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Research Master
International Development Studies

Study programme

The programme provides a thorough background in contemporary theories and debates in international development studies, including debates around decolonising knowledge. The concepts of ‘governance’ and ‘inclusive development’ make up the over-arching themes.

The programme provides a thorough background in contemporary theories and debates in international development studies, including debates around decolonising knowledge. The concepts of ‘governance’ and ‘inclusive development’ make up the over-arching themes, within which three interconnected areas are further explored:

  • Governance for environmental justice in the Anthropocene
  • Governance for social justice
  • Politics of knowledge
  • Year 1

    The first year of the programme is based on generating knowledge in the classroom. In the first semester, it is made up of our core course entitled Theories, Issues and Debates, a compulsory course on ontologies and Epistemologies, and two thematic electives. In the second semester, coursework prepares students to finalise their research proposal including three required courses made up of Research Design: Mixed Methods, Literature Review and Fieldwork Profile and a unique course entitled Purpose, Portfolio and Proposal Development during which students are guided in defining their positionality and goals in relation to research and prepares them for the second year of academic independence. Students also choose two methodological electives during the second semester.

    Students may choose from two thematic electives. These electives may change from each year, but in the current curriculum they are:

    • Sustainable and Inclusive Economics
    • Education, Development and Social Justice
    • Urban Perspectives in Development
    • Environment, Development and Conflict
    • Gender, Intersectionality, and Development
    • Critical Development Theory and Social Movements


    The current methodological electives being offered are:

    • Introduction to Geographical Information Systems
    • Advanced Geographical Information Systems
    • The Practice of Qualitative Research
    • Interpreting Qualitative Data
    • Working with Quantitative Data
    • Measurement Models in Quantitative Research
    • Measuring Meaning in Mixed Methods
    • Urban Ethnography
    • Advanced Network Analysis
    • Policy Oriented Research
  • Year 2

    During the second year of the programme, students conduct sustained independent study for the master thesis. This is usually done with fieldwork. Also during this time, students complete their individual portfolio (see below) which is made up of personally tailored professional and academic activities. Once the research phase has ended, students attend the Professional and Academic Skills to structure their thesis writing process and learn more about the professional field. After completing the thesis students prepare an academic article based on their thesis in collaboration with their supervisor, and design a final “communication product” to share the most relevant points of their research with key stakeholder groups.

  • Epistemological & Ontological Issues in Urban and Development Studies
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  • Theories, Issues & Debates in International Development Studies
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  • Research Design: Mixed Methods
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  • Purpose, Portfolio and Proposal Development
  • Literature Review & Fieldwork Profile
  • Restricted-choice electives: Thematic IDS Electives
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  • Restricted-choice electives: Method Electives
  • Portfolio
  • Professional and Academic Skills Seminar
  • Scientific Article
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  • Fieldwork and Thesis Project
See more information in the Course Catalogue

Independent research and fieldwork

Independent research and fieldwork are required and make up a very enriching part of our programme. The fieldwork experience gives our students first-hand knowledge of and experience in the development contexts in which they are interested. Students carry out their fieldwork in different places all over the world. In the past our students have mostly conducted research in the Global South, but this custom is changing. Increasingly, we encourage our students to carry out their independent research and fieldwork in any context where important development issues can be addressed. Such contexts could include in-depth research on Northern-based development agencies, development policy contexts in Northern countries, but also conditions in the Global North where inequalities, exclusion, and/or power asymmetries are observed. On leaving the programme, students indicate the fieldwork as being among their most valuable experiences and most important contribution to their learning and professional preparation. Please note: students are responsible for the costs of their fieldwork activities which can amount to 3,000-4,000 euros. Fieldwork activities are also subject to rules regarding the safety of the country to which the person is travelling and any health related restrictions.


All students write up a final thesis based on their independent research. The thesis will draw on and contribute to ongoing theoretical debates. Fieldwork takes place in any context which is relevant for understanding development issues better. This can be in another country, the student’s home country, or in the Netherlands, and can focus on both development as well as decision-making processes in the Global North and Global South, or in relation with each other, that impact development outcomes.[KT1] [ES2] 

 [KT1]79 woorden

done [ES2]


The Portfolio is one of the most unique aspects of our programme and stands out as a particularly valuable experience for our students. The portfolio makes up 15 EC in the programme which students mostly fill in themselves. Students can choose to build an academic profile that will further prepare them for a PhD, a professional profile geared toward entering the professional field, or a combination of both. The portfolio activities are normally carried out in the same period of time as the field research. Portfolio activities have included research or professional internships, but also less conventional activities or projects such as mini-documentaries, photo-narration projects, volunteer work, and extra-curricular courses, among many others. Students will be guided in making their decisions about the portfolio.

Embrace the extended fieldwork opportunity

Alumna Maria Hagan tells about her choice for this programme.


The programme maintains a high academic standard and is also demanding. We expect you to devote your full attention to your studies for the duration of the programme and estimate as an average a 40 hours workload a week.