School of Social and Political Science

PhD African Studies

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The deadline to apply for September 2024 entry is Monday 1 July 2024.

We warmly invite candidates to apply for a PhD degree in African Studies

We host a thriving and cosmopolitan community of research students in the Centre of African Studies.

We offer a PhD programme with an international reputation, awarded from one of the world's leading universities. We welcome applications and enquiries from prospective students with a keen interest in conducting research that engages with and extends our knowledge of Africa.


Our research is highly regarded internationally and many of our staff are recognised as world leaders in their field. All of the subject areas to which we contribute (Sociology, Social Anthropology, Politics and History) were rated within the top ten in their respective fields in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework. We are also consistently ranked in Good University Guides as one of the top African Studies programmes in the UK.

Our graduates

Graduates from the PhD in African Studies have continued on to careers in :

  • government and diplomacy
  • international organisations and NGOs
  • policy making
  • academia
  • the private sector
Programme overview

Usually undertaken full-time over three years, or part-time over six years, the PhD in African Studies is an interdisciplinary research degree in which students make an original contribution to our knowledge of Africa by pursuing an extended and focused piece of research on a topic of interest to them. The Centre of African Studies is supported by the Graduate School of Social and Political Science, which enables students to acquire a broader set of transferable skills during their studies.

Research training

The Centre is a recognised Economic and Social Research Council outlet, which means that our teaching and training has been quality assured at a national level.

You will be encouraged to participate in taught Masters level courses to assist your intellectual development and support your research, including offerings from a suite of research training courses.

Student seminars and workshops

Throughout the year our students organise informal peer-review seminars where you would have the opportunity to present your research proposal, fieldwork plans, chapter ideas, etc. This provides a friendly forum in which students can exchange ideas about theoretical and practical aspects of their work with others who are going through or have recently gone through the same process. CAS students have also been involved in the organisation of substantial research workshops.

Research themes

Each of our PhD researchers belong to at least one of the research themes within the Centre of African Studies, and possibly also to other research clusters within the School.

We encourage students to participate in our research group activities.

Students at CAS form a dynamic group, all studying different topics and countries but linked by their interest in Africa. Our students are encouraged to become active members of the Centre, participating in conferences, seminars, research projects and contributing to our publication profile.

Senior research students are often involved in course planning and teaching, which helps in equiping them for future academic careers. Our research graduates are highly employable, many remain in academia, some become researchers in Africa and elsewhere and all develop skills which allow them to work anywhere in the world.


We also participate actively in Africa-focused events in Edinburgh, such as panels highlighting contemporary African authors at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (the world's largest book festival) and the UK's largest African Film Festival, Africa in Motion.

Supervisors and topics

PhD researchers are allocated two supervisors, who will offer expert advice through the entire research process, from advising on the choice of any initial training courses, developing research questions and an extended research proposal, to fieldwork, data analysis, presenting and publishing findings, writing up the thesis, overcoming the final hurdle of the viva and moving onto the next stage of students career.

Our supervisors and Postgraduate Advisor are the formal component of a much broader informal network of support, advice and supervision. They offer regular and supportive reviews of progress as well as providing additional advice and support for any problems which may occur.

Information and contact details for prospective supervisors affiliated with the Centre of African Studies may be found here:

Academics from elsewhere in the University who have Africa expertise can also be included on the supervisory team.

Postgraduate community

The Centre of African Studies plays host to a vibrant community of staff, researchers and postgraduates. Our PhD researchers are integral to our community; many are affiliated to research projects, regularly present at international conferences and publish in top international journals. Several have also won awards for their research.

Besides academic activities Centre members engage in a wide range of other activities, from football to language training, barbecues (or braais), taking part in reading and cultural groups, field trips and retreats. We provide a challenging, dynamic, supportive and tightly-knit environment for our students.


Applying for this PhD

  1. Identify potential supervisors suited to your research interests
  2. Write a draft research proposal
  3. Contact the Postgraduate Advisor with your research proposal and list of potential supervisors
  4. Once discussed with the Postgraduate Advisor, formally submit your application on EUCLID

Postgraduate Advisor

Programme advisor: Dr Kevin Donovan