BSc Global Development with International Study

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Global Value Chains and Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI30401
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit examines the role of global value chains (GVCs) in economic globalisation and their implications for development outcomes around the world. It places attention on a range of firm and non-firm (state, NGO etc.) actors, spread across regional and continental boundaries, involved in the full range of activities from the initial inputs or raw material stages of production to the final consumption of a good or services. The course will examine different conceptual frameworks for understanding global value chains, will consider their implications for economic development, labour and the environment, as well as critically evaluate restructuring to global value chains in relation to ongoing technological and political change.


This unit aims to:

  1. Introduce different approaches to conceptualising global value chains
  2. Provide an overview of current debates around global value chains and development
  3. Examine the role of different actors in participating in, and governing, global value chains
  4. Explore the implications of global value chains for firms, workers and the environment in specific sectoral and geographical contexts
  5. Critically evaluate recent changes to global value chains, related to the ‘rise of the South, technology and the role of the state
  6. Develop transferable skills, including developing an argument, participating in group discussions and communicating ideas both verbally and in writing


The course content will be divided into three parts. The first part will situate global value chains (GVCs) vis-à-vis the wider history and processes of economic globalisation, and then introduce different conceptual frameworks to understanding GVCs. The second part will consider the implications of global value chains for firms, workers and the environment in specific geographical contexts. The third part critically evaluates recent changes to global value chains including the growing prominence of South-South trade, the influence of technological chains through digitalisation and the influence of state policy.

Indicative weekly lecture and tutorial schedule

Part I: Introducing and contextualising GVCs 

1. Introduction: Globalisation and global value chains

2. Historical roots: world systems analysis and global commodity chains

3. Introducing key conceptual frameworks - From global commodity chains to global value chains and global production networks

Part II: GVCs and development implications

4. Upgrading in global value chains

5. Standards and GVCs

6. Labour – new opportunities or exploitation?

7. Environmental sustainability and GVCs Part III: GVCs and 21st century restructuring

8. GVCs and the rise of the South

9. Technology – how is technology changing the world of GVCs? 10. What role can the state play? Public policy and GVCs

10. What role can the state play? Public policy and GVCs

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning will be centred around 10 weekly lectures and tutorials. Lectures will combine presentation of the learning material with interactive activities. Reading lists and slides for each lecture will be posted on Blackboard. Tutorials will encourage students to engage critically with the learning material through group activities, presentations and debates. Instructions for each tutorial will be posted on Blackboard.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Distinguish between different approaches to conceptualising GVCs
  • Describe current trends in GVCs and globalisation
  • Identify the role of different actors in governing and participating in GVCs

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse various dimensions of globalisation and their relationship with economic development, labour and the environment
  • Compare the relationship between GVCs and development in different sectoral and geographical contexts 
  • Critically evaluate policy approaches to managing GVCs and development

Practical skills

  • Analyse the practical challenges encountered when addressing development in the context of GVCs

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Develop a critical and analytical argument, making use of appropriate evidence
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Communicate ideas both verbally and in writing

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Project output (not diss/n) 100%

Recommended reading

Part I: Introducing and contextualising GVCs

Bair, J. (2005). Global capitalism and commodity chains: Looking back, going forward. Competition and Change, 9(2), 153–180.

Coe, N. and H. Yeung (2015) Global production networks: Theorizing economic development in an interconnected world. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Coe, N., Hess, M., Yeung, H.,

Dicken, P. and J. Henderson (2004)“Globalizing” regional development: A global production networks perspective, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 29(4), 468–484.

Dicken, P. (2011) Global shift: Mapping the changing contours of the global economy (6th ed.). New York: Guildford Press.

Gereffi, G. and M. Korzeniewicz (1994) Commodity chains and global capitalism. Westport: Praeger.

Gereffi, G. J. Humphrey and T. Sturgeon (2005) The governance of global value chains, Review of International Political Economy, 12(1), 78-104.

Gereffi, G. (2019) Global value chains and development: Redefining the contours of 21st century capitalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Henderson, J., Dicken, P., Hess, M., Coe, N. and H. Yeung (2002). Global production networks and the analysis of economic development. Review of International Political Economy, 9(3), 436–464.

Ponte, S., & Sturgeon, T. (2014) Explaining governance in global value chains: A modular theory‐building effort, Review of International Political Economy, 21(1), 195–223.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rory Horner Unit coordinator

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