PhD by Research

IDS is a world-leading centre in international development studies with over 50 research students, working on a range of research topics in many parts of Asia, Africa, the Balkans, Latin America and the Middle East. IDS is dedicated to research on processes of social, political and economic development and change in order to understand problems of poverty and development related issues within local communities, national political and economic systems, and in the international system.

The IDS research agenda encompasses many important development challenges. Research is driven by the academic and policy-oriented activities of individual researchers. Our research clusters provide a flexible and evolving structure for research, and over time they have shifted their focus in response to new priorities and interests. We also host many major research centres such as the STEPS Centre, Future Agriculture Consortium etc.

Our research has been consistently rated at the highest level producing world class, cutting edge original research that have made significant impact to individuals, institutions and societies around the world. IDS Fellows have considerable experience of living and working in the developing world, and most have engaged in policy relevant research and consultancy work with international development agencies or non-governmental organisations.

Candidates share their working space creating synergies and community support between other PhD students with a shared social space for discussion. All students are part of the IDS research community and have access to research, knowledge, communication and teaching opportunities and engagement with the IDS staff, as well as a thriving series of seminars presented by development professionals and practitioners and key academic speakers.

We have a large and diverse postgraduate population and alumni network from around the world. Our graduates are employed by the world's major development agencies and universities in roles such as government ministers, policy makers, economists and civil servants. Recent placements include the DFID, ODI, World Bank, UNEP, UNDP, University of Leeds, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Swiss Development Agency, and BRAC.

IDS PHD Students in the field
One of our PHD Students, Sophie Valeix shares her experience of working in the field with a series of vlogs which gives an insight into what it is like to carry out fieldwork as a young researcher. The latest video is entitled 'Researching' and you can view all of the series so far on her YouTube channel.

A Masters degree in any relevant social science. In exceptional circumstances, candidates with other backgrounds may be considered. Applicants must submit an outline research proposal of three to four pages indicating the nature, ambitions and primary questions of the project. Applicants must also have substantial professional work experience in a developing country or in development-related work.

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in each section. Pearson's Test of English (Academic) 67 overall, with at least 62 in all four skills.

Formal application

A 3-4 page research proposal should be submitted indicating what you wish to investigate, how you intend to conduct the research and any contacts you have had with IDS Fellows. It would also be advantageous to include an article or writing sample demonstrating your ability to undertake research and write academic papers.

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.

Presence here is vital at the early stage when the research proposal is prepared and then, after fieldwork, at the stage of writing up the research findings. The maximum period of registration is 4 years, but a PhD can be completed in 3 years.

IDS PhD research proposal guidelines

Fees for the academic year 2017/18 are £15,100 for overseas students. Fees for 2017/18 for UK/EU, Channel and Isle of Man students will be announced late Spring 2017 (2016/17 fees were £4,121). IDS requires that students register for a minimum of three years. Most students spend time on overseas fieldwork. During fieldwork, students are registered as distance learners and are charged a fee which is normally 65% of the full-time fee but may be subject to change.

After having made substantial progress and completed 3 years of registration, students may be permitted to transfer to continuation status. IDS considers substantial progress to be the completion of three empirical chapters, supervisors' approval and a successful work-in-progress seminar. If continuation is not granted, then full-time fees are still applicable. The continuation fee is approximately £240 for each year or part thereof.

Unfortunately, neither IDS nor the University of Sussex can offer financial support. Applicants requiring financial assistance should contact their local Ministry of Education or Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British Council representative (c/o British Embassy). For the latest information, check the University of Sussex website.

We consider applications throughout the year although the official academic year begins in September. We strongly encourage doctoral students to align their studies to this academic calendar.

For a copy of the University of Sussex online prospectus.

For information about University of Sussex online application.

Before applying for a research degree, please read the following notes on How to write your Research Proposal. Prospective students should have a strong academic record and graduate training (at the MSc level) demonstrating a high standard of achievement.

This includes any languages necessary for the proposed research and methodological and theoretical grounding in one of the social science disciplines. Applicants are assessed both on their academic credentials and on the relevance of their proposed research to the work of one or more IDS Fellows.

Close working relationships are fostered between doctoral students, their supervisors, Fellows, Cluster and Research Centres working in the same area, in order to enhance the quality of doctoral education.

For all queries regarding applications and proposals please contact