International development and sustainability (Master level)


About this course

(Please note that this course exists as a master level and bachelor level course. This is the description of the master level course. For the bachelor level course, please go to course 0SV150)

For long, International Development has been understood as aid or assistance by the “rich” Northern countries to the ”poor” Southern countries. The institutional architecture, governance structures and funding mechanisms of international development have been built around this notion and they will provide the framework for almost everyone who wants to help building sustainable futures in the Global South. But what is the place of international development in a time of planetary crises, new major global economic powers like China, and calls for sustainability transitions in both North and South? Should it be maintained, reformed or debunked altogether? What difference can individuals make and what expertise is needed for that?

In the ever more complex debate on development, this course aims to provide orientation. You will engage with the paradigms that have shaped development thinking and practice from the colonial period until today; you learn about the institutional architecture, stakeholder landscape, governance structures, funding mechanisms and metrics of international development. The course requires you to think beyond technological fixes for societal problems and demonstrates how this kind of thinking has oftentimes failed and came with pernicious societal and environmental consequences in the history of international development. The course shows that “scientific” theories about society, for example the growth theories and market models devised by economists, are more than external analyses – they shape the very socio-economic realities they are meant to represent.

But the course also looks forward. We explore ways to understand local implementation contexts on their own terms in order to design appropriate and systemic interventions. You will get an idea of how you, as engineers, can employ your specific technical knowledge in the context of international development. You also learn how to formulate a written assessment of development interventions. The course typically attracts students who display a high degree of interest, engagement or even activism concerning issues of global sustainability and justice. Some of the students do an internship or master’s project in countries of the Global South later, or even pursue a career in the field of international development.

This course takes you on a deep dive into social sciences and humanities research on development. It does not only train you to navigate, read and understand this literature, but also relate it to concrete case studies. For one lesson per week, you will read selected texts and answer a set of questions as preparation of an interactive classroom discussion. For the other lesson you will apply these insights on a real world case study (e.g. on India, Brazil, Tanzania) on which you will work as a group throughout the course. Based on the different case studies, we discuss different development approaches regarding the question “what does it mean for my case study and how does it matter today?”. You will get insights into the everyday work of development practitioners by different guest lecturers and – if conditions allow – exchange online with students from the countries we focus on (e.g. Brazil, Tanzania). Finally, you will demonstrate the expertise you gained during the course in an individual take-home assignment, in which you evaluate a selected real-world document (e.g. a project proposal or report).

Additional test information:
The students prepare brief preparatory input (exact format to be instructed by the lecturer) in advance of class sessions, on the basis of their session reading materials. In each session, a few students will be selected to present this work and initiate class discussion based on their presentation and the reading materials. The presentations and class discussions during the course are used to determine the class participation for each student. The summary preparatory materials, together with the presentations and class participation account for 20% of the final grade. Not handing in materials before the sessions means lower points for this part of the final grade.
From the beginning of the course the students work on a group project assignment, in which they apply the general concepts discussed in the readings and in class  to a specific project case. Different student groups will work on different cases, so that different project cases will feature regularly in the class discussions. This will allow the students to grasp how general ways of thinking about development have materialized in different ways in different places and cicumstances, allowing them to distinguish overarching generic aspects from specificities. In this way, the students build up a project case portfolio during the course, in which they document the (historical) context and different development approaches that have defined their case and influenced the development consequences thereof. They reflect on the reasons for problematic outcomes and identified impacts, and suggest possible improvements in design and implementation. The cumulative findings from the group projects are presented in a couple of plenary sessions at the end of the course. The students are encouraged to compare their own case findings against the findings from the other cases. This assignment (including the presentation and cross-groups discussions) accounts for 35% of the final grade.
The final individual take home exam (45% of final grade) tests the knowledge gained in the class sessions and from the literature. This takes the form of a short reflection paper, in which the general course knowledge and the lessons from the application to the different cases in class should be synthesized.

Learning outcomes

The course introduces students to the intricacies of the debate and strategies of international development, practical aspects, and its tenuous record of sustainability so far. By working with real world case studies and interacting with practioners in the field, the course provides students with valuable insights on what a career in international development entails.

Intended Learning Goals:
After completing this course, student will be able to

  1. describe the global framework of international aid in terms of the stakeholders involved; the governance structures, funding and evaluation mechanisms, and metrics of development.
  2. recognize different paradigms that have shaped development thinking and practice in the course of the last century, while differentiating the historical context in which they emerged.
  3. illustrate insights from learning goals 1-2 on specific case studies, i.e. regarding the influence of different paradigms on discourses and practices of development in the respective context.
  4. compare different development approaches and interventions regarding their social, environmental and economic impacts.
  5. analyze how different development approaches are being implemented in practice, using real world examples.
  6. formulate a written assessment of development interventions.

Required prior knowledge

You must meet one of the following collections of requirements

  • Collection 1
  • Completed Final examination Bsc program
  • Completed none of the course modules listed below
  • Int. Development & Sustainability (BSc) (0SV150)
  • Collection 2
  • Completed Pre-Master
  • Completed none of the course modules listed below
  • Int. Development & Sustainability (BSc) (0SV150)

Link to more information

If anything remains unclear, please check the FAQ of TU Eindhoven.


  • Start date

    21 April 2025

    • Ends
      22 June 2025
    • Term *
      Block GS4
    • Location
    • Instruction language
    • Register between
      15 Nov, 00:00 - 23 Mar 2025
    Enrolment starts in 119 days
These offerings are valid for students of Utrecht University