MA Development Studies

Develop the analytical and practical skills required to address some of today’s most pressing global challenges including inequality, sustainability and security.

Based at IDS, you’ll learn how to approach development problems with creativity, confidence and the ability to work collaboratively.

You’ll develop an understanding of the main debates in development, and engage in informed and critical ways with professionals from diverse backgrounds.

A meeting of peer educators. They talk to groups of young people in Kenya about health and social issues, especially AIDS and HIV.

World-leaders in development studies

IDS is a leading global institution for development research, teaching and learning, and impact and communications, based at the University of Sussex. The University of Sussex is ranked first in the world for development studies. This QS World Ranking reflects the strong reputation and quality of research and course offerings across campus, including by IDS.  


One year full-time or two years part-time. (Our part-time study option is only available to students from the UK, EU, Channel Islands and Isle of Man).

Who is the degree for?

A hallmark of this degree is the diversity of cultures, experience and perspectives that our students bring. Successful applicants will have some practical experience in development alongside an interest in critical academic enquiry. We welcome applicants with a broad range of career trajectories.

Learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete the MA in Development Studies can expect to:

  • Understand the main development theories, concepts and debates in their historical and contemporary context, and apply this knowledge in their professional work.
  • Engage in an informed and critical way, in particular with political science, economics, sociology and anthropology.
  • Approach development problems with confidence and knowledge and have the ability to work collaboratively with others to identify solutions to global development challenges.

Course content and structure

The academic year commences in September. Three terms run as follows: autumn term (September to December), spring term (January to April) and summer term (May to August).

This degree offers a wide choice of module options, allowing students flexibility to choose their area of interest and grow intellectually within the overall degree framework.

Core modules are taken by all students on the course. They give you a solid grounding in your chosen subject and prepare you to explore the topics that interest you most.

Core modules:

  • Ideas in Development and Policy, Evidence and Practice (autumn term) – 30 credits
  • Research Design (sprin term) – 15 credits
  • Dissertation Development Studies (spring term) – 45 credits


Alongside your core modules, you can choose options (totalling 60 credits and including at least one 30 credit option) in the spring term to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests.

Choose one module from these options:

  • Economic Perspectives on Development - 30 credits
  • Gender, Identity and Inclusion – 30 credits
  • Political Economy Perspectives on Development – 30 credits
  • Power and Social Perspectives on Development – 30 credits
  • Aid and Poverty: the Political Economy of International Development Assistance – 15 credits
  • Climate Change and Development – 15 credits
  • Competing in the Green Economy – 15 credits
  • Debating Poverty and Vulnerability: Policy and Programming – 30 credits
  • Democracy and Public Policy – 30 credits
  • Designing Critical Enquiry – 30 credits
  • Development in Cities – 15 credits
  • Governance of Violent Conflict and (In)security – 15 credits
  • Nutrition – 15 credits
  • Poverty, Violence and Conflict – 15 credits
  • Public Financial Management – 15 credits
  • Reflective and Creative Practice for Social Change – 15 credits
  • Sexuality and Development: Intimacies, Health and Rights in Global Perspective – 30 credits
  • Sustainability and Policy Processes: Issues in Agriculture, Environment and Health – 30 credits
  • The Politics of Gender – 30 credits
  • Theory and Practice of Impact Evaluation – 15 credits
  • Unruly Politics – 15 credits

In the summer term you will research and write a 10,000 dissertation under the supervision of a faculty member.


You'll be assessed through term papers, coursework assignments, presentations, exams, practical exercises, and a 10,000 word dissertation. 

Entry requirements

Successful applicants will have a first or upper second-class (2.1) undergraduate honours degree in the social sciences or a related subject, and preferably one year of development-related work experience. Applications must be accompanied by a detailed two-page personal statement, explaining why you are applying for the degree and the relevance of your previous experience.

The course in taught in English. To derive the maximum benefit from the course, participants should be proficient in English and able to take an active part in discussions. The minimum requirement is, for example, an IELTS grade of 7.0 overall and no less than 6.5 in each section of the IELTS test. For detailed information on English language requirements for international students please see the University of Sussex website.

Fees and scholarships

UK/EU students: £8,500 per year

Channel Islands and Isle of Man students: £8,500 per year

International students: £15,500 per year

Note that your fees may be subject to an increase on an annual basis.

If you’re studying part-time over two years, you’ll be charged 50 per cent of the equivalent 2018 full-time fee in each year of study. The fee in your second year – if you continue your studies without a break – will be subject to a 2.5 per cent increase (subject to rounding).

Find out typical living costs for studying at Sussex

For scholarship opportunities and information on sources of funding please see the advice on funding on the University of Sussex website.


IDS postgraduates have gone on to work as ministers in national governments, high-level officials in development organisations, civil servants, leaders of civil society organisations and high profile academics at universities across the world. They are all working to define and solve some of the most pressing global challenges. 

They also apply their expertise to academic research in universities and institutes like:

  • the Women’s Research Institute
  • Educational Trust Malawi
  • the British Institute of Human Rights.

Graduate destinations:

100 per cent of students from the Institute of Development Studies were in work or further study six months after graduating. Recent IDS students have gone on to jobs including:

  • aid effectiveness specialist, Korea International Cooperation Agency
  • campaigner, Greenpeace
  • consultant, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

(EPI, Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey 2015 for postgraduates)

“I was able to tailor my course to my interest in climate change and food security. IDS has played a pivotal role in getting me started as an independent research consultant.” Agnes OtzelbergerResearch Consultant, IDS and the Department for International Development  

"Doing this degree was the best decision I have made. Not only did I get the chance to study at an institute where lecturers are actively engaged in the field, but I also had the opportunity to listen to other students from all over the world talk about their experiences in development in a very rich and diverse classroom environment. On graduating, I realised that studying at IDS has increased my potential - through better and inclusive research that tackles today’s complexities - to get the job done in highly volatile and challenging times, especially when working in fragile contexts such as Syria." Bassam Kassoumeh, MA Development Studies 2016-17, and a recipient of the Said Scholarship


To apply, complete the online application form on the University of Sussex website.


Image: Panos / Giacomo Pirozzi