International Study Centre

Why study development studies?

Sussex students in a class at the ISC

What is development studies? 

Development studies is about understanding how nations grow and evolve from a political, geographical, cultural and socio-economic perspective. Through these factors, people working in development studies seek to create solutions to real-world problems such as combatting poverty, social injustice and environmental degradation. 

Types of development studies 

Development studies has roots in multiple disciplines such as economics, politics, anthropology, sociology and geography. It can also include law, history, agriculture, engineering, management and psychology.   

Here are more details on just a few of the many disciplines within development studies: 

  • Development economics – seeks to better the socio-economic conditions of developing countries. This branch studies areas such as health, education and working conditions and works towards better solutions for these issues. 
  • Anthropology – its main objective is to increase benefits and lower negative consequences for communities involved in and affected by development strategies. 
  • Education – works towards providing quality education for all and teaching values such as equality, and inclusion.  
  • Social development – improving the well-being of individuals in society through factors such as healthcare and sanitation.  
  • Environment and sustainability – the study of global environmental issues from a viewpoint of sustainability. This discipline analyses how the government and organisations work to reduce their environmental impact.  

The importance of development studies

The importance of development studies comes from the need to assess and solve economic, social and political problems that affect everyday life. Development studies play an important role in meeting the basic needs of the world’s growing population. 

By analysing past, present and future trends, those working in development studies become aware of the differences between developed and underdeveloped countries. From this, they work towards better solutions for political, economic and environmental issues underdeveloped countries are facing. 

Why study development studies?

Outside of the positive difference you can make to the world, there are many reasons why studying development studies might be good for your future career.  

Careers in development studies

A degree in development studies can lead to you many exciting career opportunities within a variety of fields. As the subject covers multiple disciplines, there are many different types of careers you could choose from. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Humanitarian aid worker – research the root causes of global inequality as well as investigating conflicts and crises. 
  • Policy officer – conceptualise, coordinate and evaluate political proposals. 
  • Journalist – report on events and issues within developing countries, researching their causes and wider contexts. 
  • Communications manager – oversee all internal and external communications for an organisation, ensuring its message is clear, consistent and engaging. 
  • Academic researcher – carry out high level, original research that generates new knowledge to progress the current understanding of a specific subject, presenting your findings in peer-reviewed papers.   
  • Community liaison officer – interact with a local community on behalf of an organisation. Your duties can include crisis management, resource management and negotiation. 

Gain valuable knowledge and transferrable skills 

One of the biggest benefits of studying development studies at university are the valuable transferrable skills you learn. These can be applied to numerous professions and are skills that future employers will find attractive. Some of the transferrable skills you will learn during your development studies degree are: 

  • Communication 
  • Problem solving 
  • Decision making 
  • Research  
  • Reporting 
  • Project management  
  • Data analysis. 

Build a professional network  

Development studies is a diverse degree that attracts students from all walks of life. There is no better place to begin building your professional network than at the University of Sussex. As well as meeting fellow students, you will be taught by industry professionals and lecturers who are experts in their fields. These networking opportunities allow for an exchange of ideas and experiences and the chance to work on solutions for global issues, therefore bettering your worldview and knowledge on the subject.  

Travel opportunities

If travelling the world is something that interests you, then development studies, particularly international relations, is the right choice for you. The roles in which you can work with an international development studies degree often allow graduates to work across the globe.  

Taking advantage of the travel opportunities you may come across during your study, through internships and work placement, is imperative to not only better your skills and knowledge but your professional career. It is not unusual for employers to want potential candidates to be well-travelled, with plenty of first-hand experience.   

Courses in development studies 

Higher education in the UK is known worldwide for its high quality. If you want to get the best possible development studies education, choose the University of Sussex ranked 1st in the world for the subject (QS World University Rankings 2022). Here you will learn from expert academics who are committed to social justice and challenging global inequality.  

As an international student, you can begin your study at the University of Sussex International Study Centre. During your time at the International Study Centre, you will be supported every step of the way, with English language and academic skills development to gain practical experience for your future career.  

International Foundation Year

If you do not meet the direct entry requirements for a development studies degree at the University of Sussex, you can study the International Foundation Year in Business, Media and Social Sciences at the International Study Centre. The pathway is expertly designed to improve your English language and academic knowledge. Successful completion of the International Foundation Year pathway programme, with the required grades, will allow you to progress to an undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex.  

International Year One

The International Year One in International Relations and International Development is for international students who are ready to study at undergraduate level, but need additional time to develop their academic and English language skills. A combination of university style teaching, academic skills development and English language modules will prepare you for a successful transition to the second year of an undergraduate degree at the University of Sussex.  


Is a development studies degree worth it? 

Development studies is an interesting and constantly evolving field that will prepare you for a career in many sectors. By choosing a development studies degree, you can make a positive change in the world and work to better the communities around you.  

What are the different focuses of development studies? 

There are many different areas within development studies. Some of the key focus areas are: 

  • Economics 
  • Health 
  • Gender 
  • Education 
  • Environment 
  • Human rights 
  • Conflict and disaster. 

How many years does it take to study development studies in the UK?  

The typical development studies degree in the UK takes three years to complete at undergraduate level. If you wish to develop your skills and knowledge further, you can do so with a postgraduate degree, which will take an additional year to complete.