PhD Studentship - Using the Sustainable Development Goals to Shape the Future of Geotechnical Engineering

University of Surrey

Guildford & Heathrow, London
Stipend of £18,000 pa

Paid • Full Time • Fixed Term Contract

Sectors: sustainability

Closing date: Sunday, 17th June 2018  

Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey

Practitioner Doctorate in Sustainability: Project Brief

Project Title: Using the Sustainable Development Goals to shape the future of geotechnical engineering

Sponsoring organisation: Keller Group Plc

Project Aims

The Sustainable Development goals (SDG’s) have the potential to provide a framework for sustainability across all industry sectors. For construction, the contribution towards carbon reduction, a key facet of the SDG’s, is well evidenced, but much of the research has focussed on what happens above ground. This project will focus on the benefits that could be realised from the ground engineering sector; which includes geotechnical solutions such as heavy foundations and ground improvement.

Keller Group plc is the world’s largest specialist ground engineering contractor with a presence in over 50 countries and more than 12,000 employees worldwide. Keller’s business is the solution of soil and foundation problems for the construction industry as well as developing specialised geotechnical techniques relating to the renovation of existing buildings and the increasingly important environmental contracting market.

This is an exciting opportunity to shape the Keller Group sustainability strategy, and influence the wider industry in this little explored field. Business relevant key performance indicators, covering the full product life cycle (including but not limited to those relating to carbon and critical materials) will need to be identified to support the alignment of the business with the SDG’s.

Project Deliverables

The project will deliver a robust body of work, with appropriate metrics, to support a deeper understanding of the contribution, commercial opportunities and intellectual capital needed to deliver sustainable geotechnical solutions.

Person Specification

  • Bachelors degree (or equivalent) of a least 2:1
  • An MSc or 2 – 3 years minimum work experience in relevant field
  • A passion for the environment and an interest in sustainable development
  • Inquisitive mind and ability to work independently
  • Strong communication skills are necessary and evidence of stakeholder engagement at all levels is required
  • Self-motivated and enthusiastic
  • Travel will be an essential part of this project, visiting sites and construction clients.


All applications must be emailed to or and include ALL of the following documentation to be considered:

  • Up to date cv
  • Cover letter including why this project is of interest and how your experience and interests make you a suitable candidate.
  • Degree certificates and transcripts
  • References – 2x academic references or 1x academic reference and 1x other reference

Key Dates and Information

This project is due to begin on the 1st October 2018. The successful candidate will spend an initial 11 weeks in Guildford, UK undertaking intensive sustainability and personal development training, after which they will be predominately based at Heathrow.

The programme will run for three to four years.

The successful candidate will receive a generous stipend of £18,000 per annum throughout this time (with potential to increase to c. £20,000 per annum after two years). Stipends are usually tax-free and DPs will also benefit from an additional £500 p.a. allowance for attendance at conferences etc. In addition to this, full-time tuition fees (£4,195) will be covered at the current Home/EU rate for the duration of the programme.

The deadline for applications is Sunday 17th June and Interviews for this post will take place week of 25th June 2018.

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