SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

MSc Violence, Conflict and Development (2020 entry)

Select year of entry: 2021 2020

  • Q&A
  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Who is this programme for?:

Who gains from situations of conflict? In what ways can violence affect development? What are the challenges to post-conflict reconstruction? This pioneering programme explores the complex links between violent conflict and development, both historically and today.

Why study MSc Violence, Conflict and Development?

  • The degree has been developed to meet the needs of people working, or hoping to work, in international agencies, humanitarian organisations, and NGOs.

  • Academics teaching on this programme are research-active and have links to international organisations and NGOs operating in conflict areas.

  • As a student, you will be trained to apply empirical methods and analytical skills to accurately determine the effects of violence.

  • You will be able to choose from a broad range of optional modules  ­– so you can tailor your degree to your own interests and aspirations.

What will you study?

This programme examines the analytical, political and policy relationships between violence, conflict and development. The core module addresses empirical trends, difficulties of data collection and the importance of categorisation and boundaries to matters of violence. It goes on to present foundational theories on conflict and violence, including gender perspectives, debates about the origins of human violence (anthropological, historical, psychological sources of violence) and the role of violence in historical change.

The focus then shifts to the means, mechanisms and markers of violence, including themes related to boundaries, war economies, inequality, land and the environment. This provides the basis for analysing interventions in violent conflict including humanitarian aid, conflict resolution and reconstruction.

Who should apply?

We welcome those who have worked in the field of development and/or conflict, but we also accept 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.

Further information

You can familiarise yourself with the key themes and arguments covered on the programme by reading the convenor Zoe Marriage’s blog. In addition to Zoe’s insights, the blog also features submissions from students on the programme.

Loading the player...

MSc Violence Conflict and Development

Entry requirements

  • We will consider all applications with 2:ii (or international equivalent) or higher. In addition to degree classification we take into account other elements of the application including supporting statement and references.

Featured events

One calendar year (full-time). Two years(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.



Introducing MSc Violence, Conflict and Development

Zoë Marriage

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 per year comprised of 120 taught credits (including core, compulsory and optional 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. 

Compulsory modules: A compulsory module is required for the degree programme, so must always be taken, and if necessary can be passed by re-taking it alongside the next year of your programme.

Optional modules: These are designed to help students design their own intellectual journey while maintaining a strong grasp of the fundamentals.

This programme allows you to select one of the Department's online optional modules as part of your degree. Further details on the available modules can be found here.

Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in Development Studies 15PDSC999 60 Full Year
Core Modules
Module Code Credits Term
Political economy of violence, conflict and development 15PDSC003 30 Full Year
Compulsory Modules

Students also take ONE of the following: 

Module Code Credits Term
Political Economy of Development 15PDSC002 30 Full Year
Theory, policy and practice of development 15PDSC001 30 Full Year
  • Choose modules to the value of 30 credits from the Development Studies modules list below

Optional Modules

Choose module(s) to the total value of 30 credits from:

  • module(s) from the Development Studies list below to the value of 30 credits
  • open option modules to the value of 30 credits from another department
  • module from the Development Studies list below to the value of 15 credits
  • open option modules to the value of 15 credits from another department
Module Code Credits Term
Agrarian Development, Food Policy and Rural Poverty 15PDSH026 15 Term 2
Aid and Development 15PDSH027 15 Term 2
(RID) Battlefields of Method: Approaches to International Development Research 15PDSC008 30 credits
Borders and Development 15PDSH023 15 Term 1
Cities and Development 15PDSH072 15 Term 2
Civil society, social movements and the development process 15PDSH001 15 Term 1
Contemporary India: development challenges and perspectives 15PAIC003 15 Term 1
Critical Insights in Forced Migration 15DISD229 30
Development Practice 15PDSH013 15 Term 1
Environment, Governance and Development 15PDSH050 15 Term 2
Energy Transition, Nature, and Development in a Time of Climate Change 15PDSH048 15 Term 2
Famine and food security 15PDSH022 15 Term 2
Feminist Political Economy and Global Development 15PDSH073 15 Term 2
Fundamentals of research methods for Development Studies 15PDSH017 15 Term 1
Gender and Development 15PDSH010 15 Term 1
Global Approaches to Peace 15PDSH074 15 Term 2
Global Commodity Chains, Production Networks and Informal Work 15PDSH024 15 Term 1
Global Health and Development 15PDSH051 15 Term 1
Human and Critical Security Studies 15DISD213 30
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
Partnerships Beyond Borders: NGOs, Social Movements and Civil Society in Transnational Development 15DISD230 30
Problems of Development in the Middle East and North Africa 15PDSH019 15 Term 2
Security 15PDSH020 15 Term 1
The Politics of Gender and Feminism in Development 15DISD231 30
The Working Poor and Development 15PDSH030 15 Term 2
Labour, Activism and Global Development 15PDSH032 15 Term 2
War to Peace Transitions 15PDSH018 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 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

  • 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.


MSc Violence, Conflict & Development postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek. These include 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. 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 continued in the field of research.

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

  • NGOs such as ActionAid, Action Against Hunger, Action on Armed Violence, Amnesty International, BOND, Canadian Cooperatives Association, Christian Aid, Church World Service, Climate Action Network, Conciliation Resources, Concordis International, Crisis Action, Danish Refugee Council, Doctors Without Borders, Fairtrade International, Foundation Rwanda, Global Witness, GlobalOne, Greenshoots, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Alert, International Rescue Committee, International Land Coalition, INTRAC, Islamic Relief, Jimmy Carter Institute, Landmine Action, Médecins Sans Frontières, MERCY Malaysia, Minority Rights Group, Oxfam, Peace Corps, PLAN International, PeaceWorks, Peace Direct, Refugee Action, , Saferworld, Save the Children, Skills for South Sudan, The Climate Group, Tearfund, Victim Support, VSF Germany.
  • Research, media, consultancy and private sector, for example Acumin, Adam Smith International, African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, BBC World Service, The Beckley Foundation, Bloomberg LP, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario, Bolivia, Coffey International Development, Control Risks, Crown Agents, Diligence LLC, FC Business Intelligence, Food Economy Group, Frontline, HEC Paris, Institute for Human Development, Institute of Education, Institute for Public Policy Research, International Centre for Migration Policy Development, Integrity Research and Consultancy, Mekong Economics Ltd, Open Democracy, Open Society Foundation, Outlook Magazine, Overseas Development Institute, Oxford Policy Management, PwC, Rift Valley Institute, Saana Consulting, SOAS University of London, Triple Line Consulting and the Washington Post,
  • Government, UN and international organisations including various UK government agencies (such as Department for International Development, Cabinet Office, House of Commons, Youth Justice Board, British Army, Royal Navy, Charity Commission, London Borough of Richmond upon Thames), Korean, French and Venezuelan diplomatic services, the Japan Foundation, Swedish Migration Agency, GIZ Society for International Development, European Commission, NATO, International Labour Organization, International Organization for Migration, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, UNICEF, World Health Organization, World Food Programme, UN-Habitat, World Bank.


Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include: Asylum Case Officer,  Campaigner, Charity Worker, Communications Officer, Consultant, Country Director, Defence Policy and Strategy Analyst, Development Economist, Editor, Education Coordinator, East and Central Africa Projects Manager, Emergency Programme Manager, Finance Officer, Financial Analyst, Food Security and Livelihoods Consultant, Fundraising Officer, Gender Programmes officer, Global Policy Consultant, Humanitarian Policy Advisor, International Mobilisation Coordinator, International Programmes Officer, Journalist, Lawyer, Logistics Manager, Marketing Executive, Middle East Intelligence Analyst, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Office Manager, Operational Support Officer, Outreach Worker, Parliamentary Intern, Photojournalist, Political Researcher, Programme Coordinator, Project Manager, Refugee Resettlement Caseworker, Researcher, South Sudan Project Manager, Sponsorship Co-Ordinator, Strategy Adviser, Women and Peace Building Specialist. 

A Student's Perspective

My experience of living in London was diverse. London doesn’t seem to lack in anything. My friends and I brought a challenge upon ourselves to find activities which the city could not offer. Fortunately we failed!

Roku Foku, Vassar College

Find out more