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MSc/PGDip International Development by distance learning

by distance learning

Start date
MSc: 2 - 4 years; Postgraduate Diploma: 18 months - 4 years.
Course Type
Postgraduate, Continuing professional development, Distance learning, Taught

For 2024-2024
£7,515 (Masters) per year or flexible. See details below
More Fees and funding details.

David Cobley, Programme Director, provides an overview of the programme

Our International Development masters course will provide you with an understanding of the evolution of thinking and practice in international development over the last fifty to sixty years.

The core module on this distance learning course aims to familiarise you with the key concepts of international development. You will introduced to theories such as modernisation, dependency, neo-liberalism and the ‘crisis’ in development theory which will enable you to develop a better understanding of why some countries remain in poverty, whilst others are rich. You will also explore the changing roles of international development organisations and states in promoting international development (such as aid, trade and fiscal, monetary and social policies).

The emphasis throughout this international development course will be on encouraging you to reflect critically on what has worked well or not and why. The flexibility offered by the choice of 5 optional modules will also allow you to tailor the course towards your individual interests and career aspirations.

The course begins with a two week online induction module (non-accredited).

The MSc International Development programme is associated with the International Development Department which is well-regarded internationally by sponsors, donor agencies, governments and NGOs. You will benefit from:

  • Expertise in key issues and skills valued by employers
  • Being part of a vibrant, welcoming community
  • A flexible programme with a wide choice of modules 
  • Being part of a diverse and international student body
  • Strong support in study and English language skills

Why study this course?

  • For those considering a career in the development sector, this course will explore a wide range of development issues and approaches, with no prior knowledge assumed. 
  • For those already working in the field of development, this course covers practical approaches to addressing development challenges, which can be directly applied to the workplace. 
  • Through this course you will become part of an online community of students, many of whom already have extensive experience of working in development. 
  • This is a flexible course of study, ideal for those who are working or have other commitments which would make it difficult to participate in a campus-based programme. 

Specialist pathways

You may also be interested in our campus based programme MSc International Development


At UoB, it is more than thinking about development but doing development. To tell the truth, I feel blessed to be part of this distinguished university and see myself realising my dream.

Felix Rutayisire, student


This main pathway is designed for flexibility, allowing you to choose five optional modules in addition to the main compulsory module.

Unless indicated otherwise, these modules are for students starting in 2024.

Compulsory module

Choice of optional modules – choose five modules from the following 20 credit modules:

Dissertation (60 credits, MSc only) – pursue in-depth research with support from a dissertation supervisor. For distance learning students we recommend desk-based research.

The course begins with a two week online induction module (non-accredited); and the dissertation work is preceded by a two week online research methods module (again, non-accredited).

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Distance Learning 2024 - 2025

The fee is fixed at £7,515 per year, and the fee will be £15,030 in total for the two years

For the flexible option, the fee is £83.50 per credit for 2024. Please note that this fee may rise in subsequent years.

For our distance learning programmes, we do not distinguish between UK and international students. There is no differential fee.

Scholarships, Studentships and loans

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

The Postgraduate Student Loan has increased its maximum loan amount to £12,167 (for 2023/2024 entry). For more detailed information visit our Postgraduate funding page.

Find out more about scholarships in the International Development Department (IDD).

How To Apply

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

  • An upper second-class Honours degree or equivalent from an approved university or an equivalent professional qualification in a relevant field (the equivalent US Grade Point Average is 3.2) or
  • A lower second-class Honours degree from an approved university with relevant work experience within the development sector.
  • Degrees from all disciplines are considered and a candidate’s work experience can also be taken into consideration.

International Requirements

International Students

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band
  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: PTE Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

In delivering our distance learning programmes, we have drawn on lessons learned at Birmingham and by other academic institutions about how to provide effective distance learning and use a blended learning approach:

  • An intensive online induction programme is included to familiarise you with the web-based discussion boards, the online library facilities and the requirements of the programme
  • Required reading materials are provided electronically or in hard copy
  • Discussions and group activities take place within an online learning environment
  • You will benefit from interacting closely with other students and tutors even whilst separated by continents and time zones (we currently have students in Africa, the Caribbean, North America, South East Asia and Europe, including the UK)
  • Specific support for developing a dissertation proposal is provided prior to starting the dissertation project
  • We pride ourselves on strong administrative, academic and pastoral support for students

Our distance learning courses use a variety of teaching and assessment methods:

  • Electronic access to the University’s extensive e-library, containing e-journals, e-books and databases, delivered through the ResourceLists@Bham system
  • Where key readings and textbooks are not available electronically, hard copies are sent out to you by mail
  • Group online discussion activities (using our ‘virtual learning environment’)
  • Individual reading and reflection
  • A dissertation supervised by an allocated academic supervisor

Each module takes 11 weeks to complete (with guided online discussions). The MSc does not include any face-to-face element.

The course is assumed to be part time, and you will study one module at a time.

Course requirements

IDD has designed its distance learning courses to be accessible for a working professional person and we have kept the technical requirements to a minimum. However, before you commit to distance learning, we recommend that you consider the following:

IT equipment: To complete a distance learning course successfully, you will need:

  • Extended access to a computer with Microsoft Word and Excel (students are eligible for free use of Office 365 during their studies) and an internet browser compatible with Canvas, such as Edge, Firefox, Chrome or Safari.
  • Regular access to the internet for visiting the web-based discussion boards, e-mail and some online library research (whilst this is obviously easier with broadband, many students have participated successfully through a dial-up connection).

IT skills: You will find this course less challenging if you are already a confident internet user, although we are available extensively to coach you through becoming familiar with the web-based discussion format and to address other IT questions.

Time: This course requires that you read a good deal and regularly check into the web-based discussions during the 11 ‘live’ weeks of discussion for each module. If you are forced to miss some of the discussions for work or personal reasons, this can often be accommodated, but if you are regularly out of touch you will find it hard to complete the assignments to the required standard. Writing the assignments is also time-consuming.

Career opportunities  

Graduates from this programme have gone on to work within a wide range of development agencies, including NGOs (local and international), civil society organisations, government departments and the UN agencies. Those already working as development professionals have frequently progressed to more senior positions.

While our degrees are tailored to a career in development, the skills taught are also highly transferable to other sectors. For example, past students such as Immy Kaur and Alexis Kiray have gone on to work in academia, the civil service, business and the armed forces.

Hear from current students 

Winifred KirangaWinfred Kiranga (Conflict, Security and Development) 

I joined Birmingham as a distance learning student in 2020. What I love the most about the program is the flexibility it allows busy career individuals who are also juggling family life. The support network accorded to older students is exemplary especially when that work-school-life balance isn’t balancing anymore.

What I have learnt is how to help my community mitigate conflict around natural resources from a citizen's point of view. The modules covered have allowed me to interrogate the role of civic engagement in development practices.

One word to describe my experience, is “rousing”.

felix rutayisireFelix Rutayisire

Growing up in a country that has been affected by conflicts, civil wars and genocide motivated me to become a development practitioner working in the most vulnerable places.

As a distance learner in an MSc in International Development at the University of Birmingham (UoB), I am able to critically discuss contemporary theories of conflicts, post-conflict reconstruction and development and apply them in a real context.

Franz Harewood-HamblinFranz Harwood-Hamblin

My tutors have been helpful in terms of communicating feedback on assignments. I particularly enjoy the online discussions boards where we can share ideas and learn more about what our colleagues are doing and their perspectives on issues. The tutors challenge you to think critically and to go the extra mile to ensure whatever work you produce academically is based on fact and can be substantiated!

The University challenges students to go to greater and even significant heights with effort. I have certainly grown professionally and personally!

Fartun Hassan Mohamud

Fartun Hassan Mohamud

The University of Birmingham was my choice at the beginning, it provided me with lots of support, especially in terms of reshaping my way of thinking and aligning my ideas and perspective to the global world.

Working in an INGO and the UN world, Birmingham also contributed through connecting me to the global students who are also part of this humanitarian arena, enabling me to become part of the solution through sharing my concepts and experiences on the global issues we are currently facing.


Currently more than 3,800 IDD alumni have taken their knowledge and experience to over 148 countries around the globe and are working in a variety of jobs in the public, private and voluntary sector.

See what some of our alumni are doing now and what they thought about studying with us at IDD.