Call for PhD Applications- Please share widely in your networks and with interested candidates

Are you interested in doing a PhD on Savings groups? We are searching for two highly motivated and talented candidates for PhD studies at one of Europe’s leading PhD programs.

Savings groups are bottom of the pyramid banking systems that allow members access to basic savings and credit services. Around 20 persons are mobilized into a group where they contribute their own weekly savings and distribute these as loans to selected members as decided by the group. Several of the major international NGOs are active in mobilizing savings groups as they have proven to be efficient systems for simple banking services while at the same time they serve as generators of social capital for the members. Typically groups are trained, supervised and monitored for around one year and thereafter the groups are graduated and left alone.

Together with our sponsors, Stromme Foundation and Norwegian Association of the Disabled (NAD) in partnership with National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU), we now launch two new PhD research projects: 1) Performance of savings groups in West Africa, and 2) Disabled persons & savings groups.

Project 1: Stromme Foundation supports thousands of savings groups in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. They are interested in relevant research on what influences the performance of savings group in this region (open for all kinds of suggestions including for example: Resilience of groups faced with shocks; Survival of groups post graduation; Leadership of groups in relation to group performance; How “add-ons” like training in agriculture influences group performance; etc.  

Project 2: For several years NUDIPU in partnership with NAD have managed a successful project called iSAVE were disabled persons are mobilized in savings groups. Today iSAVE has around 50 thousand members whereof 30 thousand are disabled. The aim of this research is to learn more about the effectiveness of iSAVE and factors influencing the performance of iSAVE groups. Of particular relevance is to include a “disability angle” in the research questions to be addressed.

Further details of the projects have not yet been decided. Thus, we invite interested candidates to suggest relevant research topics and write up short research proposals. The proposals must be well positioned in the academic literature while at the same time they should address research questions that are of practical relevance.

If you need to know more about savings groups you can start by reading this report:

To carry out the research we are searching for two highly motivated and talented persons interested in doing a PhD in Norway. All university costs will be waived and each candidate will receive a scholarship of around EURO 1000,- per month to cover living costs. To qualify for this PhD opportunity you need to have a master’s degree (5 years of university (300 ECTS) with strong grades in a business school field. The master’s should include a full thesis. Preferably the education should be from an internationally recognized business school (AACSB accredited). Further, you need to be fluent in English (plus French for option 1) and have advanced knowledge in Econometrics.

If you possess these qualifications we would very much like to receive you application.

The application should be e-mailed to and should contain the following:

-Educational certificates, with grades and transcripts

-summary of the Master’s thesis (max one page)

-minimum two letters with academic references

-complete list (not full papers) of scientific publications (if you have published in peer-reviewed journals already)

-other important documents like results from tests like GMAT/GRE/TOEFL etc. (if available)

-motivation/application letter including your knowledge of English and French and whether you prefer option 1 or option 2 (max one page)

-project description of one of the two options with a maximum scope of five pages. (The outline should follow the pitching research framework by professor Faff.

The School of Business and Law at the University of Agder is a high-grade AACSB -accredited business school in Norway. Our PhD programme is one of Europe’s leading programmes in the field of International Business. We offer our candidates generous opportunities and equip them with a global mindset and modern research skills. Our graduates find prestigious jobs within and outside academia and they publish in high-ranked international journals. The programme includes around 50 candidates from across the globe working closely with their highly motivated supervisors. The PhD process is designed to take three years and we have one of Europe’s best track records when it comes to finishing a PhD on time.

The selected candidates will become part of the CERSEM research team – – which is one of Europe’s leading research centers in the field of microfinance. Moreover, you will work closely with a team of researchers from KU Leuven University in Belgium led by professor Bert D’Espallier. Together we make up the Worlds largest research group on Savings Groups.

Your application should be sent to by the 1st of September. Thereafter we will carry out a careful selection process. Start-up of the PhD is planned to be in April 2022.

Best wishes,

Professor Roy Mersland

Head of PhD Education

Director of Research Center CERSEM

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