phd sustainable development

Science, technology, and spirituality must unite in order to ensure a sustainable and balanced existence of our world.”

- Dr. Sri. Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, Chancellor, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham



India has seen tremendous economic growth in the past few decades after attaining independence. But 70% of India’s population still reside in her villages with limited or no infrastructure and lack basic facilities. Agriculture remains the primary occupation of a majority of people with no alternative source of income. Also, the impoverishment of natural resources due to climate change has a huge impact on the livelihoods of these people. Thus villages in India are considered to be her life force and whatever progress is made without including the rural population, cannot be sustained.


It is evident that science and technology can help in the development and progress of a nation. But in recent years, an important question that has surfaced globally is - whether this development is (socially) inclusive, (environmentally) sustainable and (economically) equitable? Taking inclusivity and equitability into account is as crucial as sustainability as a majority of the ever-increasing world’s population is still below the poverty line. Secondly, development as a result of science and technology has lead to numerous unprecedented detrimental environmental effects, questioning its sustainability. Thirdly, we should be able to quantify available resources or wealth, its production, consumption and transfer among the given population. This highly interdisciplinary approach involving, study of population and environment, along with the perspective of economics will give an in depth analysis, thus helping the researcher in understanding the needs of a region for being able to provide the best possible solution.

At Amrita, we are set to answer another question: how much of the advancements in science and technology can be used to serve the lowest and most vulnerable strata of society? Our Chancellor’s vision for Amrita is to inculcate Education for Life and Compassion Driven Research that will help us serve the needy. In order to create a highly educated trained manpower, Amrita is one of the first to launch a highly interdisciplinary School for Sustainable Development. The school will focus on 7 thematic areas in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030:

  1. Health & Hygiene
  2. Education & Gender Equality
  3. Waste Management & Infrastructure
  4. Energy and Environment
  5. Agriculture & Risk Management
  6. Livelihood & Skill Development
  7. Water & Sanitation
  8. Others (when applicable)

A detailed study of each of these areas in every community gives rise to a combination of problem statements intertwined with dynamic challenges such as the psychosocial beliefs, language barriers, cognitive behaviour, social issues prevalent based on caste, gender, politics etc. that are very unique to every community. These problem statements and challenges are then addressed by interdisciplinary teams of students and expert researchers.

We are set to offer various undergraduate, masters and Ph. D. level programs with world class curriculum under this school. These programs will utilize a unique framework - E4LIFE that dynamically integrates social, economic and cultural aspects while assessing the needs of a community. It will enable the global youth to Experience, Embrace, Empower and Engage with communities through a blend of both experiential and academic learning.

Why Amrita?

What is unique about studying sustainable development at Amrita?

Amrita is ranked as No.1 private university in India by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020. In 2019, the Government of India decided to award the title “Institute of Eminence” (IoE) to 20 selected universities/institutions in India. Amrita is proud to be recommended for an IoE on par with some of the very old and reputed institutions in India, within less than 20 years of inception. Amrita has 230+ international collaborations and has partnered with several universities in the US, Australia and Europe for student mobility programs, Dual degrees, Integrated programs, and Internship opportunities. 

We have pioneered, tested and excelled!  

Our University motto- "Education for a living and Education for Life" has made Amrita very special and capable of giving experiences to her students that is beyond the ordinary. Back in 2013, our Chancellor guided us to launch an academic program, Live-in-Labs® that will encourage and facilitate students from around the world to visit villages in India, spend from one month to one year, understand their problems and try to address them with the application of science and technology. Our affiliation to the UN recognised NGO, Mata Amritanandamayi Math, made us pursue this journey with clarity and confidence.

To date, we have hosted over 400 students from more than 40 international universities belonging to different academic backgrounds. They have worked in over 150 projects touching the lives of over 100,000 beneficiaries across 21 states in India.

The main purpose of establishing a dedicated School for Sustainable Development is because we believe that along with academic learning which is important to make a living, education must impart a culture of the heart — a culture based on enduring values. To this end, Amrita has over 100+ adopted villages in India and strives to use applied research as the foundation of socio economic progress and sustainability. Through the various courses offered at this school, we not only hope to transform our villages but also the lives of Amrita’s faculty and students!

Amrita’s Ph. D. program in Sustainable Development is a multidisciplinary and theory-into-practice Ph. D. program offered under the School for Sustainable Development. The program is designed to provide an interdisciplinary grounding with its integrative courses.

We offer this program in two modules:

  1. Academic Learning Module: The academic learning module will be designed and tailored to suit the need of implementing the proposed research and development. It will constitute a highly comprehensive, flexible yet customized set of Core courses and Elective courses. Wherever applicable, we will arrange:
    • International faculty lectures to offer various specialised courses and academic workshops;
    • Technical workshops from industries to enhance technical knowledge and
    • Allow undertaking MOOCs from reputed Universities with transferable credits.
    • Funded opportunities for Joint or Dual Ph. D. in collaboration with highly reputed international universities are available for ALL candidates. List of our Partner Universities:
      • University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, USA
      • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands
      • Politecnico di Milano, Italy
  2. Experiential Learning Module:
    • Organized community visits
    • Theory-into-practice approaches to effective community engagement
    • Explore and feel the pulse of rural communities in India that are very diverse in terms of their culture, language, literacy, natural resources and socioeconomic development
    • Identify pressing problems of rural communities through one’s own experience by embracing and engaging with them
    • Develop sustainable solutions and ensure empowerment of the rural communities

The course structure is designed to combine flexibility to pursue an individual field of study, with the development of broad-based skills and knowledge in relation to sustainable development. The students can decide on a list of core courses and electives after discussion with their allocated guides at Amrita. The students should maintain an overall B+ average with no lower than a B in any of the core classes.

Amrita has collaborated with many international universities through which we jointly offer dual degree and integrated programs. We are fully committed to being unique at the same time globally relevant in the field of higher education. We have developed collaborations with several international universities who specialise performing research in various disciplines under the theme of sustainable development. We will be collectively working to solve global challenges, thus bringing a global transformation through our partnerships. 

Admissions are now open!

Our Chancellor’s exemplary vision and untainted intent of care for people in real need, has laid the foundation for Amrita E4LIFE International Ph. D. Fellowships. We are proud to announce 100 FULLY FUNDED fellowships under the School for Sustainable Development to students who apply for a full-time Ph. D. in Sustainable Development program at Amrita. Through these fellowships, we wish to offer a unique platform & opportunity for students to serve the needy in the most effective way and, at the same time, awaken compassion in their hearts.

For more information, please visit: Ph. D. in Sustainable Development

How long does the Ph. D. take to complete?

The Ph. D. program will take four years to complete. Students are required to complete the program within four years, as funding is not guaranteed past the fourth year.

How many students will be admitted?

We have openings for 100 fully funded fellowships per academic year and we publicize 2 calls every year. There are two intakes every year for Ph. D. in Sustainable Development program. The first intake will commence in mid January every year and the second intake will commence in mid July every year.

What is the profile of the ideal candidate?

The candidates we admit have different academic, professional, and national backgrounds. We would prefer candidates who have a passion to work in the villages, perform extensive field work and contribute towards their development. Also, an inclination or liking towards Indian culture will be an added benefit to the candidates as it will help them to be more committed to the program. 

Professional experience especially being a part of an NGO is preferable. Alternatively, the candidates demonstrating strong domain knowledge will be preferred. We suggest all applicants to go through the Amrita Webpage to find out about the work we have done towards rural development. Amrita has established 25+ centres of excellence and there are several projects being undertaken under them.

We are looking for applicants who will be able to contribute towards the existing projects at Amrita from an interdisciplinary perspective.

If you think you can leverage your skills and work towards taking one of these projects ahead that will benefit society, Eureka! You are the ideal candidate we are looking for! 

Students with backgrounds including geography, environmental science, civil engineering, computer science, electrical and electronics, electronics and communication, wireless networks, social science, economics, chemistry, biotechnology, education, rural health and nutrition and management will be preferred.

What are the prerequisites for admission? Can I still apply if I haven't taken all of the recommended courses?

Students admitted to the program come with a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. While there are no fixed academic requirements for admission, typically successful applicants have the following. 

A strong background in natural sciences or engineering, with usually three or more courses in college-level science. 

Do I have to have a research proposal before i apply?

No. Students are required to submit a research proposal only after the completion of their coursework, as determined by their Doctoral Committee.

Can I transfer from a regular Ph. D. program at amrita to the Ph. D. in sustainable development?

No. Applicants will have to apply separately and make a specific application. At the school of sustainable development, International applicants are eligible for a fully funded fellowship.

Is it good for my application to include work experience?

We welcome applications from both professionals and students. Relevant prior professional experience does strengthen the application. We expect that the strongest applicants will have outstanding academic and professional qualifications.

Application Deadline : March 31, 2020


Dr. Maneesha V Ramesh,
International Programs Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham

If you have any questions or queries, please go through our FAQs PDF file available online. In case your question is not answered in that list, please contact:

Ms. Archana Venkatesh / Ms. Pooja Pushparaj

0476 280 4160
0476 280 4152

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