Start of programme: September intake only
Who is this programme for?:
The Violence, Conflict and Development programme attracts applicants with a variety of academic and working backgrounds. We welcome those who have worked in the field of development and/or conflict, but we also welcome applications from students without relevant work experience who can demonstrate a strong interest in the major themes of the programme and a strong first degree, preferably in a social science.
The degree has been developed to meet the needs of people working, or hoping to work, in international agencies, humanitarian organisations, and NGOs.
As the pioneering programme of its kind internationally, this MSc programme develops detailed empirical knowledge and analytical skills for understanding the complex linkages between violent conflict and development, both historically and today. It enables students to explore these linkages both within specific country and regional contexts and in the context of global interdependencies and the ways these affect peace, war, and non-war violence.
The programme introduces students to competing analytical approaches. It is multi-disciplinary though shaped by a particular interest in political economy. It encourages deep case study knowledge. And it offers students the ability to tailor their choice of optional courses and dissertation research to their own interests.
The MSc in Violence, Conflict and Development draws on the exceptional expertise at SOAS in different disciplinary understanding of development challenges and processes as well as the strong commitment among all teaching staff to area expertise. Staff teaching on this programme are research active and have a range of links to international organisations.
The programme is of interest for development practitioners, activists, and students with a scholarly interest in the patterns of violence internationally, in how violence affects development, and in how the uneven processes of development themselves may both generate violence and generate mechanisms for containing violence.
- Zoe's Blog! A convenor's-eye view of the MSc Violence, Conflict and Development programme
- Exploration of the long history of theories of human violence
- Relationships between violence and long-run historical change
- The concept of a continuum of violence
- The relevance of historical and more recent evidence that the process of structural change involved in ‘development’ is inherently conflictual and often violent
- To what extent democratisation is a mechanism for securing perpetual peace
- The challenges of understanding gender based violence
- Whether abundant natural resources, or high levels of inequality, or clear markers of religious or ethnic difference are clear sources of violent conflict
- How highly localised violent conflicts are connected to processes of global economic development
- The challenges of post-conflict reconstruction and ‘war to peace transitions’
- The role of NGOs in causes of, dynamics of, and responses to conflict
- Explaining the prevalence of high levels of non-war violence
- Explanations of the political economy of – and alternative perspectives on – terrorism
Students can draw on SOAS's unique expertise to specialise further in particular regions or topics.
Introducing MSc Violence, Conflict and Development
Zoë Marriage, Reader in Development Studies at SOAS, explains how the MSc Violence, Conflict and Development has been developed to meet the needs of people working, or hoping to work, in international agencies, humanitarian organisations, and NGOs.
What does the course involve?
The course provides a grounding in theories of violence and conflict as they interact with processes of development. We focus in the first term on theories and origins of violence and conflict, investigating inequality, gender, religion, ethnicity and other perspectives. In the second term, we analyse international conflict drawing on the theoretical material of the first term and taking on board literature on borders, migration and terrorism.
What kind of students will the course appeal to?
There are a few patterns in the students who come to study VCD. Some come straight from university, and tend to be very confident with essay writing, deadlines and note-taking. Others come with a few years under their belts working in violent environments, with NGOs, armed forces or the UN. They bring amazing knowledge and examples to class discussions, and very often use the year of study to work through their thinking after an overload of intense professional or personal experiences. Others are coming from another line of work – as lawyers, social workers, bankers – and are using the MSc to prepare them for a different direction in their career. They bring different perspectives again, derived from their professional work and a drive to change course. Others again do not fit into any of these types, and the range of backgrounds is a fantastic resource for everyone on the course, as skills and experiences from different walks of life and stages of people’s careers complement each other.
What facilities are available?
SOAS has a well-stocked library, and SOAS students have reading and borrowing rights in numerous other libraries that are part of the University of London; this gives access to several million books! Alongside the traditional libraries, SOAS has subscriptions to a host of relevant journals and e-books that students can access from anywhere with an internet connection, and download onto their computers or mobile devices. There are also group study spaces available, including in the newly-furbished Paul Webley Wing, where students can meet, have a coffee and discuss ideas.
What is special about the programme at SOAS?
The centrepiece of the course is the question of how power is distributed through processes of violence, conflict and development, and this provides scope for investigating the nature and function of these processes. While there are elements of peace, reconciliation and post-conflict reconstruction, considerations of these all stem from a thorough understanding of violence and conflict. The centrality of violence and conflict distinguishes the MSc VCD from courses that focus on peace studies, humanitarianism or conflict resolution, and all the academic staff who teach on the programme, and many of the students, have experience of working in areas of conflict.
Can you recommend a good book to read on Violence, Conflict and Development?
All of the faculty publish regularly on these issues and a full list of publications can be found on each staff member’s SOAS profile. Some recent books by members of the department are:
Di John, Jonathan and O'Meally, Simon (2017) Social Service Delivery, Political Economy and Forms of Violence: Explaining Progress against the Odds. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
Marriage, Zoë (2013) Formal Peace and Informal War. Security and Development in Congo. Abingdon: Routledge.
Spencer, J and Goodhand, J and Hasbullah, H and Klem, B and Korf, B and de Silva, T (2014) Checkpoint, Temple, Church and Mosque: A Collaborative Ethnography of War and Peace in Eastern Sri Lanka . London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Di John, Jonathan (2009) From Windfall to Curse? Oil and Industrialization in Venezuela, 1920 to the Present. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
Cramer, Christopher (2006) Civil War Is Not a Stupid Thing. Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries. London: Hurst & Company.
Goodhand, Jonathan (2006) Aiding Peace? The Role of NGOs in Armed Conflict. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
Marriage, Zoë (2006) Not Breaking the Rules. Not Playing the Game. International Assistance to Countries at War. London: Hurst & Company.
What do students do after graduating?
Just as students come from a wide range of backgrounds, they go on to a wide range of destinations. Many go on to work in the UN, NGOs or governmental organisations working on development. A good number go on to doctoral study, either immediately after completing their Masters, or sometimes a couple of years down the line.
Students must take 180 credits comprised of 120 taught credits (including core and option modules) and a 60 credit dissertation.
All students take core modules, ‘Political Economy of Violence, Conflict & Development’ and a ‘Dissertation in Development Studies’. They then choose EITHER ‘Political Economy of Development’ OR ‘Theory, Policy and Practice of Development. Through these modules, students build their analytical skills and knowledge of the main issues and debates in Development Studies.
Students also take option modules, allowing them to specialise in particular areas of development and possibly using them to develop a dissertation in a related theme. By tying optional modules to their individual dissertation topic, students tailor their degree to suit their own interests and career development goals.
Please note that not all option modules may run every year. Modules at other institutions (intercollegiate) are not part of the approved programme structure.
Students can take this programme part-time over 2 or 3 years. Students usually complete their core modules in Year 1 and their option modules and dissertation in subsequent years.
Students take the following TWO core modules:
Optional Core Modules
Students then choose ONE of the following modules:
Students choose modules to the value of 30 credits from List 1 and 30 credits from List 2 below:
(1) Option Modules in the Department of Development Studies
(2) Open Options in other Departments
Open module options in other departments
All MSc students in Development Studies are eligible to attend the one-term, non-assessed course, Economics for Beginners, which introduces students to basic concepts in microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, and statistics and econometrics.
This is the structure for 2018/19 applicants
If you are a current student you can find structure information on Moodle or through your Department.
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.
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
Cramer, C. (2006). Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing. Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries. London, Hurst & co.
Duffield, M. (2007). Development, Security and Unending War. Cambridge, Polity.
Goodhand, J. (2006). Aiding Peace? The Role of NGOs in Armed Conflict. Rugby, ITDG Publishing.
Keen, D. (2008). Complex Emergencies. Cambridge, Polity Press.
Marriage, Z. (2013). Formal Peace and Informal War. Security and Development in Congo. London and New York, Routledge.
Full details of postgraduate tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Tuition Fees page.
This is a Band 3 tuition fee.
Fees for 2018/19 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year.
||Part-time 2 Years
||Part-time 3 Years
MSc Violence, Conflict & Development postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek. These include analytical skills, presentation skills, the ability to think laterally and employ critical reasoning, and knowing how to present materials and ideas effectively both orally and in writing. A postgraduate degree 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. Graduates from MsC Violence, Conflict & Development have gone on to work in a range of different organisations, including Development and Human Rights Organisations, and many have continuted in the field of research.
Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:
BBC World Service
British Overseas Network for Development NGOs
Department for International Development
Embassy of the Republic of Korea to Finland
European Bank for Reconstruction & Development
Immigration Advisory Service
Institute for Human Development
Institute for Public Policy Research
International Land Coalition (ILC)
|Islamic Relief Worldwide
Mekong Economics Ltd
Overseas Development Institute
Save the Children
The Climate Group
The Japan Foundation
The World Bank
UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations
UNICEF Libya Response Team
World Health Organization
Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:
|Regional Project Development Intern For Africa
Emergencies Programme Manager
International Mobilisation Coordinator
Humanitarian Policy Advisor
East and Central Africa Projects Manager
Horn of Africa Analyst
Global Policy Consultant
Operational Support Officer
Senior Project Manager
Defense Policy and Strategy Analyst
Director Counter Extremism and Deradicalization
International Programmes Officer
Ethical Trade Executive
Community Investment Coordinator
Women and Peace building Specialist
For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.
A Student's Perspective
SOAS, with its renown expertise in regional Studies and an emphasis on looking beyond the disciplinary boundaries of standard economic approaches, provides the ideal research environment to tackle questions of regional development in an interdisciplinary and empirically sound manner.