Project code



Portsmouth Business School

Start dates

October, February and April

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications for this project have now closed. Please see the Business and Management postgraduate research degree course page for further information on research degrees in these areas.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Joe CoxProfessor Andy Thorpe, and Dr Joana Da Silva Afonso.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Collaborating with a partner charitable organisation CARE International

  • Field visits to developing countries to work with groups of local entrepreneurs

  • Undertaking quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis to assess the impact of microfinance

Microfinance programmes aim to alleviate poverty among borrowers who would otherwise be excluded from mainstream financial institutions.

Microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world are increasingly under external pressure to assess the impact of their lending and provide evidence of the results in order to evaluate the effectiveness of their work (Gertler et al., 2016).

This PhD project will address this aim by undertaking a detailed impact assessment of microfinance projects funded by Lendwithcare, a crowdfunding platform of CARE International UK, which supports local microfinance institutions in developing countries. The project will be part of a research partnership started in 2015 between the University of Portsmouth and Lendwithcare.

The identification of impact from microfinance is challenging and requires a number of methodological issues to be addressed.  This project will use a range of quantitative and qualitative techniques to identify and measure the impact of micro lending, as well as producing a detailed exploration into the reasons behind any such impact.

The research team will be required to undertake a series of field visits to partner microfinance institutions who work with Lendwithcare to administer loans in developing countries around the world.  Field visits will allow the researchers to oversee data collection and interact with the groups of entrepreneurs being studied.

The project will involve a longitudinal component so that the same group(s) of entrepreneurs are assessed over the course of a calendar year and beyond.

Along with the primary objective of measuring the impact of Lendwithcare’s microfinance program, the project may also focus on assessing impact among groups of female entrepreneurs, as well as other borrowers in marginalised financial positions.

Additionally, the study has the potential to investigate the extent to which the terms of borrowing and provision of ancillary support services, such as business education and training, associate with variations in the impact experienced by entrepreneurs.

Proposals for other microfinance related investigations that could be undertaken in collaboration with Lendwithcare are also encouraged.



Gertler, P., Martinez, S., Premand, P., Rawlings, L. B. & Vermeersch, C. (2016). Impact Evaluation in Practice (2nd Edition). Washington DC: The World Bank.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only).

2020/2021 fees (applicable for October 2020 and February 2021 start)

Home/EU/CI full-time students: £4,407 p/a*

Home/EU/CI part-time students: £2,204 p/a*

International full-time students: £15,100 p/a*

International part-time students: £7,550 p/a* 

*All fees are subject to annual increase

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

We welcome applications from highly motivated prospective students with a background in development (e.g. economics, political science and other relevant disciplines) with an interest in microfinance and poverty alleviation. A familiarity with statistical and econometric methods is desirable (not essential).

We are also interested in candidates who are familiar with undertaking interviews, surveys and other forms of qualitative data collection and analysis. We encourage prospective students to design their own research strategies depending on their interest and core skills.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Joe Cox ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code. When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form.

Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

If you want to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ECFN5210220 when applying.

Apply now