Key challenges in global development

In this module, you’ll critically engage with conflict, governance, justice, and transformation as key challenges that cut across all development issues, processes and interventions. You’ll explore how these challenges are key to critically question, understand and address global development issues. These include socio-economic security, migration, environmental sustainability, technological innovation, the global politics of development, and the politics of doing development. You’ll have the opportunity to investigate development issues that are of particular interest to you in guided ‘exploration weeks’. These will develop your specialised knowledge and independent enquiry skills.

Vocational relevance

The module will have particular relevance for you if you are working, or want to work, in development-related fields in the UK or around the world. It serves as a gateway for anyone who wishes to enter the field of global development and as a challenge to the thinking and practice of anyone who is already established in the field. With its breadth of focus across development theory and practice, the module is designed to equip you with the capacities to undertake a wider range of careers, such as in academic and applied research, the design and management of development projects and interventions, and development policy analysis and formulation.


DD871 is a compulsory module in our:


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 postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

This module builds upon the conceptual framework and development issues that you encountered in either Global development in practice (D890) or Understanding global development (DD870). The learning resources will enable you to use the key challenges of conflict, governance, justice and transformation to critically re-think and deepen your understanding of the theories, approaches and issues introduced in D890 or DD870.

The module is divided into an introductory block that maps out the challenges and skills you'll focus on, followed by four main blocks that build on one another to deepen your learning as you progress through the module. These blocks are as follows:

Block 1 introduces you to the ways in which conflict, governance, justice, and transformation can be seen as key challenges that cut across all development issues, processes and interventions. You'll also deepen your critical reading and thinking skills, particularly in terms of working effectively with the complexity of development in a wide range of contexts.

Block 2 examines the challenge of conflict, exploring the different ways it is understood and the multiple impacts it has on development. You’ll learn why conflict is considered a key challenge in understanding and addressing global development issues. You’ll also consider how conflict is inherent to development processes. This widens the scope of conflict to include factors such as social hierarchies, access to and control over resources, inequalities, deprivation, and discrimination, as well as historically unresolved conflicts.

Block 3 takes up the challenge of governance, referring to systems for managing collective action problems, for allocating and exercising authority, and for distributing resources within and between societies. Within global development scholarship and practice, much attention has been devoted to getting governance ‘right’ as a way of bringing about development. However, this raises some difficult questions, such as who is empowered by prevailing governance arrangements and who is not? Thus, governance is also often a focus of contestation and conflict.

Block 4 introduces the challenge of justice as central to all debates about global development. You’ll discover its importance in understanding and responding to the impact of systemic inequalities on development, and in terms of building just institutions and public action. You'll also critically examine competing theories of justice and the challenges involved in assessing what a more just world might look like.

Block 5 examines the challenge of transformation in terms of framing and pursuing ‘good change’ and understanding historical transitions of one kind or another. The idea of transformation conceptually guides large-scale visions of development, such as the SDGs and the wider 2030 Agenda. But who decides what kind of transformation should take place, and how is it possible to achieve it? In confronting such questions, you’ll engage with competing understandings of transformation that produce competing visions of development and how it should be pursued.

The final block enables you to review and consolidate your learning from the module as well as giving you an opportunity to prepare for the end-of-module assessment.

The four main blocks (Blocks 2-5) feature ‘exploration weeks’ that provide greater scope to use the respective block challenges to investigate global development issues that are of particular interest and relevance to you. You’ll learn essential skills of independent enquiry whilst exploring how each challenge intersects with the development issue of your choice. Enhancing your study skills and investigative capacities will be beneficial to your academic and professional aspirations, equipping you to join a cohort of development scholars and practitioners around the world.

This module is an essential step in preparing you academically for the dissertation module, Researching global development (DD872), if you intend to complete our MSc in Global Development.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

This module provides the support and guidance needed for distance learning, to work at a postgraduate level, potentially for the first time, and the academic skills to enable you to progress through it.

You will be a member of a tutor group and have a tutor who will work with you and your group while completing the module. There will be a number of ways that you and your tutor can stay in touch: by email, phone and through the tutor group forum. The tutor group forum also gives you an opportunity to meet the other students in your group and a space in which you can discuss key issues arising from the module. Your tutor may also flag up issues to the whole group – whether about module content or points of information about the study process. Your tutor will also organise online tutorials. Finally, the tutor will mark your tutor-marked assignments and give you feedback on them.


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

Course work includes

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

Future availability

Key challenges in global development 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 2032.


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.

Entry requirements

In order to study this module, you must have successfully completed either Global development in practice (D890) or Understanding global development (DD870).

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


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3410.00

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2032.

Future availability

Key challenges in global development 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 2032.

Additional costs

Study costs

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

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

You’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • assignment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access.
  • online university library access.

The activities in the teaching material will often ask you to reflect on your own experiences. At certain points, you will be asked to share your comments and views with other students and your tutor.

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

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 (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

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

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