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    International Development (Masters in Public Health)

    School of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Social Sciences

    School of Medicine and Population Health, Faculty of Health

    Explore the intersections of international development and healthcare policy and practice, while developing the skills to work in health and development organisations around the world.
    Student participating in fieldwork in a laboratory in the Galapagos

    Course description

    Our MPH in International Development combines expertise from development studies and public health to help you engage with the challenges of health and international development in today’s complex world. Working across the Department of Geography and the School of Medicine and Population Health, you'll develop an understanding of the interventions necessary to improve the health of communities.

    The course is rooted in principles of interdisciplinary learning, decolonising knowledge, connecting theory with policy and practice. You'll also have the flexibility to tailor the course to you own interests.

    Through this approach it offers a unique combination of academic excellence, tailored professional skills teaching, an optional field class, and a research-based dissertation based on placements, research collaborations or independent research.

    Core modules will teach you about changing ideas of ‘development’ since the mid-twentieth century and how these have translated into very different policy approaches and outcomes. You'll learn about poverty and how it has changed, about how development ideas and processes connect to questions of gender, culture and race, about how processes such as migration, urbanisation and technological evolution intersect with development, and about the global governance of international development.

    You'll have the opportunity to build a range of professional skills, and will be trained in core research methods in order to undertake an individual piece of original research. Our placement-based dissertation option also enables you to gain valuable work experience.

    Optional modules from across the University are also available. These include subjects as diverse as food security, public health, urban development, and climate change.

    An optional international field class encourages you to engage with overseas development and community organisations through an intensive week of activities. We also offer a lower cost and more sustainable UK-based ‘hybrid’ field class as an alternative. International field class locations are subject to variation and subject to the number of students participating, but previous destinations have included Peru, Nepal and South Africa.

    The costs of optional field classes modules and placements are not included in your tuition fees. A limited amount of funding, accessed through a competitive process, is available to students to help finance field classes.

    Field class

    An optional international field class encourages you to engage with overseas development and community organisations through an intensive week of activities.

    We also offer a lower cost and more sustainable UK-based ‘hybrid’ field class as an alternative.

    International field class locations are subject to variation and subject to the number of students participating, but previous destinations have included Peru, Nepal and South Africa.

    The costs of optional field classes modules and placements are not included in your tuition fees. A limited amount of funding, accessed through a competitive process, is available to help finance field classes.

    Find out more about our past international field classes:


    The Nepal field class gave students 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. Students pursued research projects around themes of gender, health, migration, earthquake disaster recovery, community forestry and climate change. This research had a direct impact through a final dissemination event which in recent years 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 Tanzania field class gave students practical experience of field research. Working with our NGO partner KEDA, students were based in rural communities around Mt Kilimanjaro.

    They researched a range of issues that affect local communities such as health, environmental change and poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers. Each year students fed back to district officials and previously had 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 Ecuador field class gave students the opportunity to work closely with our local partner Intercultural Outreach Initiative, which is based on the Island Isabela in the Galapagos Islands. Our students gained experience in field research by exploring a range of issues that affect the local communities such as food security, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) issues and ocean plastic pollution. Each year students feed back to district officials and local stakeholders.

    You can read a blog from one of our students about a virtual field class.

    The virtual field class provided an opportunity to experience the challenges of international fieldwork, and allowed us to develop skills in adapting research to changing circumstances and using video interviews for data collection, which will be useful skills for the future! It was a great way to gain an understanding and insight into the situation around plastics in the Galapagos, despite not being able to visit!


    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 may also spend time working directly on the organisation's core activities.

    We currently work with over 30 host organisations in the UK and across the globe. Some have a wide remit, others have a specialist focus on issues such as conservation, education or health.

    Placements to overseas destinations are subject to the same potential constraints imposed by travel conditions and health risks due to Covid-19.

    The costs of the dissertation with placement module are not included in your tuition fees. A limited number of 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
    • Exploration of how recognised factors affect public perceptions of climate change within the North of England
    • Learning from international emergency responses: a critical assessment of how the British Red Cross learns from its international emergency responses


    We accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies. Find out more on the Medical School's website.


    We're revising the curriculum of this course for this year of entry and are in the process of confirming the modules. The information on this page gives you an idea of the areas we expect the course to cover. There may be changes before you start. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Introduction to Research Methods

    This module is offered across several programmes. Learning activities for the module are tailored to your individual specialist areas to provide learning that is relevant and specific to your chosen degree programme.

    This module provides students with an introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methods; it covers all stages of the research process from planning and design and research ethics and public and patient involvement, through to data collection and analysis and dissemination stages. It is specifically designed for students who do not have prior research experience and would be suitable for students from a range of backgrounds, but is particularly relevant to those interested in applied health related research. The course also provides a foundation for further learning in specific research methods.

    15 credits
    Critical Reflections in Global Health

    Global health has been described as the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting health through the organised efforts of society, with the goal being the attainment of biological, physical, and mental well-being of all members of society. In this module we take an inter-disciplinary approach to explore these themes.

    Aligned with the themes of our key reader (7th edition of the Oxford Textbook of Global Public Health) we will consider some of the key concepts of global health, explore some of the determinants of health, and consider some of the key function / methods applied to address global health issues. We will then reflect on these themes in relation to the practice of global health through the lens of specific health challenges. Throughout the module themes such as inequalities in health, complexities in our response, and the political, social, and economic context within which we work will be repeatedly raised and discussed. 

    In delivering this module we are excited to have secured the expertise of regional, national, and international leaders and experts who will share their learnings on a diverse range of subjects that include socioeconomic and health inequalities, health intelligence, and sexual and reproductive health. In relation to the sharing of experiences and expertise, and in stimulating engaged discussion, throughout the module you will be encouraged to develop and use a reflective learning approach to consider shifts in your perception and understanding of the issues raised.

    15 credits
    Ideas and Practice in International Development

    This module introduces students to key theoretical debates in international development. Co-taught by the Departments of Geography, Politics, Urban Studies and Planning, and Sociological Studies, it takes an interdisciplinary approach to exploring 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.  It is spread over two semesters, in order to maximise the synergies between the core content of this module and the various other core and optional modules that students will take across the year.  The first semester focuses on the overarching questions of how development has been understood and conceptualised from the colonial period to the present. The changing development paradigms presented through weekly lectures are explored in depth through fortnightly seminars, each of which focuses on a set of key questions about changing theoretical perspectives and their implications for policy. The second semester then shifts focus onto a set of critical issues for policy and practice, including (for example) global health, migration, technology, urbanization and development finance.  The overall aim of the module is to build students' understanding of the origins of the idea of international development, changing debates about its meaning and purpose, and the implications of these for policy and practice.

    30 credits

    Optional modules:

    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. Political and non-political agents at multiple 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. This module provides students with a background to the problems encompassed within the food security/food justice nexus by drawing on academic and policy debates that focus on both the macro as well as the micro impacts. By looking across food systems, the module also critically evaluates different strategies for mitigating the impacts of food insecurity and injustice. In addition to academic, knowledge and critical thinking skills, the module will help students to develop the following attributes: Communication, Networking, Collaboration, Influencing, Inclusivity, Defining Purpose, and Growth Mindset.

    15 credits
    Professional Skills for Development

    In this module, which is taught across several departments drawing in a range of multi-disciplinary expertise, students gain a critically engaged understanding of professional practice in international development and develop a range of professional skills for future career paths.  Through the module students will learn to apply academic training to real-world situations, with a strong focus on employability-related skills.

    Students will be taught about a set of key transferable and employability skills in keeping with the Sheffield Graduate Attributes before being given the option to choose between one of three specialist skill development tracks for hands-on group work.   The key transferable skills covered will include communications, project design and fundraising, policy analysis and consultancy work, ethics and cultural sensitivity.  Whichever of the specialist tracks they choose, students will work on a group-based project output and an individual written assessment.  While acquiring some specialist skills, all students will reflect on all key transferable skills offered in the first half of the module.

    15 credits
    The Science of Environmental Change

    This module gives students a critical understanding of the science behind historical and recent environmental change. The module covers the core debates in environmental change, the science behind these changes, methods for detecting environmental change, and the impacts of these changes, and projected future changes.

    15 credits

    Epidemiology is the discipline underpinning both effective public health practice and research into the causes, control and prevention of disease. Knowledge and understanding of epidemiological concepts and methods is a basic requirement for effective public health practice.

    This module will provide an introduction to epidemiology covering key epidemiological concepts; measures of disease; association and causation; confounding and bias. It will also introduce research designs including cross-sectional, ecological, cohort, case-control and intervention studies and introduce population health measures such as screening.

    15 credits
    Disaster and Emergency Management

    Disasters and emergencies can strike any community. It is not a question of whether a disaster will occur but when. However, the likelihood, scale and impact of a disaster can be minimized through appropriate emergency planning, preparation and response by the community, governmental and non-governmental organisations. This module will cover the key concepts of disaster and emergency management, explore some of the contemporary issues and develop students' knowledge and skills in this field.

    15 credits
    Hate, Hope and Digital Misinformation

    The module explores contemporary issues that affect the relationship between digital media and society in the global context. It focuses on digital media and dis/misinformation (for example debates around fake news), the relationship between misinformation and online extremes (such as online hate, conspiracy theories, or online radicalisation), and attempts to counter these phenomena (including fact-checking and the creation of digital counter-narratives). These developments are contextualized in relation to longstanding debates about the ways that power, inequality and the political economy of the mainstream media shape the availability and visibility of information. The module takes examples from around the world and applies relevant theories to their analysis.

    15 credits
    Contemporary Challenges: Refugees and Asylum

    Contemporary Challenges explores a key contemporary challenge in depth and applies key concepts in Sociology (e.g. class, race, nationalism, democracy) in analysing it. The focus of the challenge will change on a 3-4 yearly basis.
    In its first iteration, the module focuses on Brexit: ideas of class and 'the left behind', English nationalism, nostalgia for empire, the media, and some of the impacts of Brexit in relation to everyday life. In doing so the module will develop a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the vote for the UK to leave the EU, as well as some of its consequences.

    15 credits
    Foundations of GIS

    This module introduces students to the core principles and skills of GIS. It covers the major sources of data used to study the lived environment and the variety of ways it can be displayed to aid both understanding and analysis. The module has a particular focus on techniques used in the analysis of socio-economic and demographic data and its potential applications. It is taught through a combination of lectures and practical workshops using ArcGIS software.

    15 credits
    Urban Development in the Global South

    This module explores the challenges of 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? The module will develop understanding of how urban planning systems are constructed and mediated by different actors. The unit will use a series of scenarios; representing some of the diversity of conditions that exist in the global South, to develop understandings of how planning systems shape and are shaped by the contexts in which they operate.

    15 credits

    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.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time 


    You’re assessed on coursework assignments, project work and a dissertation.

    Your career

    Our public health masters graduates go on to work in very diverse areas, although many find work in a health or public health setting, including returning to medicine if they are medics or intercalating students. Other graduates have gone on to undertake further doctoral/PhD study or to work in research or academic settings, which we feel reflects the quality of our research-led teaching in preparing and inspiring students.

    Students have also found excellent opportunities at the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Bank Group and various international organisations and government agencies including:

    • Whatcom Alliance for Health
    • Japan International Cooperation Agency
    • Nigeria Centre for Disease Control
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET)


    School of Geography and Planning

    Geography and Planning building
    Geography and Planning building

    The School of Geography and Planning at the University of Sheffield is a world leader in teaching and research. We're ranked in the top 10 in the UK for geography by the Guardian University Guide 2024.

    We are experts in the fields of social justice and environmental change. We explore our dynamic, diverse world to address humanity’s greatest problems, from food waste to melting ice sheets and sustainable international development. Our innovative research and practice-based learning will equip you with distinct, relevant professional skills.

    Our high staff-to-student ratio ensures that you receive excellent quality teaching and a high level of pastoral support throughout your studies.

    Haley Myers

    Studying in the UK has been a lifelong dream

    Haley Myers International Development MPH

    MPH International Development student Haley came to study in Sheffield from the USA.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a social sciences, arts and humanities or medicine and public health subject.

    We also accept medical students who wish to intercalate their studies.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    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.

    Additional costs

    The costs of optional field classes modules and placements are not included in your tuition fees. A limited amount of funding, accessed through a competitive process, is available to help finance field classes.

    You can also apply for one of our masters scholarships, for example to support your fieldwork, or if you are from a developing country. 


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

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 7900

    +44 114 222 5454

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

    Our student protection plan

    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.