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MSc Development Studies

Programme Director: Professor James Putzel

No field in contemporary social science is more challenging and exciting than the study of development – the processes involved in overcoming poverty and creating healthy, wealthy and sustainable societies. This programme provides students with a high quality academic training in development studies using contemporary theory in the social sciences to understand the processes, policy and practice of development.

A full-unit intensive core course at the heart of the programme allows students to study the theories and historical experience of development, as well as the cutting-edge policy debates of the present.  The course provides students with a strong foundation to engage with the economic, political and social dimensions of development policy and practice. By meeting throughout the Michaelmas and Lent Terms at weekly lectures and much more intimate weekly classes, students build a comprehensive and coherent foundation to bring together the diverse optional courses they choose in an individually designed programme of study.

Students will also choose from a wide range of optional courses within the School so that they can deepen or broaden their disciplinary training, or take up the advanced study of a particular region of the developing world. Flexibility of dissertation topics allows students a further opportunity to shape their studies to meet their own needs and career objectives.

The programme brings together an exciting group of European and international students with a diversity of academic and professional backgrounds who have gone on to establish an international alumni network involved in development research and practice.

**Please note that we are no longer offering the Research track of this programme.**

Please see the Graduate Prospectus for further details.


Students will complete four full units:

  • One full unit course, "Development: Theory, History and Policy"
  • A 10,000-word dissertation worth one full unit including a research methods course
  • Two further units made up of half or full unit optional courses.

Core Course: Development, History, Theory and Policy (DV400)

The programme core course, "Development: Theory, History and Policy", integrates concepts and perspectives of a range of social science disciplines to demonstrate how they can usefully be combined to further understanding of problems and possibilities of development and change.

  • We know that some countries or regions are richer than others, but why is this? 
  • How have scholars thought about the issues and how have policy makers, aid workers and people acted to transform their economies and societies?
  • Where do things stand today?

The course aims to provide students with:

  • a rounded understanding of key theories that inform thinking about development and “development practice”;
  • a knowledge of the historical experience of development (development in Europe, the legacies of colonialism and successful development experiences in Asia, Latin America and Africa);
  • an understanding of some of the most significant policy debates, programmes and practice in international development today.

Read more about the course here.


At the end of the year, students will submit a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic within Development Studies. This is one full unit towards the degree and is compulsory.

Students are able to meet with their academic advisers or other members of staff throughout Michaelmas and Lent Terms to discuss their dissertation topic. Students will initially submit a topic summary of 50-100 words in Week 4 of Lent Term. They then write a more detailed research proposal towards the dissertation on their chosen topic under the supervision of one of our staff through individual sessions. Research proposals will form the basis for discussion in dissertation workshops, which are compulsory and held during the second week of Summer Term, and must be approved before proceeding to write the dissertation.

Read more about the dissertation here.

Optional Courses

The MSc Development Studies offers students a wide range of choice in optional courses within the School so that they can deepen or broaden their disciplinary training, or take up the advanced study of a particular region of the developing world.

Students on the MSc Development Studies programme will take two units consisting of half- or full-unit optional courses. Alongside one unit of courses taken in the Department of Methodology, students on the MSc Development Studies (Research) programme will also take one unit consisting of half- or full-unit optional courses. These can be chosen from courses offered within the Department of International Development, or from a large number of offerings from other Departments and Institutes within the School such as Anthropology, Economics, Government, Geography and Environment, International Relations, Management, Social Policy, Sociology, Law and Gender.



We will consider applicants with a background in any subject, although a first degree in a social science or humanities subject would be an advantage. As the programme requires intensive reading across a broad range of literature drawn from various social science disciplines students must have a high proficiency in the English language to perform well.

Applicants from outside the UK can find detailed entry and English language requirements as well as visa and immigration information on the International Students Information page.

How to apply

Applications must be submitted using the online LSE application. Please read through the provided guidelines carefully and follow the instructions.

Applications for the 2017/18 academic year will open October 2017. Please note that we often fill the programme by January/February for October start, so we advise you to submit applications between October and December if possible.

The MSc in Development Studies is designed for those looking to work in development in government and non-governmental organizations and also for those who intend undertaking research on development. Recent graduates are already employed in responsible positions in Government, a wide range of NGOs, international firms and banks, while others are pursuing PhD studies.


MSc Development Studies Student Fees 2016/17

Home/ EU
Full-time: £12,504
Part-time: £6,252

Full-time: £19,344
Part-time: £9,672

For updated information on student fees, please refer to LSE's table of fees.

Financial Support

There are a range of awards available for students taking taught MSc programmes. Approximately 19 per cent of taught masters offer holders are successful in obtaining some form of financial support from the School. You can find more information on the LSE's Financial Support page.

Graduate Support Scheme

LSE's major financial support scheme for study at taught masters level is the Graduate Support Scheme (GSS). This scheme is open to all applicants from all countries in the world, with the exception of those undertaking specific modular or executive programmes such as the MSc in Finance (Part time) or the MSc in Health Economics, Policy and Management.

The Scheme is designed to help students who do not have sufficient funds to meet all their costs of study. GSS awards range in value from £3,000 to a maximum of £12,500, and have an average value of £6,000.

Application to the GSS is via the LSE Graduate Financial Support Application form. This form will be made available to you once you have submitted an application for admission to the School. Please read through the information upon receipt and look for the deadline to submit applications.


If you complete the LSE Graduate Financial Support Application form and are made an offer of admission before the closing date for applications, you will also be automatically considered for any other awards being offered by LSE, for which you are eligible, with the exception of Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding where there are separate department led processes in place. AHRC and ESRC funding is relevant to Home UK and Home EU applicants only, and there are also subject restrictions in place.

We offer a range of awards based on different criteria such as a specific programme of study, nationality, or country of permanent domicile.

In addition, a number of external organisations offer funding to support postgraduate study. We recommend that applicants follow up as many avenues as possible to find funding. Please be aware that if you accept funding from an external source, it is your responsibility to check the terms of the award. Some awards are accompanied by specific terms and conditions which you should be sure you able to meet before accepting the award.

Click here for information about other awards offered by LSE or external organisations.

Please take some time to look at all the other awards available to support your study at LSE. The details of these awards are updated each October, but new LSE awards may become available during the course of the admissions cycle. We will only write to successful applicants for these awards. Selection for these awards will take place between May and July 2015 and all successful applicants will be notified by 31 July 2015.

LSE Master's Awards (LMA's)

LSE Master’s Awards are part of LSE’s portfolio of funding for Postgraduate Taught Master’s students. The primary scheme for graduate students is the Graduate Support Scheme (GSS), which is designed to supplement other funding secured by a candidate (by way of savings, loans, and external scholarships). , which is designed to supplement other funding secured by a candidate (by way of savings, loans, and external scholarships).

Shortlisting for named awards is done from the long list of offer holders whose financial need is too great for the GSS, and who have indicated on their financial support application that they wish to be considered for other scholarships (by providing further information in the personal statement of the LSE Graduate Financial Support Application).

As named awards vary from year to year, a fund is set aside to provide a small number of LMA’s for those candidates who are not eligible for named awards, because of their restricted criteria. LMA’s are also used to supplement named awards where the latter are insufficient to meet the shortfall of the eligible candidate.

Preference is given to those from low and middle income countries, particularly if loan funding is not available or if those countries are under-represented in other award schemes administered by the School.

Awards can range in value from £5,000 to a full award and are made on the basis of financial need.

Scholarships for UK/EU students

There are a number of scholarships of varying amounts available to students from the UK and/or EU. Click here for more information on the available awards.

You can find more information on the LSE's Financial Support page.

Programme for African Leadership (PfAL) scholarships

The PfAL scholarships are available for bright students from countries in sub-Saharan Africa studying one of the taught, one-year MSc programmes offered or jointly offered by the Department of International Development. A full scholarship will cover fees and living costs, but the value for each student will be assessed according to financial need. In addition to meeting the requirements of the MSc degree, all PfAL Scholarship recipients will participate in an additional programme of workshops and seminars throughout the year.

Successful candidates will also gain membership of the growing PfAL network of African leaders.

Click here for information on eligibility and how to apply.