Study with the world leaders in developments studies and realise your potential to transform the world
The PhD in Development Studies by Research is IDS’s advanced research degree. It is awarded to candidates after a minimum of three years of study, based on completion of original and significant research in the field of Development Studies – which is assessed through a written thesis.
World leaders in development studies
Ranked first in the world for Development Studies (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020) – the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) transforms the knowledge, action and leadership needed for more equitable and sustainable development globally, through our world-class research, learning and teaching.
As a PhD researcher, you will join a thriving research community comprising more than 70 research staff and 50 postgraduate researchers. You will have access to research and teaching opportunities, as well as a substantial series of seminars presented by leading development professionals and practitioners.
“Studying at IDS can potentially transform your view of the world – you grow a lot learning from this very rich and diverse community.”
Jorge Adrian-Ortiz-Moreno, IDS PhD graduate
Your time at IDS will equip you with the training needed to launch your career in academia, government, civil society or the private sector, and make a real difference in bringing about transformative change.
Our PhD graduates are defining and solving some of the world’s most pressing global challenges in their work as:
ministers in national governments and civil servants
high-level officials in development organisations such as UNDP and the World Bank
leaders and thinkers of civil society and international development organisations such as ActionAid and Christian Aid
high-profile academics at universities across the world.
Areas of Study
We welcome submissions from researchers who share our commitment to:
upholding climate and environmental justice
reducing extreme inequities
fostering healthy and fulfilling lives
nurturing inclusive, democratic and accountable societies.
We are particularly interested in work that shows originality in addressing topics related to the work of our research fellows based across our ten research clusters: business; cities; digital; governance; health; impact and policy; participation; power; resource politics; and rural futures.
Supervision and assessment
Each PhD researcher has a minimum of two supervisors. The number of hours of formal supervision will vary over the course of the PhD depending on the student, supervisor and type of research. IDS publishes a detailed PhD handbook that sets out expectations and responsibilities regarding supervision.
During the course of your PhD, you are required to give two seminars to the IDS community. The first, at the end of Year One is called the Research Outline Seminar and this provides an overview of your PhD plans prior to beginning fieldwork. The second occurs halfway through Year 3. This is called the Work in Progress Seminar and it focuses on the research findings and overall arguments made in the dissertation.
Your PhD work is examined by dissertation and viva. Your thesis must be no longer than 80,000 words. These limits include footnotes and bibliography but exclude any appendices.
How to apply
Apply via the University of Sussex online application. When completing the application form, please identify IDS on the application; the code for this is L1604R – Development Studies (IDS) (PhD).
Finding a supervisor
While you are not responsible for finding a supervisor, it is good practice to express your preferred supervisors on your application form. Applicants are assessed both on their academic credentials and on the relevance of their works to the research of one or more IDS Research Fellows.
IDS is unable to accept applications for distance learning. We believe it is in the best interests of both PhD students and the Institute that the majority of the study period is spent at IDS. This offers the opportunity for ongoing interaction with other IDS members and students.
Your research proposal
As part of the application process, you must submit a detailed research proposal of 2000-3500 words indicating the primary research questions of your research project, a short review of the literature that you are planning to engage with, and your methodology.
Before applying, please read carefully our guidelines on how to write your research proposal on the Sussex website. Here is a good example of a recent research proposal from a successful applicant: Susana Araujo’s PhD research proposal to IDS, 2020.
We prefer our PhD by Research students to start on 21 September 2021 to coincide with the start of the University of Sussex autumn term. This timing will maximise your opportunities to take part in induction sessions, training and module enrolment (optional), both at IDS and the University of Sussex.
For September entry, the application deadlines are:
21 June 2021 for international students
21 July 2021 for UK/EU students.
In exceptional circumstances, IDS may permit students to start the PhD by Research in January (for example, if visa issues prevent a September entry). The application deadline is 31 October for all January starters. We may also be able to offer some flexibility in start dates for students transferring from another organisation.