Economics, sustainability and governance approaches to national (or international) fusion energy programmes (Social Sciences Project)

Supervisors: Dr Eva Heims (University of York, Department of Politics) & Dr Marco Sakai (University of York, Department of Environment & Geography).

Application deadline: 31 March 2022. 

Funding will be provided by the University of York. Funding is available at UK home students covering fees, field work and training expenses, and a stipend commensurate with UKRI levels for 3 years. International applicants can access this scholarship but please note international student fees are higher than the UK home rate, and the difference between UK home and international fee rates is not covered by the scholarship.

Fusion is the process that powers the sun. If we can harness fusion power on Earth then it has the potential to meet our energy needs in a sustainable way, with minimum impact on the environment.

The urgency to address climate change is driving an acceleration in fusion research, both through emerging private companies (e.g. Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion in the UK) and new publicly funded programmes, such as the £222M STEP Programme. STEP – Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – led by the UK Atomic Energy Authority, with the goal to design and build a prototype reactor by 2040 which will demonstrate net electricity from fusion power.

The University of York, alongside university partners Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, leads the innovative £4.35M EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Fusion Energy Science and Technology (Fusion CDT).

The Fusion CDT is training the next generation of fusion scientists working on the development of new nuclear fusion technology and fundamental fusion science in collaboration with national and international partners (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Central Laser Facility, National Nuclear Laboratory, AWE, National Ignition Facility, ITER and Fusion for Energy). Building on this sector leading expertise, we are now offering 3 funded social science fusion PhDs that will be integrated with the Fusion CDT, providing mutual benefits for all students. The PhD will start in September /October 2022.

The social science fusion PhD students will enrol on the interdisciplinary PhD in Environment and Politics. They will be supervised by leading experts in both the Department of Politics and Department of Environment and Geography.

PhD Topic: Economics, sustainability and governance approaches to national (or international) fusion energy programmes. 

This PhD can include cross-country comparisons, or an examination of existing initiatives (e.g. ITER).This research aims to address some of the political power, leadership or cooperation issues in the deployment of fusion energy, its societal benefits and costs and implications for international and national climate change mitigation. Student should feel comfortable in working across disciplines.

Application Procedure:

Applications are invited from candidates with at least a 2:1 first degree in a social science programme (e.g. Human Geography, Politics, Sociology), and hold (or shortly be awarded) a social science Masters with a significant research/research methods component. Applicants should submit the following:

  • A completed application form
  • A full CV, including the names and addresses of two referees
  • A 4-page research proposal comprised of: Title, intro and brief literature review, aim and objectives, proposed methodology/method(s), and timetable.
  • Academic transcript(s)

Application link: 

Candidates may be invited to a zoom interview as the second stage of the application process (supervisors will contact the candidate to arrange a convenient time/date).

University of York and Fusion CDT are committed to recruiting doctoral scholars regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or career pathway to date. We understand that commitment and excellence can be shown in many ways. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds, particularly those underrepresented in postgraduate research, who have curiosity, creativity and a drive to learn new skills.

This project will lead to a PhD in Environment and Politics at the University of York, which is a three-year programme that builds on a Masters degree in Social Sciences. It differs from the other CDT projects in that the taught elements will include postgraduate methods modules, as well as some CDT modules and activities that will integrate you with the wider CDT cohort, including joint work and critical analysis. A placement with an appropriate organisation will include features of the CDT “Collaboratory” project, but will be geared towards your degree programme.

For enquiries about this project please email: Dr Eva Heims ( or Dr Marco Sakai (