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NGOs and Social Movements: The Politics of Protest and Change

Duration: Three Weeks


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Subir Sinha

Subir Sinha


Start of programme: Monday 30 June 2014

Mode of Attendance: Full Time

The massive expansion of the NGO sector around the world since the 1980s is widely recognised. At the same time, the emergence of neoliberalism has directed the shift from public to private sector-led development, including the ‘privatisation’ of aid. NGOs have been a vital part of this shift, with increasingly significant roles in mainstream development processes and increased access to state funds. The rise of NGOs into a veritable global industry has been matched by a diversification in the types of roles NGOs play in society. In addition to delivering relief and promoting social and economic development, NGOs have increasingly taken part in broader governance, democratisation and peacebuilding efforts.

Along with the expansion of the NGO sector, there has been growing interest in both the material and ideological roles of NGOs, including their independence from states, their concrete impact on poverty and inequality and their capacity to bring about social change. This is reflected in more than two decades of mounting critical literature on NGOs and the experiences of those associated with NGOs around the world. Alternatives to NGOs, in response to the destructive effects of neoliberalism, have taken diverse forms, including social movements and left-wing political parties.

This course provides an introduction to the study of NGOs and their impact in a world of crisis, war and protest. It analyses the role of NGOs in the context of the increasing prominence of social movements around the world and explores the extent to which NGOs work for and on behalf of beneficiaries on the one hand and states on the other. It examines both the theoretical basis for NGO strategies for social change as well as their practical implications, and specifically considers the role of NGOs in humanitarian interventions. Finally, drawing on a number of case studies, the course explores what kind of development and change is possible.


Monday 30 June - Friday 18 July 2014

Social Programme

You will also be able to enjoy our social programme, starting with a welcome party and a river cruise on the Thames. A guided tour of historical Bloomsbury where SOAS is situated will help you find your way around the campus area. You will also receive discount codes for day trips and overnight tours with our partner International Friends once you have registered for one of our courses.

Further details: www.internationalfriends.co.uk. Summer School students are also welcome to attend the wealth of activities hosted by the SOAS Students Union in the summer months.



An early bird discount of 10% is available if fees are paid by 15 April 2014.
10% discount for SOAS Alumni.
20% discount for current SOAS students.
Other discounts are available for partner institutions and groups, please email summerschool@soas.ac.uk for further information.


A tuition fee of £1250 will be charged per 3 week programme. This figure does not include accommodation fees.


A limited number of rooms will be available at International Hall which is located in the heart of Bloomsbury. You will be able to request a place once your application has been approved. The cost for 20 nights is £800, which includes breakfast every day. Please email summerschool@soas.ac.uk to reserve place.

Application fee

A one-off, non-refundable application fee of £55 will be charged to cover administration costs. Please visit the SOAS online store to make your application fee payment, once you have submitted your summer school application.


Students are usually able to obtain credits from their home institution and generally our courses receive 3 credits in the US system and 7.5 ECTS in the European system. However the summer courses remain non-accredited by SOAS. If you intend to claim credits from your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you enrol.

We will be happy to assist you in any way we can, however please be aware that the decision to award credits rests with your home institution.

Assessment will be optional and will vary for each course. Participants will be provided with a certificate of attendance and transcripts will be available on request.


For more information, please email Sophie Dilley at summerschool@soas.ac.uk


The course will be delivered Monday - Thursday over the 3 weeks, in a combination of lectures, tutorials and class visits.

NGOs and the project of development 

  • Neoliberalism and the resurgence of NGOs
  • NGOs, states and civil society
  • Accountability and legitimacy

The role of NGOs in humanitarian crises 

  • Saving lives: The historical record (case studies)
  • The new humanitarianism
  • NGOs and military intervention

NGOs and social change 

  • What kind of social change?
  • NGOs, social movements and left parties
  • NGOs and development: Future trends

Assessment: is optional and will be in the form of a 2000-2500 word essay to be handed in 2 weeks after the end of the course.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • A critical understanding of the key theoretical debates on NGOs, including an understanding of the various roles both international and national NGOs play in processes of development and social change.
  • An understanding of the relationships between NGOs and a range of other development actors, and knowledge of how these relationships have evolved.
  • A capacity to identify, understand and critique a range of theoretical approaches for understanding contemporary development NGOs and apply these approaches to practical case studies of NGOs.

How to Apply

In order to join our Summer School, you will need to meet the following entry requirements:

  • A minimum English language requirement if English is not your first language:
    • IELTS (www.ielts.org), 7 overall or higher, with at least 6.5 in all subscores.
    • iBT 105+ with 22 in all subscores or 100 overall with no less than 25 in writing and no less than 22 in any other subscores.
    • Or equivalent.

Summer School Application Form (pdf; 779kb)

Application deadline for the summer school courses is 31 May 2014.

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