The CERES PhD Training Course

March – June 2021

Dr Andrew M. Fischer (Scientific Director of CERES, ISS)
Dr Gemma van der Haar (Wageningen University)

So far confirmed: Dr An Ansoms, Prof Arjun Bedi, Dr Ajay Bailey, Dr Rosalba Icaza Garza, Dr Naomi van Stapele, Dr Kristen Cheney, Dr Rolando Vazquez Melken, Prof Rivke Jaffe, and others tbc.

Location: Residential (tba) or online via Zoom



Full Tuition

  • PhDs from member institutions:  € 2500
  • PhDs from non-member institutions:    € 5000

Tuition for Module 3 only:

  • PhDs from member institutions:  € 600
  • PhDs from non-member institutions:    € 1200

ECTs: 16 (full course) or 4 (3rd module)



Content Date
Introduction Day (location: online) 15 March
Module 1: Proposing Research in Development Studies (tbc) 29 March – 1 April
Module 2: Moving from Questions to Methodology (tbc) 26 – 29 April
Module 3: Overview of Methods (ISS or online) 17–21 May (+ 24–28 May if online)
Come-back day (ISS or online) 3 June
Module 4: Presentation Tutorials (tbc) 14 – 17 June



The CERES PhD training course is open to participants from CERES and non-CERES member institutions, although at different prices – those from member institutions pay a reduced rate. The tuition fee includes food and accommodation costs, although in the event that the course needs to be entirely delivered online, the fee will be revised.

In principle, member institutions pay for these fees, not the participants themselves.


Objectives and Overview

NB: Due to COVID-19 measures and the shift to online teaching, there are some modifications in what we are able to offer online, particularly with respect to the non-credit and para-academic aspects of the course, e.g. discussions around coffee, socialising, etc. We will nonetheless try to remain as much as possible within the original learning objectives as stated below.

The CERES PhD Training Course has two main objectives. The first is to cultivate a general and shared integrative understanding about what it means to do a PhD degree in the field of Development Studies, from the perspective of both theory as well as empirical research. This involves positioning and familiarization within the broad interdisciplinary field of Development Studies, in order to map out a systemic awareness of the field and the place of one’s research within it; learning how to recognize concepts from across the field and to place them in their relevant contexts; and situating various theoretical, disciplinary and policy approaches and concepts with respect to others. By deepening and questioning one’s knowledge, experience, and positionality, the course aims to cultivate greater fluency and interpretative abilities in the language and literature of Development Studies, as well as an ability to converse with each other through common vocabularies regardless of disciplinary specialization or background. The overview nature of the course means that we will deal with a certain level of generality rather than specificity, with the aim to lead all PhD candidates to a PhD-level of theorization and critical analysis with respect to the broad themes that run throughout the field of Development Studies. This specifically tailored approach to the needs of research in Development Studies is an aspect that makes this PhD training programme unique among research schools in the Netherlands.

The second objective is to assist participants in advancing the development of their research designs, in preparation for the defence of their research proposals at the end of their first year (e.g. variously called ‘Dissertation Design Seminar’, ‘Upgrade Seminar’, etc). A range issues is considered, relating to epistemology and ontology, positionality and subjectivity, philosophy of science, and an overview of the spectrum of interdisciplinary methodologies and methods that researchers commonly draw from in Development Studies, both quantitative and qualitative. Specific methods will not be taught in detail given insufficient time for this purpose in the course. Rather, the aim is to give a broad overview of the range of options available and the reasoning for using each. From this overview, participants can then seek out further instruction in the specific methodologies and methods that they choose.

An additional benefit, which has been one of the highlights that has been consistently appreciated throughout the history of the course, is to cultivate friendships and a support network among the annual cohort of first-year PhDs, which they can continue to rely on throughout their PhD trajectory. The course also prioritizes providing a safe space for PhDs, where they can discuss their research openly and creatively with their peers and senior researchers who are not (necessarily) in their supervision team.


Teaching methods

The course emphasises a ‘learning by doing’ approach to support the different steps of developing a convincing and defendable research proposal. The focus is on moving from research topic to problem, question, hypotheses (or educated guesses), analytical frameworks, critical literature reviews, and methodology and methods. Emphasis will be given to working through these steps with critical analysis, in a way that articulates a clear and coherent logical development and bears relevance to issues in the field of Development Studies. ‘Critical analysis’ in this sense refers to questioning the assumptions and logical foundations of the ontologies, epistemologies, positionalities, theories, empirical analyses and practices within the research.

The approach mixes both teacher-led and participant-led sessions, starting with more of the former and with a greater emphasis of the latter towards the end of the programme. It combines taught plenary sessions, seminars, and group and individual work overseen by the facilitators, on different topics related to doing or conceiving research, specifically tailored to the themes and needs of Development Studies. Several evening meetings will also be used to informally discuss more practical issues such as supervisor-candidate relationships, ethics, publishing, publication ethics, research integrity and more. The last block will be focused on presentations by the participants of their research proposals, with feedback and guidance from the facilitators, combined with presentation training.

Before the start of the course, participants will be sent a syllabus with readings that they are strongly advised to read in advance. They will also be asked to send in a snapshot assignment and, in order to assist introductions with guest lecturers throughout the course, they will record a video introduction of themselves and their research so that guests can preview this before their sessions, in part to save time. Instructions will be given during the opening day.

The course will use Moodle as its online environment.


Other activities

In addition to the Training Course, we are offering three more courses for the 2020-21 academic year (one already took place in November), and we regularly run other activities as well. Please sign up to our mailing list (scroll to the bottom of our home webpage) in order to stay connected and to receive updates and notifications.

Note that, if they have not already attended a fieldwork security course, participants are recommended to participate in the parallel CERES safety and security course, offered on 9-10 June, free for PhDs from CERES member institutions and for participants of this training course.





Mar 01 2021 - Jun 30 2021


All Day


600 - 5000 euros


The Netherlands - online
CERES Research School


CERES Research School
+31 70 426 0460

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