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University of Leeds African Studies PhD Studentship for International Students 2018

The School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds calls for research scientists to apply for the new African Studies PhD scholarship opportunity ‘The Politics of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Africa: The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)’.

Application Deadline: 1st June 2018

Scholarship Name: The Politics of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Africa: The Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

Eligible Countries: UK/EU, International

To Be Taken At (Country): Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds

About the Award: This PhD project will explore the relationship between STI investment and development in Africa.

The studentship will be funded as part of the wider Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) initiatives being led by the University of Leeds. The project will contribute to scrutinising existing initiatives as well as potentially identifying areas for successful policy interventions and innovations in the future.

The University welcomes ambitious applications for this PhD studentship to take forward a study of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project ( and, in particular, associated projects that have sought to enhance its developmental potential in terms of skills, education, and wider economic development.

It is claimed that the SKA project “represents a huge leap forward in both engineering and research & development towards building and delivering a radio telescope, and will deliver a correspondingly transformational increase in science capability when operational.” Indeed, it was welcomed by governments and ministers around the world for its transformatory potential, not just in terms of astronomy, but also in terms of its potential to drive development in the areas of education, skills, and technological innovation. South Africa’s then Minister for Science and Technology, Derek Hanekom, lauded the project as “outrageously ambitious and far-sighted”, arguing that it would not only drive forward African astronomy but, through the African VLBI Network (AVN), build a sustainable and burgeoning pool of engineers, scientists, technicians and artisans who can work on the different aspects of radio astronomy across the continent.

Scientists at the University of Leeds have led a project to enhance the developmental potential of the SKA project; the Development in Africa with Radio Astronomy (DARA). This project aims to develop high tech skills using radio astronomy in a number of African countries as a means to develop skills and expertise in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). In turn, it is hoped that the pool of talented researchers developed by the project will apply these skills to play a leading role in developing other areas of the economy (for more details about the project see: DARA is training ten people per year in seven African countries. In Ghana the training has already been running for four years.


Type: Research, Postgraduate

Eligibility: The University invites candidates to submit proposals that will critically evaluate the developmental impact of the SKA project, including how and to what extent projects like SKA and DARA can contribute to sustainable economic development and the expansion of African scientific expertise. While we appreciate that such proposals will be speculative in nature, they should offer some indication as to how a proposed project could combine a focus on some or all of the following areas:

  • To critically evaluate the relationship between technology and development in Africa
  • To assess the extent to which large scale STI projects can contribute to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals
  • To critically evaluate the extent to which such projects contribute to enhancing African scientific expertise and wider campaigns to ‘decolonise’ global knowledge production
  • To identify the core challenges to driving such innovations and ensuring positive developmental outcomes (e.g. resource constraints, capacity, and governance)

The proposal should address some of the core research areas listed above and also outline of the proposed research methods that could be employed as part of this project. Applicants should note that they will be given access to the DARA project participants as part of the project. The project focus can be country-specific or comparative in focus.

We welcome applicants from any social science background. Applicants must already possess (or be close to possessing) a relevant Masters degree in the social sciences and have an outstanding track record of academic achievement.

Minimum Academic Requirements (if English is not your first language, then candidates must also meet the University’s English language requirements):

Number of Awards: 1

Value of Award: 

  • The award will cover standard UK/ EU fees or international fees.
  • In addition this studentship will include a £14,777 per year maintenance award for full time study for the three years of the project.

There are some additional allowances for travel, research or training costs.

Duration of Programme: The award is only available for NEW research students undertaking full time (3 years) study for the degree of PhD.

How to Apply: 

  • Applicants should submit proposals following the standard guidance for PhD proposals and applications to the School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS). Further detail and advice can be found here
  • Incomplete applications will not be considered. Candidates should indicate that their application relates to this scholarship opportunity.

Visit the Programme Webpage for Details

Award Providers: School of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), University of Leeds.

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