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Course Details


If after you have read through these pages you have any further questions please feel free to email the PhD Administrator, 


Development Studies has five academic staff members: Professor Peter Nolan, Dr Shailaja Fennell, Dr Maha Abdelrahman, Dr Ha-Joon Chang and Dr Graham Denyer Willis. Affiliated lecturers currently include Dr Flavio Comim, Mr Michael Kuczynski, Dr David Clark, Dr Gay Meeks and Dr Alexandra Winkels.

The full-time PhD course lasts for a minimum of nine terms (three years), and up to a maximum of twelve terms (four years). Most of our PhD students spend their second year away from Cambridge, conducting their fieldwork for which some limited financial assistance is available.

In the first year of the PhD programme there is a focus on training in research methods and transferable skills.  The Centre of Development Studies runs its own Research Methods course and it is compulsory for all first year PhD students to attend this course. Students are also encouraged to attend a wide range of seminars and other events that are organised by the Centre of Development Studies and departments throughout the University.

Weekly research seminars are held every Friday afternoon. All PhD students (first, second and third year) are expected to attend these seminars and at some point during the year each student will be asked to make a presentation. Presentation of a paper at one of these seminars is a requirement of the PhD programme.

The essence of the Cambridge experience remains, however, the work with the PhD supervisor. He or she will help develop the thesis project through discussion and the review of draft materials presented by the candidate.

The process of working on the thesis will differ from candidate to candidate, depending on their project, their preferences and the style of supervision adopted. However, in general, it is expected that the first year will be devoted not only to completing the Research Methods modules, but also to the development of a detailed and well thought-through thesis outline. In particular, at the outset, the student should devote some time to considering how he or she will be making an original contribution to the field through his or her work.

The taught Research Methods course covers the following subjects:

  • Interdisciplinary research in Development Studies
  • Research paradigms and strategies of inquiry
  • Research design
  • Survey design
  • Case studies
  • Questionnaires and interviews
  • Comparative research
  • Participatory and action-based research
  • Mixed methods
  • Online research tools
  • Regression analysis
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods with additional support for learning software packages

We are delighted and proud to see that the Centre has gone from no.8 (2015) to no.6 (2016) to no.4 (2017) in the field of Development Studies in the QS Survey. This would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work from everyone within the Centre.

Message from the director: You will be pleased to know that we have moved up from 8 in 2015 to 6 this year in the QS world ranking for Development Studies. This is a remarkable result and a great tribute to the tremendous efforts of the whole team of teachers and administrators. It's a fantastic result! Professor Peter Nolan

Congratulations to PhD student Nungari Mwangi who was awarded the 2016 Andrew E Rice Award from the Society for International development!

Dr Fennell high level facilitator at WSIS 2016

We are pleased to announce that Dr Fennell has been appointed as High Level Track Facilitator at the World Summit on the Information Society Forum.