Development studies engages with some of the most pressing challenges of our time, such as poverty, inequality, environmental degradation, migration, urbanization, disasters, and climate change. To study development is to understand the causes and consequences of these challenges, to critically analyse and attempt to address them, and to develop the skills, knowledge and practices to be part of socially desired and environmentally sustainable solutions.

The courses we teach offer opportunities to engage in development from a range of disciplinary perspectives such as anthropology, international relations, human geography, sociology, public policy, development planning, politics, among others. Individual academics draw upon their experiences in development research and practice in their teaching. We have created a learning environment in which students can pursue different pathways, develop regional expertise, and gain experience working in diverse teams.


We offer an undergraduate minor and major in development studies. You will develop an appreciation of development theories, policies and practices, contemporary issues, local innovations and global responses. You will learn how to be a critical scholar and reflective practitioner of development.

Pathways enable you to structure a major / minor that suits your interests and diverse career possibilities.

  1. Community Development: you wish to work with people on the ground at the local level
  2. Critical Development Studies: (PDF) [1 Mb] you are interested in understanding how development works in practice, its positive and unintended consequences
  3. Development in Practice: (PDF) [2 Mb] you want to use your knowledge and training in other fields / disciplines to work sensitively and effectively in the Global South
  4. Environment and Development: (PDF) [1 Mb] you have a passion for the environment, mitigating environmental destruction and helping people cope with its effects
  5. International Development: (PDF) [1 Mb] you have an interest in the role and perhaps a desire to work in international organisations dealing with global challenges
  6. Regional Perspectives: (PDF) [1 Mb] you want to become a regional expert, with a deep contextual understanding of development in a particular region or country

Indicative courses in Development Studies include:

Level 1:

  • ARTS1750 Intro to Development Studies (6 UOC)
  • ARTS1752 Development in a Global Context (6 UOC)

Level 2:

  • ARTS2751 International Development
  • ARTS2752 Local Politics of Development
  • ARTS2755 Development in practice: Research for social change
  • ARTS2754 Development in practice: Humanitarian Action
  • ARTS2240 Environment and Development

Level 3:

  • ARTS3751 Development Studies Capstone
  • ARTS3750 Development, Community and Environment
  • ARTS3755 Development in Practice: Project design
  • ARTS3756 Development in Asia
  • ARTS3757 Experiences of everyday development

Study Options

Bachelor of Arts (Major or Minor)
Bachelor of International Studies (Stream)
Bachelor of Arts & Business (Major or Minor)
Bachelor of Social Research and Policy (Major)
Bachelor of Economics (Major or Minor)
Bachelor of Commerce International (Major or Minor)
Free Elective
General Education


Development Studies is available as a fourth year for high achieving students.

Development Studies as GenEd

Development Studies as GenEd

An Education for Global Challenges:

Elevate your degree and work in Development and Humanitarian Aid

Want to have a global impact?
Are you ready for a rewarding career working in development and humanitarian aid?

Many of the world’s greatest challenges require people with different skills and knowledge bases. Engineers, health professionals, social workers, urban planners, media managers, information systems consultants, bio-physical scientists, financial managers are just some of the professionals using their qualifications to tackle important global issues such as poverty and inequality, urbanization, forced migration, food insecurity, poor health outcomes, and climate change.

Want to join them?

Development Studies offers courses that prepare students from different disciplinary backgrounds to work in the Global South. You will learn the vocabulary, frameworks and skills that make you stand out as a practitioner or researcher in and for development. You will acquire a critical and reflective outlook that enables you to work sensitively, effectively and ethically in complex and socially diverse environments.

The following courses can be taken as GenEd courses as part of a degree outside the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, or as a minor within the Faculty.

ARTS2755 – Development in Practice: Humanitarian Action: You will be introduced to the complexities and challenges of conflict- and disaster-induced emergencies; the critical approaches and strategies for effective humanitarian action; the actors that work in these settings; and the diverse set of tools at their disposal for providing effective response.

ARTS2754 – Development in Practice: Research for Social Change: You will learn how to conduct research for positive change in the often-challenging development terrain by working in interdisciplinary research teams to solve complex problems.

ARTS3755 – Development in Practice: Project Design: You will experience working in a multi-disciplinary team, and learn the basics of evidence-based project design in development assistance. The course is based on problem-based learning where you work as a team to arrive at innovative solutions to a major development challenge.

Further information can be found here:

Please contact the School of Social Sciences for further information:

Postgraduate Coursework

The Masters of Development Studies is a flexible and interactive program aiming to provide specialised insights and skills concerning development challenges and processes at the local, national and international level. The UNSW degree is underpinned by an understanding of human rights, social justice, community development, political economy and participatory approaches.

By the end of the program candidates can expect to have substantial knowledge and a range of skills related to the politics, policy, planning, delivery and management of programs relevant to international and local social and community development, humanitarian and development ‘aid’ work and human rights.

The UNSW degree is unique in taking a rights based, social justice, political economy and community development perspective. The Program offers a mix of core courses that build critical skills and knowledge together with a broad range of electives, enabling the program to respond to the individual needs of diverse students. Students are supported in developing a broad understanding of the field while also deepening their skills in areas of particular interest to them. Electives cover a broad array of areas such as development management; political economy and international relations; human rights and politics; refugees and other forced migrants; global health; urbanisation; civil society and NGOs; environment and sustainability.

The Program offers opportunities to develop a knowledge base and analytic frameworks to negotiate the complexities of the geopolitical, economic, social, gendered, ethical and cultural contexts in which development takes place. The program includes a strong focus on forced migration and displacement and a number of specialist electives in these areas. Students are equipped with theoretical and practical professional skills that can be applied; it combines understanding and critique, with the ability to shape and promote development, whether from community, government, civil society, or other organisational perspectives. The Program plays a valuable role in supporting specialists in development to upskill and establish pathways for higher level research.

Teaching staff bring a range of experiences from the development field and different disciplines. Students engage through a mix of lectures and presentations, group exercises, structured hands-on activities, critical readings, personal research, and online materials. Students are expected to bring an analytical approach to their work, demonstrating the ability to apply theory and to think critically. Assessment methods may include short briefing papers, essays, debates, group presentations, blogs, wikis, reflections on field based practice, and directed research.

Participants benefit greatly from other students, enriching class learning through sharing experience and analyses. They build their skills and knowledge so as to engage effectively with individuals, communities, organisations and institutions at local, national or international level.

Postgraduate Research

Development Studies is available to students interested in a Masters by Research or a PhD. We welcome opportunities to work with engaged and critical thinkers.