MSc Development Policy and Politics

Course details: Details | Why study this course | Modules | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply.

The notion that “politics matters” has increasingly become the mantra of development policy-makers and practitioners – as well as development scholars - and there is now a growing recognition that international development is inherently political. Development agencies want staff trained in political economy analysis skills while academics and governments now focus more than ever on the political underpinnings of global development challenges.

This MSc makes a direct link between academic and practical policy approaches to international development, with an emphasis on exploring and understanding the politics of developing countries and the relationship between politics and development. Issues examined include: the impact of political systems, governance and political actors on developmental successes and failures; the relationships between global, regional, national and local organisations, networks and institutions and the driving of developmental change and the politics of aid and international donors.

The programme is designed for recent graduates preparing to work in international development and for professionals working for NGOs, donor agencies or development projects.

The International Development Department is well-regarded internationally by sponsors, donor agencies, governments and NGOs. Study with us to benefit from:

  • Expertise in key issues and skills valued by employers
  • A vibrant, welcoming community
  • Individual overseas fieldwork or study visit included in fees (on-campus programmes)
  • Flexible programmes and a wide choice of modules (part-time students also welcome)
  • A diverse and international student body
  • Strong support in study and English language skills

Each programme is taught by a team of multi-disciplinary specialists who work closely with students to address individual interests and concerns. Every student is allocated an academic tutor to support them in their academic progress throughout the year. The department has a long history of teaching students from across the world, and recent students have come from 99 different countries and a wide variety of professional and academic backgrounds.

We can confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who intend to start their studies in 2018 or 2019 will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time (may be subject to annual increases for inflation) for the duration of their course. The Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan will also be available to eligible EU students for the duration of their course. Visit our EU Referendum information page for more information.

Course details: Why study this course | Modules | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply.

It is now clearer than ever before that the greatest development challenges of our time – poverty, conflict, famine, poor governance etc. – are driven primarily by political, not technical, factors. The aim of this programme is to provide theoretical and empirical training to students to enable them to understand the role that politics plays in both facilitating and undermining development, in both the North and the South.

The programme is aimed at recent graduates preparing to work in international development and for professionals working for NGOs, donor agencies or development projects and focuses on a range of key questions, including:

  •  are democracy and development intrinsically linked?
  • how do theories of development link to development practice?
  • what is the ‘developmental state’?
  • how do historical and structural factors play into developmental change, or failure?

The programme is taught by some of the leading thinkers on the relationship between politics and development, each of whom work closely with policy-makers in the UK and internationally. Students will also benefit from engagement with major research programmes focused on the politics of development based in IDD, including the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre.

Why study this course

This is an exciting and unique programme in its title, content and approach. Study with us to benefit from:

  • A programme which focuses squarely on how power and politics affects development and developmental change.
  • Modules taught by world-leading scholars of politics and development.
  • Engagement with scholars who work closely with a wide range of development policy-makers and practitioners, in the UK and internationally.
  • Choice of a wide range of optional modules.
  • The opportunity to undertake individual fieldwork for dissertations in an area and on a topic of their choice, subject to agreement with their supervisor. This provides a great opportunity to investigate an issue of interest, gain field experience and create networks essential for career development.

The programme does not assume any prior knowledge of development or politics and welcomes applications from candidates who meet the admissions criteria.


Breakdown of course by year, and modules (core and optional)

This pathway is designed for flexibility, allowing you to choose over half of the MSc content from a wide range of optional modules.

The programme has three 20 credit core modules:

 Students take a further 60 taught credits from IDD’s many optional modules – this can include whichever of Authoritarianism and Development and Democracy and Development not selected as a core module. See the module choices in:

Students also complete a 60 credit dissertation, which may be undertaken with individual fieldwork, with a contribution towards the cost of this from the tuition fee.

Fees and funding

IDD taught postgraduate fees 2019-20
  Full time Part time
Home/EU students £9,250 £4,625
Overseas students £16,995 -

Please check with the Department for the latest fees information.
Learn more about fees and funding.

Postgraduate Loans for Masters students

The Postgraduate Student Loan has increased its maximum loan amount to £10,609. For more detailed information view our Postgraduate funding page.

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. see the departmental scholarships and funding pages. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or visit 

Entry 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 3.0) or
  • A lower second-class Honours degree from an approved university with excellent work experience.
  • Adequate capacity in written and spoken English. Find out more about international entrry requirements.
  • Degrees from all disciplines are considered and a candidate's work experience can also be taken into consideration.

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

Making your application

Monday 2 July 2018 is the application deadline for international students (Tier 4) who wish to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2018 made after this date. The deadline for Home/EU (non-Tier 4) students is Friday 21 September 2018. Applications will reopen for 2019 entry on Monday 1st October 2018.

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

Teaching takes place over two ten-week terms, utilising a range of teaching and learning methods, including short lectures, problem solving, role play and group work. In the summer term, students complete assignments and focus on their 12,000 word dissertation.

By the end of your study you will gain:

  • An in-depth understanding of competing development theories and approaches and the ability to critically evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.
  • The different political systems operating in developing countries and how and why such systems have come about.
  • The complex relationship between politics and development
  • The impact of political systems and political actors on developmental success and failure.
  • The impact of the political economy in developing countries and globally on aid and donor policies 
  • The ability to critically analyse and understand complex political and economic relationships and events.
  • The ability to understand in-depth and critically evaluate approaches to political analysis in developing countries.
  • The ability to critically, clearly and concisely argue the case for and against a range of development strategies.
  • The ability to interpret, explain and critically evaluate approaches to the political economy of development.
  • The ability to make presentations and write in a well argued, well-structured and readable manner, making good use of a wide range of references.

Enhancing your Student Experience

In the School of Government and Society we offer much more than a degree. As a student here, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, you have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events, with some or all of the costs paid for by the School.

Assessment methods

A range of assessment methods are used, with both formative and summative assessment. Assessment methods may include essays, policy briefs and presentations. A dissertation of no more than 12,000 words is also required.

The knowledge and skills gained in the programme will equip graduates for jobs in international, national and local government and non-governmental organisations, think tanks and consultancies.

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