MA Africa and Development

This programme combines development studies with an interdisciplinary focus on Africa.

It provides an advanced understanding of the African cultural, political and historical circumstances which have been formative in the constitution of development studies as a field, and which have shaped the impact of development interventions in the continent.

This programme is ideal for those who wish to pursue careers in international development, as well as students planning to pursue doctoral research on aspects of development in Africa.

African Studies and Anthropology has been ranked second among all Area Studies departments in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

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Africa is one of the most important sites of international development interventions, and historically the site where much of the academic discipline of development studies was forged.

This programme draws on the expertise of the University’s Department of African Studies and Anthropology (DASA) and International Development Department (IDD) to provide an in-depth exploration of the relationship between development studies and Africa.

You will study two core modules:

  • Critical Approaches to Development 
  • Livelihoods and Development in Africa

You will also choose four optional modules from a wide range within DASA and IDD. All DASA modules are assessed by coursework; IDD modules vary, and the mix of coursework and written examinations will depend on the options selected. [See below for more detail on available modules]

You will complete the programme with a 15,000-word dissertation which combines interdisciplinary African studies with development studies.

Why study this course

  • Taught by experts – the course is taught by world-leading specialists, all of who have lived, worked and research in Africa for long periods; all modules are informed by in-depth, first hand original research in Africa
  • Links within industry – The Department of African Studies and Anthropology has strong links with African universities and attracts frequent African visiting researchers
  • Friendly and relaxed atmosphere - You will be part of a friendly community in which all staff are accessible to students to provide additional help on their work.
  • Structure of programme - African Studies at Birmingham is wide-ranging, covering the whole continent and spanning humanities and social sciences disciplines.
  • Lots of opportunities to get involved - staff and postgraduate students within the Department work together closely and discuss their research interests at regular meetings.There is also a regular programme of formal DASA seminars at which staff, postgraduate students and visiting scholars present papers and discuss their work-in-progress. In addition, DASA hosts occasional round-table inter-disciplinary research conferences, to which our postgraduate students are invited. There is a highly regarded series of in-house publications linked to these conferences, which often include work by DASA postgraduate students.


You will study two core modules:

Critical Approaches to Development (IDD)

Why is theory important for understanding development policy and practice? How can theory and approaches inform policy and practice and what can be learnt from a more theoretically-informed approach? These questions reflect the emphasis in this module in providing students with a broad introduction to different approaches to development. You will critically examine development theories and how they have been, and are, applied to contemporary development issues. The module is designed to give you a solid introduction to the key aspects of the topic that will serve as the analytical basis for much of the rest of your studies. A number of the issues are dealt with in more detail in other modules. After an introductory session, you will explore theories of development in historical context from (roughly) 1945 up to the present. The theories are then applied to contemporary development approaches and issues. Throughout, the emphasis is on you developing a critical understanding of the evolution of development theories over the last half century and its implications for present day thinking about development.  

Livelihoods and Development in Africa (DASA)

The module examines rural and urban livelihood systems and processes during the colonial and post-independence periods, and assesses both state and non-state interventions which aim to transform regional livelihoods. We will look at the long-term evolution of livelihood thinking; the contemporary utility of livelihood as concept and practice; the changing contexts, under the influence of processes like globalisation, modernity and environmental change, for pursuing regional livelihoods; and the structure and dynamics of livelihood systems, practices and outcomes, using selected case study examples. We will pay particular attention to processes of livelihood diversification and associated strategies of mobility and multilocality, including trans-nationality and the deployment of diasporan network connections. The module will involve individual/group research on the background to, and nature and impact of, specific development interventions aiming to promote secure and sustainable livelihoods.

You will also choose four optional modules from a wide range within DASA and IDD. 

Optional modules available from the Department of African Studies and Anthropology may include:

  • Advanced Perspectives on Africa
  • African Fiction and its Critics
  • History and Politics of Southern Africa
  • Independent Study
  • Livelihoods and Development in Africa
  • Media and Popular Culture in Africa
  • Research Skills and Methods in African Studies
  • Slavery and Freedom in Twentieth Century Africa

Subject to availability, you can also select one option from a list of selected modules in other disciplines, such as:

  • Before Postcolonialism: Europe and its Empires (Modern Languages)
  • Egypt in Revolution (History)
  • Postcolonial Theory (Modern Languages)
  • Gender and Global Governance (Politics)
  • The Mirror of Modernity: Global Histories of Photography (History)
  • World Literatures and Film I and II (Modern Languages)

For more information, see our African Studies and Anthropology module descriptions

Modules available from the International Development Department may include:

  • Aid Politics and Policy
  • Conflict in Developing Countries
  • Critical Approaches to Development
  • Development Management
  • Development Politics
  • Disability and Development
  • Gender and Development
  • Governance and State Building in Developing Countries
  • Human Resources / Managing People in Times of Global Changes
  • Introduction to Development Projects
  • Introduction to Disaster Management
  • Making Policy
  • Managing Public Money
  • Non-Governmental Organisations in a Changing International Context
  • Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development
  • Poverty and Inequality Interventions and Approaches
  • Public Economic Management
  • Public Management and Leadership
  • Public Sector Reform and Development
  • Rural Poverty and Development
  • Social Analysis of Inequality, Poverty and Development
  • Transforming Development for Sustainability
  • Urban Poverty and Development

For more information, see our International Development Department module descriptions

Please note that the optional modules listed on the website for this programme are intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2017/18  are as follows:

  • Home / EU: £8,190 full-time; £4,095 part-time
  • Overseas: £16,380 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuition fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

You will need an Honours degree in humanities, social science or another relevant subject, normally of an upper second-class standard. Relevant equivalent study and/or experience will also be accepted.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

The Department of African Studies and Anthropology (incorporating Centre of West African Studies) is a friendly, well integrated community.

Staff and postgraduate students work together closely and discuss their research interests at regular meetings. There is also a regular programme of formal DASA seminars at which staff, postgraduate students and visiting scholars present papers and discuss their work-in-progress.

As this programme is delivered jointly with the International Development Department, you will also benefit from additional expertise, support and extra-curricular events offered by the Department.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the lively international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

University of the Year for employability

Our African Studies graduates develop a range of skills including oral and written communication, analysis and evaluation, problem solving, independent working and research skills, which can be used in a variety of occupations. A snapshot of graduate destinations over a five-year period has identified a variety of career paths, including lecturing and paid research. Over the past three years, 100% African Studies students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

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Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.