School of Social and Political Science

MSc International Development

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Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines for this programme. See 'how to apply' below for the application deadlines.

How can international thinking and perspectives on development have impact on societies in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

This programme engages critically with international development theory and practice, and more broadly with processes of social, political and economic transformation throughout the global south.

It is designed to suit the needs of both recent graduates of various disciplines, and professionals with two to five, or more, years’ experience who want to shift careers, upgrade their academic qualifications, or take a year out to reflect critically on their work.

New skills, critical reflection

Our programme is designed to appeal equally to recent graduates of various disciplines, and professionals with more than two years work experience looking to change careers, upgrade their academic qualifications, or take a year out to reflect critically on their work.

Our graduates

Our previous graduates can be found around the world - in government ministries, development consultancies, financial institutions, as well as in campaign groups, social enterprises and NGOs. Others use the programme as a pathway into our PhD in International Development and have gone on to develop their specialist knowledge through post-graduate research projects.


The MSc in International Development will assist students in developing a deep understanding of development processes in the Global South, and how international thinking and development practice has impacted around the world. Students will gain critical skills in analysing development policy and undertaking research in the context of developing countries.

The MSc programme seeks to contextualise and analyse the processes that have shaped poverty and underdevelopment in developing countries, and the many responses to them. The programme offers a grounded and multi-disciplinary grasp of issues of development in global, national and local contexts for students interested in pursuing a career in development agencies, research, the public sector and non-governmental organisations.

Specific aims are:
  • Development of analytical and conceptual skills to enable critical evaluation and investigation of development issues: What is development and 'where' does it come from?
  • Thorough training in comparative analysis: Can we understand international development comparatively?
  • In-depth knowledge of the main historical events, actors and processes that have shaped development: Is development ahistorical?
  • Detailed and comparative examination of local and international interpretation of development: Do local cultures fit into development? Are local perspectives important in development?
  • Knowledge and skills needed for pursuing career in development agencies, political institutions or academia: Has development worked in different regions of the world? What future for development?

At the end of the course, students should have a deep understanding of development processes and their implications, and how international thinking and perspectives on development have impacted upon societies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Students should have gained critical skills in analysing development policy and undertaking development research.


You will complete a total of six courses over two semesters stretching from September to April. From May to August students complete either a work-based project or a standard research dissertation.


Three courses are compulsory and three are optional. Options may be chosen from across the University, drawing on the expertise of faculty members within political and social science and beyond, including business, law and geosciences.

We also run a compulsory non-credit course that aims to sharpen research and analytical skills needed for postgraduate students in international development to embark on their summer dissertation research projects.

In addition you will have the opportunity to choose three optional courses from those taught in the School of Social and Political Sciences and relevant courses from other parts of the University on topics such as:

  • Displacement
  • Global Health
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Africa
  • South Asia
  • Governance
  • Conflict
  • Human Rights
  • Child Rights
  • Education
Work-based project

We realise the importance of offering practical experiences to complement our critical and historical approaches in the classroom. An integral part of the programme – and one of our advantages compared to other masters programmes in international development – are work-based projects.

These consist of eight weeks of on-location research with a host organisation in Africa, South and South East Asia, the Middle East, Latin America as well as in the UK. Our extensive network of partners includes NGOs, charities, social enterprise, think-tanks and government bodies.

Research dissertation

Alternatively, you may wish to explore an academic issue or theme in greater depth by choosing to complete a research dissertation based on fieldwork and/or print and library sources.

How to apply

Application deadlines

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis.

However, we will hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants.

Applicants are selected through a competitive process. Please ensure that you have submitted all supporting documentation and paid the application fee before the deadline for the round you wish to be considered in.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024-2025:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 1st November 2023 21st December 2023
2 4th January 2024 29th February 2024
3 25th March 2024 30th May 2024
4 3rd June 2024 25th July 2024

Application fee

This programme requires a non-refundable application fee of £50.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

Award Title Duration Study mode  
MSc   1 Year Full-time Tuition fees
MSc   2 Years Part-time Tuition fees

Your application will not be processed until we have received your application fee.

Successful applicants must accept their offer within 28 days of the response date in order to secure their place on the programme. As this programme is highly competitive, any applicants who have not responded within this time will lose their offer, and offers will be made to applicants on the waiting list as places become available.

If you have received an offer but are no longer able to take up your place, please decline your offer via your Applicant Hub portal, or contact so that your place may be offered to another applicant.

Additional information
Global Development Academy

This programme is affiliated with the University's Global Development Academy.

Reading recommendations

If you're looking to get started on any preliminary reading before you arrive in Edinburgh, we recommend the following: 

Couldry, N., & Meijas, U. (2019). Cost of Connection. Stanford University Press.

David Harvey (2016). The ways of the world. London: Profile Books.

Escobar, Arturo (1995). Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ferguson, James. (2015). Give a man a fish: reflections on the new politics of distribution. Duke University Press.

Fraser, Nancy (2022). Cannibal capitalism. Verso Books.

Mamdani, Mahmood. (2018). Citizen and subject: contemporary Africa and the legacy of late colonialism. Princeton University Press.

Mazzucato, M., & Collington (2023). The BigCon: how the consulting industry weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments and warps our economies. New York: Penguin.

Peet, Richard (2007). Geography of power: the making of global economic policy and WTO. London: Zed Books.

Slobodian, Q. (2023). Crack-Up capitalism: market radicals and the dream of a world without democracy. London: Allen Lane.