2021 start

Intercultural Communication and International Development

School of Languages and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences

The world needs developers who can communicate across cultural boundaries and bring people together. You'll learn best practice for effective communication at work across a wide range of cultural groups, and develop your communication skills in more than one language.
Students taking photographs of their surroundings whilst on a field trip to the Galapagos Islands

Course description

This interdisciplinary course produces international development practitioners with advanced intercultural communication skills.

You'll develop a critical understanding of the role culture and communication play in international and social development. You’ll explore the theory, policy and practice and consider their combined practical application, which will help you to become a highly effective intercultural communicator in real-life international development situations.

The course is taught by the School of Languages and Cultures and the Department of Geography. A module on international project management integrates the two subjects and there are communication seminars designed for developers.

You'll develop essential skills in ethnographic research and form systematic approaches to understanding others’ perspectives. This course will help you develop an intercultural lens on the world’s most pressing problems and you can shape the course to suit your personal career needs and interests, by choosing between various language, development and other subject options.

The course includes a ten-day field class overseas that provides hands-on experience of research. Recent destinations have included the Galapagos, Tanzania and Nepal. The cost of the field trip class is included in the fees.

We are part of the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID) which unites expertise and input from a range of subjects spanning politics and public health to music and sociological studies, and experience with working with a range of NGOs, public organisations and companies. You'll learn invaluable research skills of participant observation which you can apply in your dissertation and future career.

Dissertation placement

There will be an extra cost for the dissertation placement (which is often in the global south) but it's great experience and value for money. All students take a dissertation placement, which will be arranged during the fist semester.

Our students are placed with some of the world's leading international agencies on the dissertation placement. Most 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) you should expect to do your placement outside the UK. 

Costs vary depending on the location of the placement – whether overseas or in the UK. You'll need to think about the cost of flights, accommodation, food and transport, which can add up to around £1,500 in addition to your tuition fees.

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This course is highly flexible – through optional modules you’ll have a variety of ways to develop your language skills and interests.

Semester one:

Ideas and Practice in International Development

This unit introduces students to key theoretical debates in international development. It explores how thinking about development has changed over time and why it has changed. The module also encourages students to think about the relationship between development theory and development practice. This is achieved by introducing key topics and issues areas in the field and having students think critically about the ways in which practitioners have approached development issues and defined development problems at various points in time, as well as the theoretical viewpoints that have informed their actions.

15 credits
Concepts and Approaches in Intercultural Communication

This module aims to develop an understanding of the main theoretical approaches to the study of intercultural communication and the ability to analyse and evaluate their relative significance, including those originating from applied linguistics, management theory, anthropology and sociocultural theories. Students will consider the concept of culture from a variety of perspectives, and will study topics including stereotyping and prejudice, (non-)essentialism, identity, culture shock, and the role of language and dialogue in intercultural communication. A wide range of real-world examples will be examined, including media reports, international communications, multicultural situations, and intercultural problems raised by students. By the end of the module students will be able to: i) Analyse and critically evaluate the main concepts and approaches in intercultural communication; ii) Consider the implications for their application in practice; and iii) Develop their own perspectives and insights from these theories.

15 credits
Research Methods in Modern Languages and Cultures

This module will introduce and explore a range of methodological approaches and techniques that are relevant to students of Modern Languages and Cultures. It will enable students to identify, assess and exploit sources and data, present the results of their research in (an) appropriate manner(s), and adhere to data protection, intellectual property and ethics requirements. Students will engage with different theoretical models and debates, and a range of tools for accessing information. Students will be required to attend generic research methods sessions as well as those which are of greatest relevance to their research topic(s).

15 credits

Semester two:

International Development Field class

This unit provides students with the opportunity to explore and research development issues in the field and to enhance their understanding of grass-roots outcomes with reference to a particular developing country. The module will provide students with hands-on experience of fieldwork, allowing them to practice and build on research skills learnt in Semester 1 in a `developing' country context through group fieldwork projects. The module contributes to students' transferable skills through teamwork, research design and implementation and through presentation skills.

15 credits
Intercultural Communication in Practice

This module is designed to develop your intercultural competence with a view to becoming an intercultural mediator and effective communicator in an international/multicultural workplace. It requires participants to combine their knowledge of approaches to intercultural communication with real-time situations, thus enhancing their awareness of the values by which they and others operate. Emphasis will also be placed on the centrality of language in the intercultural communication process. You will take an active role in seminars; these are designed to develop intercultural learning through consideration of critical incidents, materials analysis, simulation, role play, drama, and multilingual discussion. These activities will lead to a deeper understanding of the centrality of language in intercultural encounters; the values carried by language and the participants themselves as intercultural people.

15 credits

Academic Year:

Reflective Practice: Ethnography

Students will develop their knowledge and research skills through undertaking an ethnographic project involving participant observation through becoming a member of a club, group or society. This unit will also provide a basis for those who wish to undertake a work-based ethnographic/reflective dissertation. This module aims to: i) Prepare students to become lifelong reflective practitioners; ii) Familiarise them with ethnographic approaches; and iii) Enable them to undertake an ethnography project. Particular emphasis will be placed upon aspects related to language and intercultural communication. By the end of the module we expect that students will be able to demonstrate: i) An understanding of the need for a conceptual framework for the observation of people's behaviour; ii) Skills in techniques of ethnographic research; iii) Independent skills in the organisation of the home ethnographic project; and iv) An ability to undertake substantial reflection and analysis of one's own attitudes and assumptions.

15 credits
Dissertation with Placement

The aim of this module is to enable students to develop an understanding of the research process and research skills required to undertake a supervised research project. Students will make a detailed analysis of an issue, topic or problem of their choice and report their findings in an appropriate manner. They will undertake a placement and relate their research specifically to the work of this organisation. This will develop students’ vocational as well as research skills, providing valuable experience of real-world development practice and challenges.

60 credits
Induction and Transition: SLC MA Study Support

The aim of this module is to give students of the Applied Languages MA Programmes the opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to complete successfully the requirements of their postgraduate programme, including writing an essay at MA level and undertaking a dissertation in the field (to be agreed with the dissertation supervisor). Students will be introduced to library skills, academic requirements of writing an essay at MA level, referencing conventions, plagiarism issues and autonomous learning. Students will be introduced to the requirements of a dissertation at Sheffield, and follow appropriate support lectures supporting the student in identification of the research area; reading to be undertaken, adopting appropriate methodologies and the development of original ideas and insights.

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.


Lectures, staff and student- led seminars, small-group work, one-on-one consultations with staff and workshops.

Due to the ongoing uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, plans for the advertised academic year have not yet been finalised. The delivery of our courses will continue to be guided by national guidelines for education which balance educational needs with the safety of our students and staff. During the pandemic the international elements of our courses have been taught with virtual field classes and placements using distance research methods to work with international partners. This approach was commended by the external examiner and received excellent feedback from students.

The field class and placement are both integral and valuable to our international development courses and our intention is to reinstate these in the future. This will be determined by whether it is possible and responsible to do so in line with the coronavirus situation in the UK and our overseas destinations. 


You’re assessed on coursework and a dissertation. The dissertation involves a work placement (often undertaken in the global south) with a development organisation.


1 year full-time

Your career

Our MA opens up a wide range of career paths in a multitude of industries. Our graduates work for non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam, the public sector, including the UN Habitat, and companies in the private sector.

Graduate roles include: intercultural trainer; adviser to non-governmental organisations; international partnerships officer; policy officer; project manager; consultant; and research officer.

Some of our graduates have also set up their own companies or go on to PhDs.

MA Intercultural Communication and International Development graduate Shaza went to Sierra Leone on her research placement. After graduating, she got a job working for the Catholic Mission in Sierra Leone. She now writes and manages grants for the University of Makeni and Caritas for community development projects.

Student profiles

Postgraduate Cameron Fay, Intercultural Communication and International Development

The scholarship I received has allowed me to pursue my ambitions of undertaking an MA in Intercultural Communication and International Development. Coming from a low-income background, without it I would not have been able to fund my masters for many years. It has taken much of the financial stress out of studying and, as I am not having to work too many hours to fund my living costs, I am able to dedicate some hours towards volunteering with a local refugee centre.

It also allows me to engage fully with the course and take advantage of the opportunity to go on the field trip to either the Galapagos, Tanzania or Nepal, and to gain professional experience with an NGO in Mozambique!

Cameron Fay
MA Intercultural Communication and International Development

Entry requirements

A 2:1 in an arts or social sciences subject and an advanced working knowledge of two languages (CEFR B1/B2).

Overall IELTS score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

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+44 114 222 0631
+44 114 222 7900

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

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