Global Development Institute Blog

As part of the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) PhD Studentship programme, the Global Development Institute is delighted to offer up to seven fully funded four year PhD studentship with an integrated teaching certificate.

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the government to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. GCRF forms part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment. ODA-funded activity focuses on outcomes that promote the long-term sustainable growth of countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list. 

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around £15,000 for 2019/20), a research training grant, training allowance and travel allowance. Applicants can apply to one of the below projects which will start in either April or September 2020. 

The University of Manchester has 12 studentships available as part of the GCRF PhD Studentship programme. These 12 studentships will be picked from a pool of research projects from across the University (full list of potential studentships) and successful applicants will be awarded on merit.

How to Apply

Applications open: The formal application process will open on 13 January 2020 and close 31 January 2020.

Applications close: 31 January 2020.

Interviews: March 2020.

Applicants are asked to contact the lead supervisor displayed in the project information for an initial discussion about the project.

Social and ecological impacts of forest landscape restoration: lessons from India

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is recognized as a principal mechanism to mitigate climate change [1] and has been incorporated into multiple global sustainability agendas. This four-year interdisciplinary PhD project will combine elements from political science, economics and geographical information systems to provide new empirical insights about FLR’s potential to address multiple sustainable development outcomes. The project will focus on FLR in India, a country with globally significant forest cover and biodiversity, and large restoration potential and commitments.

Theoretical and empirical research has demonstrated that community access and management rights to forests and forest resources lead to better forest (e.g., lower deforestation rates) and livelihood outcomes (e.g., reduced poverty). The central hypothesis underpinning this PhD project is that the recognition of forest rights and participation of local communities in FLR initiatives will be linked to better forest and livelihood outcomes. The PhD project will focus on evaluating FLR outcomes under three broad themes: forest rights, livelihoods, and biodiversity.

It will do so by answering the following two research questions:

  1. What are the livelihood and biodiversity outcomes of FLR efforts?
  2. How does the recognition of community forest rights, and community participation influence the social and ecological outcome of FLR?

The student will combine high-spatial resolution publicly available data and use state-of-the-art statistical tools to address the answer these two research questions. Specifically, the project will analyse secondary data with high spatial and temporal resolution combining suites of social and environmental indicators with information on policy implementation and primary data on local community perceptions of FLR implementation.

The project will be supervised by Johan Oldekop at the Global Development Institute at the University of Manchester; Tim Foster at the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Manchester, and Ashwini Chhatre at the Indian School of Business.

The ideal candidate will have research interests in development and sustainability, very strong quantitative skills, as well as experience of using and manipulating large datasets including spatial data. Survey design, and Hindi are additional desirable skills.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Johan Oldekop

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

Reducing gig economy inequalities in the Global South: a South African action research project

The gig economy is fast becoming a key sector for employment in the developing countries of the global South. An estimated 40 million people are now employed via digital platforms in jobs such as taxi driving, delivery and domestic services, and online work from data entry to web design. Alongside this growth, though, are concerns that platform-based gig work is fuelling a rise in global inequality: creating insecure, precarious employment that contrasts starkly with the gains captured by platform owners and investors.

This PhD project will engage in action research that seeks to address this inequality in the specific context of South Africa; one of the most unequal nations on earth. You will join the Fairwork programme, which works across multiple countries of the global South to improve the working conditions of people employed in the digital platform economy.

Working with a joint team from the Universities of Manchester and Cape Town, you will investigate how digital platforms in the global South can be influenced to adhere to decent work standards for their workers. You will analyse the stakeholders and leverage points that exist in the platform eco-system: who and what they are, and how best to use them to improve worker pay and conditions. You will then undertake action research with the identified stakeholders – developing corporate commitments, advocating for new regulations, supporting consumer and worker associations, etc. – and draw out conceptual and practical lessons from this action research. These lessons will be disseminated across the Fairwork programme in order to maximise the value and impact of your research.

Overall, you will form part of an exciting and fast-growing action research programme, helping not only to better understand one of the key elements of the future of work, but also intervening to have a direct impact on a growing source of global inequality.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Richard Heeks

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

From socialist industrialization to a global city

From socialist industrialisation to a ‘global city’: deindustrialisation and inequality in Bangalore, India.

There is an assumption that the Global South has industrialized at the expense of the OECD, as industry was offshored from post-war industrial heartlands from 1980-2010. While places like northern England and America’s Rust Belt experienced significant deindustrialization, this narrative obscures the fact that many developing countries also witnessed industrial decline as their markets were liberalized and exposed to exports from East Asia. According to economist Dani Rodrik, deindustrialization is far worse in many developing countries than it ever was in the OECD.

This project focuses on deindustrialization in Bangalore, which has become a hub of information technology related services and is known as “India’s Silicon Valley.” This obscures the city’s rapid industrial decline. After India’s independence, Bangalore was selected as a major site of public investment in industry. Its peri-urban areas boasted working-class communities where families enjoyed access to secure, relatively well-paying jobs in nearby factories and this gave rise to a ‘labour aristocracy.’

This project seeks to determine how authorities problematized – if at all – deindustrialization and managed the transition from socialist industry to global IT hub. While many cities sought to undertake similar transitions, none were as successful as Bangalore. Our hypothesis is that Bangalore’s transformation wasso dramatic because it was not market driven, but rather it was the result of state intervention and coordination at multiple scales. We not only seek to better understand the mechanisms put in place to foster this transformation, but we also ask how, in India’s competitive liberal democracy, was consent secured from Bangalore’s erstwhile working classes? We will focus on how this class has adapted to the city’s transformation, and how urban transformation has resulted in social, spatial and economic inequality. We will pay particular attention to inter-generational inequality.

The research will rely on an analysis of policy documents and master plans which have consistently reduced land available for industrial use while opening land for real estate. These plans will be ‘ground truthed’ because in many instances the plan does not represent actual land uses, and it is common knowledge that some former working-class communities have become affluent and are ground zero for Bangalore’s transition while others have been ‘left behind.’ This demonstrates that the city’s transition is incomplete and we will provide perspectives from policy makers, former labourers and residents from various ‘types’ of Bangalore neighbourhoods.

Societies in the North Atlantic have been rocked by right-wing populism as the ‘places left behind’ take revenge and reject globalization. The UK voted to leave the European Union while Donald Trump was successful in his Presidential campaign in part because he promised an ‘America First’ policy. Much of the support for this shift comes from retrenched working classes. If countries beyond the OECD have experienced even more extreme deindustrialization, then it stands to reason that those societies may experience similar upheaval. By focusing on the dynamics of transition, deindustrialization and the inequality it has engendered in Bangalore, this project will inform our understanding of political trends that have only just begun and are likely to animate the 21st century.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Seth Schindler

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

Transforming territories on Brazil’s development frontier

Transforming territories on Brazil’s development frontier: political settlements, inequalities and unsustainable urban development in the Amazon Region.

The Brazilian Amazon rainforest faces an existential threat from unprecedented deforestation, which leading academic research attributes to governmental policies. Indeed, under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro the Brazilian Government has prioritized economic growth over environmental conservation, and it has encouraged the conversion of canopy rainforest in the Amazon rainforest into territory that can be incorporated into global networks of production and trade. This is driven in part by a downturn in Brazil’s manufacturing sector which has struggled to compete against East Asian exporters, coupled with an increase in commodity prices in the 2000s. As a result, capital has been reallocated from manufacturing in Brazil’s industrial heartlands, to activities geared towards the production and export of raw materials and agricultural products in the Amazon region.

A network of human settlements has emerged in the Amazon as the development frontier has expanded – the number of people living in urban areas in the Amazon doubled from 1991-2010 and it is growing rapidly. The relationship between industrialization and urbanization which fuelled the growth of Brazil’s urban corridor from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro in the 20th century has been severed, and residents of emergent and growing Amazonian cities work in primary and tertiary sectors that drive deforestation such as agriculture, mining, food processing, transportation and logistics. Most research on the deforestation of the Amazon region has focused on land-cover change and conflict over land-use (e.g. between loggers and indigenous groups). This research confirms that the Amazon is being urbanized, but scholars have tended to focus on the form of human settlements rather than their content. Thus, relatively little is known about the urban worlds on Brazil’s development frontier, and this research focuses on their modes of governance and socio-spatial inequalities.

This research project compares the political settlements that animate formal and informal aspects of urban governance regimes – and concomitant inequalities – in Parauapebas and Rondonópolis. The former is a city with a population of approximately 200,000 that boasts the title of the greatest exporting municipality in Brazil. It is in the state of Pará, where the Vale Company has invested in ore extraction as well as in energy, logistics, steel and metallurgy. The latter is at the centre of Brazil’s growing agribusiness complex, situated at the intersection of two major highways – BR-163 and BR- 364 – which connect Mato Grosso’s agricultural frontier with the main international ports in south and southeast Brazil.

By comparing two cities on the Amazonian development frontier that are connected to global value chains in very different ways, this research will speak to scholarship on the relationship between globalization and urbanization. There is an assumption that cities associated with extractive industries exhibit more top-down governance systems and higher inequality than those whose growth is related to industry and services (e.g. food processing and logistics). The findings would be relevant to future Brazilian governments that seek to balance competing pressures of demands for growth as well as conservation, and it will also contribute to our understanding of cities on development frontiers worldwide.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Seth Schindler

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

Health and Education Effectiveness in Decentralised Systems (HEEDS)

Despite the increase in public funding towards health and education, a large proportion of citizens in sub-Saharan Africa experience low quality service delivery. This is reflected in poor socioeconomic outcomes in the areas of child and maternal health as well as learning outcomes for school going children. Available evidence reveals stark differences in health and education indicators between countries and across sub-national areas. The international community recently called for policy interventions that focus on addressing inequalities at all levels as the basis for achieving Sustainable Development Goals particularly SDGs 3, 4 and 10. Whilst there is widespread reliance on decentralised governments for the delivery of public services in developing countries, little is known about their role in both causing and ameliorating socioeconomic inequalities. The Health and Education Effectiveness in Decentralised Systems (HEEDS) seeks to fill this gap. In so doing HEEDS will address GCRF core themes on “Health and Wellbeing” and the University of Manchester’s “Global Inequalities” research beacon.

The project builds on the research undertaken by the University of Manchester’s Effective States and Inclusive Development (ESID) and Pockets of Effectiveness (PoE) research projects. ESID particularly investigated the national politics of health, education and social provisioning while the PoE project the politics of building state capacity through high performing public sector organisations. HEEDS will extend ESID’s and PoE’s work by focusing on decentralised governments, and investigate the determinants of local government capacity as a basis for understanding and addressing sub-national inequities in service delivery. The project will target three eastern Africa countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The trio are Development Assistance Committee (DAC) listed countries, and are good representatives of contexts where service delivery is heavily decentralised and where significant levels of sub-national variation in performance exist. However these countries also have unique political systems that make them interesting for comparison. Drawing on ESID’s research, Kenya’s political system is described as competitive-clientelist, Tanzania’s dominant party, and Uganda’s weak-dominant party. The project will establish the implications of such power configurations for service delivery at national and subnational levels.

HEEDS research methodology will take the form of systematic comparisons across high- and low-performing districts within and across countries, and use ‘process tracing’ to establish patterns of causality. Data analysis will be done using fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fs QCA) – a method that allows for identification of necessary and sufficient conditions for causality. By tracing the trajectories to “effectiveness” HEEDS will obtain insights into how some local governments overcome governance and service delivery bottlenecks. Such evidence could inform reforms for improving service delivery in decentralised systems within eastern Africa and beyond. We seek PhD proposals that aim to investigate the politics of subnational inequalities in health and education services in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Samuel Hickey

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

Digital global public goods in health in low and middle income countries

The empirical basis for the proposed project is within the public health sector in India, specifically by examining approaches to build appropriate design strategies for Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) surveillance in India. The project will be based on the District Health Information Systems (DHIS2) platform, a globally acknowledged Digital Global Public Good in use in many low and middle income countries, but not yet applied to AMR. In that way, the project represents state of art in reference to information communication technology and a global health priority – AMR. The research will involve a multi-disciplinary approach drawing upon disciplines of information systems, global public health, innovation studies and Information and Communication Technology for Development. Building of design strategies and socially inclusive innovation approaches will have wider relevance to both Information Systems and global health.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Brian Nicholson (AMBS). GDI Researcher Jaco Renken is part of the research project.

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)

Sustainable value creation: bioeconomy innovation and opportunities for inclusiveness and sustainability.

This doctoral research project will be probe and progress new models for sustainable value creation that are embedded in bioeconomy innovation and that address opportunities and challenges for inclusiveness and innovation. The empirical focus will build on research in Brazil, with consideration of conceptual, management, and policy insights and implications for other development assistance economies and development programmes. The project will advance knowledge related to development at local and global levels, business models, governance, sustainability, innovation and technology, and inclusiveness, and responsible innovation. The project’s empirical work will focus in Brazil, identifying and investigating particular cases of new sustainable value creation models, broadly related to knowledge-based bioeconomy development for the production and use of renewable resources in ways that are sustainable and inclusive. Potential cases include the sustainable and inclusive local use of resources such as sugar cane for bio-energy and bio-plastics and renewable harvesting from the Amazon for global consumer goods. The evolution and challenges of such strategies will be explored through examination of the roles of companies (large and small), stakeholder groups, civil society, government, and innovation and regulatory systems. Potentials for path dependency (creating blockages to change and recreating inequities), responsible innovation (creating pathways for more inclusive and sustainable development), and systems transformation (for example, through disruptive biological engineering) will be explored. The research will lead to insights and implications about strategies for sustainable value creation of relevance not only for Brazil but also for other ODA and developed economies. The project will be undertaken through a research collaboration between the Manchester Institute of Innovation Research (MIOIR: Prof. P. Shapira), the Global Development Institute (GDI: Prof. K Nadvi), and the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB: Dr. Kirk Malone) at the University of Manchester in association with the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV) and São Paulo School of Management (EAESP), Brazil (Prof. J. A. Puppim de Oliveira). In Manchester, the doctoral student will be housed in the Faculty of Humanities, in the interdisciplinary PhD programme in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) at MIOIR. The student will part of the University of Manchester Global Doctoral Research Network programme and will also engage with seminars, associated research training, and other doctoral cohorts at MIOIR and GDI, facilitating conceptual development, proposal refinement, networking, advanced skills development, and writing. The relationship with MIB will facilitate additional mentorship on bio- technological and commercialisation aspects. Two intensive periods of field study are anticipated in Brazil, using qualitative research methods, facilitated by FGV/EAESP. Support will be provided for field work, conference attendance, and publishing.

Principal investigator at Manchester: Philip Shapira. This PhD is linked to an on-going research collaboration which is led by GDI’s Khalid Nadvi. Khalid would also co-supervise this PhD.

For more details, email (Lead supervisor)


Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.