The programme is organised on a modular credit system. Modules combine taught activities and self-led study. A module of 20 credits, for example, approximates to 200 hours of student input, up to 40 hours of which will be devoted to lectures, seminars, or individual tutorials. The remainder of the time is devoted to self-led study.
For the postgraduate certificate it is compulsory to pass at least one of the modules Theory of Practice or Practice of Theory, and pass other modules to achieve a total of 60 credits. For the postgraduate diploma you must pass 120 credits from the taught modules, including both compulsory modules. For the MA you must gain at least 180 credits, including the dissertation.
As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.
Theory of Practice: Approaches and Understandings (compulsory, 20 credits) provides the setting for you to understand and critically examine development and emergency practice. Using a livelihoods based approach, the module begins by exploring the nature of poverty and vulnerability. It looks at how people attempt to meet basic needs and access resources, and the relative discrimination that hinders access. It reviews the ability of poorer communities to build and hold onto both tangible and intangible assets, and how assets are used both to increase capacity and to reduce vulnerability to shocks and stresses. From the starting point of people themselves, the module seeks to make sense of the wide range of development and emergency interventions, from poverty reduction interventions (for example community empowerment, social risk management, rights based approaches, advocacy and governance) to disaster mitigation and preparedness, gender, conflict resolution and peace building.
Practice of Theory: Tools and Methods (compulsory, 20 credits) introduces you to the tools and approaches used by development and emergency practitioners, including needs assessment, programme design, and monitoring and evaluation. The module is organised as a series of head office programme department meetings in an international development organisation, where students take on the roles of programme staff assigned to regional desks or the policy unit. The task of each desk in the first three weeks is to identify and formulate an initial assessment of a thematic or geographic issue, which may include a cross-border crisis, a specific developmental issue, or an emergency. Working from the initial assessment, each desk produces a development and/or emergency programme for final presentation at the end of the semester.
Armed Conflict and International Humanitarianism (optional, 20 credits) examines contemporary armed conflicts with an emphasis on the understanding of violence, the culture of war, and political and legal contexts. It aims to introduce conflict analysis and sensitivity, and show how those approaches may shape international humanitarian action. It also examines conflicts and responses to them through the perspectives of the actors involved: mostly local populations and the international community.
Disasters, Risk, Vulnerability and Climate Change (optional, 20 credits) looks at factors contributing to vulnerability due to structural forces created by economic globalisation and their impact on local-level vulnerability. The emphasis will be mainly on the urban sector where such factors are more manifest. The module will put people at the centre of the examination, focusing on the socio-economic and political dimensions of vulnerability rather than hazards.
Human Rights and Governance (optional, 20 credits) In any historical account of the second half of the 20th century, the establishment of the international human rights protection system must be seen as a moral, legal and political milestone. Through a series of lectures and discussions, this course will examine the development of international human rights protection over the past sixty years. In exploring the scope and content of the major international human rights standards, we will also investigate some of the contemporary political and cultural challenges to their implementation and enforcement.
The Refugee Experience: forced migration, protection and humanitarianism (optional, 20 credits) This module provides a critical examination of contemporary forms of forced migration and explores the adequacy of the international protection system to respond to these. The post-World War II system was premised on the notion of the refugee as an individual fleeing persecution across international borders. Displacement as a result of conflict, disasters, environmental pressure, “ethnic cleansing,” and redrawing of state boundaries poses new challenges to humanitarian practitioners.
Shelter after Disaster (optional, 20 credits) As recent large scale disasters in Haiti, Burma and Kashmir demonstrate, shelter after disaster is complex, spanning immediate relief needs of security, safety and comfort to longer term developmental issues of technical proficiency, funding, community engagement and political control. To these ends this module analyses the scale of the issues and examines shelter as an emerging discipline. The module uses case studies to illustrate different models of shelter programming and identifies the tools necessary to implement a good shelter project. Emphasis will be placed on both product and process: on product the importance of engineering and good building to reduce vulnerability; and on process the necessity for ownership, ie engaging people affected by disasters. The module will be highly participatory, using lectures, seminars, group work, simulations and case studies of practice.
Partnerships for Development: a Critical Assessment (optional, 10 credits) explores what is meant by the term ‘partnership’ in a development context through an examination of its different definitions, approaches and forms. Arguments for and against the theory of partnering are analysed and practical experiences drawn upon to assess the pros and cons of working in this way. As well as looking at some of the skills needed to effectively combine different sector drivers, incentives and resources, the module also addresses the challenge of evaluating partnerships and considers issues relating to status and power, governance, accountability and engagement.
Learning Practice Masterclass (optional, 10 credits) The old development agenda was dominated by provision - that is the attitude of ‘we do it for you’ - to helpless victims. In recent years aid practice has shifted towards enablement where good interventions facilitate change and victims become co-collaborators in determining their own outcomes. In this way of working, practitioners are called on to adopt new tools and approaches for engaging in strategic planning, advocacy and working with decision makers.
Working with Conflict: Practical Skills and Strategies (optional, 10 credits) Conflict, as distinct from violence, is an inevitable dimension of any work for change, including development, rights and emergency relief. It constitutes a potentially positive, as well as destructive dynamic, and practitioners need to have the awareness and skills to make the most of the opportunities it offers as well as the ability to manage the risks it poses. To be effective we need to be able to analyse the situations we are working in, and have the wisdom and expertise to implement the full range of options available in such situations. This module focuses in turn on analysing conflict, developing strategy and methods of intervention.
Independent Study (optional, 10 credits) Students with research experience or with substantial practice and field experience may select a predominantly research or practice oriented route through the independent study. Students will be required to produce a proposal and agree this with their supervisor prior to commencing work. The independent study route could include literature reviews in preparation for dissertation work, reflecting on the outcomes and successes of already implemented projects, work in progress, an unconventional piece of work or research on untaught topics.
Other compulsory modules for the MA are:
Research Methods (10 credits) aims to advance your knowledge and understanding of research, including both qualitative and quantitative methods.
MA Dissertation (50 credits) gives you the opportunity to explore an aspect of development and emergency practice in an extended piece of self led study. The dissertation can be written, or can be ‘unconventional’, for example a film, a play or a piece of creative art.
Teaching learning and assessment
Teaching and learning strategies are grounded in theory, case studies and field based experience. The programme concentrates on the development of intellectual knowledge and the cultivation of academic skills including synthesis, analysis, interpretation, understanding and judgement. The programme also focuses on the practitioner’s approach, with reference in particular to:
- the setting in which they work (poverty, conflict, power, vulnerability, capability, risk, urbanisation, environmental change and the history and dynamics of particular places, their people and their society)
- the set of approaches they adopt (community mobilisation, aid, advocacy, governance, risk reduction, livelihoods, humanitarian protection, accompaniment and empowerment)
- themselves (the personal motivations that drive and shape their own vocation, their particular personality, temperament, strengths, abilities and weaknesses).
The intention is that a deeper understanding of these factors will enable students to move beyond rigid professional boxes to become more self aware, knowledge based practitioners able to work flexibly around a variety of problems in different situations of poverty, armed conflict and disaster.
Since its beginning in 1991 the course has established an international reputation for excellence.
Regular reviews and external examiners ensure the high quality of the course is maintained.
The course is an ideal platform for you to develop your career in, or move into, international development and emergency organisations. Many graduates are able to secure senior positions.
The course offers several field trip options each year.
Previous field trips have been to:
- Asia (India, Thailand, Cambodia)
- Latin America (Peru)
- Middle East (West Bank)
- Europe (Bosnia, Northern Ireland)
- Africa (South Africa)
- The Caribbean (Jamaica).
These usually take place in late January just before the beginning of Semester 2. Note that field trips are at an additional cost to the programme fee, to reflect the fact that some students prefer not to take up this option.
Short movies of recent field trips to South Africa and India can be seen on YouTube.