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Department of Land Economy

Environment, Law & Economics
Regional Transformation,
Rural-Urban Transitions and Food Security
Sustainable Land Use
Inequality and Inclusion challenges,
Economic Resilience and International Partnerships,
Provision of Public Goods


PhD. Economics, Cambridge; M.Phil. Economics, Cambridge; M.Phil. Economics, Delhi; M.A. Economics Delhi; B.A. Economics, Delhi


My  research interests include institutional reform and regional transformation. I have a particular focus on national and local decision making, rural development and agricultural sustainability;  youth migration and employment aspirations; provision of public goods in the spheres of education and health. 

I co-organise, alongside my colleagues Dr. Flavio Comim and Dr. P. B Anand, the Cambridge Capability Conferences that bring together scholars drawing on the Capability Approach in the fields of economics, development studies, education, health, philosophy, and public practice. The first publication from the conferences, New Frontiers of the Capability Approach, was published in October 2018

Click here to find out how mobile phones have helped me to understand the lives of young people in rural India, and what this has to do with global food security.

I am currently a co-I on the successful GCRF bid Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies (TIGR2ESS), led by the University of Cambridge. I am the lead on the work package on Impacting the Well-Being of Urban and Rural Communities-through interventions in education, empowerment and entrepreneurship to ensure health and nutrition. You can read more about the project by clicking on the link below

I am also a co-I on MillNeti, a sister research programme (2019-2021) that is focussed on how to improve iron nutrition status of people living in Ethiopia and The Gambia by assessing the bioavailability of iron from biofortified millet. My work package focuses on the use quantitative and qualitative surveys to understand how millets are currently grown, processed, cooked and consumed in focus villages in The Gambia and Ethiopia. 

I am the PI on an ASEAN funded project (2019-2021), and leading a core team responsible for designing the framework, commissioning the experts and compiling the latest research to deliver the first ASEAN Development Outlook that focuses on policies to ensure inclusion and sustainability in South-East Asia.  

I was awarded the UGC-UKIERI grant for a collaborative research initiative, in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, and the Indian partners were the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras and University of Punjab, Chandigarh for 2014-16. The project focussed on understanding how bottlenecks that limit Internet access for rural agricultural production and community-based tourism can be removed, using the Portolan application and android mobile phones, to collect upstream data and an innovative survey instrument to collect downstream data.

I was an international team leader on public-private partnerships in education project within the DfID-funded Cambridge-based consortium on educational outcomes for the poor (RECOUP) that was worked with partners in Ghana, India, Kenya and Pakistan, from 2005-2010.

I have been an international consultant on inequality and rural development with Oxfam GB (2014-15), on evidence-based policy with the World Bank (2013-15), and was earlier the social science expert on agriculture and gender and a member of the five-person team that authored the European Report on Development on Fragility in Africa, 2008-09.


Key publications: 

 S. Fennell (with M. Tanwir), Not Accepting Abuse as the Norm: local forms of institutional reform to improve reporting on domestic violence in Punjab, Journal of International Women’s Studies, Volume 20, 7 , (2019)

 Fennell, S., Malthus, Statistics and the State of Indian Agriculture, in Malthusian Moments, in Basford, A., D. Kelly and S. Fennell, (eds.) Malthusian Moments, Special Issue, The Historical Journal, (2019).

Comim, F., S. Fennell and P. B. Anand. (eds.) New Frontiers of the Capability Approach, Cambridge University Press, (2018). 

 Gao, Y. and Fennell, S., (eds.) China’s Urban-Rural Inequality in the Countryside, Springer, (2018)

Fennell, S., P. Kaur, A. Jhunjhunwala, D. Narayanan, A. Charles, J. Bedi and Y. Singh, Examining Linkages between Smart Villages and Smart Cities: Learning from rural youth accessing the internet in India, Telecommunications Policy, 42, 10, 810-823, (2018)

Royo Olid, J., and S. Fennell (eds.) Building, Owning and Belonging: From assisting owner driven housing reconstruction & co-production in Sri Lanka, India and Beyond. EU Commission and UN Habitat, (2017).

Gao, Y., and S. Fennell, The Role of Tunqin Guanxi in North China: A Case from Qingang, China Quarterly, (2017)

Fennell, S. (with R. Malik), Donors, Private Actors and Contracts: Recasting the Making and Ownership of Education Policy in Pakistan, in Verger, T., C. Lubienski and G. Steiner-Khamsi, (eds.) World Yearbook of Education 2016:  The Global Education Industry, Routledge, New York. (2015) 

 Fennell, S. Development in Transition: Lessons from Central and South Asia, in Hasmath, R., eds. Inclusive Growth, 

Fennell, S. (with D. Clark) Democratic Freedoms, Capabilities and Public Provision: A Defence and Some Possible Extensions, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal for People-Centered Development, 15:4, 437-447, DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2014.967524 (2014)

 Fennell, S. Public-Private Partnerships in Education and the Pursuit of Gender Equality: A View from South Asia. Development Policy Review, 5.3: ; DOI : 10.4000/poldev.1798, (2014)

Fennell, S. Policy Debate: Education and Employment Mismatch, Development Policy Review, (2014), 

  Fennell, S., (with O. Ulybina) Forest Certification in Russia: Challenges of Institutional Development, Ecological Economics,95, Pages 178–187 (2013)

Fennell, S. (with D. Clark and T. van Gevelt) Evidence Based Policy, Institutional Change and Poverty Impact, World Bank Institute Capacity and Results, World Bank, (2013), 

Fennell, S., (with P. Srivastava and C. Noronha), Private sector study: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Report submitted to DFID (India), (2013),

  Fennell, S., A. Kaur and A. Singh, India and the Eurozone: A Commentary on the Political Economy of Adjustment and Correction, Contributions to Political Economy, Oxford University Press, 32 (1), 151-167, (2013)

   Fennell, S., Low Fee Private Schools in Pakistan: A Blessing or a Bane? In Srivastava, P., ed. Low-Fee Private Schooling: aggravating equity or mitigating disadvantage? Symposium Books, 2013, (2013)

Fennell, S.,  Government Policy and Distribution of Grain: Revisiting the Reform of Agricultural Institutions in China and India, in Bagchi and D’Costa, (eds.) Transformation and Development: The Political Economy of Transition in India and China, Oxford University Press, 2012, 16 pages. (2012)

   Fennell, S., Why Girls’ Education rather than gender equality? The strange political economy of PPPs in Pakistan, in Roberston, S. L., K. Munday, A. Verger and F. Menashy (eds) Public Private Partnerships in Education: New Actors and Modes of Governance in a Globalising World, Edward Elgar, 259-276. (2012).

 Fennell, S. Malik, R. Agleby, G. and R., Akaazba, Changing forms of provision and impact on schooling outcomes in Ghana and Pakistan in C. Colclough (ed.) Education Outcomes and Poverty: A Reassessment. Routledge, 119-137. (2012)

Fennell, S., and R., Malik, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: the emerging educational market for the poor in Pakistan, Comparative Education. 48, 2, 249-261, (2012)


 Educational Exclusion and Inclusive Development in India, in Saez, L., and G. Singh (eds.) New Dimensions of Politics in India: the United Progressive Alliance in power, Routledge, 39-52. (2014)

 Fennell, S., Contested Notions of Water, No. 626, Special Issue of Seminar, October 2011. Available on the Seminar website at, (2011)

Fennell, S., Rules, rubrics and riches: the interrelations between legal reform and international development (2010), Routledge;

Gender Education and Equality in a Global Context: conceptual frameworks and policy perspectives (ed. with M. Arnot, 2008); Routledge. 

My latest publication on rural-urban transformations in China has just been published by Springer


Teaching and Supervisions


I teach a course on Development Policy offered to Part II candidates of the Land Economy Tripos and a full course on Institutions and Development on the M.Phil programmes in Development Studies and Land Economy

 I was the winner of the Student Support (Academic) Award and received a Commendation in the Graduate Supervisor Category in the 2018 CUSU Student Led Teaching Awards. This is the fifth year of the CUSU Student Led Teaching Awards celebrating the achievements of staff at Cambridge University as noted and shortlisted by students. This year, 591 nominations were made, and they recognise how staff have made a difference to the lives of students studying in Cambridge.  Further information is available at


Research supervision: 

I have successfully supervised 50 PhD students, across the Departments of Land Economy, Development Studies (POLIS), and Education,  on topics that relate to my area of research specialisation. I have supervised over 75 M.Phil student dissertations. 

A list of students whom I have supervised in the Department of Land Economy is listed below

Current Students

Bo Luan. Planning for Sustainable Urban Villages: case studies of Beijing and Shanghai.

Shruti Dhaundiyal, Environmental Impact Assessment of Hydroelectric Dams in the Himalayas in India.

Sukhgeet Kaur, Energy Use and Agricultural Sustainability in the Punjab, India.

Joseph Zhao, The Urban-ness of Rural-Urban Migrants in Different Tier of Cities: A Case Study of the Greater Bay Area of China

Elisapeththu Hoole, Towards a Feminist Green Revolution: Optimizing policy conditions for women as commercial agents under the framework of climate change.

Previous Students

Ravin Ponniah, National Policy and Local Lives: A case of Urban Social Housing in Multiethnic Malaysia, Cambridge Malaysia Scholarship holder, 2017, Entrepreneur and Architect.

Arosha Gunasekhara, Microfinance and Gender Empowerment in Sri Lanka, completed 2014, Social Entrepreneur.

Arparporn Sumrit, Rice-Liberalisation and Gender Politics in Vietnam, completed 2011, Gender Expert at ASEAN.

Gideon Agbley, Education and Social Mobility in Ghana, Cambridge Trust Scholar, completed 2011. Associate Professor, University of Development Studies, Tamale.

Aisha Anees Malik, Negotiating between British and Shariah Law among British-Pakistani women, Cambridge Trust Scholar, completed 2010, Assistant Professor, Gender Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan.

Maryam Tanwir, Bureaucracy in Pakistan, Cambridge Trust Scholar, completed 2010, Independent Consultant

Olga Ulybina, Forestry and Institutional Politics in Russia, Cambridge Trust Scholar, completed 2010, Independent Consultant.

Yan Gao, Rural Migration and Local Policy in Heilongjiang, China, completed 2010. Associate Professor, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.

Hsiao Chan, Research and Development in Host Countries in the IT sector in China, completed 2009. Associate Professor, Department of Management Science, National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan.

Jennifer Hsu, Migrants and Civil Society Initiatives in Beijing and Shanghai, Cambridge Trust Scholar, completed, 2009, Research Fellow, Lowy Institute, Sydney.

Mirza Jahani.  Civil Society Initiatives in Tajikistan, completed, 2009. Agha Khan Foundation

Claudio Santibanez. Poverty and Capability Analysis: case study of Chile, Chilean government scholarship holder, Completed 2009. Senior Consultant, UNICEF.

Nitya Mohan,  Decentralisation and Health Outcomes in India, Cambridge Trusts scholar, completed 2008. Independent Consultant.

Cassandra Sweet, Bilateral Trade in Pharmaceuticals between India and Brazil, Gates Scholar, completed, 2008, Senior Consultant, United Nations.

Solava Ibrahim, Capability Poverty in Egypt, Cambridge Trusts Scholar, completed 2008. Senior Lecturer in Politics, Anglia Ruskin University

Maria Fernanda Garcia Rincon, Reproducing informality : interaction between street vendors and the state in Caracas, Venezuela, completed 2007, Senior Partnerships Officer, Inter American Development Bank.

Maleeha Aslam, Gender and Islam in Pakistan, Cambridge Trusts Scholar, Completed, 2007. Independent Consultant.


Contact Details

Email address: 
(01223) 764048