School of Social and Political Science

PhD International Development

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The deadline to apply for September 2023 entry is Friday 30 June 2023.

We warmly invite candidates to apply for a PhD degree in International Development

The University of Edinburgh is host to a thriving and cosmopolitan community of researchers working on global development challenges. We are home to internationally renowned academics working at the intersection of international development policy and health, science and technology, religion, migration, energy, urbanisation, mining and human rights, as well as centres of regional expertise in Africa, South Asia and Latin America.

We strongly encourage and support interdisciplinary research, and welcome students who are keen to develop doctoral research projects in collaboration with third parties (NGOs, multilateral/bilateral agencies, campaign groups, or media organisations).

Programme overview

Usually undertaken full-time over three years, or part-time over six years, the PhD in International Development is a research degree in which students make an original contribution to knowledge by pursuing an extended and focused piece of research on a topic of interest to them.

You will also be invited to join research workshops and regular open research seminars held by subject areas across the School of Social and Political Science, where you will enjoy special opportunities to meet development policy makers, practitioners, diplomats, and internationally recognised academics.

Interdisciplinary research is strongly encouraged. While based in the School of Social and Political Science, in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, International Development doctoral students will have opportunities to draw from expertise across the University's different Schools and Colleges for the purposes of supervision and research collaboration.

Research training

A wide range of training facilities are available to PhD students. The Graduate School provides a range of ESRC-recognised research training courses for social science students across the University. You are encouraged to participate in taught Masters level courses to assist you intellectual development and support you research. 

The University’s Institute for Academic Development provides a range of courses and events to assist with methodological training and career development.

Finally, you will participate with your peers in the bespoke course, International Development Exchanges and Advanced Skills, to improve your research abilities. These combine to enable you to acquire a broad set of academic and transferable skills during your time with us.

Supervisors and topics

Besides the training activities and academic opportunities discussed in the programme overview, you will receive regular one-to-one thesis supervision from two supervisors with expertise in your research areas.

The supervisors will offer expert advice through the entire research process, including the choice of research training courses, refining the research design, conducting field research, data analysis, writing up the thesis, publishing the findings and moving on to the next stage in the student's career. You will meet with your supervisors on a regular basis to discuss the progress of your thesis, but will also find support from the wider academic community and peers, who you will engage with at regular seminars.

Focused supervision in International Development is generally drawn from academic staff associated to:

  • the Centre of African Studies
  • sociology
  • social anthropology
  • social policy
  • politics and international relations
  • history

However, in line with the emphasis on interdisciplinary research, supervision teams may comprise faculty from across the University.

Your are strongly advised to contact potential supervisors before submitting your application. If the University lacks staff who are able to supervise your project, your application may be declined.

You should examine the research interests of staff in the School of Social and Political Science carefully as the first stage in the application process. Once you have completed your draft research proposal you are strongly advised to get in touch with the postgraduate advisor, Dr Jamie Cross, to discuss your thoughts on potential supervisors from among the faculty. His contact details are on the right-hand side.

We strongly advise that you only submit the application once you have secure the agreement of at least one prospective supervisor. You must indicate the name of any proposed supervisor who has agreed to the role in the appropriate section of your application. A well-developed research proposal is likely to help your initial engagement with a prospective supervisor. They might also ask you to provide them with written work from your Master's degree (for example, your MSc dissertation, or two long essays), in order to get a sense of your research potential).

Postgraduate community

You will become part of a vibrant, interdisciplinary research community. Within the School of Social and Political Science there will be a wide range of seminars and events for you to attend and integrate yourself into the research life of the University.

Within the International Development doctoral programme there are additional opportunities to mix with the postgraduate cohort, including the International Development Exchanges and Advanced Skills course taken by first year doctoral students, and a series of organised monthly training and social activities.


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 Agustin Diz