MSc Development Studies

SOAS University of London

Program Description

MSc Development Studies

SOAS University of London

MSc Development Studies

Duration: One calendar year (full-time) Two (part-time, daytime only) We recommend that part-time students have between two and a half and three days free in the week to pursue their course of study.

Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). Relevant work experience may also be considered.

Subjects Preferred: Social Science

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

Who is this programme for?

The programme attracts applications from students with a variety of academic and experiential backgrounds. We welcome applications from those who have worked in a broad field of development, but also from students without relevant work experience who can demonstrate a strong interest in, and understanding of, development issues. A good first degree in a social science is preferred.

Development Studies is a dynamic field concerned with processes of change in the South - social and economic, political and cultural - and the major policy challenges they present to efforts to overcome poverty and insecurity. This programme provides a solid interdisciplinary social science formation in development theory and practice and develops students’ capacities for independent and critical analysis.

Highlights include:

  • the meanings of development and the challenges it faces
  • neoliberalism and its critiques
  • industrialisation, labour and capital
  • state failure, poverty and insecurity
  • gender and class analysis
  • NGOs, civil society and social movements
  • globalisation, commodity chains and trade
  • the agrarian question, peasantry and land

The MSc programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills has been of great benefit to the many graduates who have returned to, or taken up, professional careers in development in international organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations. Students also benefit from the wide range of modules on offer, both within the Department and across the School, allowing them to create individualised interdisciplinary programmes.

The MSc Development Studies has four components: two compulsory modules; one full-module option or two half-module options; and a dissertation of 10,000 words. Please see Postgraduate Modules for details on core and optional modules taught within the Department.



There are four main components to this degree: three taught modules and a dissertation. All students take two core modules, Political Economy of Development and Theory, Policy and Practice of Development. Through these modules students build their analytical skills and knowledge of the main issues and debates in Development Studies.


Students also take optional modules (one full unit module or two half-unit modules), allowing them to specialise in particular areas of development and potentially to develop a dissertation in a related theme. By tying these to their individual dissertation topic, students design their degree to suit their own interests and career development goals.

Students should be aware that not all optional modules may run in a given year. Modules at other institutions are not part of the approved programme structure.

Core Courses

All students take both Political Economy of Development and Theory, Policy and Practice of Development. The dissertation is compulsory. All MSc students in Development Studies are eligible to attend the one-term , non-assessed module, Economics for Beginners,which introduces students to basic concepts in microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, and statistics and econometrics.

  • Political economy of development - 15PDSC002 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Theory, policy and practice of development - 15PDSC001 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Dissertation in Development Studies - 15PDSC999 (1 Unit) - Full Year

Non-Assessed Courses

All MSc students in Development Studies are eligible to attend the one-term , non-assessed module, Economics for Beginners,which introduces students to basic concepts in microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, and statistics and econometrics.

Optional Modules - Development Studies

Students may choose optional modules (one full module or two half modules) from the list below. Please check to ensure that any module in which you have a special interest is running in the year that you wish to study. In addition, access to relevant modules in other departments may be negotiated subject to the agreement of both Convenors.

  • Agrarian Development, Food Policy and Rural Poverty - 15PDSH026 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Aid and development - 15PDSH027 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Borders and Development - 15PDSH023 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1 - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Civil society, social movements and the development process - 15PDSH001 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2 - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Natural resources, development and change: putting critical analysis into practice - 15PDSH031 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Development practice - 15PDSH013 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Environment, Governance and Development - 15PDSH050 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1 - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Extractive Industries, Energy, Biofuels and Development in a Time of Climate Change - 15PDSH048 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Famine and food security - 15PDSH022 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1 - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Fundamentals of research methods for Development Studies - 15PDSH017 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Gender and development - 15PDSH010 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Global commodity chains, production networks and informal work - 15PDSH024 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Global Health and Development - 15PDSH051 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Issues in forced migration - 15PDSH015 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Marxist Political Economy and Global Development - 15PDSH053 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Migration and Policy - 15PDSH029 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • Neoliberalism, Democracy and Global Development - 15PDSH054 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Problems of development in the Middle East and North Africa - 15PDSH019 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Security - 15PDSH020 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1
  • The working poor and development - 15PDSH030 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2 - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Understanding economic migration: Theories, Patterns and Policies - 15PDSH032 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2
  • Water and development:conflict and governance - 15PDSH049 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2

Open Options in Other Departments

Economics Department

  • Economic development in Africa - 15PECC203 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Economic dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region - 15PECC334 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Economic problems and policies in modern China - 15PECC035 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • The political economy of development in Africa - 15PECH004 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1

Politics and International Studies Department

  • Government and politics in Africa - 15PPOC205 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Government and politics of modern South Asia - 15PPOC003 (1 Unit) - Full Year - Not Running 2016/2017
  • Politics of Globalisation and Development in Asia and Africa - 15PPOC017 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Taiwan's politics and cross-strait relations - 15PPOC252 (1 Unit) - Full Year

School of Law

  • Human Rights in The Developing World - 15PLAC111 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Water Law: Justice and Governance - 15PLAH044 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1

Anthropology and Sociology Department

  • Therapy and Culture - 15PANH027 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

  • North Korea since 1945: the rise and decline of an East Asian developmental state - 15PJKH012 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2

Study of Religions

  • Religions and Development - 15PSRH049 (0.5 Unit) - Term 1


SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Teaching & Learning

Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.

The MSc programme consists of three taught modules (corresponding to three examination papers) and a dissertation.


Most modules involve a two hour lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.


At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work. Students make full-scale presentations for each unit that they take, and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.


A quarter of the work for the degree is given over to the writing of an adequately researched 10,000-word dissertation. Students are encouraged to take up topics which relate the study of a particular region to a body of theory.


A postgraduate degree from the Department of Development Studies at SOAS will further develop your understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised, with an emphasis on transferable analytical skill. These skills have been of great benefit to the many graduates who have taken up professional careers in development in international organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations. This, in addition to your detailed subject knowledge, will also equip you with a set of other specific skills, including: critical skills; the ability to research extensively; a high level of cultural awareness; and the ability to solve problems.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

  • Amnesty International
  • BBC World Service
  • British Embassy Brussels
  • Department for International Development
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
  • Embassy of Japan
  • Government of Pakistan
  • Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Oxfam
  • Public Sector Reform Unit - Government of Sierra Leone
  • Republic of Mozambique National Parliament
  • Royal Norwegian Embassy
  • Save the Children UK
  • The World Bank
  • Thinking Beyond Borders
  • U.S. Department of State
  • UN World Food Programme
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • WaterAid

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:

  • Chief Economist
  • Global Communications Director
  • Director for Climate Change and Environment
  • Head of Research and Consultancies
  • Development Director
  • Regional OVC programme coordinator
  • Head of Operations
  • Country Director
  • Bureau Chief
  • Desk Officer on Pakistan Affairs
  • Policy Analyst
  • Partnership Liaison Officer
  • Fundraising and Communications Manager
  • Development Policy Officer
  • Environmental Economist
  • Journalist
  • Human Rights Officer
  • Country Director - Indonesia
  • Relationship Banker - Africa Desk
  • Policy Analyst/Economist

A Student's Perspective

"The campus is just one big condensed version of the globe itself for students from all kinds of ethnic and professional backgrounds!"

Heidemarie Jahn

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated September 2, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
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Sept. 2017
1 - 2 years
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Start date Sept. 2017
United Kingdom London, England
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Duration 1 - 2 years
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