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Practising Sustainable Development (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) (MSc/PGDip)

Course Description

Sustainable development, or development that balances economic, social, and environmental aspects, is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can be powerful tools in helping to achieve this.

The ICT for Development (ICT4D) specialism is a strand within the established and highly successful MSc Practising Sustainable Development. It is offered jointly by the Politics, Development and Sustainability (PDS) Group and the UNESCO Chair/Centre in ICT4D at Royal Holloway, University of London.

This ICT4D Masters strand takes a global perspective on sustainable development and the role of ICTs; placed at the interface of research and practice, it is designed for those who want to launch or further their careers as development practitioners or scholars. It combines cutting-edge teaching on ICT4D with rigorous training in the broader field of sustainable development, to provide a well-rounded perspective on current and future development challenges. This degree extends knowledge, develops key skills and optimises career prospects.

The course is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Master’s degree. The structure of the Diploma is identical except that you will not write a dissertation. If you are successful on the Diploma you may transfer to the MSc, subject to academic approval.

See the website https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/geography/coursefinder/mscpgdippsdict4d.aspx

Why choose this course?

- This is an intellectually exciting and inspiring course, drawing on both physical and social sciences, which attracts a diverse, international group of students.

- Our teaching staff are leading international experts and have wide experience in different developing regions and economies in transition, including Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, South Asia, East Asia and South-East Asia.

- You will benefit from small group learning and an intense but friendly atmosphere, and will receive individual mentoring and career advice from our staff (both from your personal tutor and a dissertation supervisor).

- You will receive an internationally renowned University of London degree, giving you a solid foundation for a career in the field of development and/or environment.

- The course will provide you with training in the skills needed to research and assess ICT for development. These include research design, project development, geographic information systems, remote sensing, participatory methods, project analysis and evaluation.

Department research and industry highlights

The UNESCO Chair/Centre in ICT4D at Royal Holloway is an interdisciplinary centre involving staff in Geography, Management, Computer Science and Earth Sciences. One of the world leaders in its field, with 17 affiliated staff and 18 PhD students, it is a vibrant research community embedded in both the College and the international ICT4D Collective of ICT4D practitioners. It has excellent links with NGOs, businesses and international organisations. Friendly and diverse, it is an exciting place to study and network with other ICT4D experts.

The Politics, Development and Sustainability (PDS) group consists of over 20 research-active staff, 35 PhD students and 50 Master’s students on four MSc programmes. We are committed to conducting collaborative research which seeks to understand and contribute to addressing problems of social inequality, environmental destruction and injustice. The breadth of its members’ research places it in an ideal position to contribute to theoretical and policy debates on key challenges facing Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean today.

Course content and structure

The course is divided into three compulsory elements; theory, policy and practice; research training; and a dissertation. Students studying for the Postgraduate Diploma do not undertake the dissertation.

Core course units:
Sustainability, Development and Governance
This course will equip students with a detailed understanding of the development of sustainable development as a discourse. Students will explore key sustainability issues such as climate change, globalisation, and human responses with an emphasis on the emergence of environmental governance as a means to pursue sustainability.

Technology and Development
This course provides you with an introduction to the role of technology in development, focusing particularly on mobile phone and computer technologies. The course combines an understanding of key theoretical debates and how technologies have been applied in diverse sectors such as health and education. The course also includes training in the use of GIS (geographical information systems) within a development context.

This course gives you the opportunity to develop deeper understandings of cutting-edge applications of ICT4D research and practice. Topics covered include environmental change and Green ICT, open development and subversive forms of technology use, and logics of inclusion and exclusion in ICT programmes. You will also examine project planning, monitoring and evaluation in the field of ICT4D.

Participatory Research
This course combines detailed understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of participatory research and methods with practical experience of using different participatory research techniques. These include participatory diagramming, participatory video and participatory environmental monitoring.

Research Training
You will be provided with training in a range of methods to enable you to plan, carry out and complete a piece of research. There are three modules in this element:
- Social Research Methods Training - provides a range of social science methods for field research and analysis.
- Quantitative Methods for Graduates - provides basic statistical concepts and procedures used in empirical research.
- Development and Environment Research Training - provides guidance for planning, developing and undertaking research in a development and environment context.

Dissertation (MSc only)
The dissertation is of between 12,000 and 15,000 words, on a topic of your choice which has been approved by the supervisor. It requires both secondary and primary research, and the demonstration of originality in integrating theoretical and practical research methods in tackling a particular problem. You will be encouraged to carry out your dissertation in collaboration with an organisation in the field of development and environment.

Community Volunteer Project
You will undertake an independent volunteer project which will give you practical experience in gaining sustainability related work experience in a non-for profit organisation. The project will enhance your employability whilst and provide an opportunity to gain practical experience of third sector organisational objectives, cultures and practices.

Elective course units:
Sustainability, Development and Society
You will develop a detailed understanding of key social / environmental relationships incorporating contemporary issues in the geographies of sustainability. These will include 'risk society', sustainable cities, and the impacts of corporate sector activities on the environment. You will also understand the challenges to sustainable development at household and community levels, with a focus on community-based approaches to sustainable development.

Business Ethics and Enterprise
The aim of the course is to equip students with the moral frameworks and critical abilities necessary to understand the role of business in society from an ethical perspective. The course will cover different types of business including large publicly traded multinationals, small and medium sized enterprises, social enterprises and family firms. Students will be expected to understand the different issues in these organizational types and to articulate moral arguments from a range of different perspectives.

International Sustainability Management
This course provides participants with an understanding of how Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) informs sustainability management issues in large, transnational organisations. It will focus on issues such as consumption and sustainability as dichotomised between the apparently incompatible tensions of economic and environmental interests.

Other courses Geopolitics and Security / PIR / Management / Computer Science

On completion of the course graduates will have:
- an understanding at an advanced level of the relationships between, and complexities of, social, economic, political and environmental aspects of sustainable development and ICT4D

- an understanding at an advanced level of how the key issues in sustainable development theory and ICT4D influence policy and impact on practice

- the ability to critically analyse complex or contradictory areas of knowledge in aspects of sustainable development.


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework and a dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

Past students of the MSc Practising Sustainable Development are now employed by international development and/or environment agencies, national government in their countries, national programmes and implementing agencies, higher education institutions, consultancies, private sector businesses, social enterprises and NGOs; as environmental and development policy-makers, managers, workers, activists, teachers and researchers. Many of our alumni are also currently undertaking doctoral programmes in the UK and abroad.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studyhere/postgraduate/applying/howtoapply.aspx .

Visit the Practising Sustainable Development (Information and Communication Technologies for Development) (MSc/PGDip) page on the Royal Holloway, University of London website for more details!

Entry Requirements

UK Upper Second Class Honours degree (2:1), or equivalent, in a related field (natural or social sciences or humanities). Considerable professional experience in the field of development and/or environment. IELTS 6.5 overall with 6.5 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores.

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