School of Social and Political Science

MSc International Development (Online Learning)

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MSc International Development. Learn online

The deadline to apply for September 2024 entry is Monday 15 July 2024.

An unparalleled opportunity to deepen understanding

There is a long history of critical and applied engagement with international development at the University of Edinburgh and our new MSc in International Development via online distance learning is a great addition to our portfolio of world-leading postgraduate study and research in this area.

This programme offers students an unparalleled opportunity to deepen their understanding and engagement with the most pressing challenges confronting people, communities and institutions in the Global South:

  • what are the processes that have shaped poverty and inequality across the world and what have been the responses to them?
  • how do they differ across international, national, and local contexts? 

This programme builds and strengthens critical skills for analysing these development processes and inequities, exploring development issues in a range of different social, historical and political contexts. It aims to provide you with a rigorous multi-disciplinary grounding in major debates, theories and critical concepts as well as proficiency in applying these to investigate contemporary development challenges, policy processes, and initiatives.


The MSc International Development is a part-time online learning programme which can be pursued over two or three years.

All courses are taught through a combination of:

  • independent study
  • online group activities

This will allow you to continue your life and career uninterrupted whilst returning to university study.

Core courses

There are three core courses:

  • Politics and Theories of International Development
  • Analysing Development
  • Global Development Challenges

These will equip you with a solid grasp of the key theories, issues, and actors of International Development, providing an optimum balance between policy and academic approaches.
Option courses

You will then further your interests in specific areas of international development, such as:

  • mobility and migration
  • monitoring and project design
  • the environment
  • global health

New optional courses, based on successful on-campus courses, will be added.

Research training

Research training is provided via a core course:

  • Researching International Development

This introduces you to cutting-edge innovations in the field whilst preparing your for your dissertation – be it a research or applied project.


In your final year, you will complete a standard research dissertation or a placement-based project. You will have the chance to discuss dissertation plans with tutors and the Programme Director; and you will also be allocated your own dissertation supervisor whom you can meet with individually.

Compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note this information may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode 
MSc 2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/4
MSc 3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/4
Important points to note when applying for this programme

Personal Statement

In your personal statement, you should explain what attracts you to this particular programme of study at the University of Edinburgh. This might include references to the overall programme structure, particular courses you would like to take, people you would like to be taught by, and so on. In short, what exactly is it about this programme which motivates you to apply?

You may use the following questions as a guide:

1. What do you understand about International Development, and why does it interest you? 
2. What specifically about the programme attracted you? Are there specific courses, areas of research, academics that are of interest? 
3. What do you bring to the programme? Tell us about your past work/study experiences that you think might help you in this course and how? How does your previous experience and study fit to the programme?
4. Tell us what you want to achieve with this programme. What are your career goals? How will this programme help you achieve those goals?  

You may use examples gained from non-academic aspects of your life, including things like volunteering, work, travel, or other relevant life experiences you had growing up, but you must be specific about how this shaped the way you think about global development challenges

When outlining your relevant training/knowledge, you should try to explain how your particular educational, professional, or other qualifications and experiences prepare you for this degree. This can be as free-flowing text or with the use of bullet points.


Please remember to include your CV with your application which you may use to demonstrate experience in international development or other relevant sectors including volunteering.


You are required to submit a reference with this application (please ask your referees to submit their references as soon as possible). References can be either academic or professional (or both).

Finally, please note that applicants who receive an offer will not be allowed to defer their admission to a following year.

Placement Opportunities

In previous years, we had projects with our partners in countries such as Austria, Belgium, Finland, Kenya, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Malawi, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.

Students undertaking these placements work on various themes including, refugees and asylum seekers; borders, migration and diasporas; food security; digital inclusion; gender; disaster risk reduction; climate change and sustainability; humanitarianism; mental health and resilience; and community empowerment among others.

Career opportunities

With a solid background in international development study and practice, our graduates pursue current and future careers in a range of institutions including:

  • United Nations agencies
  • charities
  • non-governmental organisations
  • government ministries
  • private sector
  • research institutions
  • journalism

Whether you plan to work or continue working with communities, charities, businesses, policy-makers, or researchers, the MSc in International Development is your stepping stone to a critically engaged and research-informed career. Past students of our online programmes have gone on to secure competitive jobs in government and diplomacy, top international organisations and NGOs, policy making, research (including PhD programmes), and the private sector all around the world. 

The programme combines a strong core curriculum with the flexibility to develop individual interests towards specialist expertise. With its combination of practitioners’ and researchers’ courses, including a research dissertation, it is perfectly suited to both policy/practice and research-oriented students.

Online learning

Recognising the need for flexibility, our online programmes are an excellent way for those with professional or family commitments to gain a further qualification with minimum interruption, or to introduce students to a virtual learning environment.

Our award-winning online learning technology is fully interactive, enabling you to communicate with our highly qualified teaching staff from the comfort of your own home or workplace.

You will learn through a mix of online methods, including:

  • video lectures
  • study guides
  • self-directed and guided reading
  • a range of interactive online reflection and discussion activities

Our online students not only have access to Edinburgh’s excellent resources, but also become part of a supportive online community, bringing together students and tutors from around the world.

Studying online at Edinburgh

More information on Postgraduate online learning

How to apply

Apply for September 2023 entry

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode 
MSc 2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MSc 3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
Reading recommendations

International Development means different things to different people. We understand it as the idea of good change, and our programme seek to understand who decides what constitutes good change, what good change is, and how to get there. We take a multidisciplinary approach and our readings reflects this, with topics from theories on development, history of poverty and underdevelopment, to international and national politics, etc. The University of Edinburgh Library is incredibly well-stocked, and also holds a rich variety of relevant electronic journals. The list below gives you a flavour of the kinds of readings that we suggest in preparation of the course.

  • Chang, H. (2014). Economics: The User’s Guide. Bloomsbury.
  • Easton-Calabria, Evan. (2022). Refugees, Self-Reliance, Development. Bristol University Press.
  • Escobar, A. (1995). Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton University Press.
  • Faist, T., & Fauser, M. (2011). The migration–development nexus: Toward a transnational perspective. Palgrave Macmillan UK.
  • Ferguson, J. (2015). Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the new politics of distribution. Duke University Press.
  • Ferguson, S., & McNally, D. (2015). Precarious migrants: Gender, race and the social reproduction of a global working class. In Socialist Register (No. 51).
  • Harrison, G. (2020). Developmentalism: The Normative and Transformative Within Capitalism. Oxford University Press.
  • Khan, T., Kanakulya, D., & Sondarjee, M. (Eds.). (2023). White Saviorism in International Development: Theories, Practices and Lived Experiences. Daraja Press.
  • Kothari, U. (Ed.). (2019). A radical history of development studies: Individuals, institutions and ideologies. Bloomsbury Publishing.
  • Pailey, R. N. (2020). De‐centring the ‘white gaze’ of development. Development and Change, 51(3), 729-745.
  • Rist, G. (2008). The History of Development: From Western origins to global faith. Zed Books.
  • Rodney, W. (2018). How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Verso Books.
  • Sen, A. (2001). Development as freedom. Oxford Paperbacks.
  • Veltmeyer, H., & Bowles, P. (Eds.). (2021). The essential guide to critical development studies. Routledge.
  • Veltmeyer, H., & Wise, R. D. (2018). Critical Development Studies: An introduction. Practical Action Publishing.
  • Wilson, K. (2013). Race, racism and development: Interrogating history, discourse and practice. Bloomsbury Publishing.

The University of Edinburgh and the Centre of African Studies in particular, are committed to include more non-Western authors on reading lists, thereby contributing to de-colonising academia and enabling more, and more different, voices to be heard in debates. We will tell you more about this initiative during our courses.


Student testimonials

MSc International Development (Online Learning) student Ana Castro discusses the unique journey of pursuing a masters degree online and the unwavering support she has received from the University. 


Hear more from our students and graduates about studying with us:

MSc International Development (Online Learning) testimonials