Programme Milestones

Courses and Instruction  

The first year is structured around a series of courses. The first two – DEVS 801: Political Economy of Development and DEVS 802: Cultural Politics of Development – instruct students in the core analytical approaches within development studies. DEVS 803: Fieldwork Methods then builds focused knowledge of the methodological and practical dimensions of planning and undertaking fieldwork. In addition to these core courses, students take a further graduate-level topics course from among those offered within DEVS or cognate departments. Finally, students take DEVS 950: Professional Seminar in Development Studies, a pass/fail course that includes a range of preparatory training around skill mobilisation. Sections include (1) writing for non-academic audiences, (2) effective conference presentations, (3) working within diverse institutional contexts, and (4) pedagogical approaches within development.

Comprehensive Exam  

This is a take-home exam undertaken over the course of a working week, typically released on a Monday morning at 9:00 am and returned at 4:00 pm on the Friday. It consists of two questions set by the examining committee. It tests (1) the student’s understanding of the core themes of development studies as a field, as established in our core courses DEVS 801, DEVS 802 and a wider appreciation of core texts in the field as provided in a departmental core reading list (draft included in appendix); and (2) their chosen area of specialization.  The exam is intended to demonstrate a satisfactory breadth and depth of knowledge alongside strong analytical and communication skills.

Syllabus Preparation  

As part of their comprehensive exam, in the period leading up to the exam the student will prepare and submit a course syllabus on their chosen area of research specialisation. The syllabus would typically be for a 400-level seminar course, although if the committee agreed an alternative pedagogical purpose (such as non-academic course for practitioners or community groups) would be accepted. This syllabus would be assessed alongside the answers to the two comprehensive exams as a means to demonstrate core competency and depth of knowledge in the field.
Research Proposal  
Under close supervisory guidance, the student will prepare a proposal for PhD research that demonstrates close familiarity with the scholarly literature in their proposed research area and, on that basis, develops a defensible rationale, methodology and plan for original dissertation research.


The PhD in Global Development Studies is expected to culminate in a monograph style dissertation based on a period of original fieldwork, typically conducted in developing country contexts, indigenous communities, or development organisations / policy fields.

Within the monograph format, the department provides flexibility to incorporate some innovations, including a potential chapter on research outcomes written for a non-academic audience.