DPhil in International Development

The DPhil in International Development provides an opportunity for outstanding students to pursue in-depth research into processes of social, political and economic development and change in the global South, in a uniquely multidisciplinary academic environment. It can form the basis for an academic career or for a senior post in policy research.

A Supportive Environment

We provide an exceptionally supportive and enriching environment for our DPhils, who are able to draw on the expertise of scholars in a wide variety of disciplines related to the broad field of development and a range of regional specialisms, with notable strength in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Our research centres, which are at the forefront of their subject areas, are a rich source of data and case study material for doctoral research and we also have close connections with other departments and research centres across the University.

Around 80 per cent of our current DPhil students have received full or partial scholarships to fund their doctoral study at ODID and once on the course, they can draw on further departmental funding to meet their needs at different stages of their research.

Our students have a dedicated study area, known as the Loft, which provides a friendly and welcoming space for peer support and networking. Our DPhil students hold a weekly seminar series at which they present their work and benefit from peer feedback. First-year students also present their work to members of the academic staff and other students in preparation for the start of fieldwork, which provides comprehensive academic input in the formative phase of research.

Students are also encouraged to publish in their final years, and are supported in doing so through workshops and a dedicated fund. Students often submit their work to international peer-reviewed journals, including the journal Oxford Development Studies, which is edited at the department. ODS offers a £1,000 prize for the best student paper accepted for publication.

There is a dedicated Course Director for the doctoral programme, the Director of Doctoral Research, who is available to students for consultation and support. We also have a very friendly support staff who can help with queries or difficulties.

You can find out more about the support available in the Funding and Facilities tabs below.

Read some interviews with current doctoral students.

View the profiles of our current doctoral students.

The DPhil community at ODID is renowned across the university for having a strong sense of camaraderie, a lively culture, and a beautiful shared working space.

Alpha Abebe, DPhil in International Development 2012-16

As a DPhil student you will undertake your own original research project under the guidance of your supervisor. One of the requirements of admission is a good fit with a supervisor. It is essential before applying to look carefully at supervisors’ profiles to ensure a fit with ongoing research in the department (see the Supervisors tab). The supervisor will meet with you several times a term and will help to develop and guide the project. At later stages the supervisor will provide feedback on draft chapters. You will also work on your own extensively, and will need a high level of motivation. 

You will be admitted initially as a Probationer Research Student (PRS), transferring to full DPhil status at the end of your first year. During the probationary period, you will develop and begin work on your thesis topic. You will be offered training in relevant research methods, language, computing and other skills, and have the opportunity to attend lectures, seminars and classes in your general topic area.

As a PRS you will take one taught class, either in research methods or from an Oxford master’s degree relevant to your research, on which you will be examined at the end of the first year. You must pass this course in order to transfer from PRS status to full DPhil status. You also need departmental approval of a fully developed research plan, which you will present in your transfer paper to two assessors approved by the department’s Graduate Studies Committee.

You are expected to be resident in Oxford for the PRS period. Once the transfer is complete, you may leave Oxford in order to conduct your fieldwork, if in-country restrictions due to Covid-19 allow, and continue the course by carrying out your own research under the guidance of your supervisor, with whom you will continue to meet or correspond regularly. 

Assessment of progress will be made during these sessions with your supervisor and also in more formal viva voce examinations – for the Transfer of Status (usually at the end of the first year) and for Confirmation of Status (usually at the end of the third year). More information on these two meetings can be found in the Course Handbook.

The University’s expectation is that as a PRS you will complete your degree in a period of three years plus up to one year of data collection research or fieldwork (if needed and restrictions allow). Students who transfer to the DPhil after the MPhil in Development Studies are expected to complete in two years plus time needed for data collection research or fieldwork: they are also expected to be resident in Oxford for part of this time. However, it is not unexpected for PRSs to take between three to five years and for those from the MPhil to take two to four years, plus fieldwork. Further information on the structure can be obtained from the Course Handbook.

I still draw on my experience, including the excellent supervision I received, when supervising my own students now.

Sylvia Bergh, DPhil in Development Studies 2003-08, now Senior Lecturer, International Institute of Social Studies

Many ODID DPhil students go on to develop academic careers in universities and research institutions across the world. Others have taken up positions in the major international institutions, including the World Bank and the UN organisation, or in NGOs.

Find about more about what some recent graduates of the course are doing now.

It is essential for doctoral students to find a good fit with a supervisor, in terms of methodological and (inter-)disciplinary approach, and often also in terms of specific topic and region. The individual profiles at the bottom of this page provide details of supervisory and research interests. ODID supervisors as a whole work across a wide range of disciplines (including anthropology, economics, history, and politics), topics and regions. Many cross disciplinary boundaries. Methodologies commonly include or combine ethnography, interviews and oral history, archival research and textual analysis, and quantitative methods.

A number of faculty use largely qualitative approaches to explore topics related to migration and refugees (Ruben Andersson, Alex Betts, Cathryn Costello, Matthew Gibney, Tom Scott-Smith). Others use ethnography, oral history, documentary sources, and mixed methods to explore topics such as public health; cultures of work; social policy; urban development; environmental governance; land reform; humanitarianism; technology; state-making and disciplinary regimes; and liberation struggles (see the profiles of Jocelyn Alexander, Max Bolt, Simukai Chigudu, Nandini Gooptu, Laura Rival, Diego Sanchez-Ancochea, Nikita Sud, and Xiaolan Fu). Many of these topics are pursued in particular regions of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

A group of political scientists (Corneliu Bjola, Joerg Friedrichs, and John Gledhill) are qualified to supervise doctoral theses in the areas of global governance, international relations, political sociology, and diplomatic studies, as well as international peace and security.

The department also houses a group of development economists (Chris Adam, Cheryl Doss, Pramila Krishnan, and Chris Woodruff) who supervise topics in micro and macro aspects of development. They supervise students working in the mainstream of empirical development economics – ie, applying econometric tools in conjunction with experimental, quasi-experimental, or observational data to answer questions about development processes and impacts. Some supervise students whose economic analyses use mixed methods (Adam, Doss), macro modelling (Adam), and innovations in measurement (Doss), where the topics closely match their research interests. Other faculty (Fu, Sanchez-Ancochea) supervise on topics closely linked to economics, using mixed methods, case studies, and other approaches.

Click on the links below to find out more about supervisors’ research interests and the students they currently supervise.

Christopher Adam
Professor of Development Economics
Jocelyn Alexander
Professor of Commonwealth Studies
Ruben Andersson
Professor of Social Anthropology
Alexander Betts
Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and and Director, Refugee Studies Centre
Corneliu Bjola
Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies
Maxim Bolt
Associate Professor of Development Studies
Simukai Chigudu
Associate Professor of African Politics
Cathryn Costello
Professor of Refugee and Migration Law
Cheryl Doss
Professor of International Development
Jörg Friedrichs
Associate Professor of Politics


A wide variety of scholarships are available to support doctoral study, including departmental scholarships. You can find full details on the Fees and Funding page.

We also provide additional funding for doctoral students at different stages of their research once they have joined the department:

  • towards fieldwork travel, if travel is possible and approved (usually £700, with further amounts being granted on a competitive basis)
  • to cover fieldwork insurance
  • for conference attendance by individual students
  • for student-led academic activities/events in the department
  • as hardship grants for self-funded students in case of need
  • as bursaries, supported by Oxford Development Studies, for those close to submission
  • as publication grants for students who have submitted or almost submitted their thesis, and who have had offers to publish part of their work


We offer excellent shared desk-space and a convivial environment for both intellectual and social interaction in the dedicated DPhil work area, the Loft. Students have access to full IT facilities, including computers, printers, scanners. and Wi-Fi.

As a doctoral student you will have access to a wide range of seminars organised by the department as well as an enormous variety of events across the wider University. The department has its own lively and well-attended weekly DPhil work-in-progress seminar, at which you can present your ideas and receive feedback from your peers.

The Social Sciences Library, the largest freestanding social science library in the UK with considerable print and digital strengths in development studies and a specialist librarian, is a short walk away. This is complemented by the world-class resources of the Bodleian Library and the satellite libraries in Area Studies, particularly Africa, Asia and Latin America.

DPhils have the support of a friendly group of administrative staff in the department. In 2017 our caretaker, Gary Jones, was named Best Support Staff in the OUSU Student Teaching Awards with a record 67 nominations.


Photo: Tim Thorp

Please refer to the course webpage on the University's Graduate Admissions pages for full information on selection criteria, application deadlines and English language requirements. Also see the Supervisors tab below, which sets out which of our academics are available for supervision, and the How to Apply page.

Enquiries about research degrees should be addressed to The Graduate Studies Manager, admissions@qeh.ox.ac.uk.