School of Social and Political Science

MSc International Development (Online Learning)

Apply now


The deadline to apply for September 2023 entry is Monday 7 August 2023.

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.

Your Personal Tutor

You will be mentored by a Personal Tutor, a member of our teaching staff who provides academic guidance and pastoral support.

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.

Award Title Duration Study mode  
MSc   2 Years Part-time Programme structure 2022/3
MSc   3 Years Part-time Programme structure 2022/3
Placement Opportunities

A few examples of our partner organisations include:

  • Advocacy Forum, Nepal.
  • African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS), Kenya.
  • AFRODAD, Zimbabwe.
  • Chhahari Nepal for Mental Health (CNMH), Nepal.
  • ESRF, Tanzania. Mamie Martin Foundation, Malawi.
  • Mental Health Action Trust (MHAT) India.
  • Practical Action Peru, Peru.
  • Sivio Institute, Zimbabwe.
  • Vasavya Mahila Mandali, India.
  • African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS), South Africa.
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

Award Title Duration Study mode  
MSc   2 Years Part-time Tuition fees
MSc   3 Years Part-time Tuition 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.

  • Rist, G., The History of Development: From Western origins to global faith, Zed Books, 2008.
  • Sen A. K., Development as Freedom, Knopf, 1999.
  • Collier P., The Bottom Billion: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it, Oxford University Press, 2008.
  • Kothari U. (ed), A Radical History of Development Studies: Individuals, institutions and ideologies, Zed Books, 2005.
  • Easterly W., The White Man's Burden: Why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good, Penguin Group, 2007.
  • Ferguson J., The Anti-Politics Machine, Routledge, 1994.
  • Lewis D. and Mosse D. (eds), The Aid Effect: Ethnographies of development practice and neo-liberalism, MacMillan, 2005.
  • Rajak, D., In Good Company: An anatomy of corporate social responsibility, Stanford University Press, 2011.
  • Banerjee, A.V. and Duflo, E., Poor Economics: A radical rethinking of the way to fight global poverty, Public Affairs, 2011.
  • Deaton, A., The Great Escape: Health, wealth, and the origins of inequality, Princeton University Press, 2013.
  • Chang, H., Economics: The User’s Guide, Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Veltmeyer, H. and Wise, R. D., Critical Development Studies: An introduction, Practical Action Publishing, 2018.
  • Escobar, A., Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World, Princeton University Press, 1995.
  • Rodney, W., How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Verso Books, 2018.
  • Harvey, D. The Ways of the World, Profile Books, 2016.
  • Peet, R., Geography of Power: The making of global economic policy and WTO, Zed Books, 2007.
  • Ferguson, J., Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the new politics of distribution, Duke University Press, 2015.

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.