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University of Bath URSA project: Impact of extreme weather on coal landslide hazards

   Department of Architecture & Civil Engineering

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  Dr Cormac Reale, Dr Thomas Kjeldsen  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is one of a number that are in competition for funding from the University of Bath URSA competition.


Wales has been subject to a number of coal tip landslides over recent years, the biggest of which occurred at Tylorstown when 60,000 tonnes of material failed following Storm Dennis. While nobody was injured at Tylorstown, almost 2500 coal tips remain in the Welsh valleys today, many of which are high-risk and adjacent to public and private property. As the frequency and severity of extreme weather events increases concerns are growing around the stability of these tips, particularly those with the potential to endanger people. Recent estimates by the Welsh Government say that £600 million of investment is needed now, to ensure the future safety of this legacy mining infrastructure. Current assessment procedures do not account for climate triggers and urgently need to be improved. In order to this we need to better our understanding of the material behaviour at a more fundamental level.

This project will carry out extensive geotechnical field and laboratory testing of Welsh coal tips with the aim of understanding how the material behaviour changes and develops during extreme climate events. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how the strength and stiffness changes under heavy rainfall and during drought conditions. In addition to this, efforts will be made to relate the results from this complex testing to simpler, easier to achieve at scale, site specific proxy tests that can be carried out on site. Thus, allowing the engineering industry to quickly characterise and group these coal tips into different preliminary risk categories without having to invest significant time and money. This approach will help identify the coal tips at greatest risk enabling proactive maintenance works to be carried out potentially saving lives and property.

Candidate Requirements

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, a First Class or good Upper Second Class Honours degree (or the equivalent). A master’s level qualification would also be advantageous.

Non-UK applicants must meet our English language entry requirement by February 2023 in order to be considered for funding.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are encouraged! Direct these to Dr Cormac Reale - [Email Address Removed]

Please make a formal application should via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Civil Engineering

When completing the form, please identify your application as being for the URSA studentship competition in Section 3 Finance (question 2) and quote the project title and lead supervisor’s name in the ‘Your research interests’ section. 

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible for funding, you must qualify as a Home student. The eligibility criteria for Home fee status are detailed and too complex to be summarised here in full; however, as a general guide, the following applicants will normally qualify subject to meeting residency requirements:

  • UK nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Irish nationals (living in the UK or EEA/Switzerland)
  • Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain
  • EU nationals with pre-settled or settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

We value a diverse research environment and strive to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated and respected. We encourage applications from under-represented groups. In particular, we are welcoming applications from candidates with Refugee, Asylum Seeker, or Humanitarian Protection in the UK to our Doctoral Sanctuary Studentship in Engineering and Design.

If you have circumstances that you feel we should be aware of that have affected your educational attainment, then please feel free to tell us about it in your application form. The best way to do this is a short paragraph at the end of your personal statement.

The Disability Service ensures that individuals with disabilities are provided the support that they need. If you state if your application that you have a disability, the Disability Service will contact you as part of this process to discuss your needs.

Keywords: Applied Geology; Civil Engineering; Climate Science; Environmental Engineering; Geotechnical Engineering; Hydrology

Funding Notes

Candidates may be considered for a University of Bath (URSA) studentship tenable for 3.5 years. Funding covers tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a stipend (£17,668 p/a in 2022/23) and a £1000/annum training budget.
As URSA studentships only cover the ‘Home’ tuition fee rate, Overseas students are not eligible to apply. Are you an Outstanding Overseas student (e.g. with a UK Masters Distinction or international equivalent) who is interested in this project? If so, please contact the intended supervisor in the first instance, to discuss the possibility of applying for additional funding.

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