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MSc Labour, Social Movements and Development

Course Description

Who is this programme for?:

The programme is for students who want to analyse and work on social change for the working poor in developing countries. It is highly relevant to anyone working or intending to work on labour and labour-related social movements in development agencies and NGOs, labour and solidarity movements, corporate social responsibility initiatives, and to activists in both developed and developing countries. We welcome students with a strong background in the social sciences in their first degree, as well as practitioners and professionals working in the areas of development, labour and employment relations, social movements and other related fields.

A unique Programme

This innovative new programme offers students the opportunity to study labour conditions and relations, social movements of labour and their contributions to development processes and changes in the South. It is the first and only MSc programme in the UK dedicated to Labour, Social Movements and Development. It provides a critical examination of the links between labour, capitalism, development and poverty. It investigates labour in contemporary social and economic development of the South as well as classic and newly emerging social movements of labour in local, national and international spaces. Students will also have the opportunity to experience labour campaigns and policy-making in practice by participating in our interactive sessions on designing and implementing international, regional and national labour campaigns and policies. The MSc draws on the expertise of Department of Development Studies staff in labour, social movements and development in Latin America, Africa and Asia, and on our contacts within such movements, as well as with NGOs and international organisations.

The MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development explores different theories and methods for the study of the working poor in the South, and offers a critical examination of the links between labour, capitalism, development and poverty, and of the role of social movements and international initiatives for labour.

Highlights include:

- Labour process and organisations: development trajectories and divisions in the South

- A comparative history of labour and social movements in countries such as China, Korea, India, South Africa, Brazil and the Middle East

- Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives, codes of conduct and anti-sweatshop campaigning

- The impact of neoliberalism and globalisation on workers in the South

- Informalisation of labour, casualization and precarious work

- Feminisation of labour

- The worst forms of exploitation: forced labour and child labour

- Rural labour, migrant labour and labour in Export Processing Zones

- Household and reproductive labour

- The International Labour Organisation, international labour standards and decent work

- Practices and theories of local, national and international labour campaigns.

The unique regional expertise at SOAS allows students of the MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development to specialise in some of the most dynamic parts of the developing world. The programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills will be of great benefit to graduates who return to, or take up, professional careers in international organisations, government agencies and non-governmental organisations and movements. Students also benefit from the wide range of modules on offer, both within the department and across the School, allowing them to create individualised interdisciplinary programmes.

The department has a Labour, Movements and Development research cluster (http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/research/labour/) which carries out research activities linked to labour, social movements and development.

Visit the website http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/programmes/msc-labour-social-movements-and-development/


- Overview
There are four main components to this degree: three taught modules and a 10,000 word dissertation. All students take a core module, Labour, Social Movements and Development. They then select one of two further modules: Political Economy of Development or Theory, Policy and Practice of Development. Through these modules students build their analytical skills and knowledge of the main issues and debates in Development Studies.

- Specialisation
Students also take optional modules (one full unit module or two half-unit modules), allowing them to specialise in particular areas of development and potentially to develop a dissertation in a related theme. By tying these to their individual dissertation topic, students design their degree to suit their own interests and career development goals.

Students should be aware that not all optional modules may run in a given year. Modules at other institutions are not part of the approved programme structure.

Programme Specification

Programme Specification 2015/16 (pdf; 79kb) - http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/programmes/msc-labour-social-movements-and-development/file101781.pdf


- SOAS Library
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Teaching & Learning

Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.

The MSc programme consists of three taught modules (corresponding to three examination papers) and a dissertation.

- Lectures

Most modules involve a two hour lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.

- Seminars

At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work. Students make full-scale presentations for each unit that they take, and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.

- Dissertation

A quarter of the work for the degree is given over to the writing of an adequately researched 10,000-word dissertation. Students are encouraged to take up topics which relate the study of a particular region to a body of theory.


A postgraduate degree in Labour, Social Movements and Development from SOAS provides graduates with a portfolio of widely transferable skills sought by employers, including analytical skills, the ability to think laterally and employ critical reasoning, and knowing how to present materials and ideas effectively both orally and in writing. Equally graduates are able to continue in the field of research, continuing their studies either at SOAS or other institutions.

An MSc in Labour, Social Movements and Development 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 MSc Labour, Social Movements and Development page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Joe Buckley

I’ll come out and say it: SOAS is the greatest university in the world. Every day, you will hear dozens of different languages being spoken, and encounter a fantastic array of different activities. We are a community full of exciting people, and our heterogeneity is what makes us special. Do not be surprised if you discover that you are drinking coffee with a former Malaysian political prisoner, or sitting in a lecture next to a journalist who reported from Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring. Both have happened to me. Every single person at SOAS has an interesting story to tell, and adds something unique and valuable to our community. So will you.

All the staff at SOAS, from the academics and cleaners to the librarians and counsellors, are passionate and committed. They are as much a part of our wonderful diverse tapestry as are the students. More specifically, the teachers in the Development Studies department truly care about trying to ameliorate the world, and many of them have been practitioners. Furthermore, they do not treat students as customers, but as worthwhile and valuable individuals - “our new hopes,” as one of my lecturers said to me when I was in a local pub with him.

Academically, SOAS is at the top of its game. In our studies and research, we particularly value our critical approach to orthodoxy, and the School has the highest concentration of heterodox social scientists in Europe, if not the world. Furthermore, as SOAS is a leader in its field, the free evening lectures are phenomenal. Each department and centre has them, often weekly, and they are open to all students. Many of the world’s greatest thinkers and actors come to speak. The Development Studies Department’s events are especially exciting, and are designed to feed into our studies and enthusiasms.

Deciding to come here will be one of the greatest decisions you ever make. You will find a warm, welcoming second home in the centre of London.


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 Law and Social Sciences - 16 Awards

There are six SOAS Master's scholarships available in the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences. Each is valued at £16,765 each in total. Fees will be deducted from this amount and the remainder will be used toward maintenance. In addition to these six SOAS Master's scholarship, the Faculty will offer an extra 10 scholarships, each valued at approximately £1,500.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 provided in your scholarship application and in your on-line admission application for admission. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statement 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.

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 the on-line scholarship application form

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). Relevant work experience may also be considered.

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