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 the following 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 the module concludes 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.
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.