Development Studies
ISS students sitting on central staircase - 2023

Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies (AFES)

Can we feed the world and achieve economic development while conserving ecosystems and improving the livelihoods of peasants and the rural poor? How do we understand and tackle the interlinked agrarian and environmental crises? What types of policies create sustainable development that guarantees justice, equality and autonomy for poor and marginalized communities?

Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies offers an interdisciplinary approach – combining political economy, political ecology, sociology and anthropology – to understanding and confronting the impacts of global capitalist development on agrarian structures and environmental systems. The focus of the AFES Major is on the social, political and economic dynamics of rural and agrarian change and environmental degradation, seen from a wider perspective of rural and rural-urban links, and across the Global South-North divides to include emerging international actors in agro-environmental terrain, such as BRICS.

Target audience

This Major targets professionals and recent graduates from international development agencies, national governments, donor organisations, NGOs, social movements, trade unions, and from wider constituencies such as journalists, community-based workers, and agrarian-environmental activists.

Read more about the Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies Major

Economics of Development (ECD)

Many developing countries suffer from slow economic growth, unequal distribution of income and ineffective government services. Compounding, and partly giving rise to, these problems are shocks emanating from the world economy.

The Economics of Development major provides students with the theoretical knowledge, policy awareness, and analytical techniques to tackle many of the key issues facing their countries in respect of economic development and economic policy analysis. The major integrates macroeconomic issues with the underlying microeconomic processes, emphasizing the importance of, on the one hand, the global economic environment and, on the other hand, domestic institutions, regulatory frameworks and socioeconomic groups. It pays particular attention to the impact of international and domestic economic policies on growth, poverty and income distribution in developing countries, and seeks to bring out the fundamental linkages between economic growth and human development. 

Target audience

The Major is designed to train individuals wishing to pursue a career in the academic world, government administration, development banking, international development agencies and NGOs.

Read more about the Economics of Development Major

Governance and Development Policy (GDP)

Globalization, decentralization and new forms of public-private sector cooperation  have changed the ways in which people, organisations and territories are governed. They have also affected ways in which different actors are able to voice their interests and act upon them.

The Major addresses processes and problems of governance, policy and local economic development, and how these work out in the everyday realities of people, with a bias towards the poor and vulnerable. It combines a thorough theoretical understanding with a practical, policy-oriented approach, with attention for concrete governance and policy dimensions such as the role of actors in democracy and public-private-community partnerships, the need for capacity and adequate planning systems, and the detrimental effects of corruption.

Target audience

This Major offers essential insight for people involved in political analysis as well as in the development and management of policy within the public, private or civil society sector, and operating primarily at local, national or international level.

Read more about the Governance and Development Policy Major

Human Rights, Gender and Conflict Studies: Social Justice Perspectives (SJP)

When power starts to shift dramatically, advancing social justice can prove a contradictory process. Justice, peace and equal rights may be promised, whilst simultaneously injustices, violence and exclusions continue to shape people’s daily lives.

The Social Justice Major offers critical reflections on issues relating to gender, human rights, conflict and social mobilization, which are all key to social justice. The Major goes beyond the normative, often oppositional conceptualizations of social justice which frequently take a simplified focus on either economic inequalities, or identities, or symbolic representations. Instead, the Major examines the processes through which diverse inequalities, exclusions and asymmetries persist and are reproduced in societies. We do this by criticizing the dichotomous representation of the global and local, personal and political, individual and structural. We also examine universalist and cultural-relativist perspectives on social justice, as well as perspectives that depart entirely from such binary understandings.

Target audience

The Major offers a broad range of analytical and practical skills to young and mid-career professionals and aspiring academics interested and engaged in human rights, women and gender and in peace work, whether in government, research or civil society organizations.

Read more about the Human Rights, Gender and Conflict Studies: Social Justice Perspectives Major

Social Policy for Development (SPD)

Are you concerned about poverty, inequality or social exclusion? Do you want to know more about population growth, employment creation, or children and youth in the Global South? Did you know that most of the policies directly addressing these subjects fall into the category of social policy?

The Major in Social Policy for Development at ISS offers an interdisciplinary, critical approach to the analysis of the problems of social reproduction and social provisioning – or of societal responses to social need – within a context of development and associated social and structural transformations. Emphasis is given to the question of how social policy can be used as a force for progressive transformation and for sustainable, equitable, gender-aware and socially-just development within a context of contemporary globalization and profound population transformations such as migration and urbanization. 

Target audience

This Major targets professionals, researchers, teachers, community based workers, activists and others working on social policy related themes in international development agencies, national governments, national and international donor organizations, non-governmental organizations, or in advocacy and social movements.

Read more about the Social Policy for Development Major

Governance of Migration and Diversity track (GMD)

Are you a strong advocate of ensuring migrants are treated fairly? Do you think current migration policies can be improved and do you want to help make that happen?

This MA in Development Studies track is available through cooperation between various faculties and schools in Leiden, Delft and Erasmus universities, including ISS. Classes include discussion of current events related to migration and diversity. The programme also offers various extracurricular activities and seminars such as visits to relevant policy organizations (such as the International Organisation for Migration in The Hague), a ‘superdiverse’ neighbourhood, and symposia organized with students concerning current developments in relation to migration and diversity.

Target audience

This MA track is relevant for people from or aiming to work in local or national governments, community and development organizations, NGOs, universities and the private sector.

Read more about the Governance of Migration and Diversity Track

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