Tho­mas San­ka­ra PhD Scho­lar­ships

The GPN is an interdisciplinary and international network of excellence with the head office located at the University of Kassel (Germany) and partner universities in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. It co-operates closely with various partner NGOs in the respective countries. The GPN is funded by the programme “Exceed – Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation” launched by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). 

The GPN decided to name its PhD scholarships after Thomas Sankara being an outstanding personality from the Global South, whose ideas and practices of resisting neo-colonialism and promoting independent pathways for countries of the Global South are deemed to inspire the work of the Global Partnership Graduate School.

In the framework of its Graduate School of Research for Global Partnership, the GPN invites students from ODA recipient countries to apply for a Thomas Sankara PhD scholarship at a GPN partner university. Further, it will enable and fund research co-operations between partner universities working on Global Partnership in the global economy (in the fields of agriculture, finance, and energy), in development cooperation (access, accountability, deep participation) and/or in knowledge production (Eurocentrism and alternative knowledge).

The universities contributing to the GPN are the following:

  • University of the West Indies (UWI, Jamaica)

  • Université de Kara (UK, Togo)

  • University ofTehran (UT, Iran)

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU, India)

  • Haramaya University (Ethiopia)

  • Makerere University (Uganda)

  • Rhodes University (South Africa)

  • Université des Sciences Appliquées du Développement (USAD, Burkina Faso)

  • Université d'Etat Haiti (UEH, Haiti)

  • Université Virtuelle Senegal (UVS, Senegal)

  • University of Cape Coast (UCC, Ghana)

  • University of the Witwatersrand (Wits, SouthAfrica)

  • University of Kassel (UKS, Germany)

Only those six universities marked as bold, UWI, UK, UT, JNU, Haramaya and Makerere participate in this call for applications. All other listed universities are only involved as possible secondary institutions providing second supervisors.

The GPN is committed to creating equal opportunities for doctoral candidates. We particularly encourage women and people from other marginalized groups to apply.

The call for Applications is closed.

Re­se­arch To­pics

The Global Partnership Network (GPN) is an ambitious and promising assemblage of higher education institutions and civil society groups for research, teaching and training around SDG 17: “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” It targets research, teaching and training that investigates the global partnership for sustainable development in three specific areas, challenges its shortcomings and contributes to possible solutions to the concerns posed providing policy relevant research informed by a historical sensibility. These areas are: 1) partnerships in development cooperation, 2) partnerships in the global economy, 3) partnership in knowledge production. In the network, we call attention to the shortcomings, limitations, and problematic aspects of international partnerships that have historically been shaped by colonial relations between North and South and sometimes continue to reflect them. Redressing this historical dynamic requires reconstructing the concept towards a partnership based on mutual recognition and solidarity, adequate to the multi-polar and postcolonial 21st century.

PhD research proposals are required to address one of the GPN research clusters:

Critical research on development cooperation has concluded that despite its commitment to partnership (manifest already before SDG 17 in the principles of the Paris Declaration of 2005 and in earlier concepts) it suffers from at least three problems: 1) Its benefits are distributed unevenly and seldom reach marginalised groups (in particular women and indigenous people) (Kabeer 1994, Townsend 1995, Young 1995, Visvanathan et al. 2011, Radcliffe 2015). 2) It sometimes has problematic or even catastrophic side-effects (e.g. development-induced displacement) on its supposed beneficiaries or other project-affected people who can do little about it because of asymmetrical relations of power (Seabrook 1993, Ferguson 1994, Fox/Brown 1998, Clark et al. 2003, de Wet 2006, Easterly 2013). 3) Its mechanisms of participation are confined by the structures of the development apparatus (Cooke/Kothari 2001, Hickey/Mohan 2004, Mosse 2005, Li 2007).

Therefore, the GPN will focus on:

  • Access to development cooperation for marginalised groups(women, indigenous people, ethnic minorities, LGBTIQ persons, handicapped people)
  • Accountability of development organisations towards beneficiaries or project affected persons. Out of a concern for equal partnerships and a high level of ownership, our research also focuses on transdisciplinary outreach (Fam et al. 2017) and on a transfer of research results. We therefore refer to debates on co-creation and co-production of knowledge (Mauser et al. 2013) for instance with regard to creating partnerships, project design, and implementation, and transformation knowledge.
  • Together with civil society development organisations we will explore possibilities for and restrictions of “deep” participation which does not only include project implementation but also project design and even the definition of the problem to be solved by the project. This multi-level form of participation will increase the experience of ownership and therefore contribute to the durability and sustainability of projects. Focusing on these three fields will significantly increase the level of partnership in development cooperation.

A serious pursuit of the SDGs requires partnerships in the global economy: The principle of policy coherence (also officially endorsed since the Paris Declaration and central to SDG 17 target 13 and 14) maintains that successful poverty reduction must not be confined to development cooperation, but has to go ‘beyond aid’ (Browne 1999) and include a coherent global governance in the different fields of the global economy, preventing a situation where measures of development policy are thwarted by foreign economic policies of donor states (Ashoff 2005, Messner 2005, Ziai 2007, s. also BMZ 2017). Therefore global economic structures have to be taken into account when talking about global partnership for sustainable development. The GPN will concentrate on three policy fields with particular significance for the SDGs, whose problem constellations and challenges highlight the importance of strong partnerships: agriculture, finance, and energy. For these fields it will provide policy recommendations for policy coherence and successful partnerships in the global economy, in particular regarding the following aspects:

  • Agriculture: Partnerships for transformation towards fair trade and organic agriculture (Raynolds 2000, Wienold 2012) and the abolition of forced labour (Gold/Trautrims/Trodd 2015). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 2 ("End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture“), 15 ("Protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems“) and 8 ("Decent work for all“).

  • Finance: debt relief initiatives and stakeholder networks (Browne 1999 ch. 5, Caliari 2014, Vaggi/ Prizzon 2014), blended finance networks and investment partnerships (Pereira 2017, Mawdsley 2018, Attridge 2018, Clark et al. 2018) and microfinance initiatives (Aslanbeigui et al. 2010, Mader 2013, Duflo et al. 2013). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 8 ("Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth“) and 10 ("Reduce inequality within and among countries“).

  • Renewable energy: energy transition processes and local adaption of energy technologies in postcolonial contexts (Parthan 2010, Müller 2017, Barthel 2019). This field is particularly relevant for SDG 7 ("Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all“) and 13 ("Take urgent action to combat climate change and its Impacts“).

In all three areas, the GPN will investigate practical examples of partnerships and explore the reasons for success and failure, providing analysis and policy recommendations for policy coherence and partnerships in the global economy. This complements cluster 1 by including policy fields beyond development cooperation which are crucial to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Knowledge sharing between partners is also a part of SDG 17 (targets 6 and 16), but whose knowledge is envisioned to be shared? The Post-Development critique (Sachs 2010, Escobar 2012, Rahnema 1997, Rist 2014) has pointed out the Eurocentrism prevalent in development knowledge: Eurocentric ontologies assume a linear scale of social evolution, at the top of which we find the ‘developed’ (i.e. industrialised, secular, capitalist, democratic) European societies (including the European settler colonies in North America and Australia). This assumption, implying e.g. that knowledge about progressive social change which helps the global South to advance along this universal scale can be found in the North and that development experts possess this knowledge (Nandy 1988, Apffel-Marglin/Marglin 1990 and 1996, Mitchell 2002, Eriksson Baaz 2005, Ziai 2016), has been challenged by postcolonial theorists stressing mutual learning; alternative, local, non- Western (to be precise: non-hegemonic, because they can also be found in the West) knowledges; and pluriversal epistemologies (Connell 2007, Comaroff and Comaroff 2015, Santos 2007 and 2014, Bhambra 2014, Ndlovu 2014, Reiter 2018, Kothari et al. 2019) and alternative, participatory and decolonised pathways to knowledge production and co-construction (Smith 2013, Bendix et al. 2019).

The GPN will investigate these alternative knowledges, their generation, diffusion and translation, and the possibilities they provide for progressive social change from the bottom up. Through providing fora and encouraging inter-cultural dialogue including marginalised peoples, it will contribute to mutual learning and foster partnerships in knowledge production. In this way, cluster 3 can also cross-fertilise and enhance the partnerships in development cooperation and global economic structures.

Apffel-Marglin, Frédérique/Marglin, Stephen (eds) (1990): Dominating Knowledge. Development, Culture, and Resistance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Apffel-Marglin, Frédérique/Marglin, Stephen (eds) (1996): Decolonizing Knowledge. From Development to Dialogue. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Aslanbeigui, Nahid/Oakes, Guy/Uddin, Nancy (2010): 'Assessing Microcredit in Bangladesh: A Critique of the Concept of Empowerment', Review of Political Economy, 22: 2, 181-204.

Attridge, Samantha (2018): Can blended finance work for the poorest countries? ODI Insights https:// (Aug 1, 2019)

Ashoff, Guido (2005): Enhancing policy coherence for development : justification, recognition and approaches to achievement. Bonn: DIE.

Barthel, Bettina (2019): Erneuerbare und dezentrale Energien aus postkolonialer Perspektive. Ethnografische Analysen deutsch-tansanischer Partnerschaften. Baden-Baden: Nomos.

Bendix, Daniel/Müller, Franziska/Ziai, Aram (eds) (2019): Beyond the Master‘s Tools? Decolonizing Knowledge Orders, Resarch and Teaching. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Bhambra, Gurminder (2014): Knowledge production in global context: Power and coloniality. Current Sociology 62 (4), 451-456.

BMZ (2017): Afrika und Europa – Neue Partnerschaft für Entwicklung, Frieden und Zukunft.

Eckpunkte für einen Marshallplan mit Afrika. Berlin: BMZ.

Browne, Stephen (1999): Beyond Aid. From Patronage to Partnership. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Caliari, Aldo (2014) Analysis of Millennium Development Goal 8: A Global Partnership for Development, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 15:2-3, 275-287.

Clark, Dana/Fox, Jonathan/Treakle, Kay (eds) (2003): Demanding Accountability. Civil-Society Claims and the World Bank Inspection Panel. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Clark, Robyn/Reed, James/Sunderland, Terry (2018): Bridging funding gaps for climate and sustainable development: Pitfalls, progress and potential of private finance, in: Land Use Policy, Volume 71, 335-346

Comaroff, J., & Comaroff, J. L. (2015). Theory from the South: Or, how Euro-America is evolving toward Africa. Routledge.

Connell, Raewyn (2007): Southern Theory. The global dynamics of knowledge in social science.Cambridge: Polity Press.

Cooke, Bill/Kothari, Uma (2001): Participation: The New Tyranny? London: Zed Books.

De Wet, Chris (ed.) (2006): Development-Induced Displacement. Problems, Policies, and People. New York: Berghahn.

Duflo, Esther/Banerjee, Abhijit/Glennerster, Rachel/Kinnan, Cynthia G. (2013): The miracle of microfinance? National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 18950.

Easterly, William (2013): The Tyranny of Experts. Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor. New York: Basic Books.

Eriksson Baaz, Maria (2005): The Paternalism of Partnership. A Postcolonial Reading of Identity in Development Aid. London: Zed books.

Escobar, Arturo (2012): Encountering Development. The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Fam, Dena/Palmer, Jane/Riedy, Chris/Mitchell, Cynthia (eds) (2017): Transdisciplinary Resarch and Practice for Sustainability Outcomes. London: Routledge.

Ferguson, James (1994): The Anti-Politics Machine. ‚Development‘, Depoliticization and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.

Fox, Jonathan/Brown, L. David (eds) (1998): The Struggle for Accountability. The World Bank, NGOs, and Grassroots Movements. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Gold, S., Trautrims, A., Trodd, Z. (2015) Modern slavery challenges to supply chain management. Supply Chain Management: An International Journal, 20 (5), 485-494.

Hirsch Hadorn, Gertrude/Hoffmann-Riem, Holger/Biber-Klemm, Susette/Grossenbacher-Mansuy, Walter/Joye, Dominique/Pohl, Christian/Wiesmann, Urs/Zemp, Elisabeth (eds) (2008): Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research. Springer.

Hickey, Samuel/Mohan, Giles (eds) (2004): Participation: from tyranny to transformation? Exploring new approaches to participation in development. London: Zed Books.

Kabeer, Naila (1994): Reversed Realities. Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought. London: Verso.

Kothari, Ashish/Salleh, Ariel/Escobar, Arturo/Demaria, Federico/Acosta, Alberto (eds) (2019): Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary. New Delhi: Tulika Books.

Li, Tania Murray (2007): The Will to Improve. Governmentality, Development, and the Practice of Politics. Durham: Duke University Press.

Mader, Philip (2013) Explaining and Quantifiying the Extractive Success of Financial Systems: Microfinance and the Financialisation of Poverty, Economic Research, 26 (s1), 13-28.

Mauser, Wolfram/Klepper, Gernot/Rice, Martin/Schmalzbauer, Bettina Susanne/Hackmann, Heide/Leemans, Rik/Moore, Howard (2013): Transdisciplinary global change research: the co- creation of knowledge for sustainability, in: Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Vol 5/3-4, S. 420-431.

Mawdsley, Emma (2018): ‘From billions to trillions’: Financing the SDGs in a world ‘beyond aid’ , in: Dialogues in Human Geography 8 (2), 191-195.

Melber, H. (2018). Knowledge Production and Decolonisation-Not only African challenges. Strategic Review for Southern Africa, 40(1), 4-15.

Messner, Dirk/Maxwell, Simon/Nuscheler, Franz/Siegle, Joseph (2005): Governance Reform of the Bretton Woods Institutions and the UN Development System. Dialogue on Globalization, Occasional Papers No. 18. Washington: FES.

Mignolo, Walter (2007): Delinking: The rhetoric of modernity, the logic of coloniality and the grammar of decoloniality. Cultural Studies 21 (2-3), 449-514.

Mitchell, Timothy (2002): Rule of Experts. Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity. Berkeley, University of California Press.

Mkandawire, T. (2011). Running while others walk: Knowledge and the challenge of Africa’s development. Africa Development, 36(2), 1-36.

Mosse, David (2005): Cultivating Development. A Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice. London: Pluto Press.

Müller, Franziska (2017): IRENA as glocal actor: pathways towards energy governmentality. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research. 30 (3), 306-322.

Nandy, Ashish (ed) (1988): Sciecne, Hegemony and Violence. A Reqiuem for Modernity. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Ndlovu, Morgan (2014): Why indigenous knowledge in the 21st century? A decolonial turn. Yesterday and Today 11, 84-98.

Ndhlovu, F (2017), “Southern development discourse for Southern Africa: linguistic and cultural imperatives”, Journal of Multicultural Discourses. (Available at: DOI: 10.1080/17447143.2016.1277733.)

Parthan, Binu/Osterkorn, Marianne/Kennedy, Matthew/Hoskyns, St. John/Bazilian, Morgan/Monga, Pradeep (2010): Lessons for low-carbon energy transition: Experience from the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP). Energy for Sustainable Development, doi:10.1016/j.esd.2010.04.003

Pereira, Javier (2017): Blended Finance: What it is, how it works and how it is used, Oxfam. (Aug 1, 2019)

Radcliffe, Sarah (2015): Dilemmas of Difference. Indigenous Women and the Limits of Postcolonial Development Policy. Durham: Duke University Press.

Rahnema, Majid with Bawtree, Victoria (eds.) (1997): The Post-Development Reader. London: Zed Books.

Raynolds, Laura (2000): Re-embedding global agriculture: The international organic and fair trade movements, Agriculture and Human Values 17: 297-309.

Reiter, Bernd (ed.) (2018): Constructing the Pluriverse. The Geopolitics of Knowledge. Durham: Duke University Press.

Rist, Gilbert (2014): The History of Development. From Western Origins to Global Faith. 4th ed. London: Zed Books.

Sachs, Wolfgang (ed) (2010): The Development Dictionary. A Guide to Knowledge as Power. 2Nd ed. London: Zed Books.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (ed.) (2007): Another Knowledge is Possible. Beyond Northern Epistemologies. London: Verso.

Santos, Boaventura de Sousa (2014): Epistemologies of the South. Justice against Epistemicide. Boulder: Paradigm.

Seabrook, Jeremy (1993): Victims of Development. Resistance and Alternatives. London: Verso.

Smith, L. T. (2013). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd..

Townsend, Janet Gabriel (1995): Women‘s Voices from the Rainforest. London: Routledge.

Vaggi, Gianni/Prizzon, Annalisa (2014): On the sustainability of external debt: is debt relief enough? Cambridge Journal of Economics 38: 1155-1169.

Visvanathan, Nalini/Duggan, Lynn/Wiegersma, Nan/Nisonoff, Laurie (eds.) (2011): The Women, Gender and Development Reader. 2nd edition. London: Zed Books.

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Ziai, Aram (2007): Globale Strukturpolitik? Die Nord-Süd Politik der BRD und das Dispositiv der Entwicklung. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot.

Ziai, Aram (2016): Development Discourse and Global History. London: Routledge.

What We Of­fer

Building on successful earlier initiatives, the network will include a graduate programme in which PhD students are co-supervised by professors from two partner universities. The supervisors are chosen by the PhD student based on thematic preferences and if they agree to the supervision, they will monitor the thesis progress at least once every three months in a one-hour online session. The PhD student will spend at least six months at the partner university of the second supervisor.

PhD students of the GPN Graduate School will be geographically based at the respective partner universities (see above) and enrolled in the virtual PhD training programme. Moreover, successful candidates participate in the regular virtual PhD workshops of the GPN Graduate School and get involved in the lively academic exchange and activities within the GPN network.

The PhD scholarship will be awarded for three years. An extension is pending on the availability of funding. In exceptional cases, preparatory PhD grants are given for up to one year for students (especially from countries with weaker higher education systems) who exhibit potential for interesting research but need more academic training. This grant will enable them to attend courses in one of the partner universities and improve their proposal. The scholarships will cover a country-specific monthly living allowance, the participation in virtual GPN Graduate School activities as well as the opportunity to apply for funding towards completing empirical research. Final admission to the GPN Graduate School is conditioned on the admittance to the PhD programme of the chosen GPN partner university and a positive progress evaluation by the GPN in the first scholarship year.

Ap­p­li­ca­ti­on Re­qui­re­ments

  • a completed MA/MSc degree (exception: the defence of the MA thesis should have happened until the application deadline), with very good results, in a discipline related to the above topics; the applicant’s last academic degree should not be more than six years ago; if an applicant already started with his/her PhD project, it should have started not more than three years ago;
  • a very high proficiency in English (CEFR level: C1 or above) demonstrated by one of the following language certificates: TOEFL, with a minimum score of 95 IBT (Internet-based test); IELTS 7.0 or above; the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English or an equivalent; native speakers and applicants who have completed [one of] their first degree[s] fully in English do not have to provide an English proficiency certificate; if the PhD dissertation will be written in another language than English: a high proficiency of English (CEFR level: B2 or above) for the participation in the Graduate School demonstrated by one of the just mentioned language certificates.
  • academic or vocational experience in one of the disciplines related to the thematic field of global partnership;
  • citizenship of an ODA recipient country. If the applicant resides in Germany or other countries which are not on the DAC list and is currently not enrolled in a university, s*he  should not have lived in the country of residence longer than two years before the potential start of the scholarship.

Ap­p­li­ca­ti­on Pro­ce­du­re

The application process involves three elements. Your application is only complete if all three are submitted:

Please provide the following documents in a single PDF file. Only complete applications, in the order listed below, will be accepted:

  • a detailed curriculum vitae (including the academic background, the list of publications [if applicable], professional experience, language skills, voluntary work);
  • a preliminary PhD project proposal (about 2000 words, including topic, research question, short overview of the relevant literature, theoretical approach, research design and methodology, justified assignment to one of the three research clusters and possible supervisors from the GPN network. We kindly request you to refrain from contacting supervisors at this stage);
  • a summary of the Master thesis (about 1500 words);
  • scanned copy of an English proficiency certificate, if required;
  • scanned copies of the following documents in the original language with translations attached, if the language of these documents is not German, English or French:
    • the certificate and transcript of records of your recognised Master degree, listing all subjects and grades (if you have not yet completed your Master degree, please provide only the transcript and substitute the certificate with a letter from the programme coordinator testifying the date and likelihood of the successful completion of the course);

    • the certificate and transcript of records of your recognised Bachelor degree, listing all subjects and grades;

    • certificates for the completion of additional studies, listing all subjects and grades, if applicable;

    • scanned copies of certificates of previous professional/vocational experience, if applicable.

These items of your application package must be submitted in the order listed above, with your CV as the first item, followed by your project proposal etc. All items of the application must be assembled in one pdf document (use e.g. a pdf creator or your word processing programme) of max. 50 MB. Incomplete applications and submissions consisting of multiple files cannot be accepted!

Acknowledging the global Corona crisis and the restrictions in the private and public life which come along with it, we may exceptionally accept your application if not all of the necessary documents can be provided at all or by the application deadline. In this case, please provide proof e.g. a letter from a university staff member confirming that a transcript of records cannot be delivered due to the universities lock-down and additionally include one short notice in the field "comments" of the application.

To complete the online application form and upload your application package (single pdf file), you need to first register with your name and email address on this portal (online survey tool of the University of Kassel, Germany).
Once you have registered, a personalized link will be sent to you by email, with which you can then access the online application form. Completing the online application and uploading your application package is possible until the application deadline.

In addition to your application, two recent letters of recommendation from professors, course instructors or other persons qualified to assess your academic achievements must be provided. Referees must sign the letter and send it as a scanned copy from the referee’s email account to the GPN Graduate School staff (graduateschool.gpn[at]uni-kassel[dot]de).

As in the letters themselves, the email reference line should mention your full name and “letter of recommendation”. The letters of recommendation must also arrive at the GPN by no later than 31 March 2021.

Successful applications will need to provide officially authenticated photocopies of all the submitted documents and translations.

Ti­me­ta­ble for the feed­back on ap­p­li­ca­ti­ons

We plan the timetable for the feedback on applications as follows (no guarantee due to unforeseeable issues):

  • First feedback with rejections or acceptances to the second round with a review procedure until mid-April
  • Final feedback on nomination for a GPN PhD scholarship or preparatory grant until end of April
  • Application for admission to the first home institution as soon as possible

For further information or questions, please contact the GPN Graduate School staff (graduateschool.gpn[at]uni-kassel[dot]de).