MSc Environment, Politics and Development

SOAS University of London

Program Description

MSc Environment, Politics and Development

SOAS University of London

MSc Environment, Politics and Development

Programme Code: PGTF0039/PGTP0059/PGTP0060

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, environment-development issues. A good first degree in a social science is preferred.

This programme takes a critical political ecology frame and examines environmental policy and its intersections with development from a social justice angle. It is taught and convened by leading political ecologists and offers a critical analysis of key issues including water, forestry, climate, fisheries, agricultural production, biodiversity, conflicts and energy supply.

The masters asks important questions including:

  • How does the environment intersect with global poverty, wealth and questions of inequality?
  • Can Carbon trading offer a solution to managing climate change?
  • How does access to water intersect with dynamics of wealth and poverty?
  • Is wildlife conservation implicated in social injustices?
  • What role can and do environmental movements play in development?
  • Is there a link between environmental change and violent conflict?
  • What is the political ecology of forests?

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 Environment, Politics and Development 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 10,000 word dissertation. All students take a core module, Political Ecology of Development. They then select one of four further core modules: Political Economy of Development; Theory, Policy and Practice of Development; Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development; or Law and Natural Resources. 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 environment, politics and 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 Modules

All students take Political Ecology of Development. Then select either Political Economy of Development, Theory, Policy and Practice of Development, Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development or Law and Natural Resources. The dissertation is compulsory.

  • Political Ecology of Development - 15PDSC009 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Political economy of development - 15PDSC002 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Theory, policy and practice of development - 15PDSC001 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Political economy of violence, conflict and development - 15PDSC003 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Law and Natural Resources - 15PLAC126 (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

  • 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

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

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

History Department

  • Environmental History of Asia - 15PHIH023 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2

Anthropology and Sociology Department

  • Anthropological approaches to agriculture, food and nutrition - 15PANH053 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2

Study of Religions

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

Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy (CISD)

  • Global Energy & Climate Policy - 15PFFC017 (1 Unit) - Full Year
  • Energy Policy in the Asia-Pacific - 15PFFH011 (0.5 Unit) - Term 2


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 1.5 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 Student's Perspective

"The Department of Development Studies has a high calibre of lecturers and tutors with a wide range of backgrounds. My teachers have been really inspiring, and are always open to questions and feedback."

Jessica Blomfield

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Last updated December 1, 2016
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