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Development: context and practice

This online module explores development practice and the context in which it takes place. It asks you to think about development activities from multiple perspectives – to think ‘outside the box’ – about what development activity and theory are all about. It takes a multidisciplinary approach to development, highlighting the interconnectedness of different historical and theoretical perspectives as well as the contradictions between these and the reality on the ground. This module provides an ideal introduction to international development, facilitating the building of skills that will give you a good grasp of contemporary development theory and practice.

Vocational relevance

The module will have particular relevance for you if you are working, or want to work, in development-related fields in the UK or around the world.


T877 is a compulsory module in our:

T877 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards F64, which is no longer available to new students.

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.


Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

In this module you will explore the context of development, examining what development is, the complex of issues that make up development, and how development happens at different places and times in history. You will also examine development practice, and more specifically development management, and its theoretical underpinnings taken from many different disciplines.

You will be asked to think critically about the way ‘development action’ (the activities of stakeholders who directly and indirectly engage in development) is conceived, practised and managed. You will look at development action in many forms: from the local to the global; from established practice to more emergent activities; from the large in scale, scope and impact to the small.

You will also address a number of key questions about the way the international development context has been shaped:

  • What historical legacies shape the present?
  • What social, economic and political relations shape development?
  • What processes of power and public action influence the making of development policy and its implementation?

Alongside these questions, you will question your own place within development, encouraging you to engage with development as a critically reflective practitioner. How are you influenced by the context and practice of development? How do you influence that context and practice?

This module presents an overview of major development issues and ways of addressing them. It facilitates the development of skills essential both to understanding the context, and to engaging in the practice, of development, using a variety of study materials, including journal articles and book chapters, contemporary case studies on film, and interactive web content.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. Your tutor will moderate an online forum for your tutor group in which participation is expected, mediated through a 'Reflective Wall' blog area. There will be a programme of online and face-to-face tutorials. You will also have the opportunity to participate in a separate online general discussion forum for all students on this module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Course work includes

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

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Future availability

Development: context and practice starts twice a year – in May and November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in May 2020.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    This module can be taken on its own or as a module of a postgraduate qualification.

    You should normally hold a bachelors degree from a UK university (or equivalent), or have had experience of working, in a paid or voluntary capacity, in a development agency (local or international).

    Your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you will need a minimum overall score of 6 and minimum score of 5.5 in each of the four components: reading, writing, speaking and listening under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see the IELTS website for details.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Outside the UK

    This module can be studied from anywhere in the world.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 Nov 2019 Apr 2020 -

    Registration now closed

    01 May 2020 Oct 2020 £1400.00

    Registration closes 09/04/20 (places subject to availability)

    This module is expected to start for the last time in May 2020.

    Future availability

    Development: context and practice starts twice a year – in May and November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2019. We expect it to start for the last time in May 2020.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    Study materials

    What's included

    The module is taught wholly online but there is a DVD containing longer audio-visual material.

    You will need

    Access to a computer with internet access and the ability to play DVDs through your computer or TV.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The module is delivered online. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs.

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.