University of Cambridge

Job Opportunities


PhD Studentship with the REAL Centre (Fixed Term)

The Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre, in collaboration with the ASER Centre and the Pratham Education Foundation in India are pleased to announce a PhD studentship opportunity at the University of Cambridge. The PhD studentship will be funded by ESRC-DFID through a successful grant awarded to the research team led by Dr Ricardo Sabates for the project "Can schools' accountability for learning be strengthened from the grassroots?". Additional funding to cover the full costs of the studentship will be provided by the Faculty of Education.

Project Summary: One of the key elements for an accountability system to raise all children's learning is the coherence of its objectives. A school's primary responsibility should be to the children living in the local community, but this direct community-school relationship is often overshadowed by the more indirect, "long route", in which schools are first accountable to governments, who are then accountable to communities. The fundamental accountability relationship, between communities and schools, is thus often dependent upon policymakers' effectiveness in clarifying schools' priorities and providing them with the support and incentives to achieve them. Our research project aims to understand whether, and how, school accountability for learning can be improved from the grassroots. In order to address this objective, we use the case of a community-based intervention in rural India, which aims to engage with local school actors (teachers, headteachers, administrators and school management committees) and provide them with knowledge and resources to implement activities in line with the goal of improving children's foundational learning in the classroom. The research designed is sequential mixed methods and the research will take three years to complete.

The successful candidate will work with the research team, whilst independently investigating complementary research question(s) to the project, and will engage fully with the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Cambridge. The studentship must start on 24 April 2018, so that the doctoral training aligns with the research project.

How to make an application: Candidates should apply via the University Graduate Admissions Portal ( and must meet all the relevant criteria for a full-time PhD (please complete the GRADSAF form as outlined on the Graduate Admissions page).

You are requested to submit a 1,500-word research proposal which must be relevant to the research project both in terms of geographical area (India) and research topic (accountability). Please label your research proposal at the top "ESRC-DFID Accountability Studentship Research Proposal, reference JR13538", and name Dr Ricardo Sabates as potential supervisor so that it is clear you wish to apply for this source of funding.

We will only be able to consider applications completed by 6 December 2017. The successful candidate will be notified by 14 February 2018, and must start the doctoral programme in Easter Term 2018, on 24 April 2018.

Note: All applicants for this studentship will need to apply to the University via the usual route as outlined above. If you are not successful, and you wish to be considered for our doctoral programme starting in Michaelmas 2018 term and to apply to other sources of funding, please ensure that you also tick the relevant boxes for funding in your application and select your preferences for Colleges. Please indicate in your Written Statement "I wish to be considered for the doctoral programme of the Faculty of Education even if I am not successful with this funding application".

Fixed-term: The funds for this studentship are available for 3 years.

Informal enquiries can be addressed to Dr Ricardo Sabates (

We expect to hold interviews in late January 2018.

Please quote reference JR13538 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

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