The MA International Development provides high quality, in-depth teaching dedicated to preparing students for careers in development research and practice in the public and private sectors as well as for further academic study. Central to this agenda is a commitment to ensuring our students engage with 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.
You will experience and benefit from:
A combination of interdisciplinary and international perspectives;
Support for developing professional skills including analytic, funding application, project
organization and management and communication skills;
The unique guarantee of a placement-based dissertation combining professional experience and academic research;
An international fieldclass through which to develop practical insights into and experience of development research and practice.
Why should I take this course?
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.
What modules will I study?
You will complete 180 credits of study over a 12 month period (full time), including 4 optional modules.
Ideas and Practice in International Development
This module provides students with a robust understanding of the continuing evolution of theories of international development and their translation into development policy and practice. Through a comprehensive review of changing development theories and agendas since 1945, this module critically explores how current development paradigms and aid modalities inform the everyday realities of development policies and interventions.
Research Design and Methods in International Development
This module provides students with a detailed understanding of the complexities of completing robust and reliable research for development. Starting from a critical grounding in methodological approaches and theories, the module develops insights and understandings of the particularities and practicalities of ‘doing’ development research, including strategies for working across cultural, language and other differences.
Professional Skills for Development
This module is co-delivered with external development practitioners and other partners to provide students with a core set of skills for employment within the development sector. This innovative module supports students in identifying areas of professional skills development – from technical to language to experiential – and provides a tailored programme of activities to support this.
International Development Fieldclass
The fieldclass module provides all students with practical experience of development research during a 10-day fieldclass. Destinations for this module vary but have included Kenya, Tanzania, the Galapagos Islands, India and Nepal. Building on the research skills developed during the Research Design and Methods module, the fieldclass allows students to design and conduct a small-scale research project with support and mentoring from experienced field-researchers. The cost of the fieldclass is included in the course fee.
Dissertation with Placement
All students undertake a placement-based dissertation. Working with a host organisation and academic supervisor, you design and conduct a significant research project during a 6-8 week placement with the organisation. This module provides both in-depth, hands-on research experience as well as practical experience of working within the development sector.
Illustrative Optional Modules
Data, Visualisation and GIS
This module shows students how to deal with spatial data which they will need to use in order to visualise, identify, and understand patterns of social and spatial inequalities. The module covers the major sources of data used to study inequalities and the variety of ways in which they can be displayed to aid understanding and analysis.
Introduction to Quantitative Analysis
This unit guides students through the analysis of quantitative data enabling students to build knowledge and skills in what techniques are available to analyse data.
Theory and Debates in Food Security and Food Justice
Food Security and Food Justice are areas of increasing importance at local, national, transnational and global scales. While various political and non-political agents at various scales have recognised that Global Hunger and Food Security (of which Food Justice is a primary component) is a key challenge requiring urgent interdisciplinary investigation and problem solving, there remains limited agreement as to how best to approach these issues and at what scale.
Understanding Environmental Change
This module gives students a critical understanding of the science behind historical and recent environmental change in the Global South. The course covers the core debates in environmental change, the science behind these changes, methods for detecting environmental change, and the impacts of these changes.
Key Issues in Global Public Health
This module introduces contemporary and historical public health discourses, policies and practices. The module also explores the role and actions of key global health players and discusses the social determinants of health, as well as introducing major public health challenges in the contemporary world.
Urban Challenges in the Global South
This module addresses debates at the interface between urban studies and development studies. Focusing on urban areas in the Global South, it looks at the city through a range of theoretical perspectives and from a variety of spatial scales, from everyday practices of citizens at the grassroots level to the representation of the city within national policy and planning processes.
Urban Development in the Global South
In this module students will explore in detail particular challenges to urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there?
Key Issues in Environment and Development
This module engages critically with the key theoretical debates that shape the environment, society and international development. By looking at current questions in development theory and their relationship to development practice in the context of environmental change, it encourages students to think critically about the ways in which interdisciplinary approaches define issues and problems, and the theoretical viewpoints that inform their actions.
Living with Climate Change in the Global South
This module aims to engender a detailed understanding of the development of ideas and theories of climate change, integrating the core science behind our understandings of climate change with a critical analysis of how this is interpreted and communicated. This understanding is then applied to consider the challenge of living with climate change in the Global South
Disaster and Emergency Management
This module covers key concepts of disaster and emergency management, exploring contemporary issues which affect the likelihood, scale and impact of a disaster and how these can be minimized through appropriate emergency planning, preparation and response by the community, governmental and non-governmental organisations.
Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems
This module develops critical understandings of health policy and particular health systems, and to develop ideas and proposals about how these health systems can be strengthened - and who might or might not benefit.
Cities of Diversity
This module focusses on diversity in the form of differing social identities (such as race and gender) but also diversity in terms of interpretations of planning and city building, some of which may appear irrational to mainstream planning frameworks. The module will focus on cities in both the developing and developed world.
Cities of ‘the South’: Planning for Informality
The module aims to develop a critical understanding of informality in the cities of the Global South. Through a mixture of seminars and group work it explores the patterns and causes of informal settlement and working practices, introducing and critiquing a range of theoretical approaches, and examines the responses of planners to informality.
Governance and Participation in the Global South
This module addresses two themes within international development which have risen to global prominence since the close of the twentieth century: the quality of governance, and the role of people’s participation in the planning and delivery of development programmes. The module critically considers policy agendas concerned with ‘good governance’ and ‘deepening’ democracy, examining their underlying assumptions and their impacts on people living in the Global South.
This module listing is indicative only and may change due to staffing or other factors.
What will I gain?
By the time you graduate from this degree course you will have gained an internationally recognised qualification which evidences your understanding of the field of development studies. Not only this, you will have gained invaluable practical experience of development research and practice, as well as developing key professional skills and networks.
You will also join a growing alumni network who work across the world, in the private, public and third sectors.
What will I learn?
Through this course you will gain an advanced knowledge and understanding of international development theory and practice. This knowledge will underpin your critical awareness and appreciation of the impact of development processes and interventions on the everyday lives of those living in the Global South.
You will learn – and put in to practice – advanced research skills and develop a nuanced understanding of the importance of research to underpin evidence-based development practice. You will also develop a range of professional skills as well as practical experience of working in the development field.
How will I be taught and assessed?
Modules are delivered through a mixture of lectures, seminars, workshops and independent study. Each module draws heavily on the latest research and utilises the individual expertise of each of our academics.
Assessment methods include essays, reflexive writing, research reports, policy briefs and oral presentations.
For students wishing to pursue postgraduate studies, but not seeking to complete a full Masters programme, we have two other qualifications available:
Postgraduate Certificate requires a total of 60 Credits*
Postgraduate Diploma requires a total of 120 Credits*
*Subject to programme regulations
Students studying for these complete modules from those outlined above, and will study alongside students undertaking the full degree programme.
All students on the MA International Development undertake a 10-day overseas fieldclass. The fieldclass provides an invaluable opportunity to develop your research skills while learning about everyday development challenges and the outcomes of development interventions. We offer a range of fieldclass destinations each year. In recent years, our students have undertaken research in Kenya, Tanzania, India, Nepal and the Galapagos Islands.
Through the fieldclass you develop practical experience of designing and carrying out research, negotiating ethics in development studies, as well as skills in intercultural communication and cultural empathy.
You can find more details on each fieldclass through the sections below.
The Tanzania Field Class provides students with practical experience of undertaking field research in collaboration with our local NGO partner KEDA among rural communities living around Mt Kilimanjaro. Based at a Field Centre we jointly run with KEDA students working with local translators and guides research a range of issues that are relevant to the development of local communities such as health, environmental change and poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers.
“There is no better way to learn about field work than to experience it yourself, and this is exactly what the field class offered. It allowed us (many of whom have no prior experience in the global south) to apply what we had learnt in the classroom alongside the help and support from knowledgeable lecturers. Although challenging at times, it was a very rewarding experience and loved every minute of it. I now feel much more prepared to carry out my dissertation research knowing I have the ability to adapt to any changes or problems which may occur.”- Rachael
"The field class in Tanzania provided the incredible opportunity to bring case studies we had always read about in books and lectures to life through hands-on fieldwork. I was able to learn about issues in water, health and sanitation through the voices of local people. Conducting research in the rich and vibrant culture of Tanzania was an unforgettable experience." - Shahreen
The Galapagos fieldclass provides an opportunity to work in close collaboration with the Galapagos National Park and the Intercultural Outreach Initiative to undertake policy and practice related research on the island of Isabella. Working with local stakeholders and translators, you spend a week exploring a range of crucial development issues affecting the lives of local communities living in and around the Galapagos National Park. Recent work has addressed questions of environmental water quality, ecotourism, conservation practices, and public health concerns.
"The Galapagos field trip became a precious field experience for me before going to a dissertation placement. Throughout the household interviews on eating habit and awareness on health of the local people, I leaned to work collaboratively with my colleagues who had different ideas and attitudes towards our tasks. I also realised the difficulty of not making a "leading" question- this was a good experience for me to reconsider about the way of constructing questions and approaching informants." - Ami
“After 3 planes, 4 buses and 4 boats we arrived on Isabela greeted by 2 sea lions and a heap of iguanas which really set the tone for the rest of the trip. The field class itself started with many project changes which people handled with ease as we began testing water quality, counting animals, interviewing tourists and questioning portion sizes of carbohydrates to vegetables. It wasn’t all work and we had free evenings to explore the local area and visited some of the major tourist attractions on the island including the Wall of Tears and the Tortoise breeding centre. When I reflect back on my time on the Galapagos I will undoubtedly remember the variety of animals that we saw, from Blue Footed Boobies through Giant Tortoises to Reef Sharks, and will be forever grateful that this opportunity arose.” - Charlie
“This field class trip was my first visit to the Galapagos island in Ecuador and even my first time in Latin America, and my first time researching in a country outside Yemen. During this trip, I was part of a group of students who came from different countries, in my group, we were researching water and my part was focusing on the role of women in water management at household level. We used surveys and semi-structured interviews, and worked with a translator to help us. This trip was a practical experience to apply what we learned during our course. It was also a learning experience where we leant how to overcome challenges and find solutions. It was also a great opportunity to exchange knowledge and learn from each other including local people and colleagues." - Mawaheb
The field class to Nepal has been running since 2013 and keeps returning because of the fantastic opportunities the country offers for learning and experience. Students work in small groups with a dedicated Nepali team member throughout their time in the country. After a couple of days in Kathmandu and visiting community initiatives, the class heads out to live in a rural community high in the hills of Dhading district. There student groups pursue research projects around themes of gender, health, migration, community forestry, climate change and more. The research has direct impact through a final dissemination event which in recent years has involved national political and media attention as well as regional and local key stakeholders.
"The Nepal 2017 International Development Field Class was a unique experience to me. Carrying out a primary research project in a rural area in Dhading, visiting community projects in Kathmandu, the capital city, and exploring the Asian rich culture has been a great learning opportunity." - Jean-Marie
“The field class is an amazing part of the Masters programme, which allows you to consolidate the theory and ideas learnt in lectures, now in the field. As well as preparing you for the dissertation it is also a great chance to meet and learn from students of different cultures in a new and interesting environment- Helena Newton MA International Development.” - Helena
The Kenya fieldclass offers students the opportunity to undertake detailed research in the rural West Pokot region of Kenya. Working with local guides, you spend a week working with local communities, including agro-pastoralists, to develop and undertake individual research. Recent student work has addressed topics such as service delivery and barriers to access, changing livelihoods and climate change adaptation, the role of technology in development, and public health challenges.
Experiencing this fieldclass prompted one of our alumni, Lucy Wambui Kaigutha, to develop a crucial development intervention aimed at improving maternal and infant health. You can read more about her experiences here:
The Delhi fieldclass is ideal for students interested in the rapid transformation of a dynamic global metropolis. Students carry out projects in small groups, and interact with local stakeholders from political parties, local NGOs, labour unions and international organisations. Students focus on pressing issues such as sanitation, livelihoods, gender relations, environmental degradation and housing policy. By exposing students to contemporary challenges posed by rapid urban growth in India, they are able to challenge longstanding Eurocentric assumptions about urbanization, planning and development.
The dissertation with placement module is a unique feature of our International Development Masters programmes: we are the only course of this type in the country which guarantees all of our students will undertake a placement-based dissertation. 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 spend some time working directly on the organisation’s core activities.
We currently work with over 30 host organisations from across the globe, ranging from leading non-governmental organisations to development consultancy companies to local civil society organisations. 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 and we also work with students to set up their own placements based upon specialised interest and existing contacts.
The costs of the placement vary tremendously depending upon destination and are not included in the tuition fee. There are, however, various scholarships which are available to support students with the costs of the placement.
Recent placement hosts
In recent years, students from our courses have worked organisations including:
International Land Coalition (various offices around the world including Roma, Jakarta)
Straight Talk Foundation (Uganda)
Dana Cooperative (Jordan)
Otra Cosa (Peru)
Ateneo Innovation Centre (Philippines)
Centre for Environment and Development (Cameroon)
Development Initiatives (UK)
Phase Nepal (Nepal)
Recent MA International Development dissertations have explored:
Exploring the impact of land certification programmes on land tenure security and land conflicts for peasants in Indonesia
Inclusive education for students with visual, hearing and physical disabilities: Barriers and experiences in Gondar, Northern Ethiopia
Sustainable livelihoods and the urban poor: The importance of rural-urban connections for second generation rural-urban migrants in Kampala, Uganda
Shifting and negotiating identities: Shan refugees in Northern Thailand
Breaking dichotomies and the process of social reproduction: A case study of urban market women in El Alto
Life histories of giving: Individuals’ changing relationships with charities over time
Governance and livelihoods: The future of aquaculture on Lake Bunot, San Pablo, Philippines
Meet the Team
The course is taught by a team with active research interests across the field of international development. We also provide bespoke professional training provided by industry experts and host invited speakers to provide further specialist content.
Charis is a Lecturer in International Development and the director of this programme.
She is also an Affiliated Researcher at the East African Institute at Aga Khan University. Before moving to Sheffield, Charis was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science and International Development Studies at the University of Guelph in Canada.
She completed her PhD at the University of Waterloo. Her doctoral and postdoctoral research were funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
If you have any questions relating to the course please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to answer your queries.
The course team for this programme includes academics with a range of topical and regional specialisms. Key staff involved include:
Ms Margi Bryant – Has extensive experience of working for NGOs and consultancies in the field of environment and development. Her research addresses issues of participatory governance, volun-tourism, and ecosystem services.
Prof Frances Cleaver – Has worked in planning and service delivery sectors in southern Africa. Her research focuses on water governance, institutions in development, and livelihoods.
Dr Tom Goodfellow– Works on the politics of urban development and planning in sub-Saharan Africa, with specific interest in power relations and differing forms of formality and informality.
Dr Miguel Kanai – Works on urbanisation, urban regeneration and urban geographies of the Global South, particularly in Latin America.
Dr Paula Meth– Works on the everyday lives and experience of urban change in the Global South, with a specific focus on gender and violence.
Dr Johan Oldekop – Works on conservation and development, with a particular concern on the policies, interventions and social processes designed to benefit people and nature.
Dr Seth Schindler – Works on urban transformations of global south cities, including work on the informal sector and production of urban space in Asia.
Dr Deborah Sporton – Works on population geographies and factors relating to social change and migration. She is the director of the student-run NGO SIIDShare.
Dr Matt Watson– Works on social change in relation to sustainability and everyday life.
Dr Glyn Williams– Works on the interactions between international development programmes, governance practise and citizenship in the Global South.
The combination of academic content and professional development offered by our course is prized by employers.
Our graduates have an exceptionally high employment rate (80% for 2013 cohort), with alumni working in a range of fields. As an illustrative example, some of our recent International Development graduates are working in the following fields:
Canadian Society for International Health
UK Department for International Development
Japan International Cooperation Agency
Institute of Rural Management, Pakistan
Associated British Foods
ATD Fourth World UK
Oxfam Hong Kong
Centre for International Forestry Research
Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement
Options Consultancy Services
Overseas Development Institute
Other alumni have secured employment in jobs including:
Senior International Research Fellow
Assistant Programme Officer
Community Health Project Coordinator
International Survey Researcher
Senior Policy Officer
Ethical Trade Coordinator
Public Sector Fundraising Coordinator
International Livelihoods Specialist
MA International Development, 2011
“Being a development professional, when I was looking at my post-grad study options, I wanted to do a course which would provide me with hands-on practical experience. The International Development course at the University of Sheffield was just what I wanted. The international field class and placement based dissertation were the perfect value addition I was looking for. And now when I look back, I cannot be happier that I chose University of Sheffield.”
MPH International Development, 2012
“Reflecting back on the program, the professional development and research methods courses stand out for giving practical skills that I've used (and continue to use) in my various jobs.”, “Along with research experience, the field class (Kenya) and the placement for my dissertation (Nepal) gave opportunities to learn about different cultures and work in two very different contexts. These experiences in developing countries were beneficial to draw on when applying for internships and jobs after graduation, and also improved my confidence”
MPH International Development, 2016
“The experiences of the field class and dissertation with placement enabled me to gain professional skills and insights, whilst integrating interdisciplinary development theories and skills that I learnt at the MPHID course. I think these experiences were valuable opportunities to bridge the gap between theories and practices, because my career goal is to work in global health and disability issues by integrating research into practice”
MSc Environmental Change & International Development, 2012
“I would not have been able to take the career path that I have without my Masters course. The skills for doing research in international development were necessary to progress onto PhD research, and gave me a good grounding in research methods and expectations for overseas field work. Having done my PhD research alongside others doing international development topics, it became clear that the skills and experience gained during my Masters course were more appropriate and useful than those others had learnt on their respective Masters courses.”, “The most valuable aspect of my Masters course, and also the highlight, was the ability to experience doing field work in two developing countries through the field class and placement. I thoroughly enjoyed both trips overseas and gained most from these experiences. The placement-based fieldwork was especially valuable because I was able to work with a local NGO as well as undertake research for my MSc”
MSc Environmental Change & International Development, 2012
“The course gave me a platform to launch my career. It gave me the skills and knowledge to apply for the graduate programme at DFID, and working at DFID gave me the skills and knowledge to start my job at Concern.”
How many places are available on the course?
There is no cap on the number of students on this course. We usually have a cohort of about 70-80 students across the three International Development programmes we offer.
Is there a cut-off date for applying to the course?
There is no official application deadline. We encourage applications to be submitted as early as possible to leave enough time for your application to be processed. We recommend you apply no later than August to begin studying in September.
What are the entry requirements for the course?
The MA International Development is aimed at graduate students with a good honours degree (an upper second class degree from a UK university or equivalent) and an engagement with international development.
Work experience is not essential and you do not need to have studied international development before.
English Language Entry Requirements
If your first language is not English you will need to provide documentary evidence of English language competence before being able to being your studies with us. The minimum requirements are detailed below.
Details of other language qualifications recognised by the University of Sheffield can be found on the English Language Requirements webpage, which is located here.
How much time will I spend studying each week?
You should anticipate having 10-12 hours of contact time per week (including lectures, seminars, tutorials etc). On top of this we would expect students to spend 25-30 hours on self-directed learning activities (such as doing core and further readings, writing assignments, preparing for seminars, etc).
What kinds of support can I expect from programme tutors?
Each student is assigned a personal tutor who provides a first contact point for both academic and pastoral/personal support. In addition to your personal tutor, the programme director and individual module convenors can provide additional support for specific queries or concerns.
There is also a strong peer-support network, both within the student cohort of the course as well as provided in more formal ways through the Student Services team based in the Students’ Union.
What is included in the course fee? What other costs are there?
The course fee includes the core costs for the fieldclass. Students may need to pay for individual medication or vaccinations, but costs for travel, accommodation, local guides and translators, and subsistence are included in the course fee.
Due to the highly variable costs of placements, these are not included in the course fee but must be met by the individual student. In addition to the provision of local, low-cost placements, there are various scholarships and other bursaries available to support the costs of this activity.
I want to know more: can I visit?
Applicants are always welcome to visit the Department. We run regular Open Days at which you can meet current staff and students as well as other applicants. Alternatively you can contact the course director, Dr Charis Enns (email@example.com) to arrange an individual visit.
Who should I contact with further questions?
Please contact the course director, Dr Charis Enns, if you have any questions about the programme. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.