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Centre for Media Studies

MA Media in Development


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Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

The degree engages with practical and theoretically-critical approaches to addressing the different ways in which media can engage with, be used, and constitute sources of contestation over economic, socio-cultural and political development. It draws on media theory, practical knowledge and experience, and an awareness of the critical debates within and about development itself to challenge assumptions about the role of media and development industries. The approach thus balances critical theoretical analysis of the hegemonic perspectives about the role of media in development with practical issues surrounding the use of media, including notably digital technologies.

The degree is organised around a core course, a range of optional courses and a dissertation. The course explores how and in which ways the range of actors involved in broad issues of development, including transnational organizations and NGOs use communication technologies. It also interrogates the different spatialities at work, as development thinking moves away from a focus solely on nation/state building and focuses more and more on communities and local participation. The options include courses in Development Studies, Anthropology of Development and other related fields, as well as a wide range of courses on media and communications in the non-Western world. A range of other options is available from economics, politics and international relations to regional studies, societies and cultures of different parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The programme differs from other degrees in media and development as it critically interrogates the presuppositions behind the role of media in development which can legitimize a particular, hierarchical vision of the world. It critically examines economic, social and cultural change, in which the media are not just instruments of furthering the agenda of modernization, but also constitute vibrant public spaces and commentary outside of the formal public sphere and civil society.

The programme aims to provide students with advanced learning skills through the use of a wide range of materials on critical theoretical approaches to and understandings of the role of media and ICTs in development processes. It is designed to give a solid grounding in media and development practices with special attention to the non-Western world.

The programme also provides the basis from which students may proceed to (MPhil/PhD) graduate research.

Organization of the core course:
Term 1:

Challenges assumptions behind the role of media in development industries and offers new ways of thinking about the issues. The approach balances critical theoretical analysis of the hegemony implied by these perspectives with practical issues surrounding the use of contemporary media, including notably digital technologies, in the global south.

It also explores the range of actors including transnational organizations and NGOs involved in the development business and examines issues around ‘digital divides’ in order to ask about actors excluded from development practice. While focusing on a media perspective, it does not ignore the disparities of wealth and power globally nor the endemic problems of inequality and disempowerment is present in the North.

Term 2:

There are different spatialities at work, as we move away from a focus solely on nation/state building and focus more and more on communities and local participation. Hence there are also many different actors involved or excluded from development practice, and gender is one significant vector here. There is a range of different possible media and communications technologies, even if they are beginning to converge and digitalization renders all platforms and content interchangeable.

We examine development as a range of differentiated practices, including the economic, political and socio-cultural, without losing sight of the disparities of wealth and power globally. Such issues are best addressed by a range of issue-based topics that focus on a specific medium or social issue.

The programme will offer students:
  1. advanced knowledge and critical understanding of the relationships between media and development, and contemporary practices as defined by states, NGOs and other actors
  2. advanced skills in critical and comparative analysis, research and writing about topics in media and development;
  3. advanced training in methodology and the different research methods appropriate to deal different kinds of quantitative and qualitative materials and problems;
  4. advanced skills in presentation or communication of knowledge and understanding of specific topics in media and development, whether defined by theme (health communication, etc) or technology (mobile telephony, etc)


Students will take four units (equal to 180 CATS points) in total.

Compulsory Courses

Students must take the following two courses, totalling two units.

Option Courses

At least two half-units from the range of options in the Centre for Media and Film Studies.

Options in Other Departments

Up to two half units may be selected from other departments in the school.

Department of Anthropology
Department of Politics
Department of Development Studies
Department of Music

Programme Specification

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Learning Outcomes
  1. How to assess data and evidence critically from texts, manuscripts, audio and video sources, both analog and digital, solve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations, develop skills in critical judgements of complex source materials, locate materials in print and on line, use research resources (particularly research library catalogues and websites) and other relevant traditional and electronic sources.
  2. Knowledge and understanding of the dynamics and debates about the role of media and Information Communication Technologies in the development process: to be able to critically examine the discourses of development, the  roles of national and international organizations, NGOs, citizens in defining and producing development and the emergence of critical and alternative paradigms for sustainable societies; to be aware of the key theoretical issues surrounding the role of media and Information Communication Technologies in development processes; to be able to analytically disaggregate economic, political, social and cultural strands of development and the nature of mediated practices within each;  develop awareness of emergent models of sustainable development in which contemporary media practices play a key role; analyze the role of the media in hegemonic representations of social change and development.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  1. To be critical and precise in their assessment of evidence, and to understand through practice what documents and electronic sources can and cannot tell us. Such skills should improve and be refined throughout the programme.
  2. Question theories and interpretations, however authoritative, and critically reassess evidence for themselves. Students will learn how to question and challenge the accepted tenets both of development and media as the means of transmission of messages. These skills should improve and be refined throughout the programme.
  3. Critically interrogate situated empirical examples of specific media and Information Communication Technologies practices in development contexts in Asia, Africa, Middle East
Subject-based practical skills
  1. Communicate effectively in writing
  2. Retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of conventional and electronic sources
  3. Communicate orally to a group. Listen and discuss ideas introduced during seminars and classes.
  4. Practise research techniques in a variety of specialized research libraries and institutes.
  5. Have developed some new competencies in digital media production and dissemination
Transferable skills
  1. Write good essays and dissertations
  2. Structure and communicate ideas effectively both orally and in writing
  3. Understand unconventional ideas
  4. Study a variety of written and digital materials, in libraries, on line and research libraries of a kind they will not have used as undergraduates.
  5. Present material orally to a group.
  6. Have developed a range of on-line competencies


As well as academic expertise, MA Media in Development graduates from SOAS gain a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek. These include; written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.  This postgraduate degree provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.  

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

The Media and Middle East degree is one in a million. It was truly a unique and unforgettable experience for anyone wanting a critical and introspective look at the ever-dynamic relationship between media, politics, and society in the Middle East.

Mounira Lisa Sabella