Posted on: 23 Jan 2020   Tags:

Are  you interested in doing a PhD on Disabled Persons and their operations of Savings Groups? Savings groups are bottom of the pyramid banking systems that allow members access to basic savings and credit services by conducting financial transactions among themselves. Around 20-30 persons are organized into a group where they mobilize their own regular 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. Research on savings groups is still in its infancy. Particularly hardly anything is known about what is the situation for disabled persons participating in savings groups.

Disabled persons typically struggle in being integrated in social networks, including savings groups. For several years the National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda (NUDIPU) in partnership with the Norwegian Association of the Disabled (NAD) have managed a successful project called iSAVE. In this project disabled persons are mobilized in savings groups. Today, iSAVE has around 50 thousand members whereof 30 thousand are disabled. The model is that savings groups are mobilized, trained and supervised for around one year. Thereafter the groups are graduated and left alone, though they are still part of the “NUDIPU umbrella”. The aim of this research project is to learn more about the effectiveness of iSAVE; whether members find participating in the groups useful; whether the group members experience improvement of life quality; and whether the iSAVE model is well designed. Further details need to be made out. Thus, your initial task is to make up a research proposal within this framework. Considering existing literature on savings groups: “What kind of research questions could be interesting” and “what kind of data do you suggest that we collect”? “How will you position the research in the literature” and “what kind of research methodology do you consider should be applied”? These are questions we want you to address in the research proposal, which is a mandatory part of application documents (see below). The research context is Uganda and will be carried out in partnership with NUDIPU and NAD who is sponsoring the project together with the University of Agder.

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 one highly motivated and talented person interested in doing a PhD in Norway. All university costs will be waived and you will receive a scholarship of around EURO 1000,- per month to cover living costs in Norway. To qualify for this PhD opportunity you need to have a master’s degree (5 years of university (300 ECTS), including a master thesis) in a business school field. Preferably the education should be from an internationally recognized university. Further, you need to be fluent in English 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 of scientific publications (if you have published in peer-reviewed journals already)
  • up to three scientific publications in international peer-reviewed journals in full text (this is not a requirement but only if you have published some articles already)
  • other important documentation like results from tests like GMAT/GRE/TOEFL etc. (if you possess such already)
  • motivation/application letter (max one page)
  • Research proposal with a maximum length of five pages, plus the reference list. The outline should present and discuss possible research questions, the relevance of the research, theory perspectives, positioning in the literature, data you suggest to be collected and relevant methods you suggest to apply. It is expected that the method suggested should, if possible, go beyond traditional simple surveys and be of a type that to some degree takes endogeneity into account.  


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. We have one of Europe’s best track records when it comes to finishing a PhD on time.


The selected candidate will become part of the CERSEM research team - - which is one of Europe’s leading research centers in the field of microfinance. In CERSEM you will be part of a team of around eight researchers actively involved in research on savings groups. In addition, the CERSEM team on savings groups works closely with a similar research group at KU Leuven University in Belgium where you will stay during part of your PhD studies.

Your application should be sent by the 31st of March. Thereafter we will carry out a selection process. Start-up of the PhD is planned to be in September 2020.


Best wishes,

Roy Mersland

Professor/Director PhD program

Director Center for Research on Social Enterprises and Microfinance (CERSEM)

School of Business and Law

University of Agder