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Dr Shailaja Fennell

Dr Shailaja Fennell

University Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, attached to the Department of Land Economy.

Fellow of Jesus College

BA, MA, MPhil (University of Delhi), MPhil, PhD (University of Cambridge)

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 764048


Dr. Shailaja Fennell is a co-I on TIGR2ESS, a research programme to study how to improve crop productivity and water use, identify appropriate crops and farming practices for sustainable rural development, with funding of £7.8 million from the Global Challenges Fund of RCUK.

Dr Fennell was an international team leader on public-private partnerships in education project within the DfID-funded Cambridge-based consortium on educational outcomes for the poor (RECOUP) from 2005-2010.

She was awarded the UGC-UKIERI grant for a collaborative research initiative, in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, and the Indian partners were the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and University of Punjab, Chandigarh for 2014-16. The project focussed on understanding how bottlenecks that limit Internet access for rural agricultural production and community-based tourism can be removed, using the Portolan application and android mobile phones, to collect upstream data and an innovative survey instrument to collect downstream data.

She has been a consultant on inequality and rural development with Oxfam GB (2014-15), on evidence-based policy with the World Bank (2013-15), and was earlier the social science expert on agriculture and gender and a member of the five-person team that authored the European Report on Development on Fragility in Africa, 2008-09. 

Research Interests

My research interests include institutional reform and collective action, food production and rural development; gender norms and gender gaps in development interventions, and provision of public goods and the role of partnerships. 

If you want to know more about my research on how mobile phones have helped me to understand the lives of young people in rural India, and what this has to do with global food security, the link is below

Listen to my research on rural-urban transformations and the challenges for sustainable cities do click on the link below:

If you are interested in learning more about my work on renewable energy and sustainable development you can listen to an interview conducted by Energy@Cam by clicking on the link below.


Dr Fennell is the PhD programme director for 2021. She is also the coordinator for the core paper ‘Institutions and Development’(Paper 2). 

She also carries out undergraduate teaching on Development Policy for the Department of Land Economy and contributes to teaching on the M.Phil in South Asian Studies.

Dr Fennell supervises MPhil students in the Centre of Development Studies. She also supervises PhD students at the Centre of Development Studies and the Department of Land Economy.

A list of doctoral students supervised at the Centre of Development Studies is provided below

Current Students

(Under examination)

Christine van Hooft, The Implications of Financial Decentralisation in Uganda. Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar.

Matthew Fright, What we value: From Political Arthimetick to National Income Accounting, Cambridge University Piggott Scholar. 

Adam Lerner, An Examination of Economic Planning in India through the lens of trauma and victimhood. Cambridge International Trust Scholar,  

Jolly Dusabe, Agricultural Extension Programmes and Rural Diversification in Rwanda. Cambridge Africa Scholar

Shama Ams, Constitutional Reform in post-conflict environments: the cases of Sri Lanka and Rwanda. Cambridge International Trust Scholar, 

Under active doctoral supervision.

Halimatou Hima, "Ilimi Haské": A Study on Education, Gender and Inequality in Niger, Cambridge Africa Trust Scholar

Jaime Royo Olid, Artificial Scarcity and the case for Affordable Housing in Odisha, India.

Taskeen Adam, Decolonising MOOCs: an assessment of technology interventions to improve educational outcomes and life skills. Cambridge Africa Scholar.r examination)

Avneet Kaur, Empowering Women and Youth: an evaluation of Skill Development Programmes in India. Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar.

Gracelin Baskaran, Developing Relational Contracts: An examination of skilling opportunities in the mining sector in South Africa. Cambridge Political Economy Trust Scholar.

Em Winters, Food Security among Refugee Rohingya Households in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, Cambridge Trusts Scholar.

Completed PhDs

Jaiver Gonzalez Dias, The Political Economy and Institutional Foundations of Inequality, Social Mobility and Education Disparities: Essays from the Developing South, completed 2019.

Nungari Mwangi, Kenyan floriculture and global value chains, Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar, completed 2019. 

Rekha Bhangaonkar, Three Essays on Watershed Management in Maharashtra, India, completed 2018. 

Shakthi Manickavasagam, Gender Relations in Urban India: an ethnographic study of women in the IT sector in Chennai, completed 2018.

Mihiri Warnasuriya, Ethnicity, Youth Citizenship and Schooling Curriculum in Sri Lanka. Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar, completed 2018.  

Jane Lichtenstein, Government Policy in Rwanda: through the lens of a policy for financial inclusion, completed 2017. 

Shachi Ambdekar, Gentlemanly Capitalism and the Indigenous Cotton Textile Industry in India, completed 2017. 

Jaskiran Bedi, Is English Language Causing a Dichotomy between Economic Growth and Inclusive Growth in India, completed 2017. 

Ga-Young So, Three Essays on Impact of Education on the Employment and Empowerment of Women in South Korea, completed 2017. 

Vong-On Phuaphansawat, Neoliberalism, Governmentality, Educational Reforms and Teachers, (1999-2007), completed 2017. 

Richard Sidebottom, How Do Market Actors Manage the ‘Rules of the Game’ in the Cotton Textiles and Apparel Sector? Completed 2016. 

Lucy McMahon, Gender, violence and social movements in Latin America, completed 2015.  

Terry van Gevelt, Three Essays on Communities, Common Property Resources and Farming; the case of South Korean Mushroom Production, completed, 2013, 


She won the Student Support (academic) award and received a commendation in the graduate supervisor category in the CUSU student-led awards in 2018.

Dr. Fennell was also the winner of the CUSU student-led award in the supervisor category in 2016.


  • Urban Marginality and Segregation
  • Evidence and Learning

Key Publications

Her recent publications include:

Tanwir, Maryam; Fennell, Shailaja; Lak, Hafsah Rehman; and Sufi, Salman (2019). Not Accepting Abuse as the Norm: Local Forms of Institutional Reform to Improve Reporting on Domestic Violence in Punjab. Journal of International Women's Studies, 20(7), 129-153. Available at

Ashford, A., D. Kelly and S. Fennell (eds.) Malthusian Moments, The Historical Journal, 2019.

The Handbook of BRICS  (edited with P. Anand, F. Comim and J Weiss) forthcoming (2019), Oxford University Press. 

New Frontiers of the Capability Approach (edited with F. Comim and P. Anand) (2018), Cambridge University Press. 

Rules, rubrics and riches: the interrelations between legal reform and international development, Routledge (2010);

Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context: conceptual frameworks and policy perspectives, Routledge (ed. with M. Arnot, 2008).

She has published in leading publications such China Quarterly, Ecological Economics, Telecommunications Policy, Comparative Education and Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 

Do click here for a link to the special issue on Malthusian moments-the first special issue to be published by The Historical Journal


Dr. Fennell was invited to speak at the Critical Economics Summit at Bologna, in May 2017. The conference was organised by the European Chapters of the Rethinking Economics initiative (

Dr Fennell has published a piece for the ITU in its thought leader contribution category.

Dr. Fennell gave a talk on Colonialism, Institutions and Development at the University of Tubingen, at a Critical Economics Forum. You can listen to the talk if you click on to the following link:






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