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Postgraduate Study

About the Centre of Development Studies

The tradition of research and teaching on development at Cambridge goes back at least to the 1930s, when some of those who were later to be the founding fathers in the field studied here as graduate students under John Maynard Keynes.  In the eighty years since then research and teaching in the subject has taken place across many faculties and departments, especially Economics, Social and Political Sciences, Social Anthropology, Geography, Land Economy, the Judge Business School, and the Centres of African, South Asia, Latin American and International Studies.  Today the University offers a wide range of opportunities for postgraduate training and research for students looking towards a career in development in the research field, in policy-making, in national and multilateral institutions, and in non-governmental organisations as well as in the private sector and business.

After many years operating as the Development Studies Committee, the Centre of Development Studies was formally established in January 2012 as an independent centre within the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). We have close links with the other area centres within POLIS:

The Centre of Development Studies provides a focus for students wishing to undertake an MPhil or PhD in the area of development. We continue to provide interdisciplinary training where content and style have kept abreast with the changing reality of the developing world, and the changing requirements of those seeking to make a career in the development field.

2 courses offered in the Centre of Development Studies

The MPhil in Development Studies is an incisively interdisciplinary course that gives students a firm grounding in the political economy of development while drawing on theories and methodologies from political science, sociology, economics and anthropology. Our guiding principle is that no important issue in development – such as poverty and inequality,  the role of institutions, gender relations, technology, war and human rights, colonial histories and decolonisation projects – can be properly understood without a reflexive and interdisciplinary perspective.

The MPhil course consists of one core paper  ‘Intellectual Traditions of Development’ taught in Michaelmas term and a range of optional papers (6 to 8) from which students must choose two, offered in Lent Term. The course also consists of a supervised dissertation of 15-20,000 words.

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The Development Studies PhD course is largely a full-time course which lasts for a minimum of nine terms (three years), and up to a maximum of 12 terms (four years). First-year students are known as NOTAFs (not at first registered). All first-year students (both full-time and part-time) must complete a mandatory methods course. All students are required to submit a First Year Report and pass a first-year assessment viva before holding PhD student status.

Following the completion of the first-year assessment (or second-year in case of part-time students), the majority of PhDs will commence fieldwork to conduct research for their thesis. This may include research at archives and libraries, conducting interviews, etc. Ethical approval is required prior to commencing research. Leave to Work Away and Risk Assessment forms need to be approved within the Centre of Development Studies and by the Ethics, Risk and Fieldwork Committee in the Department of Politics and International Studies. 

Research material is collated, often in the third year, with drafts of a thesis discussed with the student's supervisor. Students are required to submit their thesis by the submission deadline. A viva is then conducted between the student and two examiners, and upon successful completion, or completion of corrections, the student is then required to submit a final hardbound thesis to finalise the programme.

A part-time PhD route is available and proceeds in a similar sequence but over a longer duration, with a maximum allowed length of seven years.

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Department Members

Professor William Hurst
Centre Director

  • 9 Academic Staff
  • 130 Graduate Students