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IDS Research Associates

IDS Research Associates



The Institute for Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi, offers opportunities for academic interaction with scholars from other universities and research institutes who come to or are resident of Kenya.  Preference is given to social scientists with research interests that are closely related to the current research priorities of the Institute.

Persons planning to conduct such research in Kenya may associate formally with the Institute as Research Associates.  The period of research affiliation ranges between six months and three years depending on the nature of the research. The services provided by IDS under research association include:

  1. Access to the University Library
  2. Formal and informal interaction with IDS staff
  3. Interaction with IDS postgraduate students
  4. Opportunities to present papers in the IDS seminar series
  5. Advice on local research conditions and approaches in Kenya
  6. A formal letter of introduction to NACOSTI for application of a research permit
  7. Office space, if available
  8. Access to photocopying and data processing services at University rates
  9. For PhD candidates and pre-doctoral students applying for affiliation, they are assigned an academic supervisor(s) to help in shaping their research during their stay in IDS.

Research Associates will be expected to undertake the following during the period of association:

  1. Prepare and present a minimum of two IDS Working Papers.  The first paper is normally a review of literature and research design/methodology. The second paper is on preliminary findings.
  2. Teach, as requested, in the Institute’s postgraduate programme in Development Studies as appropriate.
  3. Submit to the Director of IDS a report on research accomplishments during the period of association.  This report should be received within 60 days of the end of the period of association.
  4. Comply with all University of Nairobi and Government of Kenya regulations concerning the conduct of research in Kenya.
  5. Give due acknowledgement of any assistance received from the Institute in any publications based on research conducted during the period of association.
  6. Provide the Institute with two copies of publications emanating from the research (These are in addition to copies required to be submitted to the Government of Kenya).
  7. Pay the required association fee to the University of Nairobi

Application of Research Associateship should be sent to the Director, Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi via email –

Application Procedure

Application to Director, IDS, enclosing:

  1. An application letter requesting affiliation with IDS and indicating the duration of affiliation.
  2. A research proposal of 10-15 pages, including problem statement, objectives, literature review, theoretical framework, methodology and work plan.
  3. Two letters of recommendation from academic referees familiar with the applicant’s research project to be undertaken while at IDS.
  4. Current curriculum vitae (resume)
  5. Statement of financial sponsorship of the research project.

Review of Application and Appointment

A committee within IDS reviews all applications and makes a recommendation to the Director, based on the quality of the proposed research and the relevance of the topic to the research priorities of the Institute.  The Director then requests the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Enterprise), University of Nairobi, to appoint the applicant as a Research Associate in IDS.  An applicant whose request for affiliation is accepted will be notified in writing. The applicant will be expected to apply for a student permit from the immigration office (if non-Kenyan citizen) and a research authorization permit from NACOSTI  


Once the letter of appointment has been issued, the applicant will be expected to pay the applicable fees to the Finance Office, University of Nairobi, and file a copy of the receipt with the Office of the Director, IDS. 

Immigration Status

Non-Kenyans who are not already resident in Kenya must obtain a Student’s Pass from the office responsible for Immigration, Government of Kenya.  A copy of the pass must be filed in the Office of the Director, IDS. IDS will offer a letter of support for this application.

Contact Details 

All correspondence should be addressed to:


Institute for Development Studies

University of Nairobi

Gandhi Wing, 5th Floor – Room 511

P.O. Box 30197-00100, Nairobi, Kenya

Telephone: 020-491000 or 020-3318262

Mobile: +254 772 114655





IDS has a robust research associates program which brings to the Institute researchers from outside Kenya to spend time while undertaking their research in Kenya. During their stay at the Institute, the associates give seminars and engage in other activities at the Institute. Below are two notable research associates who have given testimony about their experience while at IDS. They wrote this in 2015 when IDS was celebrating 50 years of existence.

IDS Research Approach is Outstanding By Dr David Ferrand Director, FSD Kenya

I came to IDS 20 years ago to undertake research for my PhD looking to explore the so-called ‘missing middle’ in Kenya’s economic development. Much attention was being given by researchers, government and development agencies to the informal sector and the millions of microenterprises that continue to sustain the livelihood of so many Kenyans. The puzzle was why so few larger businesses had emerged from this hive of entrepreneurial activity. Although graduation rates between scales of the enterprise are rarely high anywhere in the world, the scale of Kenya’s more formal small and medium enterprise (SME) segment still seemed relatively small. IDS had become the leading centre for research into enterprise development in Kenya and so I was delighted when Prof Dorothy McCormick agreed to be my supervisor during the period I was in Kenya. I was studying at the University of Durham in the UK and after what had seemed like a long period delving into the theory, I was more than ready to grapple with the realities of the field. Dorothy’s work had been especially influential on my thinking, providing insights into a field that I had only seen up until then from the perspective of a banker during an earlier period I had spent in Nairobi. Her work, together with others at IDS, had been firmly grounded in extensive field research. A critical insight that was especially relevant to the line of work I was trying to pursue was the notion of enterprise formality as a continuum rather than a binary. This simple shift overcomes a simplification that continues to cloud the understanding of enterprise development. A particularly attractive feature of IDS’ research approach to me was its pragmatism. As a multi-disciplinary institution, it was open to both quantitative and qualitative research method and eschewed the disciplinary chauvinism which seemed to me then and even more so today to retard rather than advance social science. If it seemed clear back then that a single theoretical paradigm was unlikely to offer much prospect of unravelling the complexities of economic and social development, the global economic crisis of 2007/08 has surely vindicated IDS’ multidisciplinary approach. In recalling happy days spent as a research associate at IDS, I’m particularly struck by how extraordinarily welcoming people were at the Institute from the Director, then Prof Patrick Alila, to all the staff. Despite my rather slim qualifications for entry into the Senior Common Room at the time, I was made to feel at home. The collegiality struck me and I soon found myself happily trespassing into multiple disciplines enjoying conversations with political economists and sociologists over – if my memory serves me correctly – particularly good mandazis which were served in the SCR. There was an openness in debate and generosity which was invigorating and enormously helpful as I tried to make sense of my own research. It was a time where funding of the public universities was under huge pressure and resources were scarce. Despite these pressures, there was good humour and determination to get on with IDS’ purpose of pursuing the research needed to tackle Kenya’s development challenges.


Since completing my research I moved on to work in the praxis of development, first with DFID and in the last decade with Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya working on support for the development of inclusive financial markets. In thinking about IDS from this perspective, it occurs to me how important it is to Kenya. There is much talk about the importance of evidence-based policy-making. As I offer my congratulations to Prof Winnie Mitullah and all at IDS in celebrating 50 years. It is my sincere hope that the next 50 years will see IDS becoming yet more prominent in leading development research in Kenya and influencing the thinking of the next generation.

I Changed my Perspective on Issues By Dr Edoardo Totolo Research Economist, FSD Kenya

I am delighted to write a goodwill message for the 50th anniversary of the Institute for Development Studies. I spent almost three years as an associate at IDS and this contributed to my professional and human development and was key for the successful completion of my PhD. I first stepped into IDS in May 2011. I had arrived in Kenya a few weeks earlier after completing the courses at the University of Trento and receiving approval on the research proposal. I got introduced to Dr Mary Njeri Kinyanjui who agreed to co-supervise my research. That day we began a collaboration that went far beyond my expectations. Soon thereafter I met other faculty members such as Prof. Mitullah, Prof. McCormick, Dr Radha Uphadyaya and the administration personnel and I was impressed by their dedication, passion and willingness to help in every possible way. The support I received was both practical, such as settling down in Nairobi and obtaining all the necessary research permits, as well as academic. The faculty taught me to question the assumptions of my field of study, to adopt interdisciplinary approaches and to measure the impact of my research not just in academic terms, but primarily for its relevance to the poor. I have realized that IDS prioritizes the study of economies to the study of economics. It teaches students to favour depth and insight instead of general economic laws.

Life aspirations

I had not fully understood this until I began my fieldwork in Kariobangi and Korogocho. Spending over a year in Kariobangi was a life-changing experience, where I learned a lot about the potential of the local economy, the resilience of the entrepreneurs and the great challenges that people face on a daily basis. What I previously saw as numbers that I could plug into my models, became people with their names, families and life aspirations. This entirely changed my perspective and made me realize the importance of research in development studies. After a lot of work and many sleepless nights, I finally managed to submit my doctoral dissertation in 2015 and beginning to work as an economist at Financial Sector Deepening Kenya (FSD Kenya) even before defending my PhD. I wish IDS to continue being a thought-leader in development studies and motivate students the way it has for the last 50 years: always looking ahead rather than being stuck in the past. The demographic changes in the population, the environmental challenges and the transformation of the global economic system will transform the field of development studies in ways that are difficult to predict. IDS will have to be at the centre of this transformation, playing an active role and continually evolve itself to be ahead of times. I wish IDS, its faculty members, and students to keep the enthusiasm and dedication to research in the years to come





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