SOAS University of London

Jo Tomkinson, 1st Year

The Department of Development Studies here is a microcosm for all that is special about SOAS. The critical political economy perspective taken to the many vexed questions of development will give you a way of seeing the world that challenges mainstream thinking.

MPhil/PhD International Development
SOAS is an utterly special institution, unrivalled both in the UK and internationally. It is a space where ideas at the margins of the academic mainstream develop, flourish and spread. A place where you are invited to critically question the present and creatively reimagine the future. If you believe that a better world must be possible, then there really is no better place to be. Fascinating and remarkable people are drawn here, so on both an intellectual and a social level you will feel that you are part of something truly exceptional.  

I always thought that I would come to study here one day after I visited SOAS for a conference during my undergraduate degree. It was clear from just a day here that this place had something unique to offer in terms of the people, ideas and perspectives being brought together. Then, after working for six years in the international development sector – for NGOs, media outlets and research centres – many of the most interesting people I came across professionally had studied at SOAS and raved about the Department of Development Studies and the Masters programmes it offered. So when I finally decided it was time to do that Masters, there really was only one choice.

The Department of Development Studies here is a microcosm for all that is special about SOAS. The critical political economy perspective taken to the many vexed questions of development will give you a way of seeing the world that challenges mainstream thinking. If you want to understand why poverty, violence and inequality persist, and want to know why some countries remain poor, then by studying at SOAS you will be equipped with tools to get beneath the surface of conventional debates and understand the drivers, dynamics and unequal power relations at work.

The MSc in Development Studies between 2012-2013 was a really special year for me: I didn’t know it was possible to learn so much in such a short space of time. It was intellectually both reinvigorating and exhilarating. I loved it here so much in fact that in 2014 I embarked on a PhD in the same Department. When I decided to do a PhD, it would have been sensible to apply to several institutions to maximise my chances of getting a doctoral place. But the simple fact was that I didn’t want to study anywhere else. I knew that if I ended up elsewhere I would have spent three years looking over at what was happening at SOAS from a distance and wanting to be part of it. So I took my chances and applied only here. Thankfully I was accepted, and now feel truly privileged that I will spend the next three years in the heart of a Department and among academics and fellow students who do some of the most exciting and important work in my field.

Like the people I met during my professional career in development, many of my MSc cohort now work in NGOs and think tanks in the international development sector. If you have a passion for development, then professionally, intellectually and personally, there are few better choices you can make than undertaking postgraduate study at the Department of Development Studies at SOAS.

To study at SOAS, is, quite simply, the best decision I’ve ever made.