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Making tiering in environmental assessment work (BONDA1U20SF)

School of Environmental Sciences

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Dr A Bond No more applications being accepted Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) system is supposed to predict the effects of actions that might have significant impacts at all levels of decision-making, including policies, plans, programmes and projects. This has led to different assessment systems being developed at each decision-making tier: ‘Impact Assessment’ is used in the European Union; Regulatory Impact Assessment applies to national-level assessment within OECD countries (Radaelli, 2004); Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is typically applied to sub-national plans and programmes in over 60 countries worldwide (International Atomic Energy Agency, 2018); and EIA applies to projects in all countries of the world. Arts et al. (2011, p.417) define tiering as “the deliberate, organized transfer of information and issues from one level of planning to another, which is being supported by EAs”, this is the basis of an efficient EIA system. Yet tiering rarely happens in practice (Pope et al., 2013) given different competencies, responsibilities and power of stakeholders at different tiers.

This PhD project aims to take a theory of change approach (Vogel, 2012) to analyse how tiering can be made to work. Specific objectives are:

1) To identify a suitable sector and nation case study.
2) To analyse the context in terms of actors, stakeholders, networks and power relation.
3) To identify changes (and assumptions) that lead to improvements in tiering practice.

The research will help to develop a number of skills including:

• Research design
• Stakeholder engagement
• Documentary analysis
• Interview techniques

The student will be embedded in the 3S (Science, Society and Sustainability) research group ( within the School of Environmental Sciences.

UK candidates who are eligible for Research Council studentships and who develop their own research proposals on this topic are able to apply for ESRC funding for 2019/20 entry. Please see for more information and contact Alan Bond ([Email Address Removed]) if you are eligible.


Project supervisor:
Mode of study: Full time
Start date: October 2020
Entry requirements: First degree (2:1 or above) in Environmental Sciences, Geography, Ecology, Social Sciences or Planning.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at

A bench fee is also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


Arts, J, P Tomlinson and H Voogd (2011), "Planning in Tiers? Tiering as a Way of Linking SEA and EIA", in B Sadler, R Aschemann, J Dusik, T B Fischer, M R Partidário and R Verheem (editors), Handbook of Strategic Environmental Assessment (Earthscan, London) pages 415-433.

International Atomic Energy Agency (2018), Strategic Environmental Assessment for Nuclear Power Programmes: Guidelines (IAEA, Vienna).

Pope, J, A Bond, A Morrison-Saunders and F Retief (2013), "Advancing the theory and practice of impact assessment: Setting the research agenda", Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 41, pages 1-9.

Radaelli, C M (2004), "The Diffusion of Regulatory Impact Analysis - Best Practice or Lesson-Drawing?", European Journal of Political Research, 43(5), pages 723-747.

Vogel, I (2012), "ESPA guide to working with Theory of Change for research projects", available at , last accessed 9 July 2019.

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