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Social Development Practice MSc

This MSc offers a critical approach to 'people-centred' development, addressing the challenges for equitable citizenship in the context of social diversity and globalisation, particularly in urban contexts. Participants engage in a critical analysis of the theory and practice of social development alongside gaining the skills required to be a reflective social development practitioner.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2017

Modes and duration

Full time: 1 year
Flexible: 2-5 years

Tuition fees (2017/18)

£13,770 (FT) N/A (PT)
£21,960 (FT) N/A (PT)

Application dates

Full-time applicants
Open: 3 October 2016
Close: 28 July 2017
Flexible/Modular applicants
Open: 3 October 2016
Close: 4 September 2017

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Current Students website. Fees for flexible, modular study are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session.

Optional qualifications: This degree is also available as a PG Diploma with fees set accordingly.
Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

The normal minimum qualifications are a good second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant subject from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard; and a demonstrable interest in the subject matter of the programme.

Candidates who do not meet the above requirements may be considered if they are able to demonstrate relevant work experience and an ability to engage academically with the subject matter of the degree. Applicants who do not hold a recognised undergraduate degree may, in exceptional cases, be admitted to the programme if they are able to demonstrate considerable senior-level professional experience in planning or a related field.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:

Degree information

The programme objectives are to give participants a solid grounding in social analysis skills and perspectives, rooted in social theory around identity, inequality, and social change processes. Students learn how development interventions can best support the citizenship claims of diverse groups of women and men, and girls and boys living in the Global South, and consider the role of the social development practitioner in this endeavour.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of three core modules (90 credits), either one or two optional modules (totalling 30 credits) and a dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma (full-time nine months) is offered, comprising three core modules (90 credits) and one or two optional modules (30 credits).

Core modules

All three of the following:

  • Social Policy and Citizenship
  • Social Diversity, Inequality, and Poverty
  • Social Development in Practice

Optional modules

One or two optional modules, totalling 30 credits, usually including the following, among others:

  • NGOs and Social Transformation
  • Communication, Technologies and Social Power
  • Gender in Policy and Planning
  • Participatory Processes: Building for Development
  • Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities
  • Post Disaster Recovery: Policies, Practices and Alternatives
  • Critical Urbanism Studio I and II
  • Housing as Urbanism: Housing Policy and the Search for Scale
  • Housing Policies: Practical Dimensions and Alternative Options
  • Neo-Structuralism and the Developmental State
  • Political Economy of Development: Land, Food and Agriculture
  • Political Economy of Development: Industrialisation and Infrastructure
  • Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South
  • Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development
  • Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politics
  • Transport Equity and Urban Mobility
  • Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South
  • The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning
  • Managing the City Economy


All students undertake an independent research project related to the main themes of the programme, culminating in a dissertation report of 10,000 words (60 credits). Topics may be chosen to enhance career development or for their inherent interest.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, seminars, practical classroom exercises, and fieldwork within the UK and abroad. Student performance is assessed through coursework, examinations, and a dissertation report as well as an assessment of practical work, including the international fieldwork group report.


The programme incorporates group fieldwork in London and in a selected country of the Global South.

The cost of flights, visas, necessary vaccinations, accommodation, and fieldwork-related travel and facilitations costs, are incorporated within the programme fees. Meals and other expenditure must be covered by the student.

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Social Development Practice MSc


Candidates for the MSc Social Development Practice may be eligible for the Swarovski Foundation scholarship. Details of this scholarship will be published on the DPU website in autumn 2017.

Scholarships relevant to this department are displayed below.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme (CSSS) - NOW CLOSED FOR 2016/17

Full fees, flights, stipend, and other allowances (1 year)
Overseas students
Based on both academic merit and financial need

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.


Graduates of this Master's programme are likely to find employment as officers for local and international NGOs, as officers for international organisations, as officers in local or national government departments and as consultants. Some graduates pursue an academic career, either through doctoral studies or through teaching and research in a number of prestigious universities.

Top career destinations for this degree

  • Head of Strategy Funding, Global Witness
  • Researcher, Chinese Federation of Trade Unions
  • Development Consultant, World Bank Group
  • Corporate Responsibility Manager, Odebrecht
  • Project Co-Ordinator, Thamani Youth of Kenya


Graduates of this programme are able to link theory to practice, critically reflect, and negotiate complex social relations as well as facilitate social processes in a context of diversity - all key transferable skills in the job market. Graduates have secured jobs in a variety of sectors and countries and built fulfilling careers in social development.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2012–2014 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The programme introduces students to critical, analytical and practical skills that will be of use in their future careers, whether as academics, social development practitioners or advocates for the need to place the 'social' at the centre of development. Students have an opportunity to critically examine relevant bodies of knowledge, current debates and field experience in primarily urban contexts, and to consider the challenges of making development policy, planning and practice more socially responsive.

Students on this MSc benefit from the strong practical component, which includes fieldwork assignments in London and an international field trip to a city in the Global South. This trip provides the opportunity to develop practical skills, use tools for participatory action research, and reflect on the roles and responsibilities of social development practitioners.

The practice-based components of the programme also provide students with the opportunity to network with organisations and professionals working in the social development sector. In a complementary series of careers sessions, students can network with Development Planning Unit alumni and partners who are working in relevant fields.

Department: Development Planning Unit

Student / staff numbers › 33 staff › 210 taught students › 45 research students

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Development Planning Unit
75% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Who can apply?

This MSc attracts participants from a wide variety of disciplines including sociology, economics, anthropology, international studies, history, communication studies, geography and psychology. It provides the critical, analytical and practical skills necessary for their future careers as academics or social development practitioners.

Application deadlines

Full-time applicants
28 July 2017
Flexible/Modular applicants
4 September 2017

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn about:

  • your understanding of what social development constitutes
  • any experience you have of working in social development or related sectors
  • why you want to study Social Development Practice at graduate level
  • why you want to study Social Development Practice at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • what do you think you will bring to the programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the distinctive features of this MSc programme and tell us about your expectations.

Contact information

Page last modified on 27 October 2016 at 11:10 by UCL Publications & Marketing Services. Please contact us for content updates.


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