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Minor Development Studies

Why do some countries and regions prosper while others are being left behind? How do migration, climate change and environmental degradation affect development and social transformation? How does ethnicity and culture affect the politics of development? What is the role of governments, NGO’s and global institutions in development and humanitarian aid in addressing global inequality?

For students from all backgrounds who are interested in big questions such as these the University Minor Development Studies offers a range of courses which approach these issues from a critical point of view.

The Minor

In today’s world, richer and poorer countries share many challenges, such as inequality and poverty, marginalisation of minorities, limited access to health services and education, ecological degradation, climate change and failing democratic and political institutions. In some countries and regions these issues develop into outright political and humanitarian crises.

The Minor programme seeks to enable you to perceive these realities from the points of view of people living in it and to provide a conceptual framework to understand and reflect on global development issues.

The Minor Development Studies is a multidisciplinary, interfaculty minor. This means that its courses are taught by different faculties, and that the programme is open to Bachelor students from all faculties. All courses are offered in English and in the first semester only (early September to end of January).

The programme includes a compulsory introductory course and a number of electives on development economics, social change, anthropology, climate change, population, environment, culture, politics, and development cooperation. One course offers students the opportunity to write a research essay in a small thematic group or participate in a thematic summerschool.

Registration and Enrollment

Registration for the minor as a whole is open from 24 May to 5 July 2024.

Please note that students must register for the minor as a whole and, in addition, for each course separately on ProgressWWW taking into account the registration dates which differ for each faculty (see the table below).

The maximum intake for the minor is 120 students. Some courses also have their own maximum capacity, so the sooner you enroll the better.

You can choose either 15 or 30 ECTS to compose your minor package out of the courses listed below. The course, Rethinking Global Inequality: People, Power and Poverty is compulsory for all minor students. Apart from this course you are free to choose the courses which appeal to you most. Check back before the enrollment period opens to see if new courses have been added.

For the 30 ECTS minor we recommend you to take 15 ECTs in both semester blocks. However, you can also take 20 ECTS in 1a, and 10 ECTS in 1b, or the other way around. To be admitted to Topical Themes in Development Studies you need to have completed at least 10 ECTS in semester block 1a.

Enrollment Periods 2024-2025
Faculty of Science & Engineering (FSE)
3 June-11 August 2024
Faculty of Spatial Sciences (FSS)
1a: 1 July-30 August
1b: 16 September-13 October
Faculty of Arts (Arts)
17 June-5 July 2024
Faculty of Behavioral & Social Sciences (BSS)
Faculty of Economics & Business (FEB)
1 August-30 August 2024
Faculty of Religion, Culture & Society (RCS)
27 May-5 July 2024

Semester 1a

Rethinking Global Inequality (Arts - 5 ECTS)

What is development? This might seem like a straightforward question, but this course covers a number of ways in which development is defined. In the course, we consider many different ways in which development and underdevelopment come to be seen as ‘problems to be solved.’ For instance, we will talk about how development comes to be seen as an economic problem with economic solutions, or as a problem that can be solved through charity. Throughout the course, we will read texts from a range of academic disciplines, thereby giving students the foundation to study development in an inter-disciplinary way. Each lecture week explains a particular way development is approached as a problem to be solved. In seminars, students will work through practical examples and approaches from a range of institutions like the World Bank, aid agencies, national governments, and NGOs to consider how development is approached across a range of issues, including, but not limited to: health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, and migration. The course will thus give students both a theoretical and practical grounding to support their study of development across a range of courses in the minor.

Environment and Development (FSE - 5 ECTS)

This course studies the relation between environment and development in developing (and developed) countries. The focus is on a natural science approach linked to societal issues, such as poverty, population, migration, and a weak institutional and political structure. Possible strategies for environmental improvement are reviewed using case-studies from different countries and sectors. The causes of environmental problems are analyzed on the local, national and international level. The following issues will be touched upon: the depletion of natural resources; energy; climate change; land use and food; water use.

Migration and Development (FSS - 10 ECTS)

Migration is a powerful mechanism in the social and economic dynamics both of migrants themselves and of the places that are involved in migration. At the regional level, for example, we observe that human capital is an increasingly important determinant of economic development. Migration of skilled employees therefore importantly shapes regional differences in economic growth. At the other end, we see places that lose people as a result of migration and suffer the social and economic consequences. At the individual level, migration may be a means to improve your socio-economic position, for example when searching for a new job, or perhaps when running from harsh political circumstances. Migration thus plays a key-role in the lives of people as well as for the regions people live and work. Understanding process of migration is therefore key in understanding the socio-economic development of people and places. This course is dedicated to the mutual relationship between migration and the economic and social development of people and places. It offers theories to understand why people migrate and the outcomes of migration. At the same time, theories that highlight the role of human capital and migration in regional development are explored. In addition, the course aims at providing the latest research and trends about migration flows within and between countries as well as the changing economic and social framework in which migration takes place.

Social and Institutional Change (BSS - 5 ECTS)

We live in an ever-changing world and sociology as a discipline has a long tradition to explain such changes societies have been going through such as globalization, the use of technology, and international migration. This course will elaborate and compare different theories that are used to explain causes, forms, and possible directions of social and institutional change. We will explore how various forms of institutions influence each other and the extent to which institutions have desired or undesired effects. Moreover, we will focus on the conditions under which institutions lead to coordination and cooperation. Several examples will be given based on contemporary empirical research from the field of international migration, family life, digitalization, and climate change. Special attention will also be paid to the role of the state in a market economy, and the effect of cultural norms on economic development. To this end, we will discuss classical theories (Weber, Durkheim, Smith) that have been used to explain social institutions.

Introduction to Decolonization Theories (CF - 5 ECTS)

What is colonialism, what is settler colonialism, what is decolonisation, what is post colonialism, are we in an era of post colonialism? How was decolonisation different or similar between countries that have been colonized? This course aims to provide introductory knowledge that addresses the above questions and discusses the theories that explain the epistemic practice of decolonisation.

Critical Well Being - Theories from the South (CF - 5 ECTS)

Development, as a terminology, is increasingly problematized by scholars who have researched and worked in that field. Their concern is the fact that countries that, the term “development” promotes a certain way of improvement that is in line with capitalist norms and by doing so, categorizes some countries to be “in need of development”. We need alternatives to “development” as a terminology and a practice. An alternative that problematizes the terminology as well as the notion and myths it represents (Gustavo 2022).
This course aims to promote alternatives to development, and at the same time contextualize and bring forward problems and colonial legacies that are reproduced by development work. Development aid is increasingly under criticism for continuing colonial legacies in representation of people they serve; in its gender, racial and hierarchical power dynamics, and the role that global South has in shaping the making of development agenda. In this course, initiation and progress of international development are explained from a historical perspective. Students will learn about the role of colonial powers in initiating the idea and shaping the agenda of international development in the past and present. By critically discussing different case studies, students discuss problems around international aid from a contextual and nuanced perspective. They also learn that decolonisation is not a status that is achieved or could be achieved in a linear manner (Mignolo, Walsh 2018) and that decolonisation is in fact an ongoing movement.

Semester 1b

Aid, Trade and Beyond (Arts - 5 ECTS)

This course introduces you to the historical and political development of the international system of development cooperation as it evolved from 1945 onwards, taking Dutch policy development and execution and Dutch perspectives as a starting point. We will discuss the “aid or trade” dilemma that was (and to a point still is) central to Dutch development policy and how this translates into international relations and policies. We will also discuss how the epistemology of the concepts of development and international development relations changed over time and what this means for our current understanding. Special attention will be given to debates on the post-colony, the continent of Africa, and the role of international organizations.

Ethnicity, Culture and Politics (Arts - 5 ECTS)

The course discusses political, social and cultural aspects of globalisation and of development problems, focusing especially on societies outside the North-Atlantic world. It discusses questions such as: Which processes have led to the development of the modern state, democracy and civil society? What is the historical, social and cultural basis of nationalism and ethnicity? How can identity be understood, what is identity politics and how does it operate in contemporary conflicts in developing countries as well as in our own? This course introduces students to the ways that culture and society are understood and analysed in academic literature, through a diverse range of key texts from different social sciences. It applies innovative anthropological, political and philosophical theories of identity, nationalism and globalisation from the last few decades and discusses several case studies from the so-called “developing world”. In addition, the course places a strong emphasis on understating how to link ideas and theories to empirical cases, inviting students to engage with them by discussing societal issues related to ethnic minorities. The course is part of the Minor Development Studies but can also be followed separately. It provides students with a good background to further specialise in development related aspects of their own main field of study.

Global Development Studies (FEB - 5 ECTS)

This course is about the main determinants of socio-economic development in developing countries. Students learn about the similarities and differences in the socio-economic development of various regions in the world such as China, India, South-East Asia, Latin-America, Eastern Europe and Africa. In the course, the role of trade, technology, health, education, structural change, and foreign aid on socio-economic development is explained. The usefulness of various empirical methods to measure socio-economic development and its determinant is discussed, and theories of socio-economic development are evaluated. Throughout the course, national and international policies to generate socio-economic development are discussed and evaluated.

Population and Development (FSS - 5 ECTS)

While countries in Western-Europe are dealing with the implications of population ageing and decline for the wellbeing of its population, projections show that in the eastern part of the world India will pass China in becoming the world’s biggest population. Also, most countries have seen a reduction in fertility and mortality, as explained by the demographic transition model, but countries such as Uganda do not follow this typical pattern: they continue to have high fertility. This poses great challenges to the country’s resources and the wellbeing of its citizens. Different parts of the world are challenged by different population issues, which play a role in the countries’ development and their population wellbeing. In this course we will explore and discuss how population and development are interlinked and its implications for wellbeing. To do so, we will focus on three global contemporary population issues: sexual and reproductive health, migration and development, and human resource development. We will discuss how international and national policies are at the core of such developments, and we will pay special attention to vulnerable and marginalised groups in societies as we apply a human rights and capability perspective.

Topical Themes in Development Studies (FEB - 5 ECTS)

In this course, students work both independently and in small teams  on a research topic of their interest, which is supervised by a faculty member under a 'topical theme' in Development Studies (broadly defined). The Faculty Member is responsible for deciding on the broad theme, and then for supervising the students in the group to write essays on something related to that theme.

Climate Change, End Times, Sustainability (RCS - 5 ECTS)

Climate change is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing the planet in the 21st century. How to effectively respond to climate change and prepare for new social, political, economic, moral and environmental realities are urgent issues that need to be addressed across all levels of society. What are the visions and resources available across different theological, philosophical and spiritual traditions for understanding and responding to climate change? How do these different visions influence the ways in which various groups and actors interpret climate change and the solutions they offer (or don’t offer)? This course explores these and other questions through a consideration of eschatological end times visions, the promotion of technology and economy as effective solutions to the climate change challenge, alongside ethical and existential questions regarding humanity’s relationship to and responsibility for nature and future generations.

More Information

Future Career Options

Knowledge of global development issues may be required or relevant in many career options, such as government and banking, working in international organisations or a local or international development NGO, in health care or in a water or energy company.

For those who want to continue in a Master programme in Development Studies or International Humanitarian Action (NOHA), this minor will be an important first step.


This multi-faculty Minor is hosted by International Relations and International Organization (IRIO) – Faculty of Arts.

Questions about the Minor can be addressed to Caitlin Ryan,
e-mail: minor-development-studies

Last modified:19 June 2024 11.58 a.m.