Department of Social & Policy Sciences

What is international development?

International development looks at how we can develop a better world, and how local, national and global changes can be brought together to achieve this.

The study of international development (also known as development studies) emerged as a subject after the Second World War, when many former colonies were also achieving their independence.

It explores how material wealth has been generated and shared over time, both within countries and between them. It also looks critically at diverse ideas and projects for improving human well-being, particularly reducing global poverty.

Questions at the heart of the subject

  • Why are goods and services distributed unequally?
  • What determines who gains and who loses from new technology, global warming and other drivers of change?

Answering these questions effectively entails drawing on many subjects including anthropology, economics, geography, international relations, philosophy, politics and sociology.

Why study international development?

Perspectives and problems

Mineral wealth and rural livelihoods in post-war Sierra Leone: Where does artisanal mining fit in?

You will be prepared for working in an increasingly interconnected world, gaining insights that are valued by organisations ranging from local charities and social enterprises to multinational firms and multilateral agencies like the World Bank.

Graduate careers in international development are most likely to start with grass-roots voluntary experience or professional training in a private consulting firm – and not uncommonly both!

Many graduates also gain further degrees and research experience at some stage in their career.

Studying international development also provides a strong social science foundation for careers in:

  • international business
  • finance
  • media
  • public sector management
  • teaching.

Help change society

You will learn about the history of colonisation, oppression and conflict as well as progress.

By exploring different visions of how society should be, such as free from poverty and injustice, you will learn how society can be changed.

Through studying the activities of international agencies, governments and non-government agencies that aim to promote development, you will learn more about the different strategies and tools, policies and programmes, movements and approaches to advocacy that aim to improve human wellbeing.

Gain a multidisciplinary understanding of the social sciences

Studying international development offers you a multidisciplinary understanding of the social sciences.

You will acquire an understanding of how politics influences not only what we can and cannot do, but also how we think.

Why study with us?

Our Centre for Development Studies has been engaging with international development policy and practice for nearly 40 years.

Development studies at the University of Bath has been ranked in the global top 50.

Expert researchers with a global focus

We have more than ten specialist staff who bring diverse academic backgrounds to their teaching and draw on experience of researching development issues across Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as in Europe and at the global level.

Take a broad approach to studying international development

When studying with us, you will be in an environment where you can engage with other relevant subjects such as economics, education, international relations, management, politics, sociology and social policy. This will contribute to your ability to address problems of poverty, social exclusion and injustice from different angles.

Placement and internship opportunities

There are also placement opportunities where you can combine your study with one of a wide range of options, including several with organisations that specialise in international development.

Degrees in international development