Course descriptions

Quantitative Methods and Microeconomics
Modern economic theory often relies heavily on quantitative methods. As a result, a certain knowledge of mathematics is required to fully understand the concepts used by economists. The main purpose of this course is thus to provide the fellows with some of the most important principles of economics, while putting a strong emphasis on the quantitative methods underlying them.

PhD Research Proposal track
The track has three objectives. Firstly, fellows will be introduced briefly to the requirements needed to obtain a PhD in our institute. Secondly, this track will familiarise fellows with the different research themes and methodologies used in the institute, and introduce them to researchers in the institute. Thirdly, fellows will be supported to take first steps into research, by defining their own interest, in order to develop their own PhD proposal, that will be presented in research speed dates in October/November. The track is completed with cohort proposal discussion weeks in January, literature review writing and proposal writing support in January-April, and a final version proposal presentation in June.

Human development, inequality and poverty
The concept of human development grew out of global dialogues on the links between economic growth and development during the second half of the 20th Century. The UNDP Human Development Reports, which began in 1990, introduced a new approach for advancing the human development agenda, and furthered the discussions on how to achieve global human development. A consistent finding had always been that countries where the levels of inequality and poverty are relatively high also exhibit low values of human development, even though neoclassical economics has for the most part argued that increases in income levels through positive economic growth would result in higher levels of development and contribute to the reduction of poverty.

The first part of the course gives an overview of the most significant theoretical perspectives in Human Development research. It starts by surveying the variety of understandings of Human Development in theory and practice and discusses the implications this poses for research. It begins by examining how many scholars started in the 1960s criticising the welfarist approach, and the GDP economic growth argument, and that how in the 1970s and 1980s the development debate started putting greater emphasis on employment, followed by redistribution with growth, and then whether people had their basic needs met. This has all lead to the emergence of the human development approach, which is about expanding people’s freedoms, rather than the development of the economy. The central argument thus becomes how the human development approach focuses on redistributive justice and creating fair opportunities and choices for all people. This part of the course will push students to consider how these ideas come together in the pursuit of human development.

We will then move on to discuss inequality and poverty in more detail. As the first part shows, there is a distinction between equality of opportunity and equality of outcomes. High levels of inequality are detrimental to human development as they limit economic and social mobility which are essential for sustainable poverty reduction. In this part of the course we will further explore the role of poverty and inequality for human development and economic growth. In this context it is also important to understand how household well-being can be operationalised and measured. We will start from a purely welfarist perspective, where poverty is understood as a lack of income to make ends meet. It starts from the presumption that individual utility determines well-being and that well-being is expressed in the level of income (or consumption). The non-welfarist point of view claims that the focus on money neglects other aspects that are equally important for well-being, such as the fulfillment of basic needs, access to social services, command over commodities, or the capabilities to function. As such we will get back to the starting point in order to understand how progress in human development can be assessed.

Economic Growth and Socio-economic Development
This course focuses on the empirical analysis of technological progress, economic growth and  socioeconomic development in developing countries. The aim of the course is to analyse the position of developing countries in the global economy, with regard to technology, industrial development and overall levels of socio-economic development. Thus, it brings into discussion some critical issues such as international diffusion of technology, technology gaps, absorptive capacities, catching up and leapfrogging and changes in developmental outcomes such as health and education. The course opens with two sessions on long run-trends in economic development and industrialisation as a (potential) engine of growth and the emergence of manufacturing in developing countries since 1950. This is followed by two sessions focusing on the measurement and analysis of productivity and technological change in manufacturing. We proceed with a session on country case studies of industrial development and sessions devoted to topics such as health, education and institutions.

Economics of Networks, Innovation and Knowledge
The objective of this class is to help fellows understand the role of innovation in economic development in both high income as well as middle and low income countries. In economics, the classic works on innovation deal for the most part with developed countries. Similarly, most textbooks on development economics only include growth theory and / or the measurement of increase in factor productivity to incorporate the impact of innovation. Therefore, to reach the course objective, selected seminal works in the microeconomics of innovation will be studied and examined against the real experiences of a variety of countries. The choice of topics has been dictated by the essential targets of development as given by the Millennium Development Goals, now transformed into the Sustainable Development Goals. By studying a variety of topics that are being actively debated by policymakers, firms and civil society, the course is designed to help fellows transition from course work to research.

Political Economy: Political-Institutional Aspects of Development
Political institutions influence the policies aimed at improving the quality of human life in contemporary societies. Political institutions and socio-economic development are interdependent: Development policies are shaped by multiple political factors in contemporary complex governance systems, and the political choices of development policies affect different socio-economic areas. Therefore, it is of crucial importance to understand how development areas are governed and what factors shape the development and the evolution of specific sectors and public policies.

This course scrutinises some fundamental political dimensions that shape the relationship between the political-institutional and development spheres. The discussion is organised around three large themes affecting the development dynamics: actors and structures in governance systems; the motivations of actors; and the transnational transformation processes. The study of these three themes is constituted around a complementary set of concepts and approaches defining contemporary academic thinking about political aspects of development policies worldwide and employed in political practice. More specifically, we will discuss the use of concepts such as power, institutions, state, globalisation, democratisation, crisis, security and justice in the context of development studies worldwide. Given their different understandings, these conceptual elements require a critical engagement for the purpose of fruitful theorising. Therefore, an in-depth discussion of conceptual controversies underpinning contemporary thinking about social, political and economic phenomena is the key condition for productive and creative theorising of the role of political aspects in development.

Evaluation of Programmes and Policies
The evaluation of development programmes is at the core of the current debate of governance and public policies. While evaluation is something that in principle is taking place in many locations and under many circumstances, it is still not a straightforward activity. Many questions must be addressed in the design and execution of an evaluation of any programme or policy. In the course we will address several of these questions: course How to design an evaluation protocol? How do we evaluate the impact of interventions? How interventions can affect household welfare, alleviate poverty, improve firms’ performance etc? These issues are the focus of a huge and rapidly growing literature in economics and econometrics. This course will address these issues from a variety of methodological approaches: the econometrics of evaluation, case studies and empirical applications to the field of development economics.

Economics of Networks
The goal of this course is to introduce fellows to the field of network analysis. Modelling economic activity using social network analysis tools can be very useful in furthering understanding of a wide variety of phenomena. Our interest, of course, will be largely in how network analysis is useful in understanding innovation and knowledge creation and diffusion. As such we see (social) networks as the infrastructure over which knowledge flows. We seek to understand how different actors in an innovation system interact, and how those interactions can be analysed with network tools and concepts. We begin with a general introduction to social network analysis, laying out the basic concepts. The bulk of the course uses these concepts to look at various issues of innovation and development. We look at different network structures and how they might be good or bad for encouraging innovation; we look at models of network formation, starting with the basic building block of links between pairs of actors. The course presents both theoretical and empirical results. Finally, in the last sessions we examine various topics specific to development or developing countries. Precisely which topics we look at are determined by the interests of the fellows in the class.

The Dissertation
At the end of the first nine months, fellows will present a research proposal and a detailed research plan for the remaining part of the fellowship. In defining their research topic, fellows will be guided by the staff of the institute, the teaching staff and partners of the research network. Supervision during the entire project will be given by a specific team of senior researchers who can provide the required expertise to guide and oversee fellows’ research.

During the following years, fellows will research and write their dissertation. The programme is full-time, and based in Maastricht, and fellows treat Maastricht as their home base for the duration of the project. However, many research topics of central interest to the institute involve issues relevant to regions outside Europe: Africa, Asia and Latin America in particular. Consequently, many fellows do empirical research based on other countries, and so often spend time abroad doing field work.