MA International Development

The MA International Development course combines the latest academic research with hands-on, practical experience of development projects and research. Combining expertise from Development Geography, Environmental Geography and Planning; this programme provides students with the knowledge and skills to engage with the complex challenges of contemporary international development.

The programme is designed so that students experience development theory alongside development practice. Our emphasis on applied knowledge and skills is developed through professional skills, field-class and placement work which ensures our students develop the practical and theoretical skills needed to work within development organisations across the world. Our programme is suited to any level of graduate experience, from a new graduate to a development professional; we explore the changing theory, policy and practice of international development and equip our students with the expertise to pursue academic, policy and development practitioner careers.

Course Structure


You will complete 180 credits of study over a one year period (full time). These comprise of 120 core credits and 60 credits from a selection of optional modules. Modules run in either Autumn or Spring Semester or all year round in the Graduate Year*.

Programmes are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent study; emphasising the latest research and drawing explicitly from the individual expertise of each of our academics. Assessment methods include essays, reflexive writing, research reports, policy briefs and oral presentations.

*Depicts modules which run through the year

Core Modules

Autumn semester

Core modules (everybody studies these)

  • Ideas and Practice in International Development
  • Research Design and Methods in International Development
  • Professional Skills for Development
  • Dissertation with Placement
  • Spring semester

Spring Semester

Core modules (everybody studies these)                                                      

  • Professional Skills for Development
  • International Development Fieldclass
  • Dissertation with Placement

Optional Modules

You can pick a total of four modules from the list below - note that those on the left only run in the autumn semester and those to the right in the spring.

Autumn semester

  • Data, Visualisation and GIS
  • Introduction to Quantitative Analysis
  • Understanding Environmental Change
  • Key Issues in Global Public Health
  • Theorising the City in the Global South
  • Urban Development in the Global South
  • Key Issues in Environment and Development

Spring semester                                                 

  • Living With Climate Change in the Global South
  • Disaster and Emergency Management
  • Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems
  • Cities of Diversity
  • Cities of the South: Planning For Informality
  • Governance and Participation in the Global South



New for 2016 entry, Fieldclass costs will be included in the tuition fees

All our International Development programmes include a compulsory 11-day field class in the Global South, where you will have the opportunity to put into practice the research skills you’ve acquired and developed in class.

The fieldclass is designed and staffed to ensure that all students, from seasoned fieldworkers to those who have never travelled internationally, get as much from the experience as possible.

You will work in groups on small-scale research projects or scoping studies, which can cover aspects of health, education, livelihoods, infrastructure, gender, environmental change, and many more options. The groups decide on the research methods they feel are most appropriate to the topic. These can range from interviews and participatory mapping, to water testing and gully measuring. You’ll work closely with local guides and local communities, while experienced University staff provide support and guidance.

Fieldclasses usually take place in March. In recent years they have been mainly in Kenya or Nepal, with study sites in remote rural areas. New fieldclass locations in Tanzania and India are now being developed.



The dissertation with placement module is a unique feature of our International Development Masters programmes. It provides you with valuable experience of working in a development organisation and engaging with development issues and challenges at first hand.

You will spend six to eight weeks in June-July based in a host organisation, where you undertake a research project identified by the organisation and approved by the university. The projects therefore have clear practical relevance, and also generate findings that are written up for the Masters dissertation. Students on placement also usually spend some time working directly on the organisation’s core activities.

We currently work with over 30 host organisations, mostly NGOs, in Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. They range from leading international agencies to small community-based initiatives. Some have a wide remit, others have a specialist focus on issues such as conservation, education, health, migration, economic development and human rights. We are continually expanding our range of host organisations.

Please note that the majority of our placements are in the Global South. We have some in the UK, and even a few in Sheffield, but unless you have overriding reasons (such as caring responsibilities or scholarship restrictions) you should expect to do your placement outside the UK.

Placements are set up and managed by our Placements & Fieldwork Officer, although if you have existing contacts in an organisation where you would like to work, it may be possible to arrange the placement yourself.

The cost of placements varies widely, according to where you are based. A UK-based placement can cost just your daily meals and transport costs, if you already have accommodation in the area. A placement in the Global South can cost around £1,500 including flights, visas, permits and accommodation. Please note that your tuition fees do NOT cover these costs.

Careers & Employability


Students graduating from our International Development programmes are popular with a wide range of employers. Our graduates have found jobs in many leading organisations such as Restless Development and Oxfam. Many others have gone on to work in private and public services or in business.

We give you the ability to analyse, propose policies and implement strategies so that you have the experience and expertise to carry with you through to employment. When you graduate from one of our Master’s programmes you will have gained generic management and communication skills to prepare you for engagement in any working environment. The transferable skills you develop in strategic thinking, teamwork, creativity and communication are exactly what most employers are looking for and will enable you to develop your career.

I have no doubt that my masters has made a huge difference to my employability, providing me with key skills and support to succeed.


I'm positive that the experiences on this course assisted me in my chosen career.


Our Students


Our specialised programmes attract students straight from academic degrees, from development agencies, from policy backgrounds as well as practitioners in health, government and international aid. We pride ourselves on welcoming students from a wide variety of backgrounds and countries from all over the world.

The quality of our programmes and the stimulating academic environment we offer are key attractions for why students want to join our department. The international and trans-disciplinary background of our students and staff add additional layers to the experience of studying a Master’s programme in the Department of Geography.

'I had been studying Human Geography at Sheffield, and had been developing an interest in issues surrounding inequality and poverty for a few years when I learned about the University of Sheffield’s MA-International Development programme. It seemed to offer everything I was interested in; primarily a deeper and more contextual knowledge of the key debates in international development, and various specific areas of interest I had. I was also aware that the Geography Department at the University of Sheffield has a reputation. I was hoping that the MA would provide me with a critical perspective of ‘development’ efforts to date. Sheffield is a fantastic place. It’s on the edge of the Peak District, which is great for outdoors activities, has a great and really diverse music scene, gets lots of blue-skied days (contrary to popular belief.'

Leo Roberts, MA International Development

'I was working as the China/Program Officer in the Secretariat of Australia-China Environment Development Program (ACEDP) funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Prior to this I had completed my BA in Foreign Languages and Literature. I felt it was relevant to my previous technical background and the placement module is unique and attractive and I was fortunate to gain funding from the Chevening Scholarship which is co-sponsored by the university. The field trip to Kenya and the placement in Rome were both exciting and valuable experiences that can contributed to my academic and practical skills improvement as well as professional portfolio enhancement.'

Mei Feng, MA International Development