BA Professional Placement

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 3
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

Please note: Numbers on this module are capped.

The BA Professional Placement involves students being placed within a development organisation to participate in a specific element of development research or practice. The aim is that students’ prior and ongoing academic studies will inform and enrich their experience of professional practice, and the exposure to professional practice will in turn enhance their ability to analyse development processes. The placement will also provide invaluable experience as students embark on careers after graduating.

The BA Professional Placement module is offered as an option in the final year, but may not be taken in addition to the independent Study Project. Placements will be assigned by the module convenor, although student preferences will be taken into account (see Preparation, below).


On registering for the module, students are asked to submit a short (maximum one page) personal statement indicating why they are interested in taking this module and specific thematic areas or types of activities of interest to them. This will be used wherever possible to allocate students to placements. However, students should keep in mind that we cannot guarantee providing a particular kind of placement, and they should be prepared to engage with and learn from whatever placement they are allocated.

Prior to starting the placement, students will discuss with the convenor and the placement supervisor the nature of the work that the student is expected to carry out, the supervisory arrangements at the workplace that can be expected, and any outputs expected by the placement organisation. These will be recorded in a Memorandum of Understanding prepared by SOAS.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. Research and prepare for working in a particular professional development setting.
  2. Experience work in a professional development setting.
  3. Prepare and deliver a professional presentation on the placement experience under timed conditions.
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of the institutional history, structure and culture of the work experience provider, the work that the organisation does, and how this relates to wider field(s) of development practice.
  5. Apply learning from placements to analysis of a specific global development issue and institutional and policy responses.




The placements will involve a minimum of 64 hours. They should be started by Week 6 of Term 1 and completed by Week 6 of Term 2. The standard pattern will be 8 hours / 1 day a week for 8 weeks. In special circumstances the convenor may – in consultation with the placement supervisor – authorise a different work pattern in the work plan (e.g. if there is a special event which the student is more intensively involved in) provided the length of tie of the placement from beginning to end allows the student ample opportunity for learning, reflection and development of their research paper focus.

Students will take part in the following 7 instructional seminars:

  1. Introduction to the Professional Placement: overview of the module goals, structure, assessment, how to prepare for the assessments.
  2. Types of Development Practice: an introduction to the kinds of activities that students will engage in, based on the host organisations that have been identified.
  3. Preparing for work: CV and interview skills session (run jointly with Careers Services).
  4. Student work plans and making the most of the placement experience; establishing clear expectations, identifying potential areas of interest and learning opportunities.
  5. Placement Experience Presentation session.
  6. End of placement debriefing session: to evaluate the experience and narrow the topic of the extended research paper.
  7. Research paper seminar: to provide guidance on writing the research paper.

In addition, students will take part in two individual 1 hour tutorials with the Module Convenor – one helping the student to get the most out of their placement and identifying relevant reading to support the placement (around Week 5, Term 1) and one on research paper planning (around Week 8, Term 2).


Method of assessment


One research paper of 5000 words (worth 70% of the mark) inspired by the work placement, focusing on how research theory/evidence and development practice inform each other, that engages with either the work that the student has done in the placement, the work of the organisation with which they were placed, or the themes that the organisation is working on.

One presentation of the placement experience and reflections on its application to development research (10 minute presentation, 5 minutes questions, worth 30% of the total mark).

In addition, students are expected to keep a placement journal, which records the work that the student is involved in and reflects on the placement and its relevance to development debates, research, or theory. The journal will be formatively assessed at the end of Term 1 and will provide a basis for the presentation and research paper.



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules