Department of Development Studies

MPhil/PhD in Development Studies

Key information

3 years full time or 6 years part-time
Attendance mode
Full-time or part-time
Russell Square, College Buildings

Home student fees (full-time): £4,860 per year
Home student fees (part-time): £2,430 per year
Overseas student fees (full-time): £22,490 per year
Overseas student fees (part-time): £11,245 per year

Please note that fees go up each year. 
See research fees for further details.

Entry requirements

We normally require a 2.1 bachelor's degree plus a Masters degree with a Merit classification in a Social Science plus one reference. In exceptional cases we may accept applicants who do not meet these criteria if they show evidence of a strong Masters degree and/or appropriate level of relevant work experience. International applicants should also see Doctoral School English language requirements

Identifying a supervisor

Potential applicants are advised to personally discuss their (draft) research proposal with (a) potential supervisor(s) (see departmental staff list) and sound their willingness to supervise. This significantly increases the chance of a successful admission application.

Course overview

Study our on-campus MPhil/PhD in Development Studies at SOAS to realise your potential to tackle global injustice and transform the world with your research impact.

As a PhD researcher, you’ll join a renowned globally diverse research community with access to research and teaching opportunities, as well as a substantial series of seminars presented by leading development professionals and practitioners.

The Department currently has over 70 research students, working on a range of research topics in many parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. We are particularly interested in potential research students who wish to work in one of the main Departmental Research Clusters, specifically: 

SOAS research students are encouraged to attend weekly training sessions to introduce them to a number of practical techniques and vocational skills utilised within the development profession, seminars on topics relevant to Development Studies and, where appropriate, post-experience workshops.

Why study MPhil/PhD Development Studies at SOAS?

  • SOAS is ranked 2nd in the world for Development Studies (QS World University Rankings 2023)


Students are expected to upgrade from MPhil to PhD status after their first year.
It is expected that you will meet your assigned Supervisor in your first week at SOAS, and that, in consultation with your Supervisor, you will choose one other academics to serve on your research committee.

Year 1

During the module of your first year, you are required to attend the Department’s Postgraduate Research Training Seminar. These sessions will provide you with the essential training in research methodology and will assist you in getting started: specifically, they will assist you in writing the constituent components of the ‘upgrade paper’ that you have to submit and defend in a viva in Term 3 of your first year.

Given the wealth of training resources in research methods and other theoretically and empirically relevant postgraduate modules across the Faculty and in other Faculties at SOAS, students are strongly encouraged to audit modules.

Additional modules can be invaluable, especially for conceptual or area specific issues or topics, as ways to supplement the training imparted in the MPhil Seminars. The supervisor and the student will discuss at the beginning of the year the most suitable portfolio of training and modules in relation to the topic of the thesis, its main research questions and the setting in which the research will be conducted.

Schedule after year 1

Once students have passed their upgrade, they should immediately proceed with designing the details of the empirical work and organising the drafts written in the module of the first year. As most Development Studies students will embark on fieldwork in their second year, it is important to keep the 3-year time limit in mind, and to not postpone writing chapters until after the completion of fieldwork.

Any writing done during that period will save crucial time on return.

Ordinarily, a student would then adhere to the following writing up schedule:

Terms 4, 5 and 6

Fieldwork, and beginning of data processing as well as drawing up of chapter templates.

Summer holidays of the second year, terms 7 and 8

Data analysis and back to literature review to revise initial chapters and producing a full final draft.

Term 9

Reviewing the first draft, complete any required rewriting, and submission of dissertation. There is a possibility of continuation of writing-up after term 9 but the thesis will have to be submitted in any case before the end of the 4th year. This will be the final deadline although the thesis is expected to be finished within three years of full-time active research.

Important notice

The information on the website reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. The modules are indicative options of the content students can expect and are/have been previously taught as part of these programmes.

However, this information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change. 

Teaching and learning

All MPhil/PhD students have a supervisory committee, comprising their main supervisor, and one other academic staff member. In the first year, PhD students will have regular formal tutorials during term time with their main supervisor, working towards the production of their upgrade paper and viva at the end of the academic year.


Supervision during the 2nd year (usually the fieldwork year) will often by through email and Skype (whilst students are away in the field), and in person if they return to the UK during this period. In the final year, tutorials are arranged around the writing-up of thesis chapters. Outside the formal supervision tutorials, all research students are encouraged to chat with their supervisors to discuss issues as they arise.

Weekly research seminars

In addition to the individual tutorials with their supervisors, all research students are required to attend and participate in the weekly research seminars, which provide training and skills in specific research methods. They may also take specific taught masters options where relevant to their particular research.

SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Fees and funding

Fees for 2023/24 entrants per academic year

 Home studentsOverseas students

Please note that fees go up each year. See research fees for further details.


A degree from the Department of Development Studies at SOAS will further develop your understanding of the world and how society is organised, with specific focus on violence and conflict, the role of aid, refugees and forced migration. Graduates leave with a range of transferable skills, including critical thinking, analytical skills and cultural awareness.

Recent graduates have been hired by:

  • Amnesty International
  • BBC World Service
  • British Embassy Brussels
  • Department for International Development
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
  • Embassy of Japan
  • Government of Pakistan
  • Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Oxfam
  • Royal Norwegian Embassy
  • Save the Children UK
  • The World Bank
  • Thinking Beyond Borders
  • US Department of State
  • UN World Food Programme
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • WaterAid

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