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Programme overview

Formal research on PhD level will contribute significantly to a crucial understanding of all aspects of development finance. It also leads to employable expertise.

This PhD is intended to develop research and discipline-based knowledge and skills in the field of Development Finance. The programme has been designed to help students develop the skills required to carry out advanced research and to equip them with a sound understanding of the principles and theories underpinning development finance practices.
Hence, the programme consists of:

  • A discipline-based core curriculum: This structured course-work component is non-credit bearing but candidates are required to pass the requisite courses and submit a comprehensive proposal before proceeding with the dissertation. Participants need to do three core courses at PhD level. Students who are not graduates of the USB's MPhil in Development Finance (MDevF) programme may be required to do three electives from the MDevF based on their areas of interest.
  • An independent research thesis: As a PhD student you will be expected to pursue supervised research, culminating in a doctoral dissertation which constitutes the examinable product for which the PhD degree is eventually awarded. This dissertation must:
    • Represent an original and significant contribution to the enrichment and advancement of knowledge on Development Finance
    • Demonstrate originality of thought, a theoretical underpinning, relevance to the discipline and rigour in execution
    • Create intellectual capital, which is the cornerstone of the knowledge society of the 21st century.

Programme format

  • First year – 2 blocks of 2 weeks each on campus: In view of the intensive nature of the programme, the USB prefers participants to be fully resident for the first year of the programme to enable them cope with the rigours of the course work. The lectures are organised in two blocks of two weeks each and they will take place between March and June every year. Each course is covered in a block and consists of highly interactive lectures, seminars and case discussions. A student who fails to complete the course work and the research proposal after the first year may be asked to withdraw from the programme.
  • Second and subsequent years: Full registration to work on your PhD thesis. A promoter or study leader will be appointed once your comprehensive research proposal has been accepted. Once completed, your submitted dissertation will go through an approval process in which external examiners are involved. Upon completion of the PhD the registrant will be awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Development Finance by Stellenbosch University.

Structured course work

During their first year, students need to do the following three compulsory courses at PhD level: Advanced Research Techniques, Advanced Theory and Practice of Development Finance and Global Development Finance.

Advanced Research Techniques

This course is designed to help students develop the skills to carry out advanced research in the field of Development Finance and related fields. A major concern among policy makers and donor agencies is how to monitor the performance and evaluate the impact of development finance intervention programmes. Hence, this course covers the skills required to gather and analyse data in order to effectively monitor and evaluate development finance programmes. This course also introduces students to the various research designs and methods suitable for both qualitative and quantitative data gathering and analyses. The course is organised into four parts:

  • Part 1: Students are exposed to the philosophies of research, addressing questions such as: What kinds of research are there? How does one evaluate the quality of a piece of research? What is the process a researcher goes through? In essence, this part stresses the philosophy and research paradigms.
  • Part 2: Students are exposed to data gathering techniques such as primary and secondary data as well as qualitative and quantitative data. This part stresses how to improve the quality of data gathered and how to assess its worth.
  • Part 3: Students are exposed to advanced techniques of data analysis with emphasis on quantitative analytical techniques, specifically focusing on applied statistical and advanced econometrics techniques.
  • Part 4: Students are drilled in advanced academic writing. This part develops students' ability to present arguments in a logical, concise and critical manner. It also stresses the quality of presentation in academic writing.

Advanced Theory and Practice of Development Finance

This course is specially designed to deepen students' knowledge of the theories, principles and empirics of development finance practices that prevail among national development finance programmes. This will enable students to apply the relevant principles in the context of a developing economy. To lay the foundation for the analysis and evaluation of development finance cases, programmes and policies, the course presents, within the context of development finance, the micro foundation theory of market failure, choice under uncertainty, exchange under uncertainty, asymmetric information, incomplete markets and transaction costs. The course demonstrates how such theories influence the design of common development finance practices. A range of development finance practices – such as microfinance schemes, loan guarantee schemes, direct loan schemes and project finance schemes – are also included. Upon completion of the course, students should be adequately equipped to:

  • Carry out at an advanced level the evaluation and design of common development finance practices globally
  • Creatively advance the frontier of practices of development finance within the context of Africa and developing countries in general.

Global Development Finance

Development finance is not limited to national initiatives. Globally, there is increasing realisation of the need to attract foreign capital for national development. Foreign capital flows could take the form of foreign direct investment (FDI), foreign equity capital, foreign debt, foreign aid or official development assistance and increasingly remittances. The role of such capital flows and how best to attract and utilise them, especially in developing countries, remain a crucial policy debate. Moreover, the operations of multilateral and international financial institutions and their protocols are complex. Also, the debate around regional financial integration and the consequent policy advocacy as a mechanism of developing the domestic financial markets and expanding access to foreign capital as a way to develop the domestic economies have reached an unprecedented scale in the last decade. This course therefore focuses on these and other issues. The course also demonstrates the nexus between developments in the global financial arena and domestic financial markets. It explores how global financial markets can bridge the gap between domestic resource mobilisation and financing needs in Africa. The course also stresses the roles of external finance for development and the mechanisms for attracting them, and the dynamics of multilateral institutional arrangements.

Upon completion of the course, students will be well equipped to contribute meaningfully to the analysis and understanding of the issues in Africa and play a leading role in charting a course for Africa.


A minimum period of registration of three years is required. During the first year, students are granted provisional registration for the PhD. Full registration for the PhD will only be allowed after the successful completion of the course work and finalisation of the research proposal.