Doctoral Researcher: NEXtra for South Asia (2 vacancies)

United Nations University (UNU)

Dresden, Germany 🇩🇪

Job description

About United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in policy-oriented research, capacity development and dissemination of knowledge in furthering the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

For the past four decades, UNU has been a go-to think tank for impartial research on human survival, conflict prevention, sustainable development, and welfare. With more than 400 researchers in 12 countries, UNU’s work spans the 17 Sustainable Development Goals’ full breadth, generating policy-relevant knowledge to effect positive global change. UNU maintains more than 200 collaborations with UN agencies and leading universities and research institutions across the globe. For more information, please visit

United Nations University for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES)

UNU-FLORES develops strategies to resolve pressing issues in the sustainable use and integrated management of environmental resources such as water, soil, waste, energy, and other geo-resources that are of concern to the United Nations and its Member States – particularly in developing and emerging economies. Based in Dresden, Germany, the Institute engages in research, capacity development, postgraduate teaching, advanced training, and knowledge dissemination to advance the Resource Nexus.

Doctoral Research

NEXtra, or “Resource Nexus for Sustainability Transformations” offers opportunities to conduct doctoral studies under joint supervision by experts from TU Dresden, UNU-FLORES and IOER. Under the EPOS – Development-Oriented Postgraduate Courses funding programme, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) will support doctoral candidates  (scholarships for 42 months, plus entitlement for a two-months German language course; for details of the scholarship, please refer to the EPOS page of DAAD). From 2023 until 2030, we expect an annual intake of 7 to 8 scholarship-funded candidates.

The successful candidates will have the opportunity to conduct doctoral research to advance the Resource Nexus and support the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals. Selected students will be jointly supervised by experts from Technische Universität Dresden, UNU-FLORES and the Leibniz Institute for Ecological Urban and Regional Development (IOER), and enrolled in one of the joint doctoral programmes of TU Dresden with UNU-FLORES and/or the Dresden Leibniz Graduate School of IOER. Additionally, students will collaborate with and support the work of the United Nations Development System (UNDS) in their geographic area(s) of research focus and engage with one or more entities of the UNDS via the Resident Coordinator System, which includes the United Nations Development Coordination Office (UN-DCO), its regional teams and the resident coordinator offices at the national level. As a facet of the NEXtra project, the selected students must design their research to consider its impact on communities, and strive to translate their findings into policy advice and real-world application and solutions, which may be taken up by the UNDS in its efforts to support SDG achievement. In addition to the academic recruitment criteria, applications will be assessed on responsiveness to regional/sub-regional contexts and evidence-based needs. The NEXtra Doctoral Research for South Asia offers the opportunity to study under one of the following topics:

Topic 1: Sustainability transformations in post-mining regions: applying the Resource Nexus to coal phaseout

Geographic Scope: India

Topic 2: Extended cost-benefit approach for evaluating adaptation and mitigation measures in developing countries

Geographic Scope: Pakistan

Selected candidates will collaborate with fellow doctoral students and senior scientists within and beyond NEXtra. Besides conducting research, they will publish their results in scientific articles and discuss and disseminate their findings at scientific and implementation-oriented conferences and workshops. They will contribute to the work of the United Nations, particularly concerning the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals through UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks.


1. Perform research work related to either topics 1 or 2

  • Develop and implement a suitable and robust research methodology to advance the scientific knowledge within the specific topic; and
  • Contribute to the advancement of the Resource Nexus approach and strategies for sustainability transformations in the context of the specific topic.

2. Collaborate within NEXtra and with the UN system

  • Actively participate in workshops and other events organised within NEXtra;
  • Actively engage in information exchange, discussions and strategic collaboration with UN entities related to your topic and region, via the Resident Coordinator System as the entry-point; and
  • Collaborate with other students in NEXtra to exchange knowledge, and identify and achieve synergies.

3. Contribute to knowledge dissemination

  • Develop strategies for advocacy and the transfer of knowledge to other regions that face similar challenges;
  • Research, write, and publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals;
  • Present research findings at scientific and implementation-oriented conferences and similar events; and
  • Communicate research findings beyond academia, e.g. by outreach to local communities or by publishing at least one transfer-oriented product such as a policy brief.

4. Support capacity development and educational development

  • Contribute to the education/supervision of Master students at the NEXtra partner institutions and/or in the target country/region of the research; and
  • Contribute to capacity development activities, such as organising workshops

5. Perform other duties as assigned by the supervision team

Key Performance Indicators

  • Timely and quality development and implementation of the project plan;
  • Timely submission and successful completion of the final Doctoral Thesis;
  • Presentation of papers/posters/briefing notes at conferences, seminars, workshops or similar events;
  • Contribution to the positive reputation of the NEXtra consortium as reliable and trustworthy partners among the research community, governments, donors, and civil society;



  • Inclusion â€” take action to create an environment of dignity and respect for all, regardless of age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, gender expression, geography, grade, language, nationality, racial identity, religion, sex, sex characteristics, sexual orientation, social origin or any other aspect of identity
  • Integrity â€” act ethically, demonstrating the standards of conduct of the United Nations and taking prompt action in case of witnessing unprofessional or unethical behaviour, or any other breach of UN standards
  • Humility — demonstrate self-awareness and willingness to learn from others
  • Humanity â€” act according to the purposes of the United Nations: peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet


  • Connect and collaborate â€” build positive relationships with others to advance the work of the United Nations and work coherently as One UN
  • Analyse and plan â€” seek out and use data from a wide range of sources to understand problems, inform decision-making, propose evidence-based solutions and plan action
  • Deliver results with positive impact â€” hold oneself and others accountable for delivering results and making a positive difference to the people and causes that the United Nations serves
  • Learn and develop â€” pursue own learning and development and contribute to the learning and development of others
  • Adapt and innovate â€” demonstrate flexibility, agility and the ability to think and act in novel ways


  • Excellent academic profile including a Master’s degree with an equivalent grade of 2.5 or better according to the German system;
    • Topic 1: Master’s degree in geosciences, environmental engineering, or a related field
    • Topic 2: Master’s degree in economics, or a related field
  • The Master’s degree must be completed at the time of starting the scholarship, but should not be older than six (6) years at the beginning of the Doctoral Research;
  • At least two years of related working experience after the first academic degree (typically, Bachelor’s degree);
  • At the time of the application deadline, applicants may not have been in Germany for longer than fifteen months;
  • Sound scientific background knowledge and methodological competencies that specifically relate to the selected topic;
  • First experiences in conducting independent, and preferably inter-/transdisciplinary research (e.g. research-oriented master thesis, research or consultancy-related employment);
  • Strong interest and previous academic/working experience related to at least one of the following three fields: (1) sustainability/sustainable development; (2) development cooperation and/or (3) the Resource Nexus;
  • Capacity to structure complex tasks; strong analytical abilities;
  • Excellent writing skills and presentation skills
  • Strong planning, organisation, and time management skills with the ability to communicate clearly and efficiently in different contexts (e.g., academia, UN system);
  • Must be flexible with the ability to establish priorities and work within prescribed timeframes;
  • An excellent team player with strong interpersonal skills, as demonstrated by the ability to work in a multicultural, multi-ethnic environment with sensitivity and respect for diversity;
  • Demonstrated proficiency in English is required;
  • Proficiency in one of the official language(s) of the target country (in addition to English) would be highly advantageous;
  • Knowledge of German and/or another UN official working language is an asset.

Duration and remuneration

The DAAD-EPOS pays a monthly stipend of EUR 1,200 for the duration of the Doctoral Research (up to a maximum of 42 months). The stipend is expected to cover all living and education expenses. While the Doctoral programme is tuition-free, semester fees of approximately EUR 250-300 will need to be paid directly to TU Dresden for enrollment. The DAAD can also provide health insurance and introductory German classes. An additional allowance for travel or research will be part of the scholarship offered by the DAAD. Details will be shared with nominated candidates.

The successful candidate will be enrolled as a student based in Dresden, Germany.

Starting Date:  April 2023

How to Apply:

To apply to UNU, you will not need an account. Instead, we ask that you:

  • Apply via the apply line;
  • answer a few questions that are tailored to the position; and
  • Please submit the following documents as one PDF file:
    1. Completed application form for a DAAD scholarship
    2. A CV that is dated and signed, preferably based on the Europass; publications (if any) shall be listed at the bottom of the CV
    3. Letter of motivation including signature
    4. Summary of the doctoral research project (max 1 page)
    5. Work schedule and timetable for the doctoral project, including details of any upcoming phases abroad/field research
    6. Abstract of your Master thesis (max 1 page)
    7. Letter of recommendation from your current or most recent employer, including a letterhead, stamp and signature;
    8. A reference letter;
    9. Certificate(s) of employment that proves a minimum of two years of relevant employment
    10. Proof of language skills TOEFL/IELTS or evidence proving that English was the language of instruction for at least one of the previously completed degree programmes, in the form of a letter issued by the relevant university authority
    11. Proofs of internships (if any)
    12. Copies of all academic degrees and transcript of records (including an explanation of the grading scale and the German equivalent grade)

Candidates who do not provide all required documents will not be considered. Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

You may wish to refer to the UN Values and Behaviours Framework for more information.

Application Deadline: 30 April 2022

Evaluation of qualified candidates may include an assessment exercise which may be followed by a competency-based interview, background checks and references.

Special notice
PSA holders do not hold international civil servant status nor are they considered a “staff member” as defined in the UN Staff Rules and Regulations.
UNU is committed to diversity and inclusion within its workforce and encourages all candidates, irrespective of gender, nationality, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including persons living with disabilities to apply and become part of the organization. Applications from developing countries, and from women are strongly encouraged. Eligible internal applicants are also encouraged to apply.

UNU has a zero-tolerance policy on conduct that is incompatible with the aims and objectives of the United Nations and UNU, including sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment, abuse of authority and discrimination.

Information about UNU rosters

UNU reserves the right to select one or more candidates from this vacancy announcement. We may also retain applications and consider candidates applying to this post for other similar positions with UNU.

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