MA Intercultural Communication and International Development (MAICID)

International development practitioners with a critical understanding of the role of culture and communication in international development are better placed to make a real difference in contributing to solving some of the world’s most pressing human problems.

Postgraduate Cameron Fay, Intercultural Communication and International Development

Why Sheffield?

  • Reflective Practice: Ethnography. Essential research skills;
  • Gives you an intercultural lens on world’s pressing problems;
  • Development research projects in the Global South;
  • IC in Practice. Hands-on intercultural problem-solving; finding creative solutions to problems; mediation in conflict situations;
  • Take an intercultural perspective on your personal and professional interests – solve problems which others don’t know how to

The world has moved a long way since the days of ‘aid’. This interdisciplinary course provides students with the opportunity to develop their expertise in both intercultural communication and international development. It responds to a recognised need for international developers with a high level of intercultural communication knowledge and skills, as well as professional interculturalists who can advise international developers in their work.

The MA in Intercultural Communication and International Development is one of our MA programmes in Translation and Intercultural Communication Studies. This programme is jointly taught between the School of Languages and Cultures and the Department of Geography.

It is designed for those who wish to become highly effective intercultural communicators in international and social development, it covers the main theories and concepts of intercultural communication as well as the changing theory, policy and practice of international development, considering their combined practical application to real-life international development contexts. You will develop essential skills in ethnographic research, which allow you to develop systematic approaches to understanding others’ perspectives. The importance of this in the international development field cannot be underestimated. At the same time, you can shape the course to suit your personal career needs and interests, choosing between various language, development and other subject options.

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

Cameron is working as an economics education campaign manager 


By the end of the course, you will be able to:

Analyse and critically evaluate the main theories in intercultural communication and international development; Relate these theories to real-life intercultural development contexts; Evaluate, monitor and improve communication and/or development systems; Develop independent research skills.

Examples of the core and optional modules are listed below:

Module Credits

Concepts and Approaches in Intercultural Communication

This module aims to develop an understanding of the main concepts and approaches to the study of intercultural communication and develop the ability to analyse and evaluate their relative significance.  You will consider the concept of culture from a variety of perspectives (including applied linguistics, ethnography, essentialist and non-essentialist approaches), and will study topics such as stereotyping and prejudice, identity, culture shock, and the role of language in intercultural communication. A wide range of real-world examples will be examined, such as media reports, international communications, multicultural situations, and intercultural problems raised by students.


Reflective Practice: Ethnography

You will develop your 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 prepare you to become a lifelong reflective practitioners, help familiarise you with ethnographic approaches and enable you to undertake an ethnography project. Particular emphasis will be placed upon aspects related to language and intercultural communication.


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 and multilingual discussion. You will: understand the value and limitation of cross-cultural analysis; function with increased awareness and effectiveness in intercultural encounters of direct relevance to the workplace; evaluate existing resources available for developing intercultural competence; and propose, select and/or create activities/courses/materials for intercultural interventions.


International Development Field Class

All students undertake a 10-day overseas field class. The field class 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 field class destinations each year. In recent years, our students have undertaken research in Kenya, Tanzania, India, Nepal and the Galapagos Islands. Through the field class 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.


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.


Dissertation with Placement

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 the opportunity to 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 form the basis of your Masters dissertation. Students on placement also spend some time working directly on the organisation’s core activities.

Please note: placement costs are not included in the course fee.


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 consider the philosophical underpinnings of research and its design, identify, assess, exploit and create sources and data, 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).


Study and Dissertation Support

The aim of this module is to give students of the MAs in Translation and Intercultural Communication Studies 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.


Choose three modules to the value of 50 credits from the Department of Geography's Masters' programmes and the options below:

Module Credits

International Project Management

This module deals with the main issues involved in international project management (IPM), as well as the cultural components of international communication. It is delivered through seminars that should be followed by the students’ own research to develop independent thinking. This module aims to: introduce students to the main issues involved in international project management, such as project definition, planning, execution and evaluation; identify, understand and discuss the main intercultural issues and risks of international project management and enable students to reflect on their development of employability and entrepreneurial skills.


International Management

The first part of the module exposes students to the challenges and opportunities of managing internationally. The second part of the module covers management practices in four regions: North America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and Asia. The module provides students with management tools and frameworks that will enhance their effectiveness when operating internationally. It enables the students to identify, compare and contrast different management practices adopted internationally and appreciate the impact of national cultures and business systems on leadership styles, decision making styles, and interpersonal dynamics across cultures. NOTE: This module involves an Examination as part of the assessment


Translation Skills

Choose one translation option from the list below:

  • Advanced Translation from English into Chinese
  • Advanced Translation from French
  • Advanced Spanish-English Translation
  • Advanced Dutch-English Translation
  • Advanced Portuguese-English Translation
  • Advanced English-Italian Translation
  • Advanced German-English Translation
  • Advanced Translation from Russian
  • Czech to English Translation

Language in Context

This module sets out to explain what we do when we use language in social and cultural contexts both within and across cultural boundaries. We will address questions of direct relevance to an understanding of translation and intercultural communication, including: To what extent do speech acts and politeness conventions differ culturally? What 'background clues' do intercultural communicators and translators need when interpreting a message? How do metaphors work across languages? What linguistic devices are employed in conveying a speaker's/writer's ideological position? We will use a range of analytical tools and theoretical perspectives to explore a variety of examples of non-translated, translational and intercultural language use. The module aims to provide you with a deeper and broader awareness of linguistic issues bearing upon intercultural communication and translation practice.


Enhanced Languages Project 1

This unit aims to enable MA students taking a foreign language module with the Languages-for-All programme to engage further with their independent learning of the language in relation to their Postgraduate studies. Designing, implementing, and assessing personal strategies to become more effective independent learners, students will choose and explore specific aspects of the language from a linguistic and a sociolinguistic perspectives. Most of the work will be carried out independently but two seminars will introduce the theoretical and practical framework for the completion of a Project Portfolio and provide a forum for the discussion of appropriate research options


Enhanced Languages Project 2

This unit aims to enable MA students taking a foreign language module with the Languages-for-All programme to engage further with their independent learning of the language in relation to their Postgraduate studies. Designing, implementing, and assessing personal strategies to become more effective independent learners, students will choose and explore specific aspects of the language from a linguistic and a sociolinguistic perspectives. Most of the work will be carried out independently but two seminars will introduce the theoretical and practical framework for the completion of a Project Portfolio and provide a forum for the discussion of appropriate research options


Tandem Learning for Intercultural Communication

You will work in collaboration with a cultural other (someone who they consider to be culturally different), with whom they will communicate on a regular basis (2 hours per week). During the module, you will attend an individual advisory session, to set prioritise and plan learning goals and identify methods to achieve these goals. You will also take part in the world-wide SOLIYA Project. You will build highly developed reflexive and communication skills, exercise responsibility for the organisation of your own learning, establish and maintain contact with your partners, negotiate and set objectives; and seek and offer information and opinions to enable development of intercultural communicative competence. This module is of particular relevance for students who want to develop their informal and interpersonal intercultural knowledge and skills.


Localisation for Linguists

This module focuses on the role of the linguist and/or translator in the localisation industry. We will look at the industry itself and the activities associated with it, as well as the influence of technology on the localiser’s job and cultural issues in localisation. We will also take a closer look at websites; learn how they are built and how to deal with them in terms of localisation. In this context we will focus on different kinds of software which help with the localisation of web content, software and graphics. The module will also look at translation memory tools and how they are used for localisation.


Theory and Practice of Subtitling

This module aims to explore key theoretical approaches screen translation and to give you the opportunity to acquire practical subtitling skills. Theoretical lectures alternate with practical subtitling classes where you will have the opportunity to relate theory to practice in practical subtitling projects using professional subtitling software. The module includes weekly film viewings of subtitled films.


Key Issues in Environment and Development

This unit 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. The unit is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.


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?


The Science of Environmental Change

This unit gives students a critical understanding of recent historical and contemporary environmental change in the Global South. The module draws on an interdisciplinary approach, informed by political ecology, to explore the human dimensions of global environmental change from a range of different perspectives. Students are encouraged to think critically about disciplinary perspectives that inform particular viewpoints and the ways in which they impact upon development practice. The unit is taught primarily through seminars: these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the academic literature on international development.


Managing Climate Change

his 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. The unit is taught through seminars and lectures. Lectures introduce and impart factual knowledge while seminars allow discussion and an emphasis on applying key concepts to practical situations. Together these structure students' learning, and provide an environment in which they can develop their skills in researching, presenting and debating arguments drawn from the wide ranging literature on climatic change. 


Intercultural Communication Seminar

Following the module Concepts and Approaches in Intercultural Communication (Autumn), students will work in groups on a range of concepts in more depth. Learning the principles of running a 1-hour seminar, they will research, plan and deliver an interactive session to peers. They will also prepare for and contribute to seminars delivered by other peer groups. They will consider the implications for a range of workplace scenarios.

Teaching and learning

MA Intercultural Communication and International Development consists of a variety of teaching and learning methods, including staff- and student-led seminars, small group work, and one-on-one consultations with staff. Independent learning and assessment methods include essay writing, project work and oral presentations. All of these provide you with valuable skills for future employment. For details of learning and assessment, visit our Prospectus page.

We are also 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 will learn invaluable research skills of participant observation which you can apply in your dissertation and future career.

Visit us to find out more about the course from the Programme Leader, see our facilities and study spaces, and much more.

Field Class

Students are required to take part in a compulsory field class to places such as Tanzania, Galapagos or Nepal (this will be arranged during the first semester).  These field class costs are included in the tuition fees. Details on the fieldwork class can be found on the Department of Geography website.

One of the unique features of this programme is the compulsory placement with dissertation. Our students are placed with some of the world's leading international agencies. 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) 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 will 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.


Our MA in Intercultural Communication and International Development opens up a wide range of career paths in a multitude of industries.

Graduates have entered careers as:

  • Intercultural trainers
  • Advisors to NGOs (non-governmental organisations)
  • International partnerships officers
  • Policy officers
  • Project managers
  • Research Officers

Companies and organisations our graduates have gone on to include:

  • Re-thinking Economics: Economics Campaign Manager
  • the private sector (consultancy)
  • civil society (non-governmental organisations, e.g. Oxfam)
  • the public sector (government department or practitioner organisation, e.g. United Nations HABITAT organisation)

Some of our graduates have also set up their own companies, or continued onto postgraduate research degrees.

Read more, including information about applying, by visiting the postgraduate taught prospectus:

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is 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.

Information last updated: 13 October 2020

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