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MA International Development

Course Description

About the course

This course engages with the challenges of international development in today’s complex world. You’ll develop skills and knowledge relating to development research and practice. The course includes a 10-day field class currently in Nepal or Kenya providing hands-on experience of research.

Your career

You’ll develop the skills to work in private or public sector research, or join the civil service. Recent graduates have started careers in consulting or with organisations like CAFOD, the Environment Agency and the British Library. Many of our graduates stay on to do research. We have a high success rate in securing funding for those who wish to study for a PhD with us after finishing a masters.

Study with the best

This is a vibrant postgraduate community, with strong international links. Our research partners are global, from UK universities to institutions in southern Africa, Denmark, Iceland, Australia and the USA. Our teaching is invigorated by work from several interdisciplinary research groups, like the Sheffield Centre for International Drylands Research, the Urban and Regional Policy Research Institute and the Sheffield Institute for International Development.

How we teach

Our staff are active researchers at the cutting-edge of their fields. That research informs our masters courses. As well as the usual lectures and seminars, there are practicals, lab classes, field trips and research projects.

Facilities and equipment

A new £1m Sediment-Solute Systems lab enables geochemical analysis of aqueous and solid phases, especially in the context of biogeochemistry. We have equipment for chromatography, UV spectrometry and flow injection/auto analysis.

Our sample preparation facilities enable digestion, pre-concentration by evaporation under vacuum, and tangential flow filtration. There are alpha and gamma counters, a laser particle sizer and a luminescence dating lab. Field equipment includes automatic water samplers, weather stations, data loggers and environmental process characterisation sensors.

We have high-quality petrological microscopes for examining geological samples. We have labs for spectrometry and for palaeontological preparation, and you’ll also have access to specialist facilities in other departments at the University.

Laptops, camcorders, tape recorders and transcribers are available for your fieldwork. Our postgraduate computer labs have networked workstations for GIS research and climate modelling, ARC/INFO, ERDAS software and specialist software for remote sensing. GIS facilities are also provided by the £5m Informatics Collaboratory for the Social Sciences.

Our new postgraduate media GIS suite has facilities for Skype, video conferencing, web design, video editing and creative media.


Most of our courses involve fieldwork. The MPH, MSc and MA International Development take students on a 10-day field trip where they put their research skills into practice. Recent classes visited the West Pokot region of Kenya, urban and rural areas of Nepal, the suburbs of Cairo and India.

Core modules

Ideas and Practice in International Development; Research Design and Methods in International Development; Professional Skills for Development; Dissertation with Placement; International Development Field Class, currently in either Kenya or Nepal.

Examples of optional modules

Understanding Environmental Change; Data, Visualisation and GIS; Key Issues in Environment and Development; Living with Climate Change in the Global South; The Political Economy of Natural Resource-led Development in the Global South; Key Issues in Global Public Health; Epidemiology; Using Policy to Strengthen Health Systems; Cities of Diversity; Cities of ‘the South’: planning for informality.

Teaching and assessment

There are seminars, lectures, workshops and reading groups. You’ll be assessed on your coursework assignments, project work and a dissertation.

Visit the MA International Development page on the University of Sheffield website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Alice Mcdonnell

The MA in International Development at the University of Sheffield appealed to me primarily due to the emphasis placed upon practical experience within the course, in the form of a fieldcourse in a developing country, and the placement-based dissertation. I felt that this set the course apart from other Development courses, as I hoped that the practical experience I would gain would be preferable to a purely theoretical course, and put me in good stead to apply for jobs within the Development field.

I have found the course to be thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding, and, as anticipated, the fieldwork provided a brilliant opportunity to put the theory and discussion from seminars and coursework, into practice. It has reinforced my passion for development and reaffirmed the fact that this is a career I wish to pursue. Furthermore, I will be undertaking my dissertation research and placement in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania in June and July of this year.

My research is focusing on the care and support systems available for people living with HIV/AIDS in the region. I am thoroughly looking forward to my placement and hope it will be as rewarding (and challenging) as the fieldcourse in Kenya earlier in the year. The numerous links that staff in the department here have with research contacts and NGOs acrsos the world have proved invaluable in setting up a range of placements for myself and my peers- ranging from soil sustainability in Java, to working with the UN Land Coalitiion in Rome. The opprotunities that the establishement of these placements provides us with are invaluable.

Having been uncertain as to whether a Masters course was worth pursuing (in terms of time and money commitments in particular), I am pleased to say that my uncertainties have been entirely dismissed, as I feel the course has been worth all the time and money I have put into it. I would strongly recommend this Masters to anyone else with an interest in this field. Excellent teaching and guidance, an eclectic mix of peers from all walks of life who share a similar passion, and overall, an excellent department, have helped to make this year in Sheffield the most enjoyable and rewarding of my academic life.

(Student Profile)

Nick Clare

I spent a lot of time researching International Development MA courses before I chose Sheffield. I was frustrated by how many other courses offered a theoretical grounding in development issues, but lacked the practical elements needed to gain research experience in the field. On the other hand, those courses that provided practical experience neglected the important academic aspects surrounding international development.

The course itself has been brilliant, there are students from a wide range of backgrounds which has constantly led to exciting and lively debate in all our seminars. I have also found that the huge flexibility and variation in module and assessment choice makes for a fascinating masters which can be tailored to specific interests. I found the department especially welcoming and helpful as I had never studied geography until the start of this year, and have been offered all the support I have needed.

However, for me what has made the course stand out the most has been the field trip and dissertation placement. These two trips provided experience of fieldwork, which is invaluable for both further study and a career in development. My dissertation plcement in Costa Rica in particular was perfect for me, as it allowed me to further my language skills and conduct research into a subject I felt very important. This project, like eveyrone else on the course, was aided by a supervisor who was an expert in the field which is testament to the breadth of the department. I have loved every minute of the course, and would recommend it to anyone, as it sets you up perfectly if you wish to go on to working international development or take a PhD.

(Student Profile)

Leo Roberts

Why did you choose your MA course and what did you enjoy?

I had been studying Human Geography at Sheffield, and had been developing an interest in issues surrounding inequality and poverty for a few years when I learned about the University of Sheffield’s MA-International Development programme. It seemed to offer everything I was interested in; primarily a deeper and more contextual knowledge of the key debates in international development, and various specific areas of interest I had. I was also aware that the Geography Department at the University of Sheffield has a reputation. I was hoping that the MA would provide me with a critical perspective of ‘development’ efforts to date.

Why did you choose Sheffield?

Sheffield is a fantastic place. It’s on the edge of the Peak District, which is great for outdoors activities, has a great and really diverse music scene, gets lots of blue-skied days (contrary to popular belief), and offers super-cheap beer.

How did the department support you?

Doing a masters in the Geography Department is fantastic. All the staff are incredibly helpful, offering guidance whenever needed, and on any subject (even if it’s outside the realms of International Development). Having leading members of the academic ID community on staff is also a great opportunity.

(Student Profile)

Maz Robertson

What are you doing now/about to start doing?
I started working with a Ugandan-based NGO called Soft Power Education in January 2011 as a project manager on their Conservation Education Community Outreach Programme, bordering the Murchison Falls National Park in the northwest of the country.

Why did you choose this course?
After finishing my undergraduate degree I knew that 'development' was something that I wanted to pursue further, and spending time travelling really cemented this. I researched other Masters courses, some with a more specific focus and some that did not encompass a research project, but decided that the MA course that Sheffield offered a good theory/ practice balance and was broad enough to allow me to really discover my strengths and interests.

Why did you choose Sheffield?
I was particularly impressed that Sheffield's course aimed to help students gain professional experience, through the 'Dissertation with Placement' and 'Professional Skills for Development' modules. I had also studied as an undergrad at Sheffield (Geography BSc 2003-2006) and so knew about the great 'student experience' that the city offers, as well as being familiar with the department.

What were you doing before coming to Sheffield?
I had lived in Australia for a year on a working holiday visa, travelling, picking fruit, WWOOFing and volunteering on various conservation and community development projects.

What are your memories of your time in Sheffield?

I only have good memories, even those of working towards assignment deadlines I remember fondly for the spirit and camaraderie amongst my course mates. Particular highlights were the field class to Kenya, and of course the seven weeks I spent in Java, Indonesia on placement, working with an NGO and doing the research for my dissertation.

How has your degree helped your career development?

I feel that I have been incredibly fortunate to have found paid employment in my chosen field so soon after graduating, and with very little experience. I have no doubt that my Masters has made a huge difference to my employability, demonstrating that I am serious about working in the development field and my willingness to work to achieve this.

What advice would you give to potential students?

If you can afford it, go for it; having a Master's degree is never going to put you at a disadvantage. Then, try to really throw yourself into the course; it really is true that the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.


Entry Requirements

For all our courses, you’ll need a good 2:1 or first class honours degree in geography or a related subject. Overall IELTS grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

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