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The Academic Program

The master’s degree program of the Center for Development Economics (CDE) at Williams College is one of the oldest of its kind in the United States. Since 1960, Williams has offered an intensive, one academic year master’s degree for economists from developing and emerging market countries. Most participants come to the CDE with years of meaningful work experience in the public sector. The CDE curriculum reflects two perspectives. The first is that a thorough understanding of economic concepts and analysis is essential to the formulation of good economic policy. The second is that one gains a working knowledge of these concepts only by using them on real-life situations. The curriculum, therefore, emphasizes not only the analytical techniques of modern economics but also their application to the process of development and growth.

Although the curriculum changes slightly each year, the core requirement consists of nine courses for the year. The following reflects what is generally offered:

  • 1st Semester (4 courses) – Economic Growth & Development; Public Finance; Developing Country Macroeconomics I; and Econometrics.
  • January (1 course from the following) – Tax Policy in Emerging Markets; the Political Economy of Economic Strategy; or Independent Research.
  • 2nd Semester (4 courses)1 writing-intensive course: Policy Tutorial (on International Financial Institutions or Development Successes) or Independent Research; and 3 elective courses from the following: Institutions and Governance; Finance and Development; Developing Country Macroeconomics II; Empirical Methods in Macroeconomics; Microfinance; and Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management.

Link to curriculum:

CDE Faculty and Staff

The CDE faculty is comprised of full-time professors in the Economics Department of Williams College and selected visitors. Professors at Williams have extensive experience in the classroom and in working individually with students. The result is a team of talented mentors who can guide CDE fellows to extend their knowledge considerably. Members of the Williams Economics Department are actively involved in economic research and frequently consult and collaborate with international organizations. A responsive administrative staff is also on hand to address student concerns at the CDE.

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Residential Learning at the CDE

The CDE offers a serious, yet relaxed atmosphere that is conducive to intellectual pursuits and intercultural exchange. The program occupies a large, architecturally distinguished building on the Williams College campus. The building contains its own classroom, computer lab, meeting rooms, dining room, dormitory, and common living rooms as well as administrative offices. In addition, the CDE building is convenient to the extensive facilities of Williams College.

Most CDE fellows live in the CDE building. Weekday breakfasts and lunches are provided at the CDE for all students. Faculty members often join CDE fellows for meals and social activities. The residential experience at the CDE facilitates learning outside of class in study groups or informal gatherings. This important component of the program maximizes the educational opportunities offered by an internationally diverse student body. As evidenced by the CDE’s active alumni network, friendships and professional contacts made at the CDE last long after the time spent here.

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Williams College and Williamstown

Established in 1793, Williams College is one of the oldest colleges in the United States. It is located in the small and beautiful village of Williamstown amid the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. Williams College has a total enrollment of approximately 2000 students and is one of the most distinguished and selective liberal arts colleges in the US. The College supports a wide array of cultural and athletic activities that are open to CDE fellows. Williamstown is also host to two fine art museums and to festivals of theater, film, and jazz. Indeed, the entire Berkshire Mountain area is often viewed as a cultural resort.

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CDE Alumni

More than 1000 CDE graduates from 100 countries take active roles in the development of their countries, and individual CDE alumni can be found at all professional levels in government service. As a group, some 90% of CDE alumni are living and working in their home countries, with almost 80% still employed in the public sector. Individual alumni have risen to positions of responsibility in their nations, including prime minister, central bank governor, ambassador, and minister.

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Admission to the MA program of the CDE is highly selective. Each year there are several hundred applications, from fifty or more countries, for approximately twenty-five places in an entering class. Participants in recent years have been from Asia, Africa, the Americas, former socialist countries, and the Middle East. While the backgrounds of CDE fellows vary, most successful applicants have the following minimum qualifications:

  • an undergraduate degree with superior academic performance (many candidates already hold master’s degrees from their home countries);
  • at least several years of experience working on economic development issues in the public sector;
  • an effective command of spoken and written English (TOEFL scores of most admitted candidates are above 600PBT/ 250CBT/ 100iBT);
  • demonstrated quantitative skills and a working knowledge of computers (GRE quantitative scores of admitted candidates are usually above 700); and
  • clear demonstration of the ability and motivation to make a lasting contribution in one’s country.

The deadline for applications is December 31st (including submission of GRE and TOEFL scores) for enrollment the following August. Materials can be sent on-line, faxed, emailed or mailed.

Link to forms:

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Financial Arrangements

Financing studies at the CDE can take ingenuity and perseverance. Many countries have training budgets that can provide full or partial financial support. There are also a number of international scholarships for which candidates can compete. Since the CDE works closely on potential funding arrangements with those applicants who have been granted admission, it is important to begin the CDE application process well in advance. Funding arrangements often take 12 to 18 months for even the most talented candidates.

Link to funding:

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