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Course Details


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.

Phd presentation seminars are held twice a term, on Thursdays, as part of the Centre of Development Studies Speakers Series. All PhD students (first, second and third years) are expected to attend these seminars and at some point during the year they will be given the opportunity 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


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

"It has been almost two years since the murder of Giulio Regeni in Cairo. As we approach this anniversary, we are no nearer to knowing the truth of what happened to this promising post-graduate, tortured and killed while pursuing wholly legitimate academic research... It has been especially troubling to note that, in the absence of apparent progress in investigations into Giulio’s death, attention has been turned to his doctoral supervisor, Dr Maha Abdelrahman – an honourable and distinguished scholar..." Stephen J Toope, Vice-Chancellor. To read the message in full, please go to our News page. The message can also be found on the University of Cambridge homepage.

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.