PhD fellow in Geography, with a focus on urban expansion and encroachment on ecologically sensitive areas in African cities


Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management
Faculty of Science

University of Copenhagen


The Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen (UCPH), invites applicants for a PhD fellowship focusing on urban expansion and encroachment on ecologically sensitive areas in African cities.

The position is available from 1st of January 2025, or as soon as possible thereafter.


The scientific environment

You will be employed in the Sections for Geograpy at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at University of Copenhagen. The department offers an international work environment and hosts a diverse group of faculty, postdocs and PhD students within the field of geography and geoinformatics, with research spanning social and natural science perspectives on land-use changes and landscape transformations. You will become a member of the research group Environment and Society in the Global South, which brings together geographers with an interest in understanding human dimensions of societal transformation processes across rural and urban areas in the Global South. For more information see:  


The project

The PhD fellowship is part of the research project "Urban encroachment – untangling drivers and dynamics of land-use transitions in ecologically sensitive areas" funded by a Sapere Aude: DFF Starting Grant from the Independent Research Fund Denmark. The overarching aim of this project is to identify and promote more sustainable trajectories of urban expansion, which will allow African cities to accommodate rapidly growing populations, while preserving ecologically sensitive areas, benefiting from ecosystem services and building resilience to climate change. The research will entail a comparative case study of two rapidly growing cities – Accra in Ghana and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania – which have been characterized by extensive informal expansion in recent decades. The objectives of the research are to estimate the scale and magnitude of natural areas lost in urban expansion, to gain insights into the motivations and logics of diverse actors involved in land-use conversions within ecologically sensitive areas and to develop a comprehensive understanding of how urban governance arrangements shape encroachment dynamics. The project will combine analyses of satellite images and spatial data with in-depth fieldwork among local actors involved in land transactions, property investments and house construction within ecologically sensitive areas, as well as among urban planners, civil servants and policymakers involved in land governance, spatial planning and management of natural areas.


Principal supervisor is professor, Jytte Agergaard, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management. Co-supervisor is Manja Hoppe Andreasen. Email:


Responsibilities and tasks

During this PhD fellowship, you are expected to develop and carry through your independent research within the project frame, under supervision and in collaboration with the PI, Manja Hoppe Andreasen, and a postdoctoral researcher. The PhD student will be responsible for conducting extended fieldwork at selected sites, where land-use conversions are occurring within ecologically sensitive areas, drawing on a range of qualitative methodologies, field observations and spatial analysis. There will be possibilities to influence the research and develop your own research ideas within the project frame. Your research is also expected to contribute to inform research on policies and planning for ecologically sensitive areas. You are expected to design methodology, organize and conduct independent fieldwork, publish scientific articles in internationally recognized journals, present findings at national and international conferences and write and defend your PhD thesis on the basis of your research. You will further be expected to complete PhD courses corresponding to 30 ECTS, stay at an external research institution (preferably abroad) for a shorter period of time and undertake limited work for the department (mainly teaching and supervision at BSc level). Funding is available for fieldwork costs, conference attendance, a research visit abroad and PhD courses such that you can start building your research expertise and network.


Who are we looking for?

We are looking for a highly motivated and curious candidate with an interest in urban development issues in the Global South and strong methodological skills within qualitative research. You are able to work independently and systematically, and you have a desire to shape your own research project. Experience with independent fieldwork in Global South contexts is an advantage. It is desirable for candidates to be comfortable working in research groups and have an interest in collaborative research. High proficiency in spoken and written English is a requirement.

Applicants should hold an MSc degree in geography, anthropology, sociology, political science, environmental science or related fields with good results. As criteria for the assessment of your qualifications emphasis will also be laid on fieldwork experience, previous publications (if any) and relevant work experience.


Terms of employment

Employment as PhD fellow is a full time position with fixed term limited to a period of 3 years.

The terms of employment and salary are in accordance with the agreement between the Ministry of Finance and The Danish Confederation of Professional Associations on Academics in the State.

Employment is conditional upon your successful enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD School at the Faculty of SCIENCE, University of Copenhagen.


Application Procedure

The application, in English, must be submitted electronically by clicking APPLY NOW below.


Please include:

  • Cover letter that explains your motivation for applying for the PhD fellowship, and highlights prior experiences that could be particularly relevant
  • CV, including information about education, work experience, language skills, publications (if any) and other relevant skills
  • Diplomas and transcripts of records (BSc and MSc), including an authorized English translation if issued in another language than English or Danish
  • One piece of academic writing that you are particularly proud of, for example your MSc thesis or a scientific paper
  • 1-3 reference letters


The University wishes our staff to reflect the diversity of society and thus welcomes applications from all qualified candidates regardless of personal background.


Application deadline: 4th of September 2024, 23:59 GMT +2.

After the expiry of the deadline for applications, the authorized recruitment manager selects applicants for assessment on the advice of the Interview Committee. Afterwards an assessment committee will be appointed to evaluate the selected applications. The applicants will be notified of the composition of the committee and the final selection of a successful candidate will be made by the Head of Department, based on the recommendations of the assessment committee and the interview committee.

The main criteria for selection will be the research potential of the applicant and the above-mentioned skills. The successful candidate will then be requested to formally apply for enrolment as a PhD student at the PhD school of Science. You can read more about the recruitment process at



For specific information about the PhD scholarship, please contact Manja Hoppe Andreasen, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Email:, Direct Phone: +4522904442.


General information about PhD programmes at SCIENCE is available at






Part of the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), and among Europe’s top-ranking universities, the University of Copenhagen promotes research and teaching of the highest international standard. Rich in tradition and modern in outlook, the University gives students and staff the opportunity to cultivate their talent in an ambitious and informal environment. An effective organisation – with good working conditions and a collaborative work culture – creates the ideal framework for a successful academic career.


Application deadline: 04-09-2024
Employment start: 01-01-2025
Working hours: Full time
Department/Location: Institut for Geovidenskab og Naturforvaltning
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