DSA dissertation prize
Since 2015 the DSA has awarded an annual dissertation prize to Masters' students working in the field of international development, development studies and development economics. This annual prize is awarded to the best masters' level dissertation in these fields of study.
The Call for Nominations for the 2020 DSA Prize is now CLOSED
For the 2020 prize, all Development Studies and Economics departments in the UK were invited to submit one MA or MSc dissertation each for consideration. This year nominations were accepted between 17 October and 16 December.
The award will be given during the 2020 Development Studies Association conference.
We asked all the Heads of Centres of DSA affiliated institutions in the UK to nominate the highest scoring masters’ dissertation (MA or MSc) awarded on their programmes in 2019. We were happy to accept nominations of extended essays but these will need to be of exceptional quality to win when compared to longer dissertations. The nominations will be evaluated by an academic panel from the DSA. The programme from which the nominated masters comes should be "international development" or related subject, and if there was more than one dissertation that was awarded the highest grade, we ask you to put forward the dissertation you feel would be judged most favourably under the following four criteria:
Arguments and understanding
Sources and evidence
2019 DSA dissertation prize
The 2019 DSA dissertation prize has been awarded to Hamid Khalafallah of the Division of Peace Studies & International Development, University of Bradford, for his work “The Role of Development NGOs In the Context of Authoritarian Regimes: A Case Study of Sudan”. Hamid Khalafallah will be awarded the prize money of £500 and he has been invited to present the findings of his dissertation at the DSA’s annual conference, where there will also be an award ceremony for him.
Of Khalafallah's work, the judges said:
‘Very good analysis of the complex picture of different actors and their motives’ and ‘carefully researched, including with primary sources. The topic is a bit brave, especially right now … and the writing persuasive’. In addition to these comments on the quality of his work, one judge from his own institution said ‘he has been an amazing student, he helped so many students in difficulties and always stood out for the team. He certainly represents the kind of values that a winner of a DSA Prize is expected to hold’.
You can read Hamid Khalafallah's dissertation here.
2018 DSA dissertation prize
Once again, there was no outright winner this year, so the 2018 DSA dissertation prize has been awarded jointly to Bushra Rehman of IDD, University of Birmingham and Henrique Lopes Valenca of GDI, University of Manchester , for their work “The intersection of gender and disability in exacerbating poverty in displacement settings: Jordan as a case study” and "Industrial policy and structural change in Brazil after the Washington Consensus (2003 – 2014)" respectively. The prize money of £500 was split equally between the two winners and both winners have been invited to present the findings of their dissertations at the DSA’s annual conference, where there will also be an award ceremony for them.
Of Rehman's work, the judges said:
We felt this was an excellent example of the effective use of primary research within a masters’ dissertation. It addressed an important, but neglected topic in an original way and provided an interesting discussion of the inter-sectionality of disability and gender.
Of Valenca's work, they said:
We agreed this was a very strong dissertation whose original contribution was in its consideration of how Brazil has emerged as an alternative to Washington Consensus doctrine. They noted that the dissertation was an excellent example of desk-based research; well written (succinct, lucid) and drawing on a wealth of literature..
You can read Henrique Lopes Valenca's dissertation here.
You can read Bushra Rehman's dissertation here.
Between 2015 and 2017 the International Consulting Economists Association (ICEA) partnered with the DSA in offering this dissertation prize. The ICEA, is an organisation that has provided a forum for international consultants and their employers to network informally at a monthly lecture and discussion for nearly 30 years. The DSA student sub-committee would like to thank the ICEA for their work, contribution and assistance over these past 3 years, without whom this prize would not have begun or been possible. We encourage the DSA membership to visit their website and consider attending one of their monthly London meetings on a range of interesting development issues.
2017 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize
This year there was no outright winner. Instead the 2017 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize has been awarded jointly to Henna Akram of SOAS and Paul Fenton Villar of UEA, for their work “Are private schools delivering better education? An empirical analysis of the differences in academic achievement between children in private and public schools in Pakistan” and "Evaluating the impact of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) on corruption in Zambia" respectively. The prize includes £1000 and an invitation to present the findings of the dissertation at the DSA’s annual conference.
Of Akram's work, the judges said:
We liked the clear framing of the question and felt it addressed a real world issue with clear policy and practice implications. The dissertation set out a rigorous framework to predict and test the sign of the coefficient on each of the parameters analysed and delivered a crisp and clear message.
Of Fenton Villar's work, they said:
We felt the dissertation had a clear focus and offered a critical and balanced perspective. It adopted an unusual Synthetic Control Model technique and handled it well. Parts of the dissertation were publishable, with writing at PhD level, and it provided an appealing translation of econometric work for a lay audience.
The link to Henna Akram's dissertation is here.
2016 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize
The 2016 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize has been awarded to Robert Mwanamanga from Bradford University, for his work “Does foreign aid promote growth? Evidence from Malawi”. The prize includes £1000 and an invitation to present the findings of the dissertation at the DSA’s annual conference. Robert’s dissertation reviews the extensive literature on the relation between aid and economic growth and tests different statistical models against data from Malawi. The judges noted:
The prize winning paper tackles perhaps the central question of development aid: the extent to which aid contributes to economic growth. It starts with an extremely capable literature review, covering aid-growth theories from the 1940s onwards presented in a neat structure of 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation theories. This is paralleled by a review of empirical studies over the same period. The major criticisms of aid are also reviewed.
After reviewing the broader economic background in Malawi, the paper presents a set of statistical analyses testing different aid-growth models reflecting different theories on the mechanisms which link aid and economic growth. The study concludes that increased aid to Malawi shows diminishing, even negative returns, but recognises that this at least partly reflects the fact that Malawi is one of the most aid dependent countries in the world.
Download a full version of Robert's dissertation here (PDF).
The judges also highly commended Takeshi Miwa (University of Sheffield) for his work, “Drug prescription practices in the private health sector: a case study of Lugala Lutheran Hospital in rural Tanzania”. The judges said:
[The dissertation] reviews literature discussing how an average of 2.4 drugs are prescribed, where the WHO recommended range is below 2. Various causes are suggested, most prominent the grade and experience of the prescriber. The paper tests these hypotheses against data from the records of a private hospital in southern Tanzania. The results suggested that prescribing at the hospital was ‘somewhat suboptimal’ and that staff experience was a factor.
2015 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize
The first DSA/ICEA prize was awarded to Matthew Juden of SOAS for this dissertation on 'Realist randomised controlled trials of development interventions in practice: concrete design suggestions to address the problem of external validity'. The prize was awarded at the DSA annual conference dinner held at the University of Bath in September 2015, and Matthew also presented his work as part of a panel on innovations in methodology. We congratulate Matthew for his excellent work and wish him all the best for the future.
Download a full version of Matthew's dissertation here (PDF).