The Master in Development Studies is an intensive two-year programme that offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the policies and processes of international development, and the practice of development as a profession.

The programme combines training in quantitative and qualitative research methods with courses offering perspectives from the Institute’s core disciplines, including Anthropology, Sociology, History, Law, Political Science and Political Economy.

The programme also includes the completion of a Capstone Project, where students work with one of the Graduate Institute’s partner organizations, as well as professional skills workshops, providing students with the professional tools necessary for effective analysis and ethical decision-making.

Click here for the 2018 Course Catalogue

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To earn a Master in Development Studies, students must complete a total of 120 credits over four semesters.

The curriculum is composed of five key elements:

  1.  compulsory courses,
  2.  courses taken under specific specialization tracks,
  3.  free electives,
  4.  courses aimed at professional skills (workshops, the Capstone project, an internship),
  5.  and finally the Master thesis.

Students are required to take 18 credits of compulsory courses. The course "Development Economics" is taught in the first semester and is compulsory for all. Students are further required to choose 2 courses out of a menu of three: “History, Theory and Practice of Development”, “Poverty and Inequality”, and “Gender and Development”. During the first two semesters, students are further required to take two methods courses: one on “Statistical Methods in Social Sciences”, and one on “Qualitative Methods in Social Sciences”.

Before the second semester, students should choose one major from the three specialization tracks of the Master in Development Studies (i.e. Power, Conflict & DevelopmentMobilities, Spaces & Cities; and Environment, Resources & Sustainability) and one minor, which can be either from one of the three specialization tracks of the Master in Development Studies or from the specialization tracks of the Master in International Affairs (i.e. Global SecurityTrade & International Finance, and Environment, Resources & Sustainability).

For the major, students must take 1 compulsory course as well as 18 credits worth of elective courses in this track. For the minor, they must take 1 compulsory course as well as 6 credits worth of electives in this track.

Finally, students are required to obtain 12 credits in terms of free electives, 12 credits in terms of workshops, 9 credits as a Capstone project, as well as 18 credits for the writing of a Master thesis. Students can also validate an internship for 3 credits. If they choose not to do so, they are required to obtain an additional 3 credits of free elective courses.




The Master in Development Studies is an ambitious study programme composed of a number of courses, seminars, workshops and a thesis. The curriculum consists of the following five elements:


  • Compulsory Courses

    The compulsory courses are composed of two method courses (one on quantitative and one of qualitative research methods in the social sciences), one course on Development Economics, and two courses of choice of the following three: History Theory and Practice of Development; Poverty and Inequality; and Gender and Development. These introductory courses will lay the groundwork in terms of concepts, theories and methods that are the basis for the subsequent specializations. They are to be completed during the first and second semesters and account for six credits each – 30 in total.
  • Specialization Track Courses

    In their second semester students choose among three specialization tracks, which include Power, Conflict & Development; Mobilities, Spaces & Cities; and Environment, Resources & Sustainability. The last track is offered in both the Master in International Affairs and the Master in Development programmes, which is a reflection of both the Institute’s strong resources in these areas, as well as of the great urgency environmental questions have for the future of humanity. The specialization tracks consist of a core course, and a number of disciplinary and interdisciplinary electives specific to the specialization track. Students must achieve 24 credits in the major and 12 credits in the minor.
  • Free Electives Courses

    Students are required to choose among a broad range of free electives, which are either specific to one of the subject areas taught in the interdisciplinary Master programmes, or are offered by the five disciplinary departments. Students must achieve a total of 12 credits worth of free electives. For an overview of the free electives, please visit the 2017-2018 Course Catalogue
  • Professional Skills Courses

    Professional skills courses are aimed at developing students’ professional skills. They consist of workshops, a Capstone project, and an facultative internship. 

    The workshops are interactive teaching modules that put students into real-world professional situations, providing them with the competencies to become effective and ethical skilled decision-makers. Each skills workshop accounts for 3 credits. Students are required to take four workshops throughout the course of their studies – a total of 12 credits. 

    The Capstone projects are applied research seminars that will enable students to work closely with one of the partner institutions of the Graduate Institute, expose them to real-world development issues, while enabling them to build networks Geneva’s world of international organizations. The duration of the capstone projects extends over the second and third semesters, and they are completed in the fall semester of the second year. They account for 9 credits.

    In addition, students may choose to complete an internship in between the second and third semesters, working with an institution or company whose mission and activities are relevant to their curriculum. Students must work at least 100 hours and submit a final report at the end of the internship. The internship will appear on the transcript of results and replace one 3-credit elective class.
  • Thesis

    The final element of the Master in Development Studies is the thesis, which is a piece of independent and original research carried under the supervision of a faculty members. Students are expected to demonstrate command of the literature related to their research question, as well as the relevant theories, concepts, methods and disciplinary fields through which to find creative and intelligent answers to their research question.


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