Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

BA International Development (2016 entry)

Join us at our 2016 Open Days - 10 September and 8 October 2016

This Information is for 2016 entry only - to see the information for 2017 entry please go to the main Programme page

In this Section:

If you want to …

  • explore new ways of thinking about development
  • understand the major development issues of our time
  • investigate contemporary transformations in the Global South
  • study abroad in Ghana, Hong Kong or Turkey for a semester

... then choose BA International Development.

"You should choose International Development in Leeds because it offers the tools to develop a robust and compelling explanation of why poor countries are poor and why, under existing development parameters, they will remain impoverished." (Professor Ray Bush)

BA International Development examines political, economic, and socio-cultural transformations in the Global South and interrogates the dynamics, challenges and opportunities confronting societies in the Global South.

We will introduce you to debates and controversies at the centre of contemporary development challenges: markets, inequality, labour struggles, agrarian transformation, food sovereignty, gender, health, education, democratisation, human rights, conflict, violence and crime. 

Our course analyses both the theories and realities of development, and thereby looks at pertinent development approaches, practices and discourses. We review key development strategies, policies, and programmes, including the operations of organisations and donors that promote development, and assess the progress that the various development actors have made with regard to achieving key international development goals. 

You will, for instance, explore the work of actors such as local, national and international NGOs, the UN, the World Bank and the IMF, national and local governments and others that are part of the international development architecture. 

Throughout the course, we give analytical attention to the inter-relationships between global, national and local actors in contested strategies for development, as well as the changing forms of North-South and South-South relationships and their development implications.

Moreover, our course combines the breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge in International Development with a firm disciplinary grounding in the social sciences.

We offer specialist modules in many aspects of development, and the opportunity to gain in-depth insights into a wide variety of case studies from multiple regions. Throughout the course, you will learn about the experiences and viewpoints of people and nations of the Global South regarding various development issues.

We also help you develop and deepen a range of analytical, critical, practical, organisational, innovative, and interpersonal skills and capabilities.

Unique study abroad option

BA International Development also offers you the opportunity to study for a semester abroad in Ghana, Turkey or Hong Kong.

Part-time study

It is also possible to study this programme through a part-time route. The programme content is the same but you study at a lesser intensity. For more information about how to apply, support available and the part-time student experience, please see the Lifelong Learning Centre.

Year One

Compulsory modules

Making of the Modern World examines the socio-economic and political effects of colonialism, the slave trade and capitalist industrialisation on the making of the contemporary world. You will analyse the history of colonial domination and exploitation, resistance to colonial rule, the attraction of socialism to post-independent governments, and explore the legacies of colonial rule across the Americas, Africa and Asia as well as recent efforts to address some of these legacies.

Global Development Challenges asks you to engage with the international development agenda, encapsulated in the recent ratification of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You will appraise progress towards poverty reduction, universalising primary education, achieving gender equity, reducing HIV/AIDs and malaria, reducing child and maternal mortality, environmental sustainability and creating partnerships for world development.

Freedom, Power and Resistance: An Introduction to Political Ideas is an introduction to political theory and an invitation for you to subject your own political views to critical examination: to work out what you think and why you think it.

International Politics introduces you to the complex changes currently underway in the international system and their political implications across the globe. We discuss the main ideas, concepts and philosophies that inform the contemporary world order.

Comparative Politics involves the systematic study and comparison of political systems. You will examine the political systems of three different nations from across the globe, focusing on their respective political histories, political economies, party systems, social movements and foreign policies.

Studying and Researching in POLIS will equip you with the necessary study and research skills to enable them to effectively engage with the studying in the department. It will help you to identify the link between the development of your own research and study skills.

Studying in a Digital Age

Discovery modules

You choose a discovery module from across the university.

Year Two

In Year Two, you have the opportunity to undertake one semester studying abroad in Ghana, Turkey or Hong Kong.

Compulsory modules

Development Approaches engages with a range of theoretical debates on the normative underpinnings and implementation of international development. It will provide you with a historical perspective on the emergence of development as a concept, its changing priorities over the decades, and the winners and losers of different policy approaches.

Development Practice introduces aspects of development practice, allowing you to relate theoretical ideas to practices on the ground. It will cover a wide range of development agencies highlighting their aims and contributions to development. You will learn about different ways of evaluating and measuring development progress, including how to interpret secondary data.

(Semester abroad route)

You will choose an optional module from the following list.

  • North-South Linkages
  • Politics and Policy in the EU
  • Comparative Politics of Pacific Asia
  • Politics of Contemporary China
  • State and Politics in Africa
  • United States Politics
  • Theories of International Relations
  • Security Studies
  • Revolution and Reaction: Political Problems in the 20th Century
  • Justice, Community and Conflict
  • Comparative Public Policy

You will then take 60 credits (usually equating to three modules) of International Development modules at one of our partner institutions.

(Leeds based option)

Compulsory modules

Approaches to Analysisintroduces you to the ways in which research is conducted in the social sciences, with particular emphasis on approaches commonly used in the fields of politics, international development and international relations. You will engage with key methodologies, theoretical frameworks and methods used in practical research.

Optional modules

You will then choose three optional modules from the following list.

  • North-South Linkages
  • Politics and Policy in the EU
  • Comparative Politics of Pacific Asia
  • Politics of Contemporary China
  • State and Politics in Africa
  • United States Politics
  • Theories of International Relations
  • Security Studies
  • Revolution and Reaction: Political Problems in the 20th Century
  • Justice, Community and Conflict
  • Comparative Public Policy

Year Three 

Compulsory modules

Dissertation is a piece of written work of 12,000 words, and can be researched on a topic of your own choice. It is designed to allow you to produce an extended piece of written work on a topic of special interest to you.

Optional modules

You choose three to four optional modules from the following list.

  • Land, Fuel and Agriculture
  • International Development and Social Policy
  • Gender and Violence
  • Violence and Reconciliation in Africa

Discovery modules

You then choose one discovery module from across the university. 

Course structure, learning and assessment

Every year, you will take modules worth 120 credits. The teaching structure varies depending on the level of study. At level 1, for instance, you will have six to seven 50-minute lectures and three to four 50-minute seminars per week. In addition to the face-to-face interaction in lectures and seminars, you have to, among other things, prepare for lectures and seminars, consolidate your studies post-lectures and seminars, and work on your assessed and non-assessed assignments, including seminar presentations, essays, exams, and reports. 

Contact time

Our staff offer regular office hours (three hours per week). There is also a personal tutor system in place that gives you the opportunity to discuss relevant academic, professional or other issues with a member of academic staff. You are also encouraged to participate in the many presentations and workshops that are organised every semester by POLIS and other University of Leeds staff.

Teaching methods

Teaching and learning comes in various formats including: lectures, seminars, assignments, your own work (reading of relevant literature, study of relevant media and other sources), group discussion in seminars and online (in our virtual learning environment).

Seminars will usually involve some or all of the following methods: group work, individual/group oral presentation, open discussion, question and answer, debates and case study analysis.

Our staff use interactive methods and learning technologies to support their teaching. You can also use extra-curricular seminars and activities to support your learning and skills development.


We use a wide range of assessment methods. For some modules, you will be assessed by essays, exams and presentations. In others, you may have a combination, including policy briefs, group presentations and posters, work logs, research briefs, project proposals, development agency reviews, and/or ‘gobbet’ exercises.

A range of special characteristics make studying International Development at Leeds an outstanding experience.

Taught by experts

Our International Development teaching team is comprised of academics that conduct research at the cutting edge of the discipline. Many of our academics, recognised as international experts in their specialisms, advise national governments, transnational organisations and NGOs.

Professor Ray Bush has consulted for the UN Economic Commission for South West Asia, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN; and Professor Gordon Crawford is currently undertaking research with ActionAid International on innovations in participatory democracy in Nepal, Brazil, South Africa and Nigeria.

Professor Caroline Dyer has advised the Government of India on teacher education and India's Human Development Report. She has also worked with Kenyan government on policy strategies for nomads' education inclusion.

Dr Jörg Wiegratz worked in Uganda for the UN Industrial Development Organization, the Government of Uganda, and the German Agency for International Cooperation; and Dr Polly Wilding has worked with NGOs in Latin America.

This expertise and experience ensures you are exposed to the current issues and important questions that engage the international development community.

Commitment to innovative teaching

Our course offers you the opportunity to study with, and learn from a team with a genuine commitment to quality and innovative teaching. The teaching we provide draws upon research expertise from around the world, and we are connected to a range of global networks and international development related forums. Our team is committed to critical, engaged and accessible scholarship and teaching.

Global, practical perspectives

Our teaching team has practical experience of living, researching, and conducting fieldwork in the global south.

Dr Emma-Louise Anderson has conducted fieldwork in Malawi since 2005, and been a research fellow at the University of Malawi; Dr Alexander Beresford conducts field visits in South Africa every year; and Professor Ray Bush has more than thirty years’ experience of working in and on more than ten countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Caroline Dyer lived in India for about five years, and makes regular research visits to Gujarat; Professor Gordon Crawford regularly undertakes research in Ghana; and Dr Jörg Wiegratz worked in Uganda for three years.

Our real-world academic, practitioner and policy-making perspectives will provide you with insights into the major political, economic, social and cultural issues that people in the Global South.

Unique study abroad option

BA International Development offers you the opportunity to study for a semester abroad in Ghana, Turkey or Hong Kong. So long as you achieve a minimum grade in your first year, you have the option to study and live alongside students in those countries.  

Our study abroad semester option runs independently of the year-long study abroad programme. We have specific links to the host universities in Ghana, Turkey and Hong Kong so that the study work you do while resident counts towards your degree.

This means that the modules you would do in semester two in Leeds are non-compulsory for those that go abroad, and replaced by the modules done in the host institution. Our study abroad semester, therefore, does not lengthen the overall time of doing the degree and allows you to study again together with your friends in Leeds in year three of your degree.

The study abroad semester also means that, should you wish, you could always decide to apply for one of our year-long study abroad programmes, or organise a year-long industrial placement.  

Strong connections to research active centres

BA International Development has strong connections to University of Leeds Schools and Research Centres that are active in researching, teaching and debating international development topics, and we offer our students a chance to connect and get engaged with these other units: for example, the Centre for Global Development (CGD) and the Leeds University Centre for African Studies (LUCAS).

Wide range of modules

The University of Leeds offers one of the largest selections of optional and discovery module ranges in the country, and, as an international development student, you have the choice of a wide range of modules that engage with international affairs.

Intellectual, personal and professional development  

We designed our course to support your intellectual, personal and professional development. We will give you the tools to analyse, understand and discuss the major changes, problems and opportunities that societies and people in the Global South are facing.

You will study some of the broader social, political, and economic causes of the problems, and the opportunities available and struggles existent to address them. Further, you will analyse the achievements and setbacks that people have experienced in their efforts to tackle the causes of these problems at the global, national and local levels, and thus to improve their societies and lives.

As a student of this course, you will be enabled to analyse, understand, and discuss development in the Global South in the 2010s in all its dynamism, complexity and significance. Moreover, we will equip you with the analytical, practical, organisational and interpersonal skills required to work within the fast-changing world of work, be it in International Development, Humanitarian Aid or in other relevant sectors.

Upon completing the programme, you will be capable of analysing and navigating the broader context and the challenging realities within which you will operate as future development practitioners, policy makers, technocrats, activists, researchers or scholars. Finally, you will gain a mix of experiences, insights, capabilities and skills that will help you to grow not just as an analyst of global affairs and development issues, but as a person too.

Interdisciplinary breadth

Our course’s interdisciplinary breadth highlights why single discipline approaches are limited in what they can reveal about the realities of living in the global South.

Our interdisciplinary approaches explain, for instance, why poverty continues and in many countries has intensified with neo-liberalism and why policy approaches need to embrace political economy, sociology and anthropology, as well as historical understandings of how different countries have been impacted by globalisation.

Interdisciplinary approaches to international development help ensure that sight is not lost of the people who are directly affected by poverty and inequality, and what it is that poor people do to struggle and transform their livelihoods.

Social science grounding

The social science grounding of our BA International Development ensures you will appreciate the need to apply an historical lens to contemporary development challenges. These challenges have emerged as a result of uneven patterns of growth in the international economy to the benefit of some countries and their citizens over others.

You will come to understand how it is that, even in the poorest countries, immense wealth still exists among conditions of immense impoverishment, and how inequalities are structured along various social fault lines, including gender, class and caste.

Potential career pathways

BA International Development is aimed at students that would like to pursue either a professional career or further research in international development and related fields, and generally have a desire to put their education into practice in the Global South.

Our course equips you for various career paths. Compatible careers include working in international development agencies, international organisations, governments, politics, NGOs, research organisations, policy making, companies, media, and academia.

Our graduates have gone on to work in, for instance, non-governmental organisations in the UK or overseas, research and consultancy firms, international organisations (such as the UN), the Civil Service, the media, or have continued with further study.

Placement opportunities

We encourage you to take up internships and other opportunities to gain professional experience.

If you choose to go on the semester abroad, this will provide you with multiple opportunities to volunteer and learn from local charitable organisations and NGOs, providing a valuable opportunity to experience the daily work, challenges and rewards that are part of the everyday running of grassroots and small-scale organisations.

Professional skills training

We help you to develop and strengthen a wide range of professional skills. Upon finishing the programmes, you will be able to analyse and discuss complex and challenging topics, develop structured, clear, coherent, evidenced and critical arguments, and to perform in stressful situations.

You will also learn practical and analytical skills such as the analysis of policy documents, writing research reports and policy briefs, designing and executing poster presentations, organising your work, managing your time and ensuring you perform according to standards and timelines. Furthermore, you will develop skills to assess the effectiveness of a particular organisation’s work and to develop project plans.

Core career skills and knowledge

Upon finishing the course, you will have a critical understanding of key debates, approaches, strategies, policies and programmes in the field of International Development.

You will be knowledgeable regarding aspects of project design and management in the context of International Development and beyond. You will be able to access and assess qualitative and quantitative data, to research and analyse complex topics, to combine theoretical and empirical aspects to discuss given topics, to construct convincing arguments, and assess available options for action.

Furthermore, the course will train you to make decisions in complex and unpredictable situations, to learn independently and to think critically and communicate complex ideas as appropriate to the context and assignment.

Finally, the course will help you to develop and strengthen your abilities to manage time effectively, to work in teams, to adapt flexibly to a range of tasks and working expectations, to communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions in a variety of ways to a variety of audiences, and to exercise personal responsibility.

International Development examines the structures, dynamics and actions that shape the political, economic, socio-cultural development of the countries in the Global South. 

The discipline investigates the historical and contemporary causes of underdevelopment in the Global South, including the way in which the Global North is in various ways implicated in this state of affairs. It also examines the key contemporary transformations in the Global South and interrogates the related development dynamics, challenges and opportunities.

International Development involves the interdisciplinary study of the various problems that confront the societies in the Global South; from poverty and inequality to food insecurity, public service delivery, conflict and violence. Furthermore, it analyses and evaluates the past and present strategies, policies and programmes of various actors that operate in the name of promoting development, and proposes alternatives to existing development interventions.

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