Accepted paper:

Training for development - an examination of universities' use of real-life consultancy projects for external clients in their programmes


Moritz Schmoll (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

Many development studies programmes include consultancy projects carried out for external clients. Students seeking to improve their "employability" flock to them. But this trend has not led to a reflection on the opportunities and pitfalls of this teaching device. The paper addresses this gap.

Paper long abstract:

An increasing number of development studies or management programmes rely on real-life consultancy projects carried out by students for external clients in the development sector (e.g. NGOs, aid agencies, development banks, social enterprises, etc.). Students, under mounting pressure to prove their "employability", flock to these programmes due to their promises of hands-on, professionalising experience. Surprisingly, these developments have not yet triggered a major reflection on what the reliance on such a teaching device actually entails in terms of the way students are educated and trained. In this paper, I seek to address this gap by critically examining the different actors, the incentives they face, and the broader educational environment in which universities set up these exercises. Drawing on personal experience in managing consultancy projects as well as on interviews with academics and administrators, I discuss the potential gains and pitfalls of consultancy projects. While I argue that students can in a number of ways benefit from early contact with professional life in the field of development, universities need amongst other things to take into account potential effects on social science training, academic research standards, as well as ethics when designing consultancy project exercises for their students.

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"We want skills! You'll get critical thinking!" - Opening up international development education