Program Details

PhD in School of Arts

PhD Programs at the School of Arts

Developing and transition countries are affected by a multitude of environmental, political, economic, socio-cultural, and technical development problems and disparities. These occur in many different contexts, and their frequency and acuteness have greatly increased in the 20th century. The challenge for research that aims to produce knowledge relevant to prevention and mitigation of such problems and disparities is that these do not occur independently of each other, but are closely interrelated, appearing in clusters.

The major objective of PhD program at SOA is to produce qualified researchers and professionals who are able to coordinate, guide, analyze, evaluate, improve and propagate efforts aimed identifying causes and problems regarding issues related to environmental, economic, socio-cultural issues, problems and disparities in developing countries. By doing so the program aims to produce highly qualified and competent researchers and professionals who can not only proactively and constructively take part in national and international researches and debates in the field, but can also provide effective recommendations based on their studies to the policy making bodies at various levels.

PhD in the Department of Development Studies 

A wide range of issues connected with environmental, political, economic, sociocultural, technical and technological development influence emerging and developing countries that are in transition. These issues occur in various circumstances, and in the twenty-first century, both their frequency and acuity have substantially increased. The challenge for research that strives to develop knowledge pertinent to the reduction, prevention and mitigation of global and local problems and disparities is that these do not occur independently of one another but are instead intricately connected and manifest in clusters. Such clusters of problems are referred to as  “syndromes of global change.”

In the context above, the Department of Development Studies provides excellent opportunities to conduct (interdisciplinary) research with options for a variety of concentrations. The PhD program is designed to offer candidates an outstanding opportunity to carry out cutting-edge research to address the issues surrounding “syndromes of global change” through original contribution. The PhD candidates are expected to significantly advance the discourses on national and international development challenges and discourses.

The Department accepts PhD applicants on A ROLLING basis, any time, throughout the year. The potential PhD applicants can reach out to the Department with their proposal directly or through a potential supervisor from the Department. Before being accepted into the Department’s PhD program, candidates must go through a thorough selection process as per the criteria set by the Department.

Ongoing PhD Research Themes

  • The Returns of Educational Migration in Nepal

The overall objective of this study is to explore the impact of transnational student migration at both household and societal level in Nepal, with particular attention paid to the role of gender and class. A significant number of Nepalese youths migrate with the purpose of pursuing a higher education abroad. Historically speaking India has been the principal destination for Nepalese going abroad for both employment opportunities and education, but in recent years North America, Australia and Europe have provided pathways for student and highly skilled migration for people from the middle and upper classes. With a focus on returnee student migrants this sub-study explores, firstly, how academic, technical and social skills acquired abroad are used when re-establishing a life back in Nepal; secondly how highly educated returnees envision to contribute to build up democratic institutions in post-conflict Nepal through their engagement in civic, social and political organizations. Through its focus on a group of relatively privileged migrants it sheds light on transnational student migration as a potential resource for democracy-building in Nepal, both in relation to a potential increase in political and civic engagement furthered by migrants’ know-how with other socio-political systems, and to the ways in which experiences gained abroad may contribute to challenge existing social hierarchies, including that of gender, at both household and societal level. This project is a collaboration between Aarhus University (Denmark), Kathmandu University (Nepal), North-Eastern Hill University (India) and University of Copenhagen (Denmark). The project is funded by Consultative Research Committee for Development Research (FFU) under Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Use the menu to the left to see the research team at each university.


PhD Candidate:

Sushant Acharya

Gyanu Maskey


Completed PhD Themes

Lochan Rijal

Khagendra Acharya

Hem Raj Kafle

Ram Chandra Poudel

Laxmi Dhungel

Sony K.C.

Hritika Rana


  • Social and Territorial Impacts of Armed Conflict-induced Displacement and the Livelihoods of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nepal

The main objective of this PhD research was to analyze the socio-economic situation of the IDPs and examine their interaction patterns, coping strategies, available means of livelihoods, vulnerability and risks in the new urban environment and the existing networks with the home villages. The research analyzed the policy response of the state towards IDPs and examined the process of formation of marginal habitats.

This research was conducted by Dr. Anita Ghimire.


  • Access of Dalits and Socially Excluded People to Land Resource: Livelihood Insecurity and Social Conflict

The main objective of this PhD research was to examine the policies, legislations or regulations and practices related to access of and control over land resources by Dalits and other socially excluded groups as well as to identify the problems and opportunities inherent in the current policy and legislative sphere. The study explored the impact of the provisions in these policies and regulations on the livelihoods of socially excluded groups.

This research was conducted by Dr. Purna Nepali.


  • Tourism, Conflict and Peace in Nepal

The main objective of this PhD research was to assess both the role of tourism in conflict and the impact of conflict on the development of the tourism sector in Nepal. Second, it aimed to analyse if and how the tourism industry contributed towards resolving armed conflict and restoring peace in the country as well as to evaluate its potential for sustainable tourism development in the post-conflict period. It analysed the role of such actors towards reducing the conflict proneness of violent economic and political environments and towards achieving sustainable development.

This research was conducted by Dr. Pranil Kumar Upadhyaya.


  • Livelihood Futures in Resource-scarce Areas and the Quest for Inclusion of Marginal Groups

In places where natural resources are scarce, various groups may vie for the control as well as for access to any alternative means of securing a living. Making comparative studies of resource-scarce areas in South Asia and East Africa, this research project aimed to identify new livelihood strategies for groups vulnerable to exclusion, particularly strategies that diminish reliance on natural resources. In Nepal, this research was conducted in the far western region of Nepal, with food insecurity as its central theme. This was a collaborative research project of Department of Development Studies, University of Zurich and NCCR North-South.

Dr. Nirmal Kumar B.K.


  • Contested Development

Though some sections of Nepal’s society have been able to improve their livelihoods in recent years, contemporary life in rural Nepal is still characterized by the widespread persistence of inequality and poverty. Dissatisfied with the developmental performance of the State, social/political movements started to claim to better represent poor people’s aspirations in the recent years. The PhD research addressed this issue by first mapping the existing regional movements, and by then selecting one such movement for in-depth analysis. This PhD aimed to contribute to the growing and very contested global debate on “social movements” as alternatives to state-led poverty-oriented rural development. This was a collaborative research project of Department of Development Studies, University of Zurich, and NCCR North-South.

Dr. Mahendra Sapkota


  • Migration, Transitional Politics and Rural Governance in Nepal

Throughout history, migration has been a major factor in shaping Nepal’s demographic changes. In the long history of Nepal’s migration, there have been many significant phases that have shaped Nepal’s political as well as social fabric. One such phase was observed during the Armed Conflict, between 1996-2006, during which an upsurge in the rural-urban migration as well as international migration from Nepal took place. Many Nepalese, particularly the youth, have continued to migrate to urban areas or even to third countries as the conflict has destroyed much of the infrastructure and socio-political institutions in which their livelihood has traditionally depended. This in turn is having a multidimensional impact on issues such as local governance and politics, education of children, quality of living, income levels and social networking. This study aimed to focus particularly on; 1) how the on-going political transition and identity-based politics is influencing rural out migration, and 2) what the impacts of rural out migration were on local political participation and citizenship. This project was collaboration between Aarhus University (Denmark), Kathmandu University (Nepal), North-Eastern Hill University (India) and University of Copenhagen (Denmark).

Dr. Binayak Krishna Thapa


Eligibility and Selection Process for PhD Program

  • Completion of a Master’s Degree MA, MSc or MPhil on a related discipline with a minimum cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.0 out of 4.0 or an equivalent of 65 percent marks. The candidates must have completed a minimum of 7 years of university education after SLC.  Research and work experience in relevant fields, and experience of field research, data analysis, and scientific writing will be an advantage. Candidates should have strong oral and written English language skills.
  • The eligible candidates will first have to sit for a written examination, which basically tests their written skills on related subjects/issues.
  • Only those who pass the written exam will be invited for an interview.
  • Shortlisted candidates from the interview will be given about three weeks to prepare and present their PhD research proposal on the required theme. A selection committee will make the final decision and recommend the best candidate to present her/his final proposal to the PhD Research Committee Board of School of Arts.
  • The PhD Research Committee will make the final decision regarding the selection of the PhD candidate.



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