Civic Design MPhil/PhD

Major code: ESDP/ESDM

About us

Civic Design

As the world’s first planning school, established 1909, Civic Design offers you quality professional education within a setting renowned for its innovative, influential research and scholarship.

Civic Design is one of the four subject disciplines within the School of Environmental Sciences and specialises in the planning of cities and regions. Our work falls into the following research groups:-

  • Earth Surface Dynamics
  • Geology and Geophysics
  • Earth's Interior Dynamics
  • People, Space and Place

We place a high value on our thriving Postgraduate Research (PGR) and have over 90 active PGR students with 25 PGR students contributing to the work of our four groups.

You’d be joining a team that has close links with schools across Europe, the Americas and Pacific Asia. We’ve a high profile too, as editors of the international Town Planning Review publication.

There is a wide range of research topics that reflects the diverse expertise of academic staff in the School. To find out more about the research topics available, and the ongoing research studentships visit our Postgraduate Research page, and the PGR pages from each research cluster.

We aim to produce researchers with strong, transferable research skills, who are internationally recognised in their own fields and understand current environmental and academic research problems.

You’ll develop your research skills primarily by completing a project under supervision. These skills include:-

  • data collection
  • manipulation of the data
  • data interpretation and modelling
  • critical analysis
  • literature surveys
  • presentation skills, through international conferences

We’ll also encourage and train you to publish academic papers. It’s not unusual for students to students leave with 2-3 papers published in international peer-reviewed journals.

Examples of recent publications by our Postgraduate students can be found at (

Self-learning comes first

On our postgraduate research programmes you’ll be responsible for your own learning, but within a highly supportive training framework.

Co-ordinated by the University Graduate School, this includes:-

  1. Supervision by named research staff members who are experts in their fields.
  2. Membership and interaction with the groups within our four research clusters.
  3. Independent monitoring of your progress.
  4. Comprehensive postgraduate training.
  5. A vigorous School research environment.
  6. Opportunities to present work within and outside the School.

If you are interested in advertised PGR topics, or are interested in joining our PGR community please contact the relevant PGR contact:

Earth’s Interior Dynamics: Dr Dan Faulkner (

People, Space, place: Dr. Olivier Sykes (

Earth’s Changing Environment: Dr David Hodgson (

Oceans and Ecosystems: Dr. Fabienne Marret-Davies (

Staff research interests

Staff research interests.

Urmila Thakur

Working as a lecturer now, when I look back I realise that what makes University of Liverpool so special are the people who are a part of it, I always found myself surrounded by supportive and encouraging people. University of Liverpool fosters a sense of well-being and contentment amongst its student and staff while encouraging new talent, which helps in bringing out the best in everyone.

Which department/school are you in?

Civic Design, School of Environmental Sciences

How long have you worked at the university?

I joined University of Liverpool as a Lecturer in September 2010. However, my association with the university dates back to 2001 when I came to Liverpool to pursue an MBA in Environmental Management. Soon after my MBA, I was awarded an ORS (Overseas Research Scholarship) and University of Liverpool International Scholarship to do my PhD. During my PhD (2002-2006), I also worked in the Sydney Jones Library of the University of Liverpool on a part-time basis. After the completion of my thesis in December 2006, I joined Civic Design as a post-doctoral researcher and was eventually offered the lectureship in September 2010.

Are you mainly involved in teaching/research (what’s the split?)

My experience as an academic staff in Civic design can be grouped in two phases. During the first phase (2007 Fenruary-2010 August) I was based here as a post-doctoral researcher and I was actively involved in three research projects. Although my involvement was primarily with research I did get some teaching opportunity both at undergraduate and post graduate level. My second phase as an academic staff started with my lectureship and my teaching involvement has thereafter comparatively increased.

 Tell me more about this

My research interests can be grouped under the broad area of environmental assessment and management. I am especially interested in international comparative research which helps in drawing out cultural idiosyncrasies and their influences in environmental assessment and management.  Within this broad area, I have worked on topics related to environmental education, learning through environmental appraisal, strategic environmental assessment and environmental impact assessment follow-up in coal mines. I am especially interested in looking at challenges within a developing country perspective.

I have presented and disseminated research at various international workshops and conferences which has taken me to many near and far-off destinations such as Malaysia, India, China, Canada, Norway, Bratislava, Austria and Ireland. I have collaborated with researchers across south east and south Asia which has also resulted in several publications. Currently, I am collaborating with research institutes in India and Netherlands in conducting a survey on Environmental Impact Assessment and health. I am also collaborating with ATREE (Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment) in India for a project exploring the ‘The development process in Darjeeling - a case study in mainstreaming sustainability issues within urban planning’.  My research interest spans not only across international borders but also across disciplines and sectors which makes my collaborators an interesting mix representing various backgrounds spanning across academia, government and public sectors and industries.

So far, we have developed international curriculum for Environmental Assessment and Management degree programmes at Master level that can be tailored for students and academics in south and south-east Asia. My research has also helped in establishing new collaborations to explore environmental issues taking into account both a developing and a developed country perspective. Such cross-fertilization of ideas amongst the different countries is helping in achieving truly international sustainable outcomes in dealing with environmental problems. I have been twice awarded by the International Association of Impact Assessment for ‘Best Poster’ (2004) and Best Paper (2009).


What modules do you teach on which programmes?  Do you teach large/small groups?  What have some of your students gone on to do? 

Modules that I teach include:-

a)      Environmental sustainability

b)      Techniques in Environmental Planning and Management

c)       Business and Environment

d)      Cities and Regions

e)      Environmental Planning and Management Project

f)       Study Skills and GIS

I have had the opportunity to teach both large and small groups. Irrespective of the size of the class, I try to use different techniques to make my class as interactive and enjoyable as possible.

What do you love most about the University of Liverpool?

Not only did I get excellent world class education but the University supported me by offering scholarship and part-time job opportunities to sustain myself while doing my PhD. Working as a lecturer now, when I look back I realise that what makes University of Liverpool so special are the people who are a part of it, I always found myself surrounded by supportive and encouraging people. University of Liverpool fosters a sense of well-being and contentment amongst its student and staff while encouraging new talent, which helps in bringing out the best in everyone.

Why should prospective students study a postgraduate qualification here?

University of Liverpool is a Russell Group institution and one of the original redbrick universities of the UK. It is now a part of the largest centre in England for social science postgraduate training which has been established at the Universities of Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster.

The cities heritage and history of the past along with its new found image through capital of culture gives it a unique blend of the old and the new. This is reflected in its world class research which feeds into its research-led teaching. The University is pioneering some of the latest research while also being associated with nine Nobel Laureates from its past!

What are the benefits?

All this world class research and teaching experience can be enjoyed living in a city which is also one of the most reasonable places to live within the UK and has a reputation for being a friendly city! The University campus is located in the heart of the city and you will never feel the odd one out here.

What does your department/subject, in particular, offer a prospective student?

I am located in the ‘School of Environmental Sciences’ within the ‘People Space and Place’ (PSP) cluster. PSP cluster combines research interests that revolve around different ways in which humans respond to and manage aspects of environmental as well as associated economic and social change. In this context, research foci include, on the one hand, population and migration studies, geodemographics, as well as social / environmental movements and their cultural context. On the other hand, various aspects of (marine and terrestrial) spatial and environmental planning, policy and governance as well as strategic (environmental) impact assessment are elaborated on. The cluster offers a unique combination of the expertise in the description and analysis of social, cultural, environmental and population change and the planning of local, regional, national and international development, combining aspects of Human Geography and Spatial Planning disciplines.