SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

MSc Labour, Social Movements and Development (2018 entry)

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


A unique Programme

This innovative new programme offers students the opportunity to study labour conditions and relations, social movements of labour and their contributions to development processes and changes in the South. It is the first and only MSc programme in the UK dedicated to Labour, Social Movements and Development. It provides a critical examination of the links between labour, capitalism, development and poverty. It investigates labour in contemporary social and economic development of the South as well as classic and newly emerging social movements of labour in local, national and international spaces. Students will also have the opportunity to experience labour campaigns and policy-making in practice by participating in our interactive sessions on designing and implementing international, regional and national labour campaigns and policies. The MSc draws on the expertise of Department of Development Studies staff in labour, social movements and development in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and on our contacts within such movements, as well as with NGOs and international organisations.

The MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development explores different theories and methods for the study of the working poor in the South, and offers a critical examination of the links between labour, capitalism, development and poverty, and of the role of social movements and international initiatives for labour.

Highlights include:
  • Labour process and organisations: development trajectories and divisions in the South
  • A comparative history of labour and social movements in countries such as China, Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil and the Middle East
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives, codes of conduct and anti-sweatshop campaigning
  • The impact of neoliberalism and globalisation on workers in the South
  • Informalisation of labour, casualization and precarious work
  • Feminisation of labour
  • The worst forms of exploitation: forced labour and child labour
  • Rural labour, migrant labour and labour in Export Processing Zones
  • Household and reproductive labour
  • The International Labour Organisation, international labour standards and decent work
  • Practices and theories of local, national and international labour campaigns.

The unique regional expertise at SOAS allows students of the MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development to specialise in some of the most dynamic parts of the developing world. The programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills will be of great benefit to graduates who return to, or take up, professional careers in international organisations, government agencies and non-governmental organisations and movements. Students also benefit from the wide range of modules on offer, both within the department and across the School, allowing them to create individualised interdisciplinary programmes.

The department has a Labour, Movements and Development research cluster which carries out research activities linked to labour, social movements and development. 

DEV - IMG - PG - MSc Social Labour Movements - pun ngai - academic testimonial

“This is a terrific programme in labour, neo-liberalism and activism especially regarding the context of Global South. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand and get involved in the world of labour.”  (Professor Pun Ngai, University of Hong Kong)

DEV - IMG - PG - Msc Labour Social and Dev - Guy Standing - academic testimonial

“This degree programme offers a radical examination of the efforts of collective social movements in developing countries to improve their lives, access resources and the commons in general, and reduce precariousness. At its core is a rigorous review of theoretical analyses of such movements that is enriched by case studies of collective resistance. I recommend this degree to students who wish not only to understand the world, but to change it for the better.” (Professor Guy Standing, Professorial Research Associate, SOAS University of London)

Programme Blog

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Who is this programme for?:

The programme is for students who want to analyse and work on social change for the working poor in developing countries. It is highly relevant to anyone working or intending to work on labour and labour-related social movements in development agencies and NGOs, labour and solidarity movements, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and to activists in both developed and developing countries. We welcome students with a strong background in the social sciences in their first degree, as well as practitioners and professionals working in the areas of development, labour and employment relations, social movements and other related fields.

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MSc Labour, Social Movement and Development

Entry requirements

  • Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). Relevant work experience may also be considered.

Featured events

One calendar year (full-time) Two (part-time, daytime only) We recommend that part-time students have between two and a half and three days free in the week to pursue their course of study.




Students must take 180 credits comprised of 120 taught credits (including core and option modules) and a 60 credit dissertation.

Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in Development Studies 15PDSC999 60 Full Year
Taught Component
Core Modules
Module Code Credits Term
Labour, Activism and Development 15PDSC007 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Theory, policy and practice of development 15PDSC001 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Political Economy of Development 15PDSC002 30 Full Year

Choose a module(s) to the value of 30 credits from the Development Studies list below.

Open Options

Choose related Non-Language Open Option Modules to the value of 30 credits.


Choose a module(s) to the value of 30 credits from the Development Studies list below.

Open Options

Choose related Non-Language Open Option Modules to the value of 15 credits


Choose a module to the value of 15 credits from the Development Studies list below.

List of modules (subject to availability)
Module Code Credits Term
Agrarian Development, Food Policy and Rural Poverty 15PDSH026 15 Term 2
Aid and Development 15PDSH027 15 Term 2
Borders and Development 15PDSH023 15 Term 1
Civil society, social movements and the development process 15PDSH001 15 Term 2
Development Practice 15PDSH013 15 Term 1
Environment, Governance and Development 15PDSH050 15 Term 2
Famine and food security 15PDSH022 15 Term 2
Energy Transition, Nature, and Development in a Time of Climate Change 15PDSH048 15 Term 2
Fundamentals of research methods for Development Studies 15PDSH017 15 Term 1
Gender and Development 15PDSH010 15 Term 1
Global Commodity Chains, Production Networks and Informal Work 15PDSH024 15 Term 1
Global Health and Development 15PDSH051 15 Term 1
Issues in Forced Migration 15PDSH015 15 Term 2
Marxist Political Economy and Global Development 15PDSH053 15 Term 2
Migration and Policy 15PDSH029 15 Term 1
Natural resources, development and change: putting critical analysis into practice 15PDSH031 15 Term 2
Neoliberalism, Democracy and Global Development 15PDSH054 15 Term 2
Problems of Development in the Middle East and North Africa 15PDSH019 15 Term 2
Security 15PDSH020 15 Term 1
Labour, Activism and Global Development 15PDSH032 15 Term 2
Water and Development: Commodification, Ecology and Globalisation (Development Studies) 15PDSH049 15 Term 2
Water Justice: Rights, Access and Movements (Development Studies) 15PDSH041 15 Term 1


Programme Specification

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


SOAS Library
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Teaching & Learning

Our teaching and learning approach is designed to support and encourage students in their own process of self-learning, and to develop their own ideas, responses and critique of international development practice and policy. We do this through a mixture of lectures, and more student-centred learning approaches (including tutorials and seminars). Teaching combines innovative use of audio-visual materials, practical exercises, group discussions, and weekly guided reading and discussions, as well as conventional lecturing.

In addition to the taught part of the masters programme, all students will write a 10,000 word dissertation. Students develop their research topic under the guidance and supervision of an academic member of the Department. Students are encouraged to explore a particular body of theory or an academic debate relevant to their programme through a focus on a particular region.

Contact Hours

All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.

More information is on the page for each module.

Pre Entry Reading

Bernstein, H. 2007, ‘Capital and labour from centre to margins’.
Keynote address for conference on Living on the Margins.
Vulnerability, Exclusion and the State in the Informal Economy, Cape
Town, 26-28 March 2007. Available at

Breman, J. 2013. At Work in the Informal Economy of India: A
Perspective from the Bottom Up. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Chen, M. 2012. The Informal Economy: Definitions, Theories and
Policies WIEGO Working Paper No. 1, available at

Davis M. 2006. Planet of Slums. London: Verso. Available at

Federici, S. 2004. Caliban and the Witch, NY: Autonomedia. Available

Ferguson S., McNally D. 2015. ‘Precarious Migrants: Gender, Race and
the Social Reproduction of a Global Working Class’, Socialist Register

Freund B. 1988. The African worker. Cambridge University Press.

Linebaugh P. and Rediker M. 2008. The Many Headed Hydra: Slaves,
Sailors and Commoners and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary
Atlantic. Boston: Beacon Press. Available at,%20Slaves,%20Commoners,%20and%20the%20Hidden%20H.pdf

Lockman Z., 2008. “Reflections on Labor and Working-Class History in
the Middle East and North Africa”, in Jan Lucassen ed. Global Labour
History. Bern: Peter Lang.

Pun Ngai. 2005. Made in China. Duke University Press

Silver B. 2003. Forces of Labour: Workers' Movements and Globalization
Since 1870. Cambridge University Press. Available at'_Movements_and_Globalization_Since_1870_(Cambridge_Studies_in_Comparative_Politics)__-Cambridge_University_Press(2003).pdf

Standing, G. 2014. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, London:
Bloomsbury academic.

Wright M. 2006. Disposable Women and other myths of global Capitalism.
New York: Routledge. Available at


A postgraduate degree in Labour, Social Movements and Development from SOAS provides graduates with a portfolio of widely transferable skills sought by employers, including analytical skills, the ability to think laterally and employ critical reasoning, and knowing how to present materials and ideas effectively both orally and in writing. Equally graduates are able to continue in the field of research, continuing their studies either at SOAS or other institutions. 

An MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development is a valuable experience that 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

I wanted to study the MSc Migration, Mobility and Development because it felt like a really innovative programme which would allow me to look at migration through a critical and analytical lens.

Saliha Majeed-Hajaj

Find out more