 3D models for buried infrastructure. Typically, they require experienced operatives and can take up to several months depending on the required level and type of information. The existing methods depend on manual processes and require the utilisation of traditional open-cut (or trenched) excavations with the use of established software tools, which cannot automatically perform all tasks related to generating 3D models from the captured data. Moreover, these existing initiatives do not attempt to enable continuous updating of the reconstructed model when further data are produced, e.g., in the situation of new additional works.

This research aims to develop a method and related digital technologies to rapidly construct the Digital Twin of buried infrastructure elements and assess their condition.

The key objectives of the research are to:

  1. Identify the requirements for the condition assessment of the existing buried infrastructure
  2. Review the existing underground sensing technologies to detect and assess buried infrastructure
  3. Develop a rapid Digital Twin reconstruction method with reality capture technologies
  4. Develop a Digital Twin for buried infrastructure using data fusion techniques to integrate data from reality capture and underground sensing technologies
  5. Validate the developed digital solution developed in Objective 4. using real industry informed cases.

Person Specification

  • A good Upper Second or First Class Degree (or International equivalent), in civil engineering, environmental engineering, construction management, architectural engineering or closely-related disciplines, and/or a Master’s degree in relevant subjects
  • Familiar with digital built environment and infrastructure. Applicants with knowledge in civil engineering and 3D modelling using software such as Revit and Dynamo most welcome.
  • Well organised and ability to work independently.
  • Ability to learn new skills and build relationships with new people in an effective manner.
  • Strong written and oral communication skills.
  • Track record of publications in high indexed journals is desired.

To discuss Project CEBE-ST-08, please contact Dr Saeed Talebi.


Project: A ‘Whole Systems’ approach for Birmingham: the role of digital tools in inclusive and sustainable city planning.

Reference: CEBE-MHT-06

Project Lead: Dr Miguel Hincapie Trivino

Project Outline

Citizen participation in UK city planning is increasingly becoming more digitalised. Local governments support applications, social network platforms and digital devices to enhance an inclusive participation and access to state services. While a body of work has shown that digital tools can be productive instruments to maximise engagement of different actors in placemaking, critical questions remain about how effective and equitable these tools are to include experiences and knowledge of local communities in decision making. What benefits do they bring for inclusive participation? And how effective are they in tackling some of the cities’ sustainability challenges? Fundamentally, the ability of local governments to widen the range of methodologies for a digitally enabled approach to integrating public participation based on current legislative procedures and information from evidence analytics based on digital systems remains under-explored.

This PhD research will review the government-led initiative ‘Digital Birmingham’, which aims to deliver a £10M program for free connectivity, digital academy, citizen engagement, and environmental management. Following recommendations of the Royal Town Planning Institute based on a ‘Whole Systems’ approach, this research will propose a pilot for Digital Birmingham to integrate digital and non-digital tools to enable sharing of data and knowledge and engaging effectively with the public. It will assess how linking historic and predictive data, online activities and people’s understanding of real places based on non-digital participation methods can bring more equitable, sustainable and wider engagement of citizens.

The successful applicant will be able to demonstrate engagement with local community-level spatial planning and decision making and skills with relevant digital technologies, software and social media. You will be based at the Department for the Built Environment. We have a vibrant, interdisciplinary research community tackling the biggest issues faced by society globally and host high profile guest lectures from government and industry. You will receive comprehensive research training and opportunities to participate in conferences, workshops and seminars to develop professional skills and research network.

Person Specification

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

English language requirements: IELTS Academic 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category, or equivalent.

To discuss Project CEBE-MHT-06, please contact Dr Miguel Hincapie Trivino.


Telephone: 07591082529