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What is Development Studies?

Areas of study concerned with development throughout the world, with a particular focus on developing nations, fall under the umbrella term development studies. Development studies aims to tackle some of the challenges facing the world and develop strategies to help alleviate poverty and inequality. It is an important area of study because it looks at inequality in the world and tries to find solutions to improve the lives of citizens. Development studies encompasses many disciplines including political science, economics, sociology, psychology, communication, nutrition and health sciences, environmental science and climate, business, information technology, gender studies and education.

Development Studies Association Ireland (DSAI)

DSAI came into being as an independent national association representing development studies in Ireland in 2012. Its purpose is to establish a broad system of alliances across the development sector, to enhance the research capacity and capabilities of the sector. It aims to provide a space for research dissemination and high-quality debate on the key issues of the day in development studies and practice. DSA Ireland aspires to being a virtual one-stop-shop for Irish development studies bringing academics and practitioners together to develop strategies that ensure a fair and equitable world for all. DSAI receives support from both Irish Aid and the Department of Foreign Affairs.  

DSAI’s vision: the creation of a vibrant and innovative development studies community, which will focus on cutting edge research, led by Irish research institutions, contributing to the reduction of poverty, inequality and vulnerability in the world.

While still a relatively young organisation, DSAI plans to further develop its capacities and work programmes, based on individual, institutional and organisational membership. The Technological University of the Shannon: Midlands Midwest (TUS) became an institutional member in January 2021.

For more information about DSAI visit

Current Members

Dr Carol Wrenn is Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager with TUS (Midwest). Her PhD in Anthropology from NUI Maynooth focused on women’s participation in decision making structures in northern Odisha, India and she has over 15 years’ experience working within the international development sector specifically on programming and policy related to women’s rights and gender equality.

Dr Catherine Corcoran’s academic and practitioner career focuses on the management, implementation and design of humanitarian and development programmes in a variety of contexts. She has led and advised development organisations and students on strategic and community-led planning and has been involved in various consortia and partnership fora on rural issues at an International level. Her involvement with Concern goes back over 30 years, she has served the organisation at staff, volunteer and Board membership levels, most recently as Country Director in Ethiopia 2013-2016 and as member of the Programme, Monitoring and Evaluation committee.

Dr Frank Houghton has a strong interest in equality and social justice, a theme he pursued in his undergraduate degree in Peace & Conflict Studies, and his subsequent MA in Peace Studies (Ulster University). His PhD (Maynooth University) developed this focus on relative deprivation and inequality. He has worked for a number of agencies concerned with peace and social justice, including the Centre for the Study of Conflict at the University of Ulster, and the Dublin based National Council on Ageing & Older People. Frank was also formerly Head of Research, Development & Education at Focus Ireland. Frank has worked in Public Health in both Ireland and New Zealand, and was formerly a tenured Associate Professor & Chair of Public Health at Eastern Washington University . He is currently Director of Social Sciences ConneXions at TUS and Principal Investigator of an Irish Research Council funded project exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the epidemiology of non-adherence to MDT for leprosy treatment in Nepal.

Dr Maura Clancy is Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences and Technology and Director of Progression Pathways with TUS (Midwest). Her PhD in mathematics, from NUI Galway, is in the field of algebraic topology. Maura has a long involvement with advancing the teaching and learning of mathematics, both nationally and internationally. She is a member of the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network (IMLSN), she also served as a mathematics consultant for a project with Anne Shannon & Associates LLC, Oakland, California, in conjunction with the University of Nottingham and UC Berkeley, which aimed to improve the standard of mathematics and statistics teaching in American Schools.

Dr Niall Corcoran is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Information Technology and Head of the Computing and Informatics Research (CaIR) group. He previously worked in IT and engineering management and consultancy roles in the public and private sectors. Research interests include knowledge management, information systems, IT governance, enterprise social networks, artificial intelligence, and telehealth.

Jennifer Moran Stritch is a lecturer in the Department of Applied Social Sciences with TUS Midwest.  The focus of her teaching is in personal development, therapeutic group work skills, and loss and grief for the caring professional.  In addition to lecturing, Jennifer is the primary principal investigator of the Loss and Grief Research Group, part of Social Sciences ConneXions Research Institute at TUS.  With a background in social work, she is a module coordinator for the RCSI/Irish Hospice MSc in Loss and Bereavement.  Jennifer is a certified thanatologist and the current Irish representative to the Association for the Study of Death and Society.

Mr Paul Keating is a lecturer in the departments of Applied Social Sciences and Digital Arts and Media. Paul has a background in civil engineering and community work. As well as working in Local Authorities here in Ireland, Paul worked in East Africa with Concern and has provided consultancy to the European Commission and the World Bank on the development of rural areas in the Balkan and Baltic states. Paul initiated and managed the National Rural Network as part of CAP reform under contract to the Irish Department of Agriculture. Paul served on the board of Trocaire where he chaired the programme review committee, he has also served on the board of numerous Youth Work and Community Development organisations in Ireland.  While currently completing doctoral research on the use of online computer games to mobilise for social change, Paul has presented extensively on Rural Development, Programme Evaluation and the use of Games in Youth Work and Development Education.

Nicola Ryan MBA has 30 years experience working & teaching across health & wellness sectors in the US, UK and Ireland. She lectures in Wellness, Leisure Lifestyles, Health Promotion, Environmental Management, Business & Hospitality Management in the Technological University of the Shannon, Athlone campus. She also teaches on Research modules and supervises research dissertations.

Nicola is an External Examiner for several third level institutions and universities in Ireland and England. When requested, she provides expert assessment and testimony in legal cases involving the wellness industry.

Having been brought up in rural Africa within a family working in global development and education, Nicola has a personal insight of and enthusiasm for ‘me to we’ supportive communities. Nicola is keen to promote the concepts of global citizenship and student responsibility in the development of a world that fully embraces the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

DSAI – TUS Branch

DSAI institutional membership must be more than a collection of individual researchers, to serve the needs of practitioners there must be a move away from an individual approach to a collaborative institutional approach by researchers. In this way a closer alignment between research themes and Irish Aid’s strategic objectives could be achieved, resulting in closer links between researchers and the overseas operations of agencies.

With this aim in mind, the DSAI – TUS Branch was established. Initially, the branch aims to spread awareness, across the TUS community, of the existence of DSAI, but long term its key aim is to establish a clear understanding of the purpose of institutional membership, how it will operate to ensure effective membership and how it will work alongside other TUS research structures.

We are delighted to announce that one of our members, Dr Catherine Corcoran, was recently elected to the Steering Committee of DSAI.

Upcoming Events

Events organised through the DSAI can be viewed here

Upcoming Trainings

STAND Global Issues are part-time evening courses running in the Spring and Autumn that explore the interdependent and unequal world in which we live, through a process of interactive learning, debate, action and reflection. These courses are organised and facilitated by STAND 

Applications for STAND’s Spring Global Issues courses are now open! The Spring course is 6 weeks long, and take place online one evening per week for 2 hours. You’ll join a community of likeminded peers and expert facilitators to delve into and unpack some of the world’s biggest global issues – from migration to global health, trade to climate justice.   

We welcome students from all disciplines to apply and no prior knowledge of development issues is needed. Upon completion of the Global Issues Course, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion from STAND.

Our sessions are workshop-style, and include lots of interactive discussions, debates and group work – so we invite participants to show up fully and be ready to engage! 

Thanks to financial support from Irish Aid, we can offer our courses at subsidised rate of just €25*. Places are limited to 30 per course and are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Previous Events:

DSAI Annual Conference – 16th – 17th November 2022

In the context of unfolding climate breakdown, with the socio-political implications becoming more apparent, it seems appropriate to re-examine once again the concept of ‘sustainable development’. Although the concept clearly is a central value in the United Nations sustainable development goals and many countries’ policy frameworks, the claim underlying the concept has been subject to critical analysis for some time.

Date and Venue:

Click here for more information

DSAI Summer School – 31st May – 1st June 2022

The DSAI Summer School provided a focussed 2-day programme of workshops exploring research methods for sustainable development, engaging NGOs, Policy Makers, and Academics both as contributors to the programme and as participants. Connecting research, policy and practice the programme will bring together international experts through interactive sessions to enhance the professional development of participants.

Day one of the event on 31st May was online while the second day was hosted on our Thurles campus.

Find out more here

Other useful links
  • Irish Aid Development Education Strategy 2017 – 2023
  • STAND global issues – STAND – Visit for details of the upcoming Spring Global Issues course offered by STAND. This is the perfect first step for any student interested in developing their understanding of international development and global justice issues and it’s a great way to get connected with STAND and to take action. 
    It’s also an opportunity for students to develop professionally – upon completion of the course, participants receive a Certificate of Completion which can be linked to their CV and LinkedIn profiles.