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PhD (ISCED 2011 level 8)




The UPC-UB-CSIC (High research council) Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences started as a joint venture between the Department of Harbour, Coastal and Oceanographic Engineering of the Civil Engineering Technical School (UPC) in Barcelona and two research centres of CSIC (Instituto de Ciencias Mar of Barcelona and Centro de Estudios Avanzados of Blanes) in 1986. The University of Barcelona and in particular the Departments of Ecology (Faculty of Biology) and the Department of Stratigraphy, Paleontology and Marine Geosciences (Faculty of Geology) joined this Ph.D. Programme in 1988. Later on the Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo of CSIC also joined the programme. During this evolution, various university departments and research companies have also joined the Ph.D. Programme, together with some external support from foreign universities. All this has contributed to increase the level of quality of the programme.

The structure of the Programme has evolved through time to adapt to recommendations of the Spanish and Catalan Ministries of Education and Research and of the Universities (UPC and UB). Thus, the number of credits offered within the first part of the Ph.D. programme has been progressively reduced. The aim was to increase the number of students per course subject so as to optimise the available resources and to increase the teaching level. At present, the Programme is structured in a common block of two courses to get a global view of the Marine Sciences and six Intensifications where the student can choose to get his/her formation.

This Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences has been awarded with the "quality" mention in the first call for Ph.D. programmes organized by the spanish Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deportes as a high quality Ph.D. programme. This has resulted from the evaluation carried out by the Agencia Nacional de Evaluación de la Calidad y Acreditación (in the year 2003). From this acknowledgement the programme has included for the 2003-2004 edition 10 professors from internationally recognized centres such as MIT (USA), TU Delft (The Netherlands), Southampton Oceanography Cluster (U.K.), etc. This international dimension of the programme is considered to be an important asset for the education of the Ph.D. students and it is the aim to maintain and increase this international projection.

In the years 2004/2005, 2005/2006, 2006/2007, 2007/2008, 2008/2009 and 2010 we have continued to developed these exchange activities, with invited professors from the most prestigious universities in Europe, the US and Australia. These visits have resulted in exchanges also for the students with the advantages for there training and education.


The main aim of the Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences is to educate high level specialists in the different fields forming marine sciences/oceanography. The Ph.D. students "produced" by this programme will therefore be able to occupy high level positions in universities, research institutes and advanced technological companies. The offered specialization profiles will allow these students to face the ever increasing complexity of marine conflicts and problems.

Justification of the need for the programme

The geographic location of Spain and its distribution of population and activities have placed the marine environment in a fundamental position for the natural and economic development of the country. The understanding of the complex relations within the marine environment have therefore became crucial for the maintenance of ecosystems and the corresponding economic activities.

There are a variety of examples in the last years showing the importance of this marine system for the spanish economy. Likewise the number of examples showing the fragility of the marine system, when it is not managed in a sustainable manner, are progressively abundant. The over exploitation of living resources, the erosion and flooding of our coastal fringe and the accidental spill of oil and other pollutants illustrate the limitations in the management of the marine system and its resources.

This illustrates the impact of the marine environment in the economic development of the country and the complexity and limitations of available solutions. The improvement of these solutions require properly educated specialists with a puridisplinar knowledge on marine topics. The education of specialists in marine sciences with a pluridisciplinar and comprehensive training constitutes a key element of the Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences. This education will allow the incorporation to our society of professionals with the technical and scientific profile allowing them to approach the increasing number of problems and conflicts present in the marine environment.

The traditional education in Spain featured a first and second cycle in marine sciences in a number of locations such as Las Palmas, Cadiz, Alicante and Vigo. The undergraduate curricula offered by these centres was intended for students starting their education in marine sciences. At a second level there are a number of masters addressed to students looking for a more practical and applied education in marine topics. Most of these masters are specialized in some of the disciplines which together form the marine sciences. Most of the offered curricula within these masters are therefore limited to a particular field of expertise.

At a third level we can find a number of Ph.D. programmes in marine sciences whose main aim is to educate scientists in the different disciplines related to the marine environment. These professionals should form the backbone of the next generation of researchers for institutes, universities and advanced technological companies. These Ph.D. programmes are therefore essential since they bridge the gap between undergraduate studies and the tough technological challenges required nowadays by the marine disciplines.

The joint Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences, organized by two different universities and three different research centres from CSIC, is the only one within Spain which offers in a combined and synergetic manner the teaching and research capabilities of all the participating centres. These capabilities cover most of the scientific disciplines within marine sciences/oceanography and also range the technological and scientific approaches required by marine topics. These combinations of centres and researchers offers a comprehensive and pluridisciplinar education of Ph.D. students in marine sciences using the research infrastructure available in Catalunya.

Because of this joint approach, this Ph.D. programme in marine sciences has also enhanced the joint research activities between the CSIC centres and the two participating universities. Likewise the Ph.D. programme has fostered the integration of the various groups dealing with marine issues within the participating centres and has also enhanced the pluridisciplinar approach to marine problems.

Additionally the available undergraduate studies in marine sciences in Spain, with faculties in Las Palmas, Cadiz, Alicante and Vigo, has left a gap in education in the northern part of the Mediterranean which has been covered in the last fifteen years by this programme. The critical mass of research centres and individuals in Catalunya is one of the highest in Spain in this field, which a high level of scientific production and participation in research projects (both national and international). This Ph.D. Programme in Marine Sciences is one of the main roads for the education of scientific researchers which eventually will also fill these groups.

The annual demand of Ph.D. students received by the Programme in Marine Sciences has been steadily increasing in the last years. The average number of requests of interested students per year is of about 70 and the average number of registered students is close to 50.

Finally and considering the re-structuring of Ph.D. programmes within Spain and the new research and education framework defined by the European Union, this Ph.D. Programme will offer a unique opportunity for specialised education in Marine Sciences. Because of this the programme is now in the process of integrating and updating some of its components so as to improve the teaching and research levels taking also into account the new regulations recently approved for PhD studies in Spain.

Requirements for complementary methodological or scientific training courses (the official master's degree that these courses belong to must be specified)

The academic profile for the interested students should cover the traditional disciplines in Marine Sciences. They should have a basic training in physical oceanography, chemical oceanography, marine biology, marine geology and, because of the special features of this PhD programme, offshore, coastal and harbour engineering and some aspects of the corresponding management. This type of desirable training is based on the PhD topics and tutorials offered by the two universities which support this PhD program (UPC and UB) with the contribution of the research centres from CSIC. All these centres provide training and research activities in all of these fields for the interested students coming from the Marine Sciences UB-UPC Master or from other related scientific or technological Master programs in these or other universities (Master in Civil Engineering at UPC and in the basic oceanographic sciences at UB). Because of these results the specific trajectory of every student will be assessed individually, looking for the basic training in the before mentioned fields, with emphasis on the “tools” basic required for a successful development of the future PhD thesis. The fluency and level of the English language will be also considered, since it is an important means to get access to present scientific developments in Marine Sciences.

Finally, other supplementary courses related to the marine and coastal environment and declared by the student will also be considered, if they comply with the program requirements..

Structurele componenten
Industry partners
Internship/Workplace experience
International component
Laboratory training
Practical/Field work
Research Project

ISCED Categories

Conservatie en milieumanagement
Mariene Geologie
Fysische en chemische oceanografie