Our programme

The Master in Development Studies is an intensive two-year programme that offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the policies, processes and practice of development.

The programme combines training in quantitative and qualitative research methods with a wide choice of courses offering perspectives from the Institute’s core disciplines: anthropology, economy, history, law, political science and sociology.

The programme offers students the possibility to specialise in one of three thematic tracks:

The programme also includes the completion of a Capstone Project where students work with one of the Graduate Institute’s partner organisations, participation in professional skills workshops and the option to validate an internship for credit.

Find the 2021-2022 course offering on our Courses page or consult the 2021-2022 Course catalogue.

credit overview


4 Compulsory courses (24 ECTS)

2 methods courses
2 core courses by choice

Specialisation track courses (24 ECTS)

1 required core course
Electives (3 x 6 ECTS or equivalent)

Elective courses* (24 or 27 ECTS)

24 credits if an optional internship is validated, 27 credits without an internship
Optional: Use 12 Elective ECTS towards a secondary specialisation

Capstone project in the specialisation track (9 ECTS)

2 skills workshops (2 x 3 ECTS)

1 internship* (3 ECTS)

Thesis (30 ECTS)


* Internships are optional. If students do not validate an internship, they must take an extra 3 ECTS of elective course.

Curriculum Overview


To earn a Master in Development Studies, students must complete a total of 120 credits over four semesters. The curriculum is composed of five core elements:

  1. Compulsory courses

  2. Courses taken under specific specialisation tracks

  3. Elective courses

  4. Courses aimed at professional skills (a Capstone project, skills workshops and an internship)

  5. Master’s thesis


Compulsory Courses

Students are required to take two compulsory methods courses in the first and second semester respectively: Statistical Methods for Social Sciences (Autumn) and Social Inquiry and Qualitative Methods for International Affairs and Development (Spring).

Students are further required to take two compulsory core courses out of a choice of four during their programme: Economics of Development​​​​​; Gender and Development: From Theory to Practice; History, Theory and Practice of Development; and Extraction, Poverty and Inequality.

Each compulsory course is worth 6 credits.



Before the second semester, students choose a specialisation from a choice of three: Mobilities, Spaces and Cities; Power and Conflict; and Environment, Resources and Sustainability. The last track is offered in both the Master in Development Studies (MDEV) and the Master in International Affairs (MIA). 

Students are required to complete one core courses in their specialisation for 6 credits (out of a choice of two) and obtain 18 credits of elective courses within the track. If an additional core course is taken within the specialisation, it will count towards the 18 credits of specialisation electives or the free electives.

In addition to the specialisation tracks, the Master in Development Studies offers two specialisation clusters consisting of elective courses related to Global Health and Gender. There are no required courses in these clusters. 

Students have the option, but are not required, to declare a secondary specialisation in a track offered either in the MDEV programme (other than the one selected as a first specialisation), in the MIA programme (Global Security; Trade and International Finance) or the clusters on Global Health and on Gender. If so, they should obtain 12 credits within the specialisation or cluster during any of the four semesters.


Elective Courses

Students are required to choose electives from a wide range of courses which are either taught in the interdisciplinary programmes, or offered by the five disciplinary departments. 

The following courses can count towards the electives requirements of the programme:

  • Interdisciplinary (MINT) electives | Courses specific to the MDEV and MIA programmes which are not listed under specialisation tracks

  • Any course from the Master in Development Studies (MDEV) programme

  • Any course from the Master in International Affairs (MIA) programme | Excluding the compulsory courses

  • Disciplinary electives | Courses from the disciplinary departments offered to MDEV students without priority during registration

Students are required to obtain 24 credits of elective courses.


Professional Skills

Capstone Projects

Capstone projects are applied research seminars worth 9 credits that enable students to work closely with one of the partner institutions of the Graduate Institute, exposing them to real-world development issues, while enabling them to build networks in the Geneva’s world of international organisations. Capstone projects extend over the second and third semesters and are completed by the end of the Autumn semester of the second year. 

Professional Skills Workshops

The workshops are interactive teaching modules that put students into real-world professional situations, providing them with the competencies to become effective and ethical skilled decision-makers. Each skills workshop accounts for 3 credits. 

Students must take 2 skills workshops in the first year of their programme – one in the Autumn and one in the Spring semester of the first year of their programme.



Students can request to validate an internship for 3 credits, subject to approval. The internship usually takes place between the second and third semesters of the programme, working with an organisation or company with a mission and activities which are relevant to the curriculum. If they choose not to do so, students are required to obtain an additional 3 credits of elective courses. 



The final element of the Master in Development Studies is the thesis, which is a piece of independent and original research between 15,000 and 25,000 words carried out under the supervision of a faculty member. Students have to submit their dissertation topic and secure a supervisor by the end of the second semester. 

Dissertation Guidelines

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Course catalogues

Explore all the courses offered in the 2021-2022 academic year from our master programmes