PhD Opportunity: Refugee Settlement (Re)design:

University of Dundee

Leverhulme Doctoral Programme for Regenerative Innovation (Regnr8-i): Refugee Settlement (Re)design: modelling improvisation for social inclusion & wellbeing

University of Dundee       

Supervisors: Dr Husam AlWaer, Prof L van Blerk 

Deadline: Monday, April 22, 2024



About the Project

The global population of forcibly displaced people is increasing at an unprecedented rate, from 43.3 million to 110 million in the last 15 years alone. With few countries willing to receive refugees, many displaced people end up living in provisional, supposedly temporary, shelters, tents and caravans, for protracted periods. Neither repeated requests for more resources, nor top-down attempts at finding more durable solutions have made a difference. We urgently need new and imaginative approaches that go beyond ‘top-down emergency imposition’ and the humanitarian rhetoric, which positions refugees as vulnerable. This change requires a shift from static temporality to long-term regenerative settlement design that is inclusive, equitable, and positions refugees as agents. Yet, little is known about how refugees shape and transform provisional environments through improvised place-making.

The aims of this research are to:

a) examine refugees’ creative, dynamic and improvised settlement change over time.

b) understand how improvisation supports refugees’ social inclusion and wellbeing.

c) develop a regenerative refugee settlement design framework for improved future planning models.

We invite proposals for projects at the intersection of urban design and human geography, with a particular emphasis on improvisation (seen as the ability to adapt existing knowledges and make creative use of the means at hand); place-specific methods; and co-produced multiple methods that combine qualitative and creative data. We anticipate proposals will investigate three interrelated knowledges:

a) socio-economic, cultural and behavioural knowledge about the refugee-environment system.

b) knowledge and understanding of settlement change over time (e.g mapping the evolutionary stages from temporary to semi-permanence and continuing unfolding)

c) knowledge and understanding of the effects of implemented changes on refugee inclusion and wellbeing.

Proposals should explore extended fieldwork in one or two contrasting, high-demand, refugee sites covering contemporary histories, cultural conventions, social dynamics and policy frameworks. Potential site(s) are, but not limited to, locations within the Middle East (e.g. Lebanon or Jordan) and Africa (e.g. Malawi or Uganda). A qualitative, or multiple methods, approach will facilitate mapping of settlement landscape change over time. This will be supported by in-depth qualitative and/or participatory research to understand how the evolution of settlements adapt to, and are adapted by, refugee aspirations. 

For informal enquires about the project, contact Dr Husam AlWaer:


Step 1 - Applicants are recommended to make contact as early as possible ahead of the deadline with the lead supervisor and (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any particular needs.

Step 2 - After discussion with the lead supervisor, formal applications can be made via the following form: REGNR8-I Scholarship Application 2024.docx. Please use this form instead of the register of interest form below.


Applicants should have first-class, or an upper second-class (2.1) Honours degree AND a Master’s degree in discipline(s) relevant to their selected topic. 

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) overall score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in reading, listening, speaking and 6.0 in writing). The University of Dundee accepts a variety of equivalent qualifications and alternative ways to demonstrate language proficiency; please see full details of the University’s English language requirements here: 

Closing Date
Monday 22 April 2024