Global Doctoral scholarship - St Andrews and Bonn - Geography and Sustainable Development

University of St. Andrews

St Andrews, Scotland, UK 🇬🇧

Application period opens: Wednesday 15 February 2023

Application period closes: Friday 31 March 2023

Entry: 2023

The University of St Andrews and the University of Bonn are pleased to offer a scholarship funded by both institutions, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research on a topic to be defined within in the following project areas:

Topic 1: Mega-infrastructure in Northern Kenya

Topic 2: Water politics in Northern Kenya

There is flexibility in designing the project plan including the periods to be spent at each institution within the overall requirements outlined under the duration of award section below. The project will, however, begin at Bonn.

The student may start their degree at any point in the academic year 2023-2024 prior to a final entry date of 27 May 2024 subject to agreement with the supervisory team.

Doctoral Research at St Andrews

As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.

St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.

Doctoral Research at the University of Bonn

As a doctoral student at the University of Bonn you will be part of a vibrant and intellectually stimulating academic community. The University of Bonn is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world. It is one of only 11 German Universities of Excellence and the only German university with six Clusters of Excellence.

In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home Department, doctoral students at the University of Bonn have access to the Bonn Graduate Center, which is the central service department for doctoral candidates. It offers guidance on training and funding opportunities and offers a free and comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.


Topic 1: Mega-infrastructure in Northern Kenya

Mega-infrastructure has returned to the global political and research agenda, with numerous large dams, roads, ports, irrigation schemes, and other ‘development’ projects planned or under construction, particularly in the Global South. These projects are now often framed as sustainable or green development, in contrast to previous modernist and nationalist discourses of the 20th century. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is a well-known global example for mega-infrastructure development; at a more regional scale, the Lamu Port-South Sudan- Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor that crosses Northern Kenya is another. Critical research points to persistent underperformance on economic indicators, as well as negative environmental and social impacts, despite the aspirations and hopes invested by policymakers and citizens in these projects. That said, the reality of mega-infrastructure development is complex and diverse; some projects are stalled for decades, while others do materialise quickly. Most have unforeseen impacts.

Research proposals on mega-infrastructure are invited that have a regional focus on Northern Kenya. This region has seen, for example, the construction of an (highly underused) airport in the town of Isiolo, and plans for a large dam, Crocodile Jaws, which continues unbuilt, following local opposition. Although some of these projects are currently being studied by members of the research group of Professor Müller-Mahn, important research gaps remain, for example, regarding the interactions between different large projects, or between the expansion of transport corridors, land use change, and water resource availability. PhD proposals should be complementary to ongoing studies conducted within the ‘Future Rural Africa’ Collaborative Research Centre (CRC-TRR 228) at the Universities of Bonn and Cologne.

Topic 2: Water politics in Northern Kenya

Stakeholder participation in water management continues to be a key public policy objective worldwide. Likewise, understanding how and why conflicts about water emerge, and how they can be mitigated or resolved in the face of diminishing water security is one of the most important priorities for water research today. In Kenya, stakeholder participation has been formalised through the 2002 Water Act, which calls for the establishment of Water Resources User Associations (WRUAs) within the country’s river basins. These institutions are composed of commercial and small-scale farmers, domestic users, service providers, pastoralists, conservancies, and other water users, as well as representatives from government and civil society. Among other purposes, WRUAs serve to coordinate water abstraction and rationing programmes; they also help with the implementation and enforcement of national water laws and regulations and are the first point of contact for addressing any localised water issues.

Northern Kenya has a long history of conflict between different water users, perhaps due to the strong ecological, economic, and cultural diversity in the region. Research proposals are invited that broadly fall into the field of water politics/political ecology of water, using Northern Kenya as a case study. Potential research questions could investigate various aspects, focusing, for example, on the micro-politics of multi-stakeholder water management in WRUAs, inter- or intra-community water conflict, translation of national and international water norms to local scales, conflicts associated with groundwater use and management, cultural values and water management, the implications of foreign donor activity for water management in the region, human-wildlife conflict related to water access, and many others.

The project will be managed jointly between the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at St Andrews and the Institute of Geography at Bonn. The student will be supervised by Dr Christopher Schulz (St Andrews) and Prof. Detlef Müller-Mahn (Bonn).

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to the co-supervisors at and  

Value of award (per year)

The funding comprises a scholarship equivalent of a full-fees award and stipend for a period of up to 3.5 years. It is expected that the student will spend half of the scholarship term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn:

  • For the period spent at the University of St Andrews, the scholarship will comprise a full fees award and a stipend paid at the current UK Research Council rate (£17,668 each year in 2022–2023)
  • For the period spent at the University of Bonn, the scholarship will comprise a monthly maintenance grant of €1,500. The University of Bonn does not charge any tuition fees, but students must pay a so-called social contribution once per semester (currently €315 per semester).

Duration of award

Up to 3.5 years. The student will be expected to spend approximately half of the award term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.

At what stage of my course application can I apply for this scholarship?

Please apply for the scholarship after you have submitted your application for a place at St Andrews.  You do not need to wait until you have received an offer of a place before applying for the scholarship.

Application restrictions

Study level

Available to students studying at:


Domicile for fee status

No restrictions


Available to faculty members from:

Geography and Sustainable Development

Application assessment

Academic merit

Available to

Prospective students

Mode of study

Full time

Geographical criteria

No restrictions

Additional criteria

Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at either the University of St Andrews or the University of Bonn (or another institution).

How to apply

Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for this Global Doctoral scholarship (reference Schulz-Müller-Mahn).

Applicants should submit their application to the co-supervisors by 31 March 2023. Please send your application to Dr Christopher Schulz (St Andrews) and Prof. Detlef Müller-Mahn (Bonn) at the following email addresses: and

Your application should include the following:

  • Statement why you are the right candidate for the project (max. 500 words)
  • More specific project proposal (overview/context, research questions, methods, outcomes and impact, project timeline, statements on ethics and risk, max. 2000 words)
  • CV
  • 2 Reference(s) (these can be sent by the referees or by the applicant)

Next steps

Once notified, successful candidates should proceed to fulfil the application requirements for each University and must meet all normal entry requirements for admission – please see the advice on applying for research degree programmes. Applications should indicate that the applicant is the recipient of a Global Doctoral Scholarship St Andrews and Bonn (reference Schulz-Müller-Mahn).

Terms and conditions

Please read the University of St Andrews scholarships terms and conditions (opens in new tab).

These are applicable during the St Andrews duration of the award; please consult the partner institution for their terms and conditions relating to scholarships.

When will I know the outcome?

You will be notified of the outcome of your application by 30 April 2023. Awards are subject to final signatures of contractual relationships between the parties, and are not an indication of admission to the doctoral programme. Successful scholarship applicants must apply to both institutions and meet all relevant entry requirements for admission including any immigration requirements that may be in place.Contact

Please contact us should you have any questions regarding the scholarship:

Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to the co-supervisors at and  





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