The Arab Water Academy PhD Program
Water Governance and Policies:
Building Capacity in the MENA Region through Cross-Learning
1. Background and rationale
The overwhelming majority of water scientists in the MENA region are engineers. They have
contributed to building numerous water infrastructures that have helped control flooding, serve
cities and irrigation schemes, raise rural income and ensure food security. In the region, just as in the
world at large, water problems have now mostly shifted to institutional and policy issues that appear
to have a critical bearing on both the quality of management and the governance of water. Water
resources are now recognized as being crucial to life, economic activities, and sustainable
development. Sharing and managing this scarce resource in the region, while ensuring basic social
equity and environmental sustainability, has become a central societal issue that demands skills that
go beyond traditional engineering training and include ecology, human geography, anthropology,
economy and political sciences.
As Arab countries begin to acknowledge the centrality of institutional and governance issues in water
management, it becomes crucial to respond to this need by training young leaders in the field of
water resource management, as well as professionals with a multi-disciplinary approach (for example
associating agronomy or rural engineering with social science and management). While such
perspectives can be passed on to water decision-makers through capacity building – like the training
courses organized by the AWA on issues such as transboundary management, water governance, or
water demand management – it is also important to increase efforts at the level of academia by
supporting the training of students in interdisciplinary Master's and PhD programs relating to water
as well as to social sciences and management in general.
Acknowledging this challenge, the Academy, in collaboration with several partners in the region and
at international levels, is extending support to PhD students interested in addressing and studying
the institutional, social, economic/financial and policy dimensions of water management.
2. Main features of the program
• Background for admission: A call for applications will be launched in early 2010 for a September
2010 start. Because the focus of the program and the topics envisaged are interdisciplinary,
students from all disciplines are invited to apply to the program. Social scientists (planners,
political scientists, economists, human geographers, sociologists, etc.) will gain understanding of
the technical aspects of water management while students with a “hard science” background
(agronomy, hydrology, engineering, etc.) will widen their scope and training to include social and
• Scholarships: Full merit-based scholarships will be granted by the Academy for a period of 3 to 4
years each. The total number of scholarships to be awarded in 2010/2011 is expected to be
between 8 and 10, with 4 granted by the Academy and additional scholarships provided by the
project partners. Prospective contributors include the Institut de Recherche pour le
Développement (IRD, France) and cooperation agencies (IDRC, DFID, AECID, etc). Admissions to
the program will be staggered over two years (2010 and 2011). Candidates will be citizens and
residents from different MENA countries (non Arab already in possession of a scholarship might
• Registration: Students will be registered in PhD program at different universities, depending on
their research topic, the country where field work is to take place, and the nature of the
scholarship made available. Examples of partner universities include SOAS-King’s College (UK),
University of Paris X (France) and the University of Wageningen (the Netherlands). However,
because universities have different time frames and academic requirements, the number of
universities involved will be kept to a minimum. Other partners will include research institutions
which agree to provide fieldwork expenses to associated PhD students (e.g. the International
Water Management Institute).
• PhD Thesis: Theses will ideally take the form of a “sandwich” program, with the students
spending most of their research time in the country of residence/field study (Arab country).
Typically, with possible variations according to the university, the first six months will include the
study of required courses and the writing of the thesis proposal. The final 10 months, during
which the thesis should be written up, will be spent at the university to which the student is
affiliated. Research topics will focus on local and national issues and will not address
transboundary issues (to ensure homogeneity of the set of studies.) Transboundary issues might
be addressed with a further call for applications.
Research proposals will have to be holistic in their approach to water systems (water supply or
irrigation schemes, aquifers, river basins, national resource systems, etc.) and problems (pollution,
scarcity, overexploitation, conflict, etc.) They may address issues of planning, management, regulation,
policy-making, political economy, governance, socio-economic and institutional change, etc., related to
water. Emphasis is laid on institutions and policies but analyses will have to consider both the physical
and societal aspects of the resource.
• Collective seminars: 5 seminars will be organized over the duration of 4 years. These seminars
will be pivotal in enhancing learning through cross-fertilization, exposure to different fields of
study, thus creating a community of practice and professional network of students who are
expected to work in their respective countries in the future. PhD students will meet in order to:
(1) present the status of their work.
(2) attend seminars organized and taught by resource persons, including the scientific coordinators
of the project, and associated student supervisors.
(3) learn from the locality where the seminar is organized: the field work location of one of the
• Content and Learning Management System: A web-based platform will be set up for the
community of practice. This will facilitate the establishment of a bibliography on water
institutions and policies in the MENA region and provide a structure for file sharing.
• Organizational Matters: AWA will provide scholarships to students in the region and will cover all
expenses associated with the regional seminars, including secretarial tasks for their preparation.
The seminars will be organized by the scientific coordinators appointed by AWA. Partner
organizations will provide additional scholarships, but the students expected to join the program
will be screened by AWA. The supervisor of each student will be invited to one of the regional
seminars during the 4 year period.
3. Call for applications
The Arab Water Academy in Abu Dhabi invites applications for its scholarship programs to pursue
doctoral studies. Successful candidates are expected to begin the program in fall 2010 and will be
expected to finish their theses in three to four years.
Applicants must meet the following requirements:
• must be a citizen and resident of one of the MENA countries. Candidates will have a moral
commitment to go back and work in their home countries (or the MENA region) for at least 2
years after completion of the PhD program.
• must hold a master’s degree or equivalent that is recognized as valid for admission to PhD
programs offered by international universities.
• must be proficient in the chosen language of study (French, English, Spanish).
Applicants must submit the following documents:
o An application form
o A detailed Curriculum Vitae
o Certified copies of their degrees along with undergraduate and Master’s degree
o A certificate of the applicant’s proficiency in the language of study (English, French,
o A motivation letter explaining, in particular, the student’s reasons for wishing to join the
program and his/her capacity to integrate approaches from other disciplines.
o Two letters of recommendation
o A two-page research proposal, outlining the topic and research questions that the
candidate proposes to address in his/her PhD. The proposal will include:
(a) background; (b) topic; (c) justification; (d) research questions. In addition, the
applicant is invited to indicate two alternative subjects that he/she would also be
interested in researching.
Applications must be addressed to the Director of the Arab Water Academy and sent to the following
email address: email@example.com
The deadline for applications is 20 April 2010. Only applications postmarked on or before this date
will be accepted.