SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

MSc International Development (Online)

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  • Teaching and Learning
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Overview and entry requirements

The online MSc International Development builds on the established global reputation of the Development Studies department as one of the top places in the world to study international development.

We welcome applications from those who have worked in development, however broadly defined, but also from students without relevant work experience who can demonstrate a strong interest in, and understanding of, issues pertaining to international development.

International Development is a dynamic field concerned not only with processes of change in the Global South, but also of social, economic, political and cultural change in middle income countries and the Global North.

The perspective of International Development analyses these processes as interdependent and engages major policy challenges as well as efforts to overcome poverty and insecurity while also presenting a structural analysis.

This programme provides a solid interdisciplinary social science formation in the political economy and sociology of development and develops students’ capacities for independent and critical analysis.

See Department of Development Studies

Some topics will include:
  • Conceptualising and questioning development
  • Marxism, dependency and structuralism
  • Gender and development
  • Measuring development
  • Neoclassical economics, neoliberalism and development
  • Global institutions, agendas and development targets
  • Industrial policy
  • Agriculture and agrarian change
  • Labour and labour markets
  • Decolonial approaches to development

Why study online MSc Development Studies with SOAS

  • we are ranked number 2 in the QS World University Rankings in the subject of Development Studies
  • SOAS is ranked in the top 5 universities in the UK for producing a CEO or Managing Director, according to new research
  • we are specialists within the humanities including in key topics such as international development, gender development, violence and conflict, environmental sustainability, the role of aid and trade in promoting development, as well as refugees and forced migration
  • our staff have unrivalled practical knowledge across the discipline and regularly inform organisations such as the UN, NGOs and international governments
  • as well as the curriculum knowledge you will also obtain a rich historical and cultural knowledge about the countries and regions in which you may work in
  • we are specialists in the delivery of languages. Your command of a language at SOAS will set you apart from graduates of other universities

The MSc programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills has been of great benefit to the many graduates who have returned to, or taken up, professional careers in development in international organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations.


Start of programme: April / October
Mode of Attendance: Online Learning

Start of programme: April / October

Mode of Attendance: Online Learning

Entry requirements

  • A minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). We welcome applications from academically strong individuals from a wide variety of fields and backgrounds. Candidates with a lower class degree but with degree-relevant work experience may be considered.

Featured events

2 years



Introducing the MSc International Development (online)

Navtej K Purewal

Professor Navtej Purewal is a Professor in Political Sociology and Development Studies at SOAS and the programme convenor for MSc International Development (online). She describes what students can expect who join the programme.

What does the programme involve?

This programme was launched in 2019 and brings together the key disciplines of political economy and the sociology of development in the core module to provide students with a thorough grounding in the concepts, debates and challenges that shape international development. Students choose their elective modules from within the Development Studies department and across SOAS. Students write a dissertation as the final module of their programme.

What kind of students will the programme appeal to?

SOAS attracts a diverse cohort of students, and this contributes to the dynamic discussions and debates that place. The online format maximises this diversity, and with it the richness for discussion. The programme is designed to appeal to students who can study alongside other commitments, be they work or caring, and it also recognises that – for many people – travelling to London and dedicating a year to full-time study is not possible or not a preferred option. The increased reach of
the online programme is an important part of its appeal, and we know that engaging with people who are studying alongside work in development benefits the study environment and plays out in their professional discussions and decisions as well.

What facilities are available?

The programme is taught entirely online, which means that all study materials are provided through an online learning portal. This means that students can keep abreast of reading and discussions as long as they have an internet connection. Students also have access to the SOAS library, which has a wealth of online resources, including online academic journals and e-books. This means that the required readings can be complemented by independent research, and the ability to search for and access relevant academic material is developed through the programme, equipping students with the relevant skills to pursue
their own research interests through the dissertation preparation and writing.

What is special to the programme at SOAS?

The programme draws on the strengths of the Development Studies department, which has a long-standing reputation for its post-graduate teaching. The core module enables students to study in-depth the variety of approaches to development, the challenges that these approaches have encountered, and the ways in which development organisations, governments, movements and populations have responded to the challenges. This programme comes at an exciting moment of collaboration across SOAS departments that enables students to tailor their studies to their particular academic and professional needs and interests.

What do students do after graduating?

The online programme is new, but we have many cohorts of graduates from our on-campus programmes who have done extremely well in moving into areas of international development. Students regularly go onto work in governmental development agencies, international NGOs or the UN. Some graduates use the depth or specialisation of their studies
to gain promotion within their current organisation, while others go on to pursue further research in international development at the doctoral evel.



Students must take 180 credits comprised of one core and three elective modules totalling 120 taught credits, four supporting mini modules and a 60-credit dissertation.

Core modules: A core module is required for the degree programme, so must always be taken and passed before you move on to the next year of your programme. The core modules are offered in every session.

Elective modules: These are designed to help students design their own intellectual journey while maintaining a strong grasp of the fundamentals. Elective modules can be chosen from a list of subjects offered across SOAS' portfolio of programmes.

Timeline of distance learning MSc in International Development (PDF)


Module Credits Type
Dissertation in Development Studies 60 Core
Core module
Module Credits Type
The Political Economy and Sociology of Development 30 Core

Students have to choose a minimum of 30 credits from Development Studies list below. They can then either select an additional 60 credits from this list or 30 from the Development Studies list and 30 from the Open Options list.

Development Studies
Module Credits Type 21/22 Availability
Human and Critical Security Studies 30 Elective April 
Understanding Violence, Conflict and Development 30 Elective April
Critical Insights in Forced Migration 30 Elective April
Partnerships Beyond Borders: NGOs, Social Movements and Civil Society in Transnational Development 30 Elective October
The Politics of Gender and Feminisms in Development 30 Elective October
Drugs, Conflict and Development 30 Elective October
Open Options - Global Diplomacy, International and Environmental
Module Credits Type Department
Understanding Sustainability 30 Elective CeDEP
Climate Change and Development 30 Elective CeDEP
Food Security and Social Protection  30  Elective  CeDEP
Economics, Politics and Society in MENA 30 Elective CISD
Economics, Politics and Society in South Asia 30 Elective CISD
Modern Africa: History, Politics and Society 30 Elective  CISD
Economics, Politics and Society in East Asia 30 Elective CISD
Global Public Policy 30 Elective CISD
Gender and Conflict in the Middle East 30 Elective Gender and Media
Transnational and Diasporic Media 30 Elective Gender and Media
Global Media and Digital Cultures 30 Elective Gender and Media
Gender, Sexuality in Global Politics 30 Elective Gender and Media

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

This programme is taught 100% online through our BLE (the virtual Bloomsbury Learning Environment).

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

In the virtual Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) you will have access to learning materials and course resources anytime so that you can fit your studies around your existing commitments. There are also a number of seminars and tutorials which are scheduled to fit students’ schedules and time-zones. For each module, students will be provided with electronic access through both the SOAS Library and the University of London’s Online Library, to all necessary materials from a range of appropriate sources.

There are two key components of the student experience which distinguish distance
learning from our other programmes:

  • Discussion forums: peer-to-peer learning and engagement guided by the tutor
  • E-tivities: assessments which are formulated around a pedagogy of academic skills development which culminate in the submission of assessments, known as e-tivities.

Study timetable

In addition to a dedicated Associate Tutor, a study timetable is provided for each module and for the overall programme to help you to plan and organise your time.

The programme is broken down into two study sessions per year (October to February and April to August). Each subject module lasts 16 weeks, followed by a dissertation mini module lasting 8 weeks.

Activity Duration
Substantive module 16 weeks
Reading weeks 2 weeks
Research mini module 8 weeks
Reading weeks 2 weeks


Each module is assessed by five written online assessments (‘e-tivities’*) comprising of 30%, the remaining 70% is formed of a 5,000 word essay. The e-tivities provide formative and summative feedback to students as a means of monitoring their progress and encouraging areas in which they can improve.

*An 'e-tivity' is a framework for online, active and interactive learning following a format that states clearly to the students its 'Purpose'; the 'Task' at hand; the contribution or 'Response' type; and the 'Outcome' (Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, New York and London: Routledge Falmer.)

Research training and dissertation

The dissertation module is presented in four development parts, which will follow each of your module sessions. Research modules one and three are formative modules only and are not assessed. 

The dissertation is assessed by the submission of a written dissertation of no more than 15,000 words, excluding the bibliography and appendices, which will account for 85% of the mark awarded for the module (research module four). The remaining 15% of the module mark will be based on the mark obtained for a 1,500 word research proposal (research module two). Students will submit their dissertations at the end of research module four.

Pre Entry Reading

  • Marois, Thomas (2012) States, Banks and Crisis: Emerging Finance Capitalism in Mexico and Turkey. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.
  • Mezzadri, Alessandra (2017) The Sweatshop Regime: Labouring Bodies, Exploitation and Garments Made in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Shah, Alpa and Lerche, Jens and Axelby, Richard and Denbabaali, D. and Donegan, B. and Raj, J. and Thakur, Vineet (2017) Ground Down by Growth: Inequality in 21st century India. London: Pluto.
  • Vergara-Camus, Leandro (2014) Land and Freedom. The Peasant Development Alternatives to Neoliberalism of the Landless People in Brazil and the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas. London: Zed Books.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees

MA/MSc PGDip* PGCert*
£12,000 See below See below

*PGDip and PGCert are available as exit awards. Interested students should get in touch directly with the course team.

Pay as you learn

Our online programmes can be paid in full at the time of enrolment or on a pay as you learn basis. Pay as you learn means you pay for modules prior to enrolment (£3,000 each).

Postgraduate loans

If you have been a resident in England for three years you may be eligible. For more information, please see Fees and Finance..



A degree from the Department of Development Studies at SOAS will further develop your understanding of the world and how society is organised, with specific focus on violence and conflict, the role of aid, refugees and forced migration. Graduates leave with a range of transferable skills, including critical thinking, analytical skills and cultural awareness.

Recent Department of Development Studies graduates have been hired by:

  • Amnesty International
  • BBC World Service
  • British Embassy Brussels
  • Department for International Development
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
  • Embassy of Japan
  • Government of Pakistan
  • Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
  • International Labour Organization (ILO)
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Overseas Development Institute
  • Oxfam
  • Royal Norwegian Embassy
  • Save the Children UK
  • Thinking Beyond Borders
  • US Department of State
  • UN World Food Programme
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • WaterAid

Find out about our Careers Service.

A Student's Perspective

The programme was highly recommended to me by some friends who studied it and went on to excel in their careers afterwards.

Ahmad Al-Raashid


How to apply

You can apply using our online application form

If you have any questions please email us at 

Application and enrolment deadlines as well as session start/end dates can be found on Online and Distance Learning Key dates - Term dates.

Your completed application will be reviewed by a member of academic staff. If your application is successful, we will send you an official offer within ten working days and you will be asked to submit the relevant supporting documentation. Once in receipt of our offer, we recommend submitting your documents immediately.

Supporting documentation for applications

Please note, we are currently accepting all supporting documentation via email:

Please email us electronic versions rather than post your physical documents to us.

1. Degree certificates

We require documentation confirming the award of all qualifications listed in your application, which can either be your certificate or academic transcript. This must show: the name of the university, programme studied and the grade/classification you attained. If your university cannot issue official documents in English, we will require a certified translation in English of your degree certificate/transcript.

You can send us either original or certified copies of your documents. If you send original documents and you would like these to be returned to you, please state this in your covering letter.

If you send certified copies, please ensure that each document has been stamped and verified by one of the following:

  • British Council official. (You can find the location of your nearest British Council office from
  • Local British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission
  • Notary Public
  • The issuing university (in the case of academic qualifications)
2. Copy of an identification document

This must be either your passport or birth certificate. This does not need to be certified, and may be sent to us via email.

Note: If your name as stated on your academic documents does not match that given on your identification document, we will also require documentary evidence (such as a marriage certificate) that supports your change of name.

3. Copy of English language proficiency certificate

If your degree was not taught and assessed in English, you will need to submit evidence of your English language competency. This should be either an IELTS or TOEFL certificate (you will need an IELTS overall score of 7.0 including 7 in both reading and writing). This does not need to be certified and may be received via email.

4. References

We may also request that you provide us with references in support of your application. They should be from an individual who knows you on an academic basis. However, if you graduated more than three years ago we will accept a professional reference.

Your reference should include an opinion (in English) on your academic and personal suitability for the proposed programme of study.

Please note that, if necessary, we reserve the right to verify your qualifications with the relevant awarding body and to request further information from you about your background.

Send your supporting documents to the following address:

Development Studies Department
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London, WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

5. CV

Please include a detailed CV that lists your employment and educational background including dates. 

Find out more