Dan Higgins

BA International Development with Economics

MSc Impact Evaluation for International Development



Hi Dan! Tell us what you've been up to since you graduated from UEA...

I currently work as a consultant in the Research and Impact Assessment division of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome. My job is to collect and analyse quantitative and qualitative data to assess the impact of IFAD’s rural development projects. I’m currently working on projects in Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Uganda.

Straight after graduating, through support from UEA, I interned for an NGO in Uganda and in the Monitoring & Evaluation department of Wikipedia, and also completed some short term consultancy work for UNESCO. I’ve also had roles as a Quantitative Research Officer for a social housing charity/think tank and as a Research Assistant at UEA. It was while working in Cambodia for UEA that I met someone from IFAD and convinced them to give me a job.

In addition to my role at IFAD I have just started a PhD in Development Economics at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. My PhD thesis will use data collected through my work at IFAD.

What does a typical day look like?

For IFAD, I’m either in the office analysing data or writing impact reports, or I’m in the field coordinating data collection. For a few months a year I travel to the Netherlands for PhD classes, where a normal day involves lots of studying!

What are the highlights of your career to date?

I was very pleased with the work I carried out in Uganda, as this was for a relatively small NGO and I felt that my work was really valuable to them. It was also very formative as I was on a steep real-world learning curve, being straight out of university.

I also absolutely love my job. I work within a great team that is a mix of young and established researchers, get given lots of juicy projects to work on and get to go on regular trips to the field.

What skills do you use in your current role?

A lot of econometric data analysis and report writing. Also, as you usually have a number of projects active at the same time, time management, hard work and efficiency are also very important.

UEA prepared me well in terms of the foundational data analysis skills and impact evaluation knowledge that I have been using since I left. I’ve been able to develop these further as the work has become more complex.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?

Hopefully having finished my PhD and in a permanent position in a large development organisation. I am currently a consultant, which is a full-time position but has less benefits and stability than a permanent role, so a permanent position is definitely the next step.

Have you encountered any UEA Alumni in your professional life?

Yes – I actually work with someone from the same MSc course at IFAD! There’s a Facebook group for alumni of the MSc course and I posted a vacancy at IFAD that she was accepted for.

I also recently organised a data collection exercise in Uganda, and the firm we procured to conduct the data collection happened to have an alumni of the MSc course on the team. The course convenor is also cited a lot in the literature that I work with.

What are your best memories of UEA?

The whole of the Master’s year in general was very special for me. The subject was more focused than for undergraduate, so it felt really good to be developing strong skills and knowledge in your chosen area. I also have many fond memories of Norwich – it’s a great city.

Words of wisdom for current students...

Work very hard! Obviously it depends on where you want to get to, but if you're very ambitious then you have to put in the long hours and take as many opportunities as possible. This helps you to get better grades, makes you stronger in your subject, and helps to start a snowball of opportunities as you move forward. I was very lucky to get my current role, having met a connection whilst working on another job, but I feel I partially contributed to my own luck by working so hard.

Also, if you're planning to work in international development, get yourself to the field as soon as you can and learn a useful language. If one thing has held me back in my career so far it’s not having a second language.

Finally, start working on essays at the start of the term. Although you have all your deadlines at the end, don't take the first two or three weeks off. Have a look at all your assignments and set your own deadlines that are staggered across the term, it makes things so much less stressful!

Find out more about the Postgraduate Courses offered by the School of International Development, or contact admissions@uea.ac.uk