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International development: making sense of a changing world

In this interdisciplinary module you’ll cover key areas of international development. These include: different models of development; shifting power in the international system; the relationship between poverty, inequality and livelihoods; the impact of conflict and insecurity; and the role of technology and the environment. The history of development as a process of change, the power relationships in that process and the different scales at which development takes place from transnational to local, are themes running throughout the module. These themes integrate the material – using a mix of case studies, interactive activities, text and DVD – to provide a central narrative encouraging critical appraisal and curiosity.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module

Module code
TD223
Credits
60
Study level
OU SCQF FHEQ
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

International development highlights some of the most pressing challenges facing us in the twenty-first century. This module introduces you to the context of development, its contested nature, its links to global processes of economic and social change, and everyday choices and uncertainties. It is open to anyone with a professional or personal interest in international development, international relations, social and political sciences.

A unique feature of the module is its focus on critical reflection and on understanding development from a personal level, as well as its global and policy implications. You will use a variety of teaching media: video and audio, podcasts, websites, computer-based interactive resources, online forums, and two books that make up the core of the module. The content is divided into six blocks.

Focusing on the rise and decline of two cities, Shanghai and Detroit, Block 1 introduces you to the key debates and theories in international development and international studies. It identifies new centres of power, state and non-state actors, and focuses on understanding new forms of organisation and public action in the context of development. You will begin to develop historical awareness by working through a timeline for Shanghai and Detroit mapped against global and national events, and examining the development of these cities in the context of shifting international power relationships. You will also have an opportunity to begin to reflect on your own understandings of what development means.

Block 2 is concerned with the changing world system and how we conceptualise development, as well as teaching contemporary material on the economic rise of countries such as Brazil, India and China. It combines debates in international political economy, international relations and development as well as geographical concepts of scale. The block is designed to introduce you to the changing economic and political balance (hegemony) of the international system – including the power of non-state actors such as transnational corporations and cities – enabling you to examine the drivers of development in emerging economies in the context of power shifts over time. You will also begin to analyse data and understand its potential to conceal as much as to inform development policy and debates.

One of the most contentious areas of development studies is the debate about how to address the mass poverty that still afflicts many parts of the world. Block 3 critically analyses contemporary debates on poverty and inequality in the current changing world context. It looks at concepts and measures, why they are contested, and why they matter for policy and practice. Using case studies, the block also reviews different frameworks for analysing livelihoods and ways of making a living for people on low incomes, and critically appraises different initiatives to improve livelihoods. The block ends with a debate on the focus and content of aid, how it is changing, and whether aid is 'doing the right thing' to alleviate poverty.

Do we need security to have development? Do insecurity, conflict and vulnerability hamper development goals? How can the most vulnerable people protect themselves or at least prepare for the future? To answer these questions, Block 4 builds upon discussions and conceptual tools developed in previous blocks and looks at how security concerns have entered development policies and actions. It explores the ‘security-development nexus’ with a focus on different forms of insecurity: from national to individual, and from global to local. The block offers you the opportunity to understand how security and development have become interconnected and to critically assess current policies as well as reflecting on what should be done. In this block you’ll further explore the role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), campaign groups, communities and movements for change within developing as well as developed societies.

Block 5 is taught mainly online because its focus is the link between technology, resources and the environment in relation to development. It asks how equitable development can be sustained in a world of finite resources, where demand for energy especially is pressing and where issues such as climate change threaten past, present and future gains. The block analyses in a hands-on way – via an online role play – how diversity and difference across the world might be turned into a source of knowledge and appropriate action.

Finally Block 6 concludes the module through revision and integrating study material, and encourages you to think critically about ‘ways forward'. It provides you with the opportunity to reflect upon and consolidate your understanding of:

  • the links between power, development theories and practice
  • the relationships between key actors at different scales of development
  • the history of development and its relevance to the present; and
  • your own capacity for agency and empowerment as citizens and/or development practitioners.

You will learn

On completion of the module, you are expected to gain an understanding of the contested meanings and challenges of contemporary international development, taking into account the history of the international system, the role of power and agency, and processes of development at different scales. You will examine in detail major development issues through case studies focusing on a country, programme or policy. At the same time as studying international development, this module will also develop your reading, writing, analytical and communication skills. It will help you evaluate information and arguments, interpret and use data in a variety of graphical and numerical forms, and use particular software applications and computers for information-searching, communication and collaboration. The module is also designed to heighten your ability to become an independent learner. Such skills and attributes are highly valued by employers and can be applied to a wide variety of contexts.

Vocational relevance

While open to anyone with an interest in the issues covered, this module has particular vocational relevance to those working, or wanting to work, in the development field. You will gain knowledge and understanding of international and development issues, and be able to apply this to problem solving within professional practice, including informing policy debates and report writing. You will work in a variety of settings including independently and in collaboration with colleagues from diverse backgrounds, demonstrating effective communication skills and adaptability. Critical reflection is a key component of the module, enabling you to develop an understanding of the origins and impact of individual viewpoint, your own and that of others, on policy formulation and decision-making. Also importantly for development debates is to consider how equality, social justice and inclusion might be incorporated into development practice alongside established concerns such as economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module.

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. We expect it to be available once a year.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
Examination
No residential school


Entry

This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have some knowledge of the subject area or social sciences in general, obtained either through OU level 1 study, or by doing equivalent work at another university.

Either of the OU level 1 modules Introducing the social sciences (DD101)) or Environment: journeys through a changing world (U116) would be ideal preparation.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

Register

Start End England fee Register
04 Oct 2014 Jun 2015 £2632.00

Registration closes 11/09/14 (places subject to availability)

Register

You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2019.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later - OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

For more information about employer sponsorship speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.


Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 24/07/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials, DVD, and website including activities, resources, podcasts and optional supplementary materials.

You will need

A DVD player.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.