ICEA/DSA Masters Dissertation Prize

In 2015 the ICEA launched its Masters Dissertation Prize in association with the Development Studies Association (DSA – The annual prize of £1,000 was to be awarded for the best master’s dissertation on development economics submitted to the DSA. This ran for three years.


The 2015 was the first year for the ICEA/DSA Masters Dissertation prize. The prize was won by Matthew Juden of SOAS for his dissertation on “Realist random controlled trials of development interventions.”
More details including a copy of the 2015 winner’s paper can be found on
The prize winner subsequently gave a presentation to the ICEA and his presentation can be found in the meetings archive at May 2016.


The 2016 DSA/ICEA dissertation prize was awarded to Robert Mwanamanga from Bradford University. His paper tackled a central question of development: “Does foreign aid promote growth? Evidence from Malawi”.

The prize judges noted that the paper starts with an extremely capable review of aid-growth theories from the 1940s onwards, in a neat structure of 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation theories. This is paralleled by a review of empirical studies over the same period. The major criticisms of aid are also addressed. After describing the economic background in Malawi, the paper goes on to a set of statistical analyses testing different theories on the mechanisms which link aid and economic growth against Malawi data. The study concludes that aid to Malawi shows diminishing, even negative returns, but it recognises that this at least partly reflects the fact that Malawi is one of the most aid dependent countries in the world.

Robert addressed the ICEA on the subject of his paper in May 2018 and his presentation can be found in the Meetings archive.

The judges highly commended Takeshi Miwa (University of Sheffield) for his work, “Drug prescription practices in the private health sector: a case study of Lugala Lutheran Hospital in rural Tanzania”. WHO recommends a maximum of 2 prescriptions per patient visit. The paper reviews hypotheses on the causes of over-prescribing and tests them against the hospital’s data. The results suggest that prescribing was ‘somewhat suboptimal’ and that staff experience was a factor.


Three papers were short-listed.

Economics Department, SOAS Henna Akram Are private schools delivering better education? An empirical analysis of the differences in academic achievement between children in private and public schools in Pakistan
GDI Manchester Werner Pena What are the determinants of chronic and transient poverty in El Salvador
UEA Development Paul Fenton Villar Evaluating the impact of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) on corruption in Zambia

Judges Report

SOAS – The paper comparing education outcomes in private and public schooling in Pakistan uses straightforward and well presented statistical analysis to argue that quality – as measured by student:teacher ratios and school facilities – is a key factor in the relatively better performance of private schools. Lack of data means the paper does not fully make its case, but it does demonstrate that national figures conceal very significant differences. In some regions the private:public performance gap is much larger than in others.

Manchester – This paper reviews literature on the important distinction between chronic and transient poverty and seeks to demonstrate that different policies may be needed to address each category. Advanced statistical techniques are used but the results do not really support the argument.

UEA – This paper takes an interesting approach to measuring how much the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has reduced corruption in Zambia, arguing convincingly that previous studies based on cross-country analysis cannot capture the way the impact may fluctuate at different phases in the EITI process. This is another paper which uses complicated statistical techniques to try to overcome the difficulty of demonstrating a development effect with rigour.

The judges were agreed that the Manchester paper was somewhat behind the other two and that there was little to choose between those. Neither stood out in the manner of previous winners. Subject to ICEA agreement the judges propose to split the prize between the two papers, with no overall winner for 2017.