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Centre of Development Studies

rural-urban transitions, economic resilience, axes of inequality and inclusion,


Professor 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. She is also a co-I on MillNeti, a sister research programme (2019-2021) that is focussed on how to improve iron nutrition status of people living in Ethiopia and The Gambia by assessing the bioavailability of iron from biofortified millet. Her work package focuses on the use quantitative and qualitative surveys to understand how millets are currently grown, processed, cooked and consumed in focus villages in The Gambia and Ethiopia. 

Professor Fennell is the PI on an ASEAN funded project (2019-2021), and leading a core team responsible for designing the framework, commissioning the experts and compiling the latest research to deliver the first ASEAN Development Outlook that focuses on policies to ensure inclusion and sustainability in South-East Asia.  

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.

Professor 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) that was worked with partners in Ghana, India, Kenya and Pakistan, from 2005-2010.

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.





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.

I will not be taking on any further doctoral students for the academic year 2021-22


Key publications: 

Her recent publications include:

The Handbook of BRICS  (edited with P. Anand, and F. Comim) Oxford University Press, 2020

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.

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


Professor 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 (

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

Professor 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:






Teaching and Supervisions


Professor 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.

Professor 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)

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

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

Under active doctoral supervision.

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

Albert Park, When Better Worlds Collide: Historical Essays in the Politics of International Development and Social Science, completed 2020

Jolly Dusabe, Agricultural Extension Programmes and Rural Diversification in Rwanda. Cambridge Africa Scholar, completed 2020

Shama Ams, Constitutional Reform in post-conflict environments: the cases of Sri Lanka and Rwanda. Cambridge International Trust Scholar, completed 2020

Taskeen Adam, Decolonising MOOCs: an assessment of technology interventions to improve educational outcomes and life skills. Cambridge Africa Scholar. completed 2020

Christine van Hooft, The Implications of Financial Decentralisation in Uganda. Cambridge Commonwealth Trust Scholar. 2019

Adam Lerner, An Examination of Economic Planning in India through the lens of trauma and victimhood. Cambridge International Trust Scholar, completed 2019  

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

Rachel Abbey, The Feasibility of Integrated Water Management in Pakistan, Domestic Graduate Scholarship holder, 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, Commonwealth Commission Scholar, 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, Domestic Graduate Scholarship holder, 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.

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

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Centre of Development Studies, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS)

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Professor of Regional Transformation and Economic Security (Grade 11)
Department of Land Economy
Fellow of Jesus College
Acting Director Centre of South Asian Studies

Staff Photo

Dr Shailaja  Fennell

Contact Details
+44 (0) 1223 764048


Person keywords: 
Operationalisation of the Capability Approach
Urban Marginality and Segregation
Evidence and Learning