Development and Emergency Practice - September 2014

MA/ PGDip/ PGCert

This course is run by the School of Architecture

The award-winning Development and Emergency Practice (DEP) course provides a unique academic setting for the study of international development, conflict, disaster management, urbanisation, humanitarianism and human rights. With its emphasis on practice, the course offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes in the rapidly changing fields of development and emergencies.

The programme is targeted at those with, or seeking, careers in NGOs, bilateral or multilateral humanitarian, development and human rights agencies, or governmental and commercial organisations working in international development.


Why choose this course?

  • This programme has an international reputation for excellence.
  • It is based on the expertise developed at Oxford Brookes University in the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice.
  • It includes the option of several field trips.
  • Many graduates go on to secure senior positions with international development or emergency organisations.

This course in detail

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 and learning

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.

Field trips

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

Key facts


School of Architecture

Course length

Full-time: MA: 12 months, PGDip: 9 months, PGCert: 3 - 9 months (depending on module choice)
Part-time: MA: 24 months, PGDip: 21 months, PGCert: 9 months

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane

Start date

September 2014

UKPass code


Fees / Funding

Tuition fees

Home / EU full-time on-campus fee: £8,180

Home / EU part-time on-campus fee: £4,170

International full-time on-campus fee: £12,100

International part-time on-campus fee: £6,170

Where part-time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by approximately 4% each year.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

How to apply / Entry requirements

Entry requirements

The programme is open to candidates who fulfil at least one of the following conditions:

  • hold a good honours degree in a relevant discipline
  • hold a relevant recognised diploma or professional qualification (eg in architecture, planning, environmental psychology, public health, geography, public administration)
  • are in their final year of studying architecture or planning and are able to demonstrate their proficiency in written and design work
  • have substantial and proven field experience.

Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

  • At least 6.5 in IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 across all four components of the test.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Border Agency's minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

You apply for this course through UKPASS.

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Careers and professional development


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.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.


How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.