Studying At The United Nations University

United Nations University is a postgraduate teaching organisation that also operates as a global think tank. The organisation has a mission to:

“Contribute through collaborative research and education, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare that are the concern of the United Nations, its Peoples and Member States.”

The Institution works together with other universities and research institutes located in United Nations member states, developing links between the international academic community.

United Nations University (UNU) has been running for four decades and during that time has sought to research and shed light on some of the most important issues facing mankind. Headquartered in Japan, the United Nations University is today spread across five continents with institutes in 13 countries (15 institutes) and 700 staff from 90 nations. Over 70 per cent of the projects that UNU has undertaken have actually been implemented in developing countries, so there is a very practical focus to the work. The organisation has recently set up the Centre for Policy Research with a remit for developing new knowledge regarding areas associated with national security and development. The idea is to shape UNU research findings into ideas that can be implemented into policy. Additionally this also has a practical focus as it will interface with United Nations decision makers. Arguably no other global academic institution has such a major influence on actual policy as the United Nations University does.

The UNU was proposed in the 1969 annual report to the United Nations General Assembly by UN Secretary-General U Thant. The government of Japan provided headquarters and an endowment fund, and academic work began in 1975. Over the years the university has focused on five major areas of work. These are Peace, Security and Human Rights; Development Governance; Population and Health; Global Change and Sustainable Development; and Science Technology and Society. Courses are offered at the Masters and Doctoral degree levels, and there are also non-degree courses available.

The following video gives us an overview of the kind of work done at the UNU:

For students considering a Master’s programme, courses are offered in Sustainability (in Tokyo), the Geography of Environmental Risks and Human Security (in Bonn) and a double masters is available in Public Policy and Human Development (in Maastrict). Students are welcomed that are “committed to the pursuit of peace, progress and sustainable development” and who wish to achieve this through research, training and discussion with other academics. UNU doctoral programmes on offer include a Joint PhD programme in Integrated Management of Water, Soil and Waste (in Dresden), a Joint PhD programme in Economics and Governance (in Maastrict), a Collaborative PhD in Development Economics (in Helsinki) and a PhD in Sustainability Science (in Tokyo). The institute plans to increase the number of programmes offered at the PhD level in upcoming years. There are also non-degree courses available, such as the Migration Management Diploma (in Maastrict), the Green Economy and the Life Cycle Cost Approach (online) and Financing Public Services and Environmental Sustainability (online) among others. As well as these there are a small number of affiliated programmes. Courses offered are aligned to the UN interests of security and are also in line with the five major themes already outlined.

One question that prospective students may have is the tuition fees for the programme. Each course has its own tuition scheme and these vary depending on level, duration and location. Where students have an excellent academic record they may be able to get a waiver for tuition, and some students may be able to access financial support. In addition, for really outstanding applicants there are scholarships available. Students are encouraged to request consideration for these at the time of application.

The process for applying for courses depends on which location the course is being run. Each of the UNU’s different institutes has different application criteria. Fortunately the website has got helpful links that allow prospective students to navigate from the course that they are interested into the website of the institute that offers the course they want, so that they can easily access the admissions requirements and documents. Rather than making contact through the UNU website, students are asked to contact the specific institute offering the course in each case.