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Doctoral studies programme at the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn

At the Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn, great emphasis is put on interdisciplinary research. The doctoral studies programme prepares scientists for their work in areas such as development policy, research and cooperation – an exciting professional field that offers graduates numerous opportunities.

Those who are planning to work in development policy, research or cooperation need both specialist know-how and interdisciplinary skills and expertise. But how does one learn to do interdisciplinary research and work?

That is where the Center for Development Research (Zentrum für Entwicklungsforschung – ZEF) at the University of Bonn comes in. Its three-year doctoral studies programme is both international and interdisciplinary. Its target group is young scientists from around the globe with a very good degree in the sciences, economic sciences and social sciences. Applicants should not only have good grades in their specialist fields, they should also be interested in interdisciplinary studies. The doctoral studies programme includes a one-year course that teaches both disciplinary know-how and interdisciplinary and team skills, as well as one year of field research in a developing country or in an international development organisation.

There are currently around 130 young researchers studying in the ZEF programme, and many of them are receiving support from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Students are awarded their PhD by the university faculties with which ZEF cooperates – most of them at the University of Bonn. By training future decision-makers and young scientists in this way, ZEF is making a significant contribution to sustainable development.

Interdisciplinary research projects at ZEF Bonn

Many PhD students write their doctorate in the context of larger-scale interdisciplinary research projects, such as on land and water use in Uzbekistan, extreme poverty in Bangladesh, mobility in Central Asia or water management in Vietnam. They cooperate closely with their tutors, share experience in research groups and pick up new knowledge in workshops on, for example, intercultural skills.

For example, Dr Charlotte van der Schaaf, originally from the Netherlands, worked on water management in Burkina Faso and Ghana. ‘I looked into the role national policies play and how farmers organise their irrigation. I was free and independent in my research. That is one of the best experiences you can have as a young scientist!’

International network

In addition, the tutors at ZEF Bonn also benefit enormously from sharing experience and knowledge with young researchers. ‘The PhD students are highly motivated and really want to learn about my research areas,’ reports Stefanie Engel, Professor of Environmental Policy and Environmental Economics at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich (ETH), who also teaches at ZEF.

Two-thirds of the PhD students come from Africa and Asia and one third come from emerging economies and industrialised nations. After gaining their PhDs, most return home where they get jobs in universities and research institutes or in regional and international development organisations. ‘Our graduates are cooperation partners of ZEF and form a global network that everyone benefits from,’ reports Prof Dr Solvay Gerke, Director of the Department of Political and Cultural Change at ZEF.

Right Livelihood College

Also affiliated with ZEF in Bonn is the Right Livelihood College (RLC) Bonn, an initiative of the Right Livelihood Foundation, better known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ Foundation. Among other things, the RLC Bonn provides a platform for exchange between young scientists from developing countries and emerging economies and alternative Nobel Prize laureates. For example, the RLC Bonn offers PhD grants for research projects relevant to the work of the laureates. It also organises international workshops and seminars.

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June 2012


9 December 2015

does anyone recommend any German University which has scholarship to study PHD History-cultural history-middle eastern history?

8 December 2015

I want to continue My PhD degree in Development Studies in Bonn University.Therefore, how I can get scholarship to continue my education.

27 September 2012

Nadeem: I'm delighted you're inteeestrd. Just follow the link to their website the Center does not have the funding for the post-doc, but is only helping North Carolina State University to advertise it, and you to find it.

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