MA Governance, Development and Public Policy

This degree (formerly called the MA Governance and Development) provides you with a theoretical and practical understanding of debates on political change and how public authority is created and exercised. Based at IDS, you’ll build your critical and analytical skills, and improve your ability to develop and implement policies across state and non-state organisations.

World-leaders in development studies

IDS is a global research and learning organisation for equitable and sustainable change. In partnership with the University of Sussex, IDS is ranked first in the world for development studies by the QS University Rankings.


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?

We welcome applicants with a broad range of career trajectories. Successful applicants will have some practical experience in development alongside an interest in critical academic enquiry. The majority of MA Governance, Development and Public Policy students are experienced professionals, having worked in government, private sector, NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donor and lending agencies, as well as UN agencies. Our students bring a vast diversity of cultures, experience and perspectives – alumni from this course have come from over 70 countries and work or have worked in over 150 countries.

Course content and structure

A distinct feature of our MA is the focus on policy and practice. Core modules – taken by all MA Gov students – provide theoretical and topical foundations for the degree. Optional modules, which build on these foundations, apply concepts and theories to a range of development issues, focusing on equipping students with the methodologies and tools to assess and critique different policy options. We draw upon case-studies, faculty, students, and research partners from Africa, East Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America, and South Asia, to enrich the curriculum of the MA.

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

Core modules:

  • Making Public Policy (autumn term) – 30 credits
  • Political Economy Perspectives on Development (autumn term) – 30 credits
  • Democracy and Public Policy (spring term) – 30 credits
  • Research Design (spring term) – 15 credits
  • Dissertation Governance, Development and Policy (summer term) – 45 credits


Alongside your core modules, you can choose optional modules (totalling 30 credits) during the spring term to broaden your horizons and tailor your course to your interests. Optional modules may include:

  • 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
  • Development in Cities – 15 credits
  • Governance of Violent Conflict and (In)security – 15 credits
  • Health and Development – 30 credits
  • Nutrition – 15 credits
  • Poverty, Violence and Conflict – 15 credits
  • Public Financial Management – 15 credits
  • Reflective and Creative Practice for Social Change – 15 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 word dissertation under the supervision of a faculty member.

In addition to core and optional modules, throughout the autumn term you will participate in a series of weekly workshops, entitled Training for Applied Critical Thinking, aimed at improving research, communication, and argumentation skills. During the spring term, students attend Governance in Practice, a series of weekly seminars where you will engage with different policy actors and their views on governance, as well as research developed by IDS researchers.


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 related subject, and preferably at least one year of development-related work experience. Applications must be accompanied by a CV and detailed two-page personal statement, explaining why you are applying for the degree, the relevance of your previous experience, and what will you contribute to the cohort.

The course is 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, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students: £9,500 per year. International students: £18,500 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 2020 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.

Additional costs for optional fieldwork

You have the option to undertake fieldwork for this course (though it is not mandatory). You will need to cover the additional costs that this entails. Costs will depend on the scope and scale of the activities. For example, conducting interviews in your hometown could cost very little, whereas travelling overseas to interview government officials could cost much more in terms of flights, accommodation and subsistence. There may also be options for desk-based research, such as paying for access to research databases.  If you wish to conduct fieldwork, you should always talk to your course convenors and dissertation supervisors before making any arrangements.


Our graduates go on to work as legal and policy advisors on governance and human rights for:

  • government ministries
  • UN agencies
  • bilateral and multilateral agencies, including international finance institutions
  • national and international NGOs
  • professional services networks

Some also go on to work in academic research.

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:

  • senior adviser,  Westminster Foundation for Democracy
  • assistant director Foreign Service, Department of International Relations and Cooperation
  • consultant, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

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

IDS has given me inter-cultural fluency; an ability to work across cultures; through learning from IDS and interacting with diverse peer groups”. Basser Omaid, MA Governance, Development and Public Policy Graduate