MSc Global Development (Politics, Governance and Development Policy)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Development Fundamentals

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI60411
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This core course offers a critical and comprehensive introduction to the key aspects of development theory, paradigms, history and institutions from an interdisciplinary perspective, and thus provides the foundation for all pathways of the MSc programme in International Development.

It starts by mapping out an understanding of development as historical change, with a particular focus on modernity as well as key moments within the colonial encounter that led to the onset of capitalism and state formation and their contestations in the global south, and examines the continuities and ruptures between colonialism and the post-war development project.

The next part of the course covers the main theoretical schools of thought on development, from the grand narratives and onto more contemporary approaches, including post-colonial theory, environmentalism, feminism and new attempts to explain development as a fundamentally political process. These sessions will be explicitly inter-disciplinary in character, with ‘social approaches’ compared and contrasted with approaches from economics and political economy more broadly.

The course then turns to the main institutions involved in promoting development, including global governance institutions, the ‘developmental’ state, markets and civil society. The course closes with sessions on whether international development should be reframed as part of a broader project of social justice and on whether global development would be a more fitting paradigm for the 21st century.


The unit aims to provide:

  • A critical overview of the main aspects of development theory and paradigms, development as historical change and development institutions.
  • A critical understanding of how different disciplinary perspectives shape international development theory and practice and its analysis in a globalised world.
  • An opportunity for students to develop their range of competencies in transferable areas, including research, analysis, team-work and both written and verbal forms of communication


Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning will occur mainly through weekly lecture sessions and seminars, the latter of which will be based around a mixture of student-led presentations, small group-work and class debates. Blackboard will be used to share key resources and stimulate discussions of critical issues amongst course participants.


Knowledge and understanding

  • A thorough knowledge and critical understanding of different theoretical and disciplinary perspectives to investigating and explaining development
  • A thorough knowledge and critical understanding of how development unfolds as a process of historical change
  • A thorough knowledge and critical understanding of the main institutions involved in promoting development

Intellectual skills

  • The analytical skills required to critically evaluate and employ different theories of development, understand development as historical change and to interrogate the role played by different development actors

Practical skills

  • Professionally-oriented skills related to formulating and investigating different approaches to promoting development;

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Improved competence in transferable areas, including developing reasoned arguments, gathering, organising and using evidence and information from a wide variety of sources, undertaking independent work to deadlines, and both written and verbal forms of communication

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 70%
Written assignment (inc essay) 30%

Recommended reading

Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J. (2012). Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York:  Random House.

Barrientos, S. (2019) Gender and Work in Global Value Chains: Capturing the Gains? Cambridge University Press.

Bebbington, A.J., S. Hickey, and D. C. Mitlin (Eds.), Can NGOs Make a Difference? The Challenge of Development Alternatives, London: Zed Books.

Bernstein, H. (2006) ‘Studying Development/Development Studies’ African Studies 65(1), pp. 45-62.

Cardoso, F. H., & Faletto, E. (1979). Dependency and Development in Latin America. University of California Press.

Chang, Ha-Joon (2002) Kicking Away the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective, London: Anthem

Cooper, F. and R. M. Packard (eds) (1997) International development and the social sciences: essays on the history and politics of knowledge, University of California Press, Berkeley.

Dicken, P. (2015) Global Shift: Mapping Changing Contours of the Global Economy London: Sage (7th edition).

Elson, D. (1995) (ed). Male Bias in the development process, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Escobar, A. (1995) Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Fraser, N. (2009) Scales of Justice: Reimagin

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 18
Tutorials 8
Independent study hours
Independent study 124

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rory Horner Unit coordinator

Additional notes

The course coordinator is Dr Rory Horner. The course will be team taught.

GDI Programmes on which course unit is offered:
MSc International Development (all pathways) (core)

Pre-requisites: None

Part-time students should take this course unit in their first year.


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