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Current PhD Students

Abiola George

I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute a different (and equally important) perspective

Hello! My name is Abiola George and I am a second-year PhD student in Development Policy and Practice (in the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies) at The Open University.

With my research, I aim to explore the emergence of highly skilled female tech entrepreneurship in Nigeria from a ‘development’ and inclusion perspective. Research on/about female entrepreneurship in Africa has predominantly focused on the poor or unskilled woman, so I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute a different (and equally important) perspective. I also hope my research will feed into ongoing policy discussions about early inclusion of girls in STEM courses in Nigeria.

My original plan was to carry out fieldwork in Nigeria but due to travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have had to pivot my research methodology a few times, which in itself allows me to trial something new in my field of study. The opportunity to try out a new idea, even if it doesn’t work out as intended in the end, is one of the things I value about doing a PhD.

I came back to academia after 20 years working in different sectors so the first year was a little ‘bumpy’, having to unlearn and relearn writing for a different audience, amongst other things. The combination of a patient supervision team and OU Graduate School Network classes helped with building my confidence (though I still can’t pronounce the word phenomenological without tripping up).

If I were to describe what I enjoy most about studying in my department at The Open University in one word, it would be collegiality.

Kirsteen Merrilees

I chose the OU for my PhD because they allowed me to continue working from Nepal.

Hello, my name is Kirsteen Merrilees. I’m in my second year of a part-time PhD in Development Policy and Practice in the School of Social Sciences and Global Studies at The Open University.

I am a Civil Engineer and have been working in infrastructure construction and maintenance on international development projects for more than 20 years. The debate about whether labour based approaches (that maximise short term employment opportunities) or equipment based approaches (that build things quicker) best serve poor communities has been ongoing since long before I first started working in this area and remains unresolved.

My research is going to use three case study roads in a poor and remote part of Nepal, where I have been working for the past ten years, to try and find out how different approaches affect project outcomes. It will analyse how different groups of people are affected differently by the projects. It will look at how the projects contribute to different development objectives and what constraints influence options.

My research is also going to investigate the tools and analysis techniques that decision makers could use to design projects that consider the complexity, power relationships, conflicting interests and values of those involved in or affected by road construction activities.

I chose the OU for my PhD because they allowed me to continue working from Nepal. My supervisors have been great in supporting me remotely and being flexible in working around my professional commitments too.

Once I complete the research, I would love to be able to apply the findings in my professional life, especially in helping design infrastructure projects that can best serve the needs of the poor and marginalised.

Current students

Ms Elizabeth Babister

Miss Celia Bartlett

Mr James Fox

Ms Abiola George

Mr Dimos Sarantidis

Ms Katelin Teller 

Ms Pilgrim Tucker

Daniel Amankona (part time)

Anna Colom 

Jamila Hassan (part-time) 

Francesca Masciaga (part-time) 

Chantal Radley (part-time) 

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