SOAS University of London

International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies

Politics and Development

Academic Subject Summer Course

  • Overview
  • Structure
  • How to Apply


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NOTE: Politics and Development will not be running in 2020.

The Politics and Development summer course offers students an introduction to some of the most important issues relating to the current focus on political factors as key to successful development policies. The course is composed of a mix of formal lectures, discussion seminars and weekly case studies. The aim is to give students a chance to consider the ‘crisis of governance’ that Western development organisations, such as the World Bank, argue is the main factor holding back the successful development of countries. Whether, undemocratic, corrupt and unaccountable political regimes are the major obstacles to progress in many countries will be examined. In addition, the arguments of powerful Western development organisations, that multi-party liberal democracies along with  freely formed and vibrant civil societies (particularly NGOs)  are necessary if successful development is to be achieved, will be examined.

Click on the Structure tab for more details and to see what structure the lectures will follow.


English language recommendations for students choosing subject courses: Students will need at least an intermediate level of English in order to understand the lectures, which are delivered at undergraduate level, and to engage in lively discussion in the seminars and tutorials. See our brochure for further details of appropriate language test scores.


Lecture Topics
Topic 1 - Multi-party Liberal Democracy and Development: The ‘West is the Best’?

From the early 1990s multi-party liberal democracy has been promoted assertively as the best form of political organisation if countries want to embark on a successful development path. However, is this really the best model?

Topic 2 - Critics of Liberal Democracy and the Notion of the ‘Developmental State’

This lecture examines the political policies and practice used by ‘developmental states’ that have stimulated ‘successful’ development in recent history. It questions why it seems that successful development has occurred in one party states (China) and military dictatorships (South Korea), while few nation-states have made progress as liberal democracies.

Topic 3 - The ‘Good Governance’ Agenda

Is the ‘good governance’ agenda effective? Does greater accountability and transparency in aid recipient governments really foster wider development of societies?

Topic 4 - The Corruption Debate

This section focuses on an analysis of the current Western focus on preventing corruption in the political arena. How anti-corruption policies and programmes work in practice is examined. The views of writers who argue that corruption can even be helpful for development in certain ways are assessed.

Topic 5 - The Need for a ‘Free’ Civil Society Debate

Important Western-dominated organisations and governments vigorously promote and fund the development of civil society organisations, particularly Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), in other countries, arguing that freedom of association is vital to healthy democratic development. This argument is subject to a critique and the impact of citizens’ groups on governments and wider development processes is analysed. In addition, the role of the mainstream media and social media are examined.

Topic 6 - The Politics of Aid

The focus is on how aid and aid institutions have impacted on development. It explores the role, purpose and complexities of aid from the perspectives of the donors and the receivers. An examination is made of what forms ‘aid’ takes, and how this contributes to development. The role of specific types of organisations involved in delivering aid is analysed: case studies include the World Bank, government organisations (eg USAID and JICA in Japan), NGOs and philanthro-capitalist organisations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Arguments that aid leads to dependency and corruption are considered.



How to Apply



(31st March 2020): Due to the Covid-19 crisis, we are unable to run the Summer Programme in 2020 and it is, unfortunately, cancelled. The information below is for reference only and we expect to provide details of the programme for 2021 from October onwards.


2020 Course Fees
  • 3 weeks (1 block): £1,500 GBP
  • 6 weeks (2 blocks): £2,900 GBP (save £100*)
  • 9 weeks (3 blocks): £4,000 GBP (save £500*)

*compared to the cost of a 3-week block

Accommodation Fees
  • per 3-week block: £790 GBP

We recommend you apply early, especially if you want accommodation in the SOAS Halls of Residence.

You will be sent an invoice and receipt for the course fees when you have accepted the offer and paid for your place on the course. A letter of registration will also be provided for visa purposes when you have paid the full fees. Refunds of accommodation and course fees are only made at the discretion of SOAS in exceptional circumstances.

If you have any queries, please email



Please fill in the online application form or print off the IFCELS Summer Programme 2020 Application Form (pdf; 147kb)   and post it to:

Head of Department, International Foundation Courses & English Language Studies (IFCELS)
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

Please ensure you send a scanned copy of the photo/issue page of your passport with the application.

Summer Pathway Preparation Course PCI 2020 (pdf; 163kb)