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Introducing global development: poverty, inequality, sustainability

What is global development in the 21st century? Where does development now take place? How does development take place? How can we reflect on our own understanding of the world to change it? Drawing on case studies and thinkers from across the globe, this module answers questions like these. It explores how power and politics shape the globally interlinked nature of development challenges. Using a range of study materials, including bespoke documentary films made in Scotland and Guyana, you will explore the interconnections and interrelationships between poverty, inequality, and sustainability in the rapidly changing context of development. You'll learn key practical skills for undertaking academic research in this field and in development practice, including constructing arguments, examining data sets and writing effective advocacy and campaign material.

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

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
2 8 5

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module helps you understand the nature of and processes driving development whilst providing social sciences concepts, skills and approaches to engage and intervene in (unresolved) development challenges. The three main interconnected themes of poverty, inequality and sustainability and their intersections relating to contemporary development issues are explored through six blocks.

Block 1 focuses on the core question: What is global development? By examining the multidimensional nature of this question, the block engages with the significance of historical and geographical perspectives and the role of politics in development. It explores questions such as how we got here and who does development. Featuring two bespoke documentary films shot in Scotland and Guyana for the module, you will engage with what it means to think about development in context. This block will also recap note-taking, summarising and referencing skills whilst introducing you to actor mapping.

Blocks 2 to 4 explore the contemporary nature and impact of poverty, inequality and sustainability, including weeks themed around livelihoods, gender, race, and climate change. These blocks develop your understanding and critical thinking about poverty, inequality and sustainability as development concepts. You'll explore how applying particular ideas has had deep implications for development practice (e.g. through structural adjustment policies or NGO practices). Across these blocks, you'll be introduced to different theories of politics and power that can help explain how development happens. You'll develop skills in examining different forms of evidence about poverty, analysing and writing advocacy and campaign documents, and writing and delivering presentations. You'll also have the opportunity to engage with more bespoke documentary material about the influence of race on development, different views on sustainable development and the search for climate change solutions in Scotland and Guyana.

Blocks 5 and 6 frame the nature of the over-arching ‘development challenge’ by presenting the three themes together – and presenting these to you as debates to be had rather than particular positions. Block 5 looks at a set of contemporary global development issues – health, water, urbanisation and technology – and relates them to our understanding of poverty, inequality and sustainability. The module concludes by providing an opportunity to reflect, consolidate and review your learning, combining themes, concepts and case studies from across the module. As you review, we ask what decolonising development really means.

At the end of the module, you'll clearly understand what social science perspectives contribute to understanding and intervening in global development challenges, as well as a skill set of real value in both academic and vocational contexts.

You will learn

You will acquire and apply knowledge and understanding of key development concepts, theories and debates, applying these to your understanding of contemporary development issues. You'll apprehend the nature of development issues not only through theory but also through examples from peoples’ everyday lives in the global North as well as the global South. This will help you explain and evaluate the relationship of power and politics with poverty, inequality and sustainability with the ability to assess their impact on real-world development issues.

As well as building your interdisciplinary social science knowledge, you'll develop practical and transferable skills. These include critical thinking, report and essay writing, making presentations, ICT skills, collaborative working skills, and synthesising and applying knowledge. You'll also learn how to:

  • manage your time effectively, organising and completing a programme of work to a specified standard
  • learn from feedback from others
  • critically reflect on your own learning.

Vocational relevance

This module offers a comprehensive grounding in the study of development at OU level 2 and provides opportunities to develop skills relevant to your current or future career. The module provides a broad set of transferable skills and aptitudes relevant to many career pathways, ranging from critical writing skills to developing your ability to think reflectively about your views and work with others.

Studying this module, as part of a social sciences qualification, could open up employment opportunities in a wide range of occupations in politics, business, banking, insurance; education, health professions, administration, law; social services, voluntary and campaigning organisations, the media; public relations; public service organisations and government (national and local); planning and environmental management; criminal justice system; and social welfare organisations.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for completing the module, you’re strongly encouraged to participate.


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

Future availability

Introducing global development: poverty, inequality, sustainability starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2035.


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

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

There are no entry requirements. As this is an OU level 2 module, you are expected to have the skill sets equivalent to having completed an OU level 1 module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

We recommend that you start with our key introductory module, Global challenges: social science in action (D113). This interdisciplinary OU level 1 module, with its integrated teaching of key study skills, provides a firm foundation for OU level 2 study.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2035.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

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 monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

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

Employer sponsorship

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

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module 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 module.  

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, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

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

Please 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 fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 13/04/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

You’ll be provided with two printed module books and have access to the module website, where the majority of the module content is delivered, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials, including online activities
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying D229 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.