Building connections that matter

UNU-WIDER Visiting PhD and Scholar programmes

Every year about 20 visitors come to Helsinki to find a new home at UNU-WIDER in our Visiting Scholars and PhD Fellowship programmes. Although their stay is only three months, the connections they make last much longer, with past visitors’ continued engagement through our research opportunities, conferences, and more. These programmes are an opportunity for early-career, female, and Global South scholars to conduct research on developing economies using the facilities and resources at UNU-WIDER.

These programmes present an opportunity for PhD candidates to be mentored by a UNU-WIDER researcher, and for visiting scholars to collaborate with in-house researchers on their ongoing development-related work. Visitors from both programmes engage with UNU-WIDER staff by attending events and presenting their work along with their peers to senior-level researchers. These sought-after positions help shape participants into the future leading academics, policymakers, and leaders in their field.

The stay at UNU-WIDER is not just about learning from UNU-WIDER researchers, but also building connections —both within UNU-WIDER and beyond— as programme participants become a part of the UNU-WIDER network. The connections made while at UNU-WIDER remain meaningful years later as they progress through their career. We’re glad to stay in touch and see the bright minds that walked the halls of UNU-WIDER as they make progress in their careers.

Hear from some former PhD fellows and Visiting Scholars below.

Winston Dookeran — from Visiting Scholar to Minister
Winston Dookeran. Photo by Fernanda LeMarie - Cancillería del Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0
Winston Dookeran. Photo by Fernanda LeMarie - Cancillería del Ecuador, CC BY-SA 2.0

Since being a Visiting Scholar at UNU-WIDER in 2008, Winston Dookeran has stayed busy. After what he described as a stay in a ‘cool environment that fostered penetrating insights on the complexities of development’, he moved on to work at United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

‘My time at UNU-WIDER, years later, I recall with warm memories of the people for their graciousness and hospitality. After my visit, I became Governor of the Central Bank, Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago. Later, I would become a Professor of Practice at The University of the West Indies. My period at WIDER strengthened my analytical reach and assisted me as I try to close the gap between ‘theory and practice’ in development.’

Hamna Nasir — online but not alone
Photo: Hamna Nasir
Photo: Hamna Nasir

Hamna Nasir joined UNU-WIDER PhD fellowship in 2019, when, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the programme was held online. Despite this, Nasir expressed that her time with UNU-WIDER helped her formulate research-based, policy-relevant recommendations for development for her country and the learning opportunities have helped further her research. 

After her online PhD fellowship, she was chosen from a large pool of candidates to present her work at a poster presentation in Bangkok.

‘It was a source of pride for my country and myself that I was given a chance to present the current socio-economic issue of Pakistan at an international level. Moreover, I got a chance to exchange ideas with researchers from other developed and developing countries.’

Isaac Oluwatayo — strengthening research skills and making meaningful connections
Photo: Isaac Oluwatayo
Photo: Isaac Oluwatayo

Now a Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Venda, South Africa, Isaac Oluwatayo was a PhD Fellow (back then known as PhD intern) at UNU-WIDER in 2004. First time out of his country, he described his time at UNU-WIDER as an eye-opening experience to how research should be done, and an opportunity to engage face-to-face with scholars, whose research he has only read about in books.

‘It was through my time at UNU-WIDER that I met Professor Erik Thorbecke on the lift, who later invited me to the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), Nairobi Kenya Biennial Research Seminar in October of the same year.’

‘This experience taught me new ways to work and focus on what I know how to do best.’

More than the sum of our parts

One of the strengths of UNU-WIDER is its network. It is a great pride and asset to have talented scholars and academics across the globe providing high-quality research and fresh perspectives to policymaking.

The Visiting Scholar and PhD fellowship programmes are a unique opportunity for young and more experienced researchers to engage with each other and bring new ideas into the world of development research. It can help further your career through new learning opportunities and connections —sometimes all it takes is a chat in the office elevator.

Every year, the applications to our Visiting PhD Fellowship are open twice, in March and September. If you would like to join our UNU-WIDER network and further your career with us, visit the programme website for more information.