The International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) is a research centre aiming to improve tax policy and administration in lower-income countries through collaborative research and engagement. The ICTD’s primary base is the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), at the University of Sussex in Brighton (UK). The ICTD is funded by the British and Norwegian governments and by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ICTD will fund up to four PhD students from countries in Africa and South Asia to start in September 2023. Students will receive full scholarships including university fees, a stipend in line with UK research council funding (currently 17,668 GBP per year), and other benefits such as funds to attend conferences, to cover visa costs and part of relocation expenses.

In addition to financial support, successful applicants will benefit from being fully embedded in the ICTD team and networks. As such, they are expected to play an active role in the life of the Centre, for example by participating in team and research meetings, external events, and by contributing to blogs or papers for ICTD publications series. Successful candidates will be based at IDS or a department of the University of Sussex. At least one of their supervisors will be an ICTD Fellow. They will be expected to spend at least the first and third year at IDS/Sussex in person, to facilitate connections with the ICTD team and participation in training opportunities.

To be eligible for funding, PhD projects should focus on taxation in African and/or south Asian countries. Within the broad area, candidates can focus on any issue of their own interest. While projects do not need to fall within one of our existing research programmes, candidates may find it helpful to review the research portfolio of the ICTD and its individual Fellows on the ICTD website. The ICTD is a multidisciplinary centre: as such, suitable proposals can take any disciplinary or interdisciplinary approach, including those coming from economics, political science, anthropology, amongst others. We expect this scholarship to be very competitive.

Applications will be evaluated on the basis of:

  1. Academic quality of the research proposal. Some of the elements that the reviewers will consider, amongst others, are: is the topic relevant to policy and research? Is it sufficiently linked to existing knowledge? Are the methods appropriate and robust? Is the proposed study feasible?
  2. Candidates’ profiles, including skills and experience. Preference will be given to candidates with relevant work experience. A good result in a Master’s degree is also essential for admission to the PhD programme at Sussex/IDS.
  3. Fit with supervisors’ and ICTD’s research interests. Availability of supervisors with relevant research interests and knowledge of relevant methods. We will also consider how projects complement ICTD’s research portfolio.

To be considered, both the applicant’s nationality and the main focus of the project should be countries in Africa or south Asia, though it is not necessary for projects to have a single-country focus.

IDS is committed to eliminating discrimination, and to embedding and supporting equality, diversity and inclusion among our workforce, in our work and in all our activities. We welcome applications from all sections of the community, irrespective of background, belief or identity and particularly encourage applications from groups which are underrepresented at IDS.

How to apply

Applications for the ICTD scholarship should be submitted using the dedicated form by 15 March 2023 (deadline 23.59 BST). Applicants are not required to have submitted an application for a PhD place at the University of Sussex before applying for the ICTD scholarship, nor to have identified a potential supervisor. Shortlisted candidates will be encouraged to do so between 31 March and 8 May 2023.

To facilitate candidates’ planning and the preparation of supporting documents, here below is a tentative timeline for the selection process.

  • Initial deadline to fill in the ICTD form: 15 March
  • Shortlist decisions and comments on proposals: 31 March
  • Revised applications through Sussex: 8 May
  • Final decisions: 31 May

Full list of documents required:

Now (deadline 15 March)

  • CV
  • Research proposal (1500 words)
  • Personal statement

If shortlisted (deadline 8 May)

  • CV
  • Research proposal (2000-3500 words)
  • Two academic references
  • Degree certificates and transcripts
  • English language qualification (where applicable)

*If English isn’t your first language, you will need to meet the University of Sussex English Language requirements (‘Advanced’ level score).

Please apply by 15 March 2023, using the online form.

Frequently asked questions:

What is the expected duration of the PhD?

A typical full-time PhD course runs for 3-4 years, and we expect the scholarships to run for 3.5 years. For more information on the typical structure of a PhD have a look at the guide to PhD study by the University of Sussex.

Is it possible to do the PhD as a part-time student?

Scholarships are meant to be full time, but we will do everything we can to accommodate requirements linked to care responsibilities, where possible.

Is it possible for candidates from Francophone African countries to apply for the scholarships?

Yes, candidates from Francophone African countries can apply, however, the course is run in English, the PhD thesis will need to be written in English and candidates will need to meet the University of Sussex’ English language requirements.

Can you help me to refine my proposal before I submit my application?

Because of the large interest in these positions, we are not able to offer comments on application documents at this stage. If you are shortlisted, we will provide you with comments which it will be important that you take into account before submitting the second stage application.

What subjects can the PhD be in as I don’t seem to see a PhD in taxation at the University of Sussex website?

Taxation isn’t a stand-alone subject, therefore the PhD would have to be in one of the related subjects, such as Development Studies or Economics. Your qualification should be in a relevant social sciences subject.

Does the 1,500 word count for the research proposal include references, a bibliography or footnotes?

No, the 1,500 word count does not include references / a bibliography or footnotes.

Is there a specific format for the CV or the personal statement?

No, there is no specific format, however, please ensure that the documents you provide include relevant information and are succinct.


In case of further questions, please contact Susanne Schirmer on [email protected]