Japan Foundation for UNU (jfUNU) PhD Scholarship for Developing Countries, United Nations University, 2023

Application Deadline: February 17, 2023

Note that, The application period will be open for about a month. Applicants are encouraged to prepare the application form and required documents based on the information on these pages.

Information Sessions

Prospective students are encouraged to attend one of the information sessions organized by UNU-IAS. The content of the three sessions will be almost the same.

  • December 23, 202216:30–17:30 (JST) ONLINE
  • January 13, 202318:00-19:00 (JST) PERSON
  • January 19, 202316:30–17:30 (JST) ONLINE (JP only)

The schedule and program are subject to change.

PhD program overview

The PhD program in Sustainability Science is a three-year program that aims to train scientists who will become principal researchers in the field of sustainability science. The program takes an innovative approach to sustainability that seeks to promote a better understanding of global change perspectives, particularly those related to climate change and biodiversity.

The program will equip graduates with a comprehensive, multidisciplinary knowledge of sustainability issues and deepen their understanding of the role of environmental sustainability in addressing the pressing challenges of global change. The program provides students with unique opportunities to interact with leading scholars and policy makers through lectures, international conferences and seminars. By taking an active role in UNU-IAS research projects, students conduct problem-oriented research and acquire the quantitative and qualitative analytical skills needed to understand sustainability issues and the underlying principles of the various systems involved in the debate. Through coursework and research, PhD students acquire critical thinking and problem-solving skills, along with the technical literacy required to address sustainability issues.

The program begins in September, and third-year students are expected to complete all course requirements by July, earning at least 14 credits. Students can choose from courses offered by UNU-IAS, while also taking advantage of the opportunity to take courses at other leading universities in Japan, such as the University of Tokyo, Sofia University and International Christian University.

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Thematic areas and research opportunities

UNU-IAS postgraduate programs are closely related to the institute’s research activities. Students have the opportunity to gain practical experience by actively participating in research projects in UNU-IAS thematic areas. The courses offered correspond to these thematic areas under the main theme of sustainability.

  • Governance for Sustainable Development (GSD)
  • Biodiversity and Society (BDS)
  • Water and Resource Management (WRM)
  • Innovation and Education (IVE)

Applicants are required to choose one of these thematic areas and propose relevant research to be conducted at UNU-IAS. A description of each thematic area is available here.

Student research is expected to contribute to the project the student chooses to be associated with. Students refine the skills they learn in the classroom by conducting research in the field alongside experts and experienced practitioners.


The program is taught by an expert teaching faculty consisting of both UNU-IAS academic staff and invited distinguished scholars and practitioners.

See the list of UNU-IAS faculty members here.

Program structure and language

The program is offered on a full-time basis only. The standard length of time to complete degree requirements is 36 months or six academic semesters, excluding time spent on study leave at the university. The PhD in Sustainability Sciences is awarded upon satisfactory completion of 14 credits and a doctoral dissertation project.

It is the language of instruction English language.

Joint Diploma Programs

Students of the UNU-IAS doctoral degree program are also encouraged to pursue one of two joint degrees in sustainability science offered in collaboration with the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences (UT-GSFS) and Sofia University. These degree programs require students to earn 18 credits, eight of which must be from UNU-IAS and partner university-defined courses within the relevant joint degree program. A joint diploma can only be awarded to students who have successfully completed the two-year UNU-IAS master’s program.

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Learning Environment

UNU-IAS is a global university based in Tokyo and all classes are conducted in English. Sharing a building with many UN agencies, it offers a unique learning environment for a diverse and international student body. The PhD program includes courses attended by more than 15 international guest lecturers from leading agencies and institutions, offering students opportunities to learn from their unique expertise and experience. Class sizes are fairly small and students benefit from interactive and personalized teaching.


The UNU Library offers access to a range of academic books, over 20,000 e-journals, official UN documents issued since 1946 and publications in the e-libraries of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. All students are provided with a comprehensive library orientation session at the beginning of the course. Students also have access to the libraries of International Christian University, Ochanomizu University, Sophia University, Temple University Japan, and the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

Project Research Opportunities

Our curriculum is closely linked to UNU-IAS research activities in three thematic research areas (Sustainable Societies, Natural Capital and Biodiversity, Global Change and Resilience). Students have the opportunity to gain practical experience by actively participating in scientific research projects of the institute. Student research is expected to contribute to the project the student chooses to be affiliated with; and students improve the skills they learn in the classroom by conducting research in the field alongside experts and experienced practitioners.

Student support

UNU-IAS supports students from the time they enroll until they graduate, recognizing that they may struggle to adapt to a new country and culture.

An induction program is held at the beginning of the academic session to introduce students to the staff responsible for special student services and to familiarize students with the campus through a tour of the facilities.

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Before arrival, students are provided with a handbook on living in Tokyo, including information on how to find and secure accommodation.

Academic Calendar

The Academic Calendar shows important dates and university holidays for the academic year.

The scholarships listed below are competitive and may be awarded to eligible students admitted to the UNU-IAS Master of Science in Sustainability program. There is no separate application form for scholarships as it is part of the main online application form for admission. Interested applicants must submit the necessary information and documents for the scholarship when applying for the graduate program.

Japan Foundation for UNU (jfUNU) Scholarship

I. Scope

The jfUNU scholarship provides a monthly stipend of JPY 120,000 as a support package for a maximum of 36 months. Tuition fees may be waived for scholarship recipients.

II. Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Applicants must be from developing countries* who can demonstrate a need for financial assistance.
  • Applicants currently living in Japan on a work visa are NOT eligible for the scholarship.
  • Applicants already enrolled in other PhD programs are not eligible. This includes those who have already obtained a PhD at an institution other than UNU-IAS.

*Developing countries are included in the latest OECD DAC list.

III. Additional Requirements

  • Recipients of the jfUNU Scholarship are required to write a short essay about their studies and experiences at UNU that is submitted to the donor organization. Before graduation, each recipient is asked to provide a thank-you note to donors regarding their future plans.
  • Recipients agree to promote cooperation with jfUNU by participating in jfUNU activities, events, and other opportunities offered to the student body.

Source / Details: Official website HERE.

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