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Miss Sarah Hughes-McLure

PhD student

My research interests are in economic geography, development geography and political economy. My PhD is on development finance, specifically the role of the private sector, private finance and ‘innovative’ financing for development.



  • 2019 – present: PhD Candidate at the University of Cambridge
  • 2014 – 2019: Consultant at the Boston Consulting Group


  • PhD Candidate Geography, University of Cambridge (2019 – present)
  • MBA, Insead (2017)
  • MSc Economic Policy (with Distinction), University College London (2013 – 2014)
  • BA (Hons) Economics, University of Cambridge (2010 – 2013)


  • PhD scholarship, UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2019 – 2022)
  • Dean’s list award on MBA at Insead (2017)
  • MBA scholarship funding from the Boston Consulting Group (2017)
  • Best Overall Performance prize on MSc Economics at University College London (2014)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have ushered in a change in approach to development that gives the private sector a more prominent role, evident in goal 17 which states “a successful sustainable development agenda requires partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society” which the UN argues means “urgent action is needed to mobilise, redirect and unlock the transformative power of trillions of dollars of private resources“. Such statements echo and further institutionalise the shift beyond aid, and towards development finance captured by the World Bank’s ‘from billions to trillions’.

In this context, the objective of my PhD is to explore development finance in a ‘beyond aid’ era. In particular, I focus on the role of private finance and on ‘innovative’ financing models for development. The research is situated in economic geography, development geography, and political economy.


Papers in progress

  • Hughes-McLure and Mawdsley (2022) Innovative Development Finance: the Case of Vaccine Bonds for Global Health and Development, Economic Geography
  • Hughes-McLure (2022) Follow the Money, Under review

Conference papers

  • Hughes-McLure (2022) Innovative development finance: public finance and development; Session: Reimagining geographies of public finance for justice and abolition, AAG Conference 2022
  • Hughes-McLure and Mawdsley (2021) Innovative development finance: the case of vaccine bonds for global health and development; Session: For-profit development, RGS-IBG Conference 2021
  • Hughes-McLure (2021) Follow the money: on tracking the ‘god of commodities’; Session: On methods of thing-following, RGS-IBG Conference 2021 (postponed from 2020)
  • Mawdsley, Sklair, Gilbert, Whitty, Russon and Hughes-McLure (2020) The Big Four in Aidland: Management Consultants in the UK’s Development Landscape; Session: Audit and Management Consultancy, RAI Anthropology and Geography Conference 2020
  • Hughes-McLure, Waddington, and Mawdsley (2020) Innovative finance for development: an analysis of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation; Session: Making a return on development, RGS-IBG Conference 2020 (cancelled)
  • Hughes-McLure and Brill (2020) Making rents: the case of entrepreneurial finance; Session: A world of rents!, AAG Conference 2020 (cancelled)


  • Lecture: Part IB, Paper 3, Development Theories, Policies and Practices (2021 – 2022)
  • Associate Lecturer: Development and Social Change (Oxford Brookes University) (2020 – 2021)
  • Supervisor and seminar lecture: Part IB, Paper 3, Development Theories, Policies and Practices (2020 – 2021)
  • Co-convenor and supervisor: Part IA, Introduction to Human Geography: Key themes and ways of thinking (created with Dr Frances Brill) (2020 – 2021)
  • Convenor and supervisor: Part IA, Study Skills (2020 – 2022)
  • Supervisor: Part IA, Economic Globalisation and its Crises (2020 – 2021)