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Centre of African Studies: News


University of Edinburgh –University of Leiden Joint Funded PhD Studentships

Update: Applications are now closed.

We are pleased to announce a new PhD training partnership in African Studies between the Universities of Edinburgh and Leiden, which will offer four fully-funded, four-year PhD studentships.

Covid-19 information for prospective students.

We are now accepting applications from candidates, with a closing deadline for applications of 1 May 2020.

Two of the studentships will be hosted at the University of Edinburgh's Centre of African Studies (CAS) and two at African Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL). All students will have at least one supervisor from each Centre, and will participate in 12 month research exchanges between institutions. The studentships last for four years, covering tuition fees and a stipend for living expenses. The stipend will be set at the UKRI 2020/21 rate. Funding also covers contributions towards research travel and additional costs. Students to be based at CAS will be expected to commence their studies in September 2020. 


Studentships will be awarded competitively and are open to all candidates. Applicants are required to have A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent, and a UK masters degree with an overall mark of 65%, or its international equivalent.

Research topics

Applicants to the CAS studentships are required to submit a research proposal. The research proposal must relate to both the topic of urbanisation and one (or more) of the CAS priority research themes listed below. Please note, priority research themes for ASCL may differ, and applicants targeting the two Leiden studentships are advised to consult guidance on the ASCL website.

Borders and Infrastructures;

Economic Development and Change;

Law and Justice;

Marginality, Movement, Services and Statehood;

Peace and Conflict;

Science, Technology and Environment;

The Politics of Data and the Digital.

If you select more than one of these themes, you will need to rank them in order of importance.

English language proficiency

Should you receive a conditional offer, you must be able to demonstrate English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence. Full English language requirements can be found on the University degree finder.

Application Guidance

By the deadline of 1 May 2020, applicants are required to provide the following information saved WITHIN ONE PDF FILE.

  1. Academic CV to include full name, nationality, place of birth and country of domicile.
  2. A research of proposal of no more than 2,000 words, excluding references. The proposal should relate to the topic of urbanisation, as well one (or more) of Centre of African Studies priority research themes.
  3. Where more than one priority research theme is cited, applicants must include a ranking of themes in order of importance to their project.
  4. Two signed referee letters of reference. Candidates are required to submit at least one academic reference. The second reference may be academic or professional.
  5. A short letter of support for your proposal from a subject area member at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre of African Studies who is willing to supervise your project.
  6. Degree transcripts (translations should be provided if the originals are not in English)

Where information is missing, the application may not be considered.

The PDF file should be emailed with the title ‘African Studies Application’ to the following address by the application deadline:

Requirements for the research proposal:

The research proposal should be no more than 2,000 words (excluding references). It must include the following sections:

  1. Overview: a general introduction to your research topic and explanation of its significance. This should include the aims and the research question(s) to be addressed.
  2. Context: situate the research within relevant academic literature(s). This should demonstrate knowledge of existing research in the proposed field of study, and explain how your project relates to it. For example, does your project seek to build on existing scholarship, challenge it, or fill a gap? You should also discuss theoretical issues relevant to your research. For example, what theoretical debates does your research relate to? Which theories will you seek to apply, test or critique in your research?
  3. Methodology: provide a detailed account of the methodology that will be used to address your research questions, your sources of data, and an explanation for why these methods are most appropriate for the task. Please note, it is not enough to simply say ‘quantitative’, ‘qualitative’ or ‘mixed-method’. You need to explain which specific methods you would use, e.g. ethnographic, survey, key-informant interviews, archival… etc. You also need to be specific about your data sources. For example, if proposing a survey what is your target population and sampling method? If proposing archival research, which archives? If proposing an ethnography, where is your proposed field site? We acknowledge it is difficult to be completely sure about every detail of a project at this early stage, but you need to demonstrate that you have a practical and viable plan.

Applicants should bear in mind that their proposals will also be evaluated in terms of clarity and presentation, so leaving time for proof reading and ensuring that referencing is done to a high academic standard before submitting is strongly recommended.

The University has also produced a document, How to Write a Good Postgraduate Research Proposal, which gives useful advice.

Obtaining a letter form a prospective supervisor

As part of the application process, applicants are required to obtain a letter from a faculty member at the University of Edinburgh Centre Of African Studies who agrees to supervise their project. You will need to begin working on this well in advance of submitting the application. Potential supervisors will need to read an advanced draft of your proposal before being able to make their decision, and they may need more than a week to do so depending on their prior commitments.

Finding a suitable supervisor requires a clear alignment between your project and their own research interests and expertise. The overlap could be geographic, thematic or methodological, or a combination, but there must be a degree of alignment which enables them to give you adequate guidance. With this in mind, applicants should review the research interests of staff members at CAS.

If you think a particular staff member may be a good fit for your project, you can enquire by sending them an introductory email with your CV and draft research proposal attached. Alternatively, you can also contact Andrew Bowman for advice on this matter.

More information

Queries regarding discipline or research topic-specific eligibility or the availability of supervisors should be directed to Dr Andrew Bowman -

General enquiries can be directed to 

Centre of African Studies -


The Covid-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the way we live and work worldwide. We realise that you may have concerns about the impact this could have should you decide to make an application to study with us.

Our admissions staff have access to all our systems and are continuing to process applications as normal. As this is an evolving situation the programme may also be subject to change however we will communicate any updates to you as soon as they are made. We know you may have questions about the University’s response to Covid-19, and we have up-to-date information available on our website: Covid-19 microsite.

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