2021 start

International Development

Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences

Learn about social and environmental justice, rural and urban development, citizenship and sustainability, and develop a global network of expertise through industry and sector specialists.
Student surveying the view from the top of a mountain as part of a field trip

Course description

This course engages with the challenges of international development in today’s complex world. You’ll develop skills and knowledge relating to development research and practice.

You'll go on a unique placement-based dissertation that combines work experience with academic research. You'll also carry out hands-on research during an overseas field class.

Our graduates have gone on to work for a wide variety of organisations, including the World Bank, the British Red Cross, UNDP, WildAid, World Vision and Save the Children.

This MA draws on our research strengths and internationally-recognised expertise in the areas of social and environmental justice, rural and urban development, governance, citizenship and sustainability. Our teaching involves industry and sector specialists, which means you can make connections and contacts with a global network of expertise beyond the University.

Field class

The course includes a 10-day field class, which provides hands-on experience of designing and carrying out research and will develop your skills in intercultural communication. Recent destinations have included Kenya, Tanzania, India and Nepal.

The cost of the compulsory field class is included in your tuition fees.


The Tanzania field class gives you practical experience of field research. Working with our NGO partner KEDA, you'll be based in rural communities around Mt Kilimanjaro.

You'll research a range of issues that affect local communities such as health, environmental change and poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers. Each year students feed back to district officials and have even been interviewed for National TV.

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.


The Nepal field class gives you the chance to work in small groups with a dedicated Nepali team member, taking part in community initiatives in Kathmandu before staying in Sindhupalchok District. You'll pursue research projects around themes of gender, health, migration, earthquake disaster recovery, community forestry and climate change. This research has a direct impact through a final dissemination event which in recent years has involved national political and media attention as well as regional and local stakeholders.

The field class is an amazing part of the masters programme, which allows you to consolidate the theory and ideas learnt in lectures, 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.


The dissertation with placement gives you valuable practical experience of working in a development organisation and engaging with development issues.

You'll spend six to eight weeks in June or July based in a host organisation, where you'll carry out a research project identified by the organisation and approved by the University. Your project will have clear practical relevance and will generate findings that form the basis of your dissertation. Students also spend 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.

The costs of the core dissertation with placement module are not included in your tuition fees. There are various scholarships and bursaries available to support the dissertation with placement. Low-cost local placements are also available.

Recent topics for the dissertation with placement
  • 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

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    Find out from our academics and students about the course, the department and what it's like to live and study in Sheffield


    Explore core and optional modules

    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.


    There are seminars, lectures, workshops, reading groups and independent study.


    You'll be assessed on coursework assignments, project work and a dissertation.


      1 year full-time

      Student profile

      Image of Oliver Bellamy, MA International Development student in the Department of Geography

      This particular course is exciting not just because I am studying the subject I am interested in, but also the opportunity to go on an international field trip and placement in order to experience the issues that I am learning about. Hopefully I can start to make a difference before I have even graduated. I did my undergraduate degree in Sheffield and loved it so much that I didn’t even consider studying anywhere else!

      Oliver Bellamy
      MA International Development

      Entry requirements

      You’ll need a 2:1 or first-class honours degree in an area of the social sciences or medicine.

      Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 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.

      Fees and funding

      There are various scholarships and bursaries available to support the dissertation with placement. Low-cost local placements are also available.


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

      Apply now

      +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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