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Conflict and development

Conflict is found in all societies and takes a variety of forms. Any development intervention must deal with both the causes of conflict and its consequences. Additionally, some development interventions themselves generate conflict within societies. This online module addresses the multi-faceted nature of conflict: the complex causes, the diverse impacts conflicts have on development, and the range of actions that can help mitigate conflicts. By equipping development managers and others working on or in conflict situations with both analytical and practical tools, the module will help them to intervene in ways that are sensitive to these complex contexts.

Note: you will be required to take part in a virtual group activity - the Conflict Mediation Simulation - during study weeks 15 and 16 

Vocational relevance

This module will appeal to a wide range of professionals working directly on conflict issues, or for whom conflict is an ever-present context for their interventions. There are five main groups for whom the module has vocational relevance:

  • Group 1 - Professionals who work in or who intend to work for organisations involved in civil war intervention, post-war peace operations and development challenges in any part of the world where conflict is pervasive. Such organisations include national and international government agencies, NGOs, public sector bodies and consultancies.
  • Group 2 - Professionals working in any part of the world where development occurs and where conflict arises as a significant social and political phenomenon. These include community development professionals in the UK; as the riots of 2011 and gang cultures show, overcoming or transforming conflict is central to interventions everywhere.
  • Group 3 - International private sector organisations such as banks, pharmaceuticals, oil and gas, computer services and aerospace, which have significant research and development interests in new and emerging markets whose recent history has often been marked by conflict. As recent conflict in Iraq shows, the cessation of violence is followed by an intense period of reconstruction and large and small multinational corporations tend to flood in. Professionals in these organisations, as well as managing the specific technical aspects of their businesses, will have responsibilities for development policy and practice, and this will necessarily involve managing conflict.
  • Group 4 - Military personnel deployed in conflict situations who often have to combine development and reconstruction work with conflict management. This module would help them understand the roots of conflict and help them in making more informed interventions.
  • Group 5 - People who want to develop their professional competence by linking elements of development and management with conflict and peace building and gain an international perspective on management and intervention in war-torn areas. Additionally, people who want to develop their professional competence as development managers through extending their theoretical understanding of, and practical skills to deal with, conflict - conflict being a critical element of the experience of development management in any context.


T879 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards C67, D37, F11, F64 and M03, which are 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

This module will enhance your understanding of how conflicts arise and your awareness of the opportunities for intervening in a constructive fashion. Development is increasingly seen as a necessarily negotiated process, with some of the most challenging negotiations occurring in the presence and aftermath of conflict. The module emphasises the need to remain aware of the constraints on action and of the potential consequences, intended and unintended, of different forms of intervention.

The module takes as its starting point the idea that conflict is ubiquitous and manifested in diverse contexts, before exploring different ways in which conflicts can be addressed. As such, the module is firmly rooted in the field of development management, an area that has relevance for a wide range of practitioners and professionals working at local, national and international levels.

The module involves significant reflection and group work. You will be posting your reflections on your ‘Reflective Wall’ and sharing it with other students. You will also be interacting and working closely with other students during the Conflict Mediation Simulation exercise.

The module is structured into three parts:

Part 1: Introducing Conflict and Development
The first part will introduce you to key concepts around the interface of conflict and development. It is comprised of five study weeks and covers conflict theories, the relationship between conflict, development and change, and intervention and humanitarianism.

You will be introduced to the Reflective Wall - your own personal blog where you will reflect and comment throughout the course of the module.

Part 2: The Roots of Conflict
Part 2 will explore how to analyse conflicts, the different causes of conflicts and how to explore different elements of conflict. These include: scales of conflict, from group to national levels; methods of analysing conflicts; the role of identity in conflicts; forms of justice and injustice; the role of media in conflict; and political and economic elements of conflict. You will be introduced to many examples throughout the module, but the primary case study will be the case of the Sierra Leone civil war. In addition, you will be taught how to conduct and apply a conflict analysis.

This part of the module is made up of eight weeks of study.

Part 3: Managing Conflict and Peacebuilding
The final part is comprised of seven weeks of study and includes topics such as actors and assumptions, working in, on and around conflicts, mediation and transformation, and managing conflicts.

The highly interactive Conflict Mediation Simulation takes place during study weeks 15 and 16 and your involvement will be assessed. It is mandatory that you participate in this simulation during those weeks. If you cannot take part, you will need special dispensation from your tutor and you will have to do an alternative exercise.

After your third tutor-marked assignment, you will be guided on selecting and researching your own case study, which will be used in the examination.

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 optional. There will be a programme of online tutorials. While you’re not obliged to attend any of these tutorials, you are strongly encouraged to take part.

You will also have the opportunity to participate in a separate online 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 for this module 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

Future availability

Conflict and development starts once a year – in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2020 when we expect it to start for the last time.


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 counted towards a qualification.

    If you are taking it as part of a postgraduate qualification, you must have adequate preparation for study at this level, usually demonstrated by a bachelors degree (or the equivalent) from a UK university.

    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.


    Start End England fee Register
    01 Nov 2020 Apr 2021 £1440.00

    Registration closes 08/10/20 (places subject to availability)

    November 2020 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Future availability

    Conflict and development starts once a year – in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2020 when we expect it to start for the last time.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

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

    Study materials

    What's included

    This module is presented online. All study materials will be available on the module website, which includes:

    • a week-by-week online study planner
    • course-specific module materials
    • audio and video content
    • online tutorial access to tutor group forums and tutor-led learning events
    • access to OU library services.

    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 an up-to-date version of Windows
    • The screen 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 materials for this module are provided as a series of web pages via the module website and should be accessible using screen readers. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Figure descriptions of any diagrams will be provided along with transcripts of any audio material. Other 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.