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MA Social Anthropology of Development

Course Description

This Anthropology MA provides an understanding of the ways in which anthropological approaches and debates inform the study of meanings and concepts in development, its priorities, policies and practice. It attracts students with diverse backgrounds and study/work experiences which makes for a lively and challenging atmosphere.

The degree is designed to provide students with a fairly detailed knowledge of anthropology, development issues, research methods and either an ethnographic region (and/or language) and/or thematic interest in health/gender/food/ media. Advice will be given to match the choice of optional components to the requirements, interests, and qualifications of individual students whose background may be in general social science, regional, language or other studies. While the focus of the degree is on development issues and practice, its disciplinary orientation remains anthropological.

Students explore the contribution of anthropology to contemporary development debates, for example, on donors/aid agencies and NGOs, poverty, migration and development, dominating discourses, human rights, violence and complex emergencies, refugees, gender, social capital and community action, health, climate change, the ‘market’ (as a core metaphor of globalised development), whether there are alternatives to the market, the role of business in development (corporate social responsibility and markets for the poor) and the importance of ethical, professional conduct by anthropologists. Anthropological studies provide the basis for understanding issues of state and governance in development, as well as the meaning of community development, and of popular ‘participation’ and ‘empowerment’. Throughout the programme, the role of, and opportunities for anthropologists as professionals in development is discussed, in part through a dedicated series of seminars in term 2.

Note: (1) Students registered in other departments who wish to take this course MUST write to the Director of Study for this course for permission to take it.

The programme consists of four elements: three assessed course units and a dissertation of 10,000 words.

The degree’s core course – ‘Anthropology of Development’ – provides an up-to-date and in-depth understanding of anthropological perspectives on policy and practice in contemporary international development, and gives a theoretical overview of the relationship between development and anthropology. The course examines the politics of aid, shifting aid frameworks, and concrete intervention programmes, bridging the disparate worlds of planners and beneficiaries. This involves close reading of anthropological monographs/studies which examine the nature of policy-making, bureaucracy and programmes in a variety of sectors – health, agriculture, water and others – while always paying close attention to the specific cultural contexts of intervention. Students should note that the course is continuously assessed which each term students are expected to write 1 book review, 1 essay and sit a 50 minute examination. This form of assessment has been found to be much fairer to overseas students whose first language is not English. While continuous assessment requires students to organize their studies efficiently from the very beginning of the year, we have found that a much higher proportion of our students graduate having achieved a distinction.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

The Commonwealth Shared Scholarship scheme (http://www.soas.ac.uk/registry/scholarships/soas-hakluyt-scholarship.html) has been extended to cover the MA Social Anthropology of Development.

Note (2). Students registered in other departments at SOAS, notably in Development Studies, must apply in writing/email to the Director of Studies for permission to take this course as part of their degree.

Visit the website http://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/programmes/masocanthdev/


The programme consists of four units in total: three units of examined taught courses and a one unit dissertation of 10,000 words.

Core Courses:
- Anthropology of Development - 15PANC090 (1.0 unit).

- Dissertation in Anthropology and Sociology - 15PANC999 (1.0 unit). This is a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic agreed with the Programme Convenor of the MA Social Anthropology of Development and the candidate’s supervisor.

- Additionally all MA Anthropology students 'audit' the course Ethnographic Research Methods during term 1 - this will not count towards your 4 units.

Foundation Course:
- Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology - 15PANC008 (1.0 unit). This is compulsory only for students without a previous anthropology degree.

Option Courses:
- The remaining unit(s) of your programme can be selected from the Option Courses list below.

- A total of either 1 unit of option courses (if taking Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology) or 2 units (if exempted from Theoretical Approaches to Social Anthropology), may be selected.

- Your 1 or 2 total units may be made up of any combination of 0.5 or 1 unit option courses.

- However, courses without a "15PANxxxx" course code are taught outside of the Anthropology Department. No more than 1 unit in total of these courses may be selected.

- Alternatively, one language course may be taken from the Faculty of Languages and Cultures.

Programme Specification

Programme Specification 2012/2013 (pdf; 134kb) - http://www.soas.ac.uk/anthropology/programmes/masocanthdev/file39771.pdf


A postgraduate degree in the Social Anthropology of Development at SOAS develops students’ understanding of the world, other peoples’ ways of life and how society is organised with a particular focus on how anthropological approaches and debates inform the study of meanings and concepts in development, its priorities, policies and practice. Over the years the SOAS department has trained numerous leading anthropologists who have gone on to occupy lectureships and professorships throughout the world. Equally, students gain skills during their degree that transfer well to areas such as information and technology, government service, the media and tourism.

Postgraduate students leave SOAS with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek, including analytical and critical skills; ability to gather, assess and interpret data; high level of cultural awareness; and problem-solving. A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website (http://www.soas.ac.uk/careers/graduate-destinations/).

Find out how to apply here - http://www.soas.ac.uk/admissions/pg/howtoapply/

Visit the MA Social Anthropology of Development page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

Student Profiles

Canon Collins Scholarships - No. of awards TBC

These scholarships are for Masters study in any subject field.
The application process normally opens in December and closes in February, for study commencing in September the following year. Please go to the Canon Collins website and click "Apply for A Scholarship" and then "Canon Collins Scholarship for Masters Study in the UK" for further information on how to apply.

Value of Scholarship(s)

See website


Country/Nationality: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information



SOAS Master's Scholarships - Faculty of Arts & Humanities - 5 Awards

There are five SOAS Master's scholarships available in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities (Department of Anthropology and Sociology - 1 scholarship, History - 1 scholarship, History of Arts&Archaeology/Music & Media - 2 scholarships, Religions and Philosophies - 1 scholarship). Each scholarship is valued at £16,765 in total. Fees will be deducted from this amount and the remainder will be used toward maintenance. Candidate Assessment
- Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by an Advisory Panel consisting of at least three academic members of the Faculty. - The assessment of your application will be based on the information in your scholarship application. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statements and other relevant information.Scholarship Application Deadline
- Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK local time) on 24 February 2016.- In order to be considered for this scholarship, you must ALSO submit a complete online application to the degree programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for the scholarship. Applicants applying for scholarships must also submit an application for admission well in advance. Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year. You should prepare to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods. - Late or incomplete applications will not be considered

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Applicants must possess or expect to be awarded a First Class Honours Degree or equivalent. Students with a non-UK degree to be adjudged in the top rank by their referees and transcript.
- This scholarship is open to UK/EU applicants only.
- Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue one of the eligible full-time masters programmes at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline.
- The scholarship cannot be held along with any other major scholarship or studentship.

Application Procedure

You must apply for this scholarship via this on-line scholarship application form.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

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