10 Leading Development Studies PhDs in Europe

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Europe has some of the top universities offering PhDs in Development Studies. A PhD in Development Studies at one of these European universities allows for the in-depth investigation of the issues developing countries face. Development Studies PhD students complete extensive and rigorous research supported by some of Europe’s leading development practitioners. The PhDs detailed below also encourage students to engage with a Europe wide network of development professionals, whilst also working with some of the world’s leading development institutions headquartered in Europe.

PhD in International Development Studies – Ruhr-Universität Bochum University

Ruhr-Universität Bochum University in Germany offers a PhD in International Development Studies. Hosted within the Ruhr-Universität Bochum University’s Institute of Development Research and Development Policy – one Europe’s leading research groups on international development, PhD students are able to explore in-depth specific development challenges. Around 10 PhD candidates are selected each year and assigned a supervisor who is a leading professional within development studies academia.

Studying a PhD in Europe at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum University allows researchers an inter-disciplinary approach to development studies. This mean students on the PhD programme work to combine multiple approaches to international development and cover a wide range of resources when addressing their chosen development issue. Students on the development studies PhD at Ruhr-Universität Bochum University also attend supporting seminars on issues related to international development and research.

PhD Humanitarianism and Conflict Response – University of Manchester

Manchester University is one of Europe’s most famous institutions with departments focusing on international development. For those wanting to study a PhD in Europe for a career in international development, the Manchester University PhD in Humanitarianism and Conflict Response is a strong option. Students on the PhD programme complete detailed and rigours research into ongoing and historical crises. The aim of the PhD is to develop research that can affect national, European and global approaches to international development.

Studying the Humanitarianism and Conflict Response PhD in Europe at Manchester University is highly relevant for those wanting to research international development. The three-year PhD encourages students to work closely with leading international development institutions as well as engage in-depth with development studies research. PhD students are directed by leading academics in the field of international development and humanitarian aid and engage with the latest tools and methods of development studies research. The PhD can also be completed in six-year part-time.

PhD International Affairs – International Business School, Budapest

You can study a PhD focusing on international development in Europe at Hungary’s International Business School. The PhD in International Affairs allows for a broad research scope which can include a focus on development. The aim of the PhD is for students to become experts in international policy and foreign affairs, arenas that relate directly to international development. Students on the PhD in International Affairs at the International Business School in Hungary, Europe, undertake both independent and supervised research.

For those wanting to study in Central Europe and have an interest in development studies, the PhD in International Affairs at the International Business School in Hungary is an option. The PhD programme allows for research into key development studies topics such as refugees and migrations, ‘international aid: traditional versus emerging donors’ and the effects of EU expansion into the Balkans. The PhD’s focus on development studies also means students can research topics such as community development and challenges in social integration.

International Development Online Courses

If you are interested in international development and potentially doing a PhD, taking an online short course can be a great way to boost your application. We highly recommend the course Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030. It looks at the current international development model as well as the trends that will be key to global development in the near future. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.

We also think the online course Sustainable Development in the 21st Century by Yonsei University to be one of the best for those interested in international development. Delivered by former UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the online course would be a great addition to the CV of anyone looking to study or work in international development. The link is to the course’s page.

If you are interested in the practical methods used on international development projects, we recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects. The course teaches students the tools needed to establish and run impactful development projects. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.

PhD International Economic Relations – Prague University of Economics and Business

Prague University of Economics and Business offers a unique PhD programme in Europe on International Economic Relations. Studying in the Czech Republic in Central Europe, students on the course focus on how economic connections develop, compound and affect developed and developing countries. On the PhD students undertake independent research, allowing those with an interest in development studies to focus on how economic relations have an impact on poorer countries. PhD students are encouraged to develop practical solutions to economic and development problems.

Studying the PhD in International Economic Relations at the Prague University of Economics and Business means studying at one of Europe’s leading institutions. Students on the PhD programme can focus on how economic development can be achieved through improved economic relations. By researching the impact of trade, tariffs, humanitarian aid and economic co-dependency on developing countries, students are able to produce cutting edge-research to impact positive change on poorer countries.

MPhil/PhD Development Planning – University College London (UCL)

University College London (UCL) is one of Europe’s top universities. The prestigious university offers a PhD in Development Planning. Students on the course complete extensive research into different areas of planning, including economic, urban, transport, and social and how these can impact developing countries. The PhD in Development Planning at University College London also incorporates key international development topics such as gender, climate change, globalisation and economic inequality. Students undertake independent research and are able to focus on the development studies area most relevant to them.

For those wanting to complete a PhD in Europe in Development Studies, the Development Planning PhD at UCL is a strong option. The PhD is led by leading international development practitioners and students are able to network with some of Europe’s leading develop institutions based in London. Students research on the Development Planning PhD at University College London can take a specific or broad approach to development researching, focusing on international development and planning at local, national, regional and internationals arenas.

Development Studies PhD – University of Sussex

The University of Sussex is one of the top international development institutions in Europe. Students on the PhD programme in development studies at the University of Sussex conduct research into sustainable change in economics, politics and cultures of developing countries. The PhD aims for students to create both local and global changes and complete extensive research into practical policies to assist developing countries. Research is conducted to help fight poverty and injustice and expand on creative solutions to global issues.

Studying a PhD in Development Studies in Europe at the University of Sussex allows for a wide range of study areas. Participants on the University of Sussex Development Studies PhD programme focus on research areas such as fighting and limiting inequalities, improving sustainability and ensuring inclusive societies have security. Development Studies PhD students at the University of Sussex can network with some of Europe’s leading international development organisations and are taught by professional leaders in development practice.

PhD in Economics – Geneva School Of Economics And Management

Geneva is Europe’s centre for many leading international development organisations, such as the ICRC and UNHCR. The Geneva School of Economics and Management has a PhD in Economics which allows for a focus on development economics. For those wanting to do a PhD in Development Studies in the heart of Europe, the Geneva School of Economics and Management PhD allows for combination of independent research and elective courses on development economics. Students complete research overseen by leading economic theorists and practitioners.

Studying the PhD in Economics at the Geneva School of Economics and Management allows students to network with some of Europe’s largest and most established international development organisations. Students on the PhD in Economics at the Geneva School of Economics and Management cover both macro and micro-economics, with those focusing on development studies able to investigate how macro and micro-economic policy affects international development.

International Development PhD – University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh in Europe offers a PhD in International Development. On the course, students complete rigorous and in-depth research into development, aiming to produce relevant research to inform and improve international development. The University of Edinburgh PhD in International Development is led by leading development practitioners with expertise on the issues affecting developing countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin America. PhD students are also encouraged to build Europe wide relationships and work cooperatively with European development researchers.

The PhD in International Development at the University of Edinburgh is one of Europe’s top development research posts. On the PhD, students can explore key development topics such as international development policy, humanitarian health and how development is impacted and impacts on religion and culture. PhD students at the University of Edinburgh can also focus on international development topics such as climate change, human rights, refugees and migration and urbanisation. The PhD programme encourages students to engage with a Europe-wide network of development institutions including NGOs, grass-root campaigners and international organisations and the media.

Development Studies, Ph.D. / M.Phil. – Swansea University

Swansea University in the UK offers European and international students a PhD in Development Studies. The course allows students to pursue a large and extensive piece of research into development issues of their choosing. The Swansea University PhD is one of Europe’s top courses focusing on key international development issues such as global drugs policy, conflict and security and analysing governmental policy in developing countries. Students undertake research supervised by leading European development practitioners.

On the PhD in Development Studies at Swansea University in Europe students undertake significant independent research into leading international development issues, culminating in the submission of a 100,000-word thesis. Additional key global development subjects PhD students engage with at Swansea University include human rights, international development policy, international humanitarian law and global peace. PhD students on the Development Studies programme at Swansea University are encouraged to engage with a Europe wide network of development organisations and professionals

PhD Global Human Development – University College Dublin

University College Dublin (UCD) offers one of Europe’s top development studies PhDs. The PhD in Global Human Development at UCD fosters research into strong solutions for current development issues, with a specific focus on the Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals. Students undertake research into poverty reduction, ensuring to incorporate real-world experiences of developing countries. The UCD PhD in Global Human Development is linked with a number of leading universities in developing countries, including in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi, allowing students to work cooperatively with other development researchers outside of Europe.

Students on the University College Dublin PhD in Global Human Development are encouraged to develop Europe wide connections with development practitioners. The course is also led by experts in current development thinking, meaning students research is directed to reflect the current issues affecting developing nations. The UCD PhD in Global Human Development aims for students to complete rigorous, in-depth and highly informed research working to reduce global inequality, fight poverty and improve the governance of developing nations.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.