MA Power, Participation and Social Change

Explore the challenges of power relations, participation and citizen engagement, and what it means to facilitate change processes in pursuit of social justice.

Designed for experienced practitioners and social activists, the MA combines coursework with work-based learning and action research.

You will critically reflect on your own practice, deepen and enrich it by learning about different concepts and debates related to power, participation and social change. Further, you will develop your analysis and facilitation skills to engage critically and constructively with change processes at various levels.

A core component of this degree is the four-month period of work-based action learning for which students attach themselves to a host organisation or social process. Students examine their own practice and that of the host, and seek to apply their learning to the benefit of the host.


One year full-time or two years part-time.

World-leaders in development studies

The Institute of 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.  

Who is the degree for?

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. Students come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including community organisations, NGOs, social movements, governments, businesses and consultancy firms. They work on diverse issues such as agriculture, health, HIV-AIDS, natural resources, climate change, youth, gender, community development, education, governance, communication, planning, evaluation and policy-making, among others.

Course content and structure

The structure of degree combines academic study, practical experience and personal reflection. Two terms on campus are followed by a four-month period of work-based action learning or research in a job or volunteer setting of the student’s choice.

The curriculum design and campus-based modules emphasise personal learning and reflection, critical thinking and analysis, dialogue, respect for diverse viewpoints and forms of knowledge, and appreciation of the complexity of global issues.

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 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:

  • Foundations of Power, Participation and Social Change (autumn term) – 30 credits
  • Power and Social Perspectives on Development (autumn term) – 30 credits
  • Designing Critical Enquiry (spring term) – 30 credits
  • Dissertation – (summer term) 60 credits


Alongside your core modules, you can choose options (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 Global Economy – 15 credits
  • Democracy and Development – 30 credits
  • Emerging Powers and International Development – 15 credits
  • Governance of Violent Conflict and (In)Security – 15 credits
  • Health and Development – 30 credits
  • Theory and Practice of Impact Evaluation – 15 credits
  • Unruly Politics – 15 credits
  • Sustainability and Policy Processes: Issues in Agriculture, Environment and Health – 30 credits
  • Management of Public Finance – 15 credits
  • Nutrition – 15 credits
  • Politics of Implementing Gender and Development  – 15 credits
  • Poverty, Violence and Conflict – 15 credits
  • Reflective Practice and Social Change – 15 credits

In the summer term you will undertake your work-based learning and research project and write a 15,000 synthesis paper (dissertation) under the supervision of a faculty member. You will be responsible for finding a host organisation and location for your placement.


You’ll be assessed through term papers, coursework assignments, presentations, practical exercises, an action research group project, and a 15,000-word synthesis paper.

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 two years of work experience in development or social change. Applications must be accompanied by a CV and detailed two-page personal statement, explaining why you are applying for the degree and the relevance of your previous experience.

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: £16,750 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 2019 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 mandatory fieldwork

You must undertake fieldwork for three months and cover the additional costs that this entails. Costs vary, depending on the scope and location of activities. For example, conducting your fieldwork in your hometown or locally to IDS could cost very little, whereas conducting fieldwork in another country could cost much more in terms of flights, accommodation and subsistence.   Course supervisors will assist you in planning your fieldwork.


IDS postgraduates have gone on to work in:

  • conservation, agriculture and food
  • finance and state ministries
  • UN agencies such as UNESCO
  • government departments such as DFID
  • NGOs including ActionAid.

They are all working to define and solve some of the most pressing global challenges. 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:

  • project manager, European Women’s Lobby
  • campaigner, Greenpeace
  • project assistant, International Organisation for Migration.

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

“What a Year! Studying at IDS made me see why it is the first ranking institute in development studies as it gives you a holistic approach of how humanitarian development should be to navigate the complexity of our challenging world. In IDS, I had the chance to meet dedicated and passionate people from all over the world, with them and with their commitment I know that we will contribute in making a just world for everyone. ” Yasmine Zeid, MA Participation, Power and Social Change graduate 2018