Development Engagement Lab PhD Studentship

Understanding Public Engagement with Global Poverty

This four-year studentship is part of the Development Engagement Lab (DEL) project led by Professor David Hudson (University of Birmingham) and Professor Jennifer Hudson (UCL), funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The successful applicant will be based at the University of Birmingham and will be supervised by Professor David Hudson and will need to satisfy the International Development Department’s PhD entry requirements and will need to apply to the PhD in International Development. The expected start date is 30 September 2019.

What will the Studentship involve?

The Development Engagement Lab is a multi-year (2018-2023), cross-national investigation of the drivers of engagement with development and overseas aid in four donor countries: France, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. DEL continues the research from the Aid Attitudes Tracker which has generated large N cross sectional and panel surveys, survey experiments and qualitative datasets. The PhD will develop their own PhD research and work (7.5 hours per week) with the PIs and post-doctoral fellows to help support and deliver the project’s key objectives.

DEL objectives are to:

  • identify the drivers of attitude and behavioural change with global development;
  • provide a rigorous research base to inform development organisations’ communications, fundraising and advocacy capacity;
  • collaborate with development organisation project partners to co-design research and use findings to inform policy and practice.

Candidates should develop a PhD proposal drawing on any of the questions outlined below in line with the DEL research agenda. Candidates are welcome to develop the research questions according to their interests and expertise, but a close fit with the DEL agenda is expected. We would expect to see a well-developed and focussed research question with accompanying hypotheses, propositions or expectations informed by the relevant literature. The successful student will be able to draw on DEL and AAT data for their project.

Examples of research areas

Examples of potential research areas could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Which frames are more effective in deepening people’s engagement with global development issues?
  • Which factors affect how, why or when international development organisations (NGOs, donor government agencies) use evidence to inform policy or practice?
  • Which formats are more compelling for communicating the contemporary reality of developing countries?
  • What factors drive individuals’ support for development assistance?
  • What is the structure of an individual’s values, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in relation to global development?
  • How does public support influence political decisions (MPs and / or government bureaucracies) about development aid spending and priorities?
  • How does the media / family and friends / NGO and charity fundraising appeals / culture, art, documentaries affect individuals’ attitudes or behaviour towards global poverty and development?
  • How do attitudes towards global development relate to attitudes towards domestic redistribution / climate change / migration / populism?
  • How does the process of collective deliberation or social norms affect individuals’ position on or reasoning about responsibilities to distant strangers?
  • What differences do survey / experimental / focus group / interview data reveal about people’s engagement with global development and how could we assess their validity?
  • How do school-based global citizenship education / volunteering / travel impact on people’s values and orientation towards global poverty?

What are we looking for in an applicant?


  • A Masters degree (or nearing completion) in politics, international relations, international development or relevant discipline
  • Interest in development communications, public/elite opinion, attitude/behavioural change, international development, political engagement
  • Evidence of English proficiency at the Advanced level
  • Good knowledge of empirical research methods
  • Interest and ability to draw connections between research and real-world challenges related to public engagement with global development
  • Ability or desire to work with a range of international stakeholders: academics, NGOs, government agencies, funding bodies
  • Excellent writing and communication skills
  • Good organisational and interpersonal skills


  • Ability to use statistical software including R or Stata (or appetite for doing so with training and support)
  • Ability to plan and conduct research independently
  • Experience with survey data and survey research designs
  • Experience with feeding research into policy-making or other forms of real-world impact
  • Ability to speak French and/or German

How to apply

There will be strong competition for this studentship and only outstanding applicants have a chance of success.

International Development Department, School of Government, College of Social Sciences Duration of studentship: 4 years Expected start date 30 September 2019

Stipend: £14,777 per annum (£59,108 over the four years)

Fees: A bursary of £4,260 per annum towards Home/EU fees (£17,040 over the four years) Research support: £1,000 per annum to support conference attendance and training

Project contribution: The student will be expected to contribute 7.5 hours to the project per week    

Eligibility: This studentship is available to all students, but the fees only cover the costs of UK/fees.

Closing Date: 30 May 2019

It is anticipated that shortlisting and interviews will take place in June 2019. Informal enquiries may be addressed to Professor David Hudson ( If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact Tricia Thomas (