A prospective UNU fellow cannot apply directly to UNU for postgraduate training. Fellows are chosen after recommendations from their home institutions, which must be working in an area of concern to UNU, and candidates must commit to returning to work at their home institutions. Most fellows are from developing countries.
Besides this type of "institutional" fellowship, some UNU institutes and programmes offer PhD fellowships in their respective areas of priority. These are announced on the website of the institute/programme in question as well as on the Human Resources section of the present website.
UNU also awards fellowships to selected applicants, mainly from developing countries, for some of its training courses and seminars.
The University consists of the UNU Centre, several institutes and programmes, and a network of UNU associated institutions as well as cooperating institutions and scholars.
UNU Centre in Tokyo is the central programming and coordinating body of the University, designated to assist the Rector, who is the chief academic and administrative officer of UNU, in the direction, organization and administration of the overall programme. Institutes and programmes are created by UNU in various parts of the world to focus on specific problems, and links are forged with existing universities, national research centres, and other organizations located mainly in developing countries. All these elements interact in a networking manner. The principles and policies for the University are set by its governing UNU Council.
UNU gets no funds from the regular budget of the United Nations. Financial support is entirely by way of voluntary contributions from governments, agencies, foundations and individual donors. UNU's basic revenue for operating expenses is generated by investment income from its Endowment Fund and from specific programme constributions.
The UNU budget for the current biennium (2010-2011) stands at US$108 million. In 2010, UNU received some US$36.9 million in contributions from 21 governments and more than 100 other sources. In addition, the work of the University benefited from counterpart and other support, such as cost-sharing, as well as “extra-budgetary” contributions for academic activities that were paid directly to cooperating institutions.
UNU students come from all over the world and are committed to the pursuit of peace, progress and sustainable development through research, training and dialogue with a global community of academics in developed and developing countries. UNU students undertake research in one of the University’s growing number of master’s, doctoral and short-term programmes, which aim to equip the leaders of tomorrow with the necessary academic foundations to effectively address pressing global problems.
Bringing together scholars and faculty from both developing and developed countries, UNU provides its diverse international student body with first-hand research experience within the United Nations system. Students engage in research that links directly with the work of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, as well as numerous intergovernmental processes.
The University’s faculty includes UNU academic and research staff as well as a broad international network of external scholars and professionals. UNU staff are recruited from universities, research institutions and international organizations worldwide and represent a wide variety of nationalities and cultures.
UNU's academic and professional staff are recruited from universities, research institutions, and international organziations, often on secondment for fixed terms. Vacancies for professional staff are advertised in specialized magazines, newspapers, the UN Vacancy Announcement Bulletin and the present UNU website. Support staff are usually recruited locally.
The University's academic network personnel generally hold positions at major universities worldwide and remain in their posts while working with UNU programmes. In 2010, UNU staff included nationals of at more than 75 countries worldwide.
UNU holds conferences, seminars and consultative meetings around the world and responds quickly to meet current concerns. Its colloquiums and publications address pivotal problems, such as conflict resolution, peace and good governance, development economics, science and technology, and environmental issues. Findings and knowledge gained from UNU's research activities are also provided to opinion leaders and policy makers through its participation in global conferences organized by the United Nations, which have included the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), the World Social Summit in Copenhagen (1995), the World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), the World Conference on Higher Education in Paris (1998), and the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The history of the United Nations University began with an initiative by then UN Secretary-General U Thant, who in 1969 proposed “the establishment of a United Nations university, truly international and devoted to the Charter objectives of peace and progress”. In its annual session that year, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) authorized an expert study on the feasibility of such a university.
After considering the question further at its next two annual sessions, the UNGA approved the establishment of the United Nations University in December 1972 and formally adopted the Charter of the United Nations University in December 1973.
The United Nations University contributes — through collaborative research, teaching, capacity development and advisory services —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 overarching theme of UNU’s work is “sustainability”: ensuring that today’s problems are addressed in a manner that fulfils the needs of present generations without endangering the needs of future generations.
Because of its unique identity as both a United Nations organization and a high-level research and teaching institution, UNU is able to contribute directly to advancement of knowledge relevant to the role and work of the United Nations, and to the application of that knowledge in formulating sound principles, policies, strategies and programmes for action. With intellectual independence guaranteed by its Charter, UNU can make these contributions objectively and with integrity, thereby presenting decision makers and scholars — and its own students — with open-minded, fresh perspectives on the key global challenges of today and tomorrow.
To help increase the research and training capacities, UNU's current activities are focused within five interlinked, interdependent thematic clusters: peace, security and human rights; human and socio-economic development and good governance; global health, population and sustainable livelihoods; global change and sustainable development; and science, technology, innovation and society.
UNU aspires to be a world-class research, policy study, teaching and capacity development institution that provides global leadership on issues of sustainable human survival, development and welfare. In particular, UNU emphasizes (i) the increasing need for advanced research and education focusing on the problems that affect developing and transitional countries and their peoples, and (ii) the importance of helping those countries strengthen their capacity for self-reliant human and social development.
The location of the UNU headquarters in Tokyo reflects a long-standing Japanese commitment to the goals of the United Nations and the willingness of the Japanese Government to demonstrate this through its investment in the University. In the early 1970s, the Government of Japan pledged US$100 million to establish the University's Endowment Fund. UNU began its academic activities in Tokyo in September 1975, and moved into its permanent headquarters building in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo in 1992.