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Social Development Practice - MSc/PGDip

Course Description

This MSc offers a critical approach to 'people-centred' development, addressing the challenges for equitable citizenship in the context of social diversity and globalisation, particularly in urban contexts. Participants engage in a critical analysis of the theory and practice of social development alongside gaining the skills required to be a reflective social development practitioner.

Degree information

The programme objectives are to give participants a solid grounding in social analysis skills and perspectives, rooted in social theory around identity, inequality, and social change processes. Students learn how development interventions can best support the citizenship claims of diverse groups of women and men, and girls and boys living in the Global South, and consider the role of the social development practitioner in this endeavour.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of three core modules (90 credits), either one or two optional modules (totalling 30 credits) and a dissertation (60 credits). A Postgraduate Diploma (full-time nine months) is offered, comprising three core modules (90 credits) and one or two optional modules (30 credits).

Core modules - all three of the following:
-Social Policy and Citizenship
-Social Diversity, Inequality, and Poverty
-Social Development in Practice

Optional modules - one or two optional modules, totalling 30 credits, usually including the following, among others:
-NGOs and Social Transformation
-Communication, Technologies and Social Power
-Gender in Policy and Planning
-Participatory Processes: Building for Development
-Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities
-Post Disaster Recovery: Policies, Practices and Alternatives
-Critical Urbanism Studio I and II
-Housing as Urbanism: Housing Policy and the Search for Scale
-Housing Policies: Practical Dimensions and Alternative Options
-Neo-Structuralism and the Developmental State
-Political Economy of Development: Land, Food and Agriculture
-Political Economy of Development: Industrialisation and Infrastructure
-Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South
-Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development
-Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politics
-Transport Equity and Urban Mobility
-Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South
-The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning
-Managing the City Economy

All students undertake an independent research project related to the main themes of the programme, culminating in a dissertation report of 10,000 words (60 credits). Topics may be chosen to enhance career development or for their inherent interest.

Teaching and learning
The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical classroom exercises, and fieldwork within the UK and abroad. Student performance is assessed through coursework, examinations, and a dissertation report as well as an assessment of practical work, including the international fieldwork group report.

The programme incorporates group fieldwork in London and in a selected country of the Global South. The cost of flights, visas, necessary vaccinations, accommodation, and fieldwork-related travel and facilitations costs, are incorporated within the programme fees. Meals and other expenditure must be covered by the student.


Graduates of this Master's programme are likely to find employment as officers for local and international NGOs, as officers for international organisations, as officers in local or national government departments and as consultants. Some graduates pursue an academic career, either through doctoral studies or through teaching and research in a number of prestigious universities.

Top career destinations for this degree:
-Head of Strategy Funding, Global Witness
-Researcher, Chinese Federation of Trade Unions
-Development Consultant, World Bank Group
-Corporate Responsibility Manager, Odebrecht
-Project Co-Ordinator, Thamani Youth of Kenya

Graduates of this programme are able to link theory to practice, critically reflect, and negotiate complex social relations as well as facilitate social processes in a context of diversity - all key transferable skills in the job market. Graduates have secured jobs in a variety of sectors and countries and built fulfilling careers in social development.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The programme introduces students to critical, analytical and practical skills that will be of use in their future careers, whether as academics, social development practitioners or advocates for the need to place the 'social' at the centre of development. Students have an opportunity to critically examine relevant bodies of knowledge, current debates and field experience in primarily urban contexts, and to consider the challenges of making development policy, planning and practice more socially responsive.

Students on this MSc benefit from the strong practical component, which includes fieldwork assignments in London and an international field trip to a city in the Global South. This trip provides the opportunity to develop practical skills, use tools for participatory action research, and reflect on the roles and responsibilities of social development practitioners.

The practice-based components of the programme also provide students with the opportunity to network with organisations and professionals working in the social development sector. In a complementary series of careers sessions, students can network with Development Planning Unit alumni and partners who are working in relevant fields.

Visit the Social Development Practice - MSc/PGDip page on the University College London website for more details!

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Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme (CSSS) - 5 Awards

The Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme is a joint initiative between the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (with funding from the Department for International Development (DFID), and UK universities, to support scholarships for students from developing Commonwealth countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the United Kingdom.The aim of the scheme is to assist students from developing Commonwealth countries who are of excellent academic calibre but for financial reasons would not otherwise be able to afford to study in the United Kingdom. The scheme allows them to benefit from postgraduate study at a university in the United Kingdom which will help them to contribute toward the development of their home countries.Awards are for taught Master's programmes only, subjects must be related to the economic, social and technological development of a candidate's country. UCL expects to be able to allocate five awards this academic year.Applicants must:
- Be nationals of (or permanently domiciled in) a Commonwealth developing country, and not currently be living or studying in a developed country (please see the CSSS information booklet for a list of eligible countries);
- Hold a first degree at either first- or upper second-class level;
- Be sufficiently fluent in English to pursue the programme;
- Have not previously studied for one year or more in a developed country;
- Not be employed by a government department (at national level) or a parastatal organisation (employees of universities are normally acceptable);
- Be themselves, or through families, unable to pay for the proposed programme of study in the UK;
- Be willing to confirm that they will return to their home country as soon as their period of study is complete.
- Apply for admission to UCL for one of the eligible programmes below:Value, Benefits and Duration:
- The award will cover tuition fees, a maintenance allowance, economy air travel to and from the UK at the beginning and end of the scholar’s degree programme plus additional discretionary allowances.
- Awards are normally tenable for one year.

Value of Scholarship(s)

Full fees, flights, stipend, and other allowances (1 year)


- Be nationals of (or permanently domiciled in) a Commonwealth developing country, and not currently be living or studying in a developed country (please see the CSSS information booklet for a list of eligible countries);
- Hold a first degree at either first- or upper second-class level;

Application Procedure

- You must separately apply for admission to UCL for one of the eligible programmes through the standard admissions procedure.
- You must apply for the scholarship on the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Electronic Application System (EAS) online following the procedures described on their website.
- In order to be considered for this scholarship at UCL, you must complete the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission Electronic Application System (EAS) online: by the deadline of T23:59 (UCT) Sunday, 21 February 2016.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard; and a demonstrable interest in the subject matter of the programme. Candidates who do not meet the above requirements may be considered if they are able to demonstrate relevant work experience and an ability to engage academically with the subject matter of the degree. Applicants who do not hold a recognised undergraduate degree may, in exceptional cases, be admitted to the programme if they are able to demonstrate considerable senior-level professional experience in planning or a related field.

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