Ph.D. Course: 'Critical perspectives on NGOs in development'

This course will critically analyse the changing role of NGOs in development, focusing especially on health and environment.

The application deadline was 31 March, 2017.

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Oslo Academy of Global Governance and SUM Research School, Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo are pleased to invite applications for the forthcoming doctoral course 'Critical perspectives on NGOs in development'.

In recent decades, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have played an increasingly dominant role in development. The growth of NGOs into a veritable global industry has been accompanied by increased professionalization and a diversification in the types of roles NGOs play in society. In some poor countries, notably in the health sector, they have largely replaced national governments, both in policy formulation and in service delivery. In international fora they exert considerable policy influence as campaigning policy advocates with increasing access to formal policy-making channels.

Against this background, the course will address questions such as:

  • What roles do NGO-actors play: for example in communicating local realities to those in power, in representing civil society, or as sub-contractors to donors?
  • What are their resources, and sources of power; and how is this power exercised?
  • What are the wider implications of the increased influence, proliferation-, and professionalization of NGOs?

The ambition of the course is bring together PhD students studying NGOs, especially within health and environment: to assist them to locate their own research within a wider context, viewing the roles and practices of NGOs from a critical perspective that includes issues of governance and legitimacy.

Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • Obtain a nuanced understanding of the role of NGOs in theory and in practice;
  • Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to studying NGOs at local, national and global levels;
  • Engage in critical discussion, become acquainted with the work of others on the changing role of NGOs in development, and build networks within their chosen field of research.


  • David Lewis, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Ann Swidler, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
  • Mariel Aguilar-Støen, Associate professor, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo
  • Katerini Storeng, Associate professor, Centre for Development and the Environment (SUM), University of Oslo

Who may apply?

The interdisciplinary nature of the course will be most suitable for doctoral students engaging with different disciplines within the social sciences – anthropology, sociology, political science, geography, and development studies.

Doctoral students will be prioritised, although other applicants may be considered only if space permits.

Published Jan. 23, 2017 2:32 PM - Last modified Aug. 3, 2020 8:12 AM