Development Studies

The Master of Arts in the field of Development Studies is a 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time degree.


There are two Masters programmes offered:

  • Master of Arts by Coursework and Research
  • Master of Arts by Research

The Development Studies Masters by Coursework and Research has two compulsory courses, one elective course, and a research report.


Core Courses

Research Methods (Semester 1) 

The aim of this course is to facilitate the work you do with your MA Research Report supervisor. The examination for this course is the presentation of your MA Research Report proposal.

SOSS 7044A: Economics and Sociology of Development (Semester 1) 

This course focuses on different approaches to economic growth and their implications for conceptions of development and underdevelopment, the nature of poverty and the role of the state in the development process.

SOSS 7041 (Full-time) /SOSS 7042 (Part-time) Research Report

  • Students must select one elective course from the list below


ARPL7044 Community Participation in Urban Governance

INTR7042A The International Political Economy of Development

This unit focuses on the international political economy of development. It examines challenges posed to developing countries by the international system. Topics include multilateral institutions (IMF, World Bank and WTO), development aid and debt relief, regional economic initiatives, and the interplay between world markets and domestic political institutions.

INTR7070A Empire and the Crisis of Civilization

This course explores the historical and contemporary understandings of ‘Empire’ in the social sciences. Drawing on critical theory this course will assess how Empire relates to territoriality, power, culture and economic accumulation. These dimensions of Empire will be located within a historicised perspective to provide a critical understanding of the relationship between Empire and contemporary capitalism.

POLS7006 Development Theories, Issues, Problems and Strategies

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the major social, economic, and political, assumptions underpinning ‘development studies’, and, most importantly, to the strategies that might best be adopted to ‘promote’ or ‘manage’ development. In this way, the ‘problem of development’ in three loosely defined and interconnected areas of social life—the market, the state, and the community— is placed into sharper relief. 

POLS 7053 Political Thought: Freedom in the Decolonising Republic

SOSS7021A Labour & Development

This course analyses the role of labour in the development process both historically and in the current epoch of globalisation. A focus is placed on labour and development in Southern Africa and the Global South.

SOCL7011A Environmental Sociology: The Political Economy of Nature And Development

The course will illuminate a number of global, regional, national and local environmental issues, through a political economy and sociological lens, drawing on a wide range of theorists. The rise of a global environmental social movement will be traced, including the environmental justice movements in South Africa and elsewhere. Students will be encouraged to address a particular environmental problem as part of their written contribution to the course. This course is also relevant to students of Geography, International Relations, Politics, Town and Regional Planning, and the Natural Sciences. 

SOSS7040A Advanced Research Methods

The aim of this course is to facilitate the work you do with your MA Research Report supervisor. The examination for this course is the presentation of your MA Research Report proposal. The course is practically oriented in order to achieve this, but not without critical theoretical and methodological issues and perspectives being addressed at each stage of the process in formulating a research question and preparing a research report proposal.  

SOSS7044A Economics and Sociology of Development

This course focuses on different approaches to economic growth and their implications for conceptions of development and underdevelopment, the nature of poverty and the role of the state in the development process.

SOSS7082 Introduction to Migration and Displacement

This overview course reviews the dynamics of international migration — forced and otherwise — and formal and informal responses to it. Instead of developing technical skills and policy recommendations, it provides a set of interdisciplinary conceptual tools to make sense of the complex conceptual, methodological, ethical and logistical concerns surrounding human mobility. In doing so, it situates migration in Africa within global trends and broader social and political theory. 

SOCL7012A Global Institutions and Economic Restructuring

This course examines the involvement of global institutions in development as a process of establishing intellectual hegemony, influencing individuals and groups; shaping ideas, discourses and debates; and affecting institutional arrangements inside and outside the state. The course focuses on global institutions that are involved in promoting development in developing societies, including South Africa.

ANTH7020 South African Ethnography

This course addresses the most significant authors, issues, debates, intellectual moments, and classic works in the discipline in this country. The idea is to expose students, as prospective anthropologists, to major works by some of our most successful and distinguished authors in the South African field. The course will take the form of a reading group. At each seminar, one student will be asked to lead in discussing the work, and that student will also produce a critical essay on the work and its place and significance in South African anthropology. Each student should plan on addressing one seminar in this way, taking responsibility for seminar leadership and writing a summary essay on the work as a whole to complete the graded assignment. 

ARPL7049 Politics, Governance and the City

Theories of urban regimes, urban governance, participation, social movements and political mobilization will be presented and their relevance for cities of the South debated through different case studies. The course includes a project based on fieldwork in a local neighbourhood in Johannesburg.  

INTR7005A African Human Security in an International Context

The course explores the structures, institutions and substantive issues related to Human Security, particularly in Africa.

INTR7023 African Conflict

The course unit will offer important insights into new forms of multilateral conflict prevention, which includes human rights protection and political compromise within states.

A case study approach will be adopted to deal in greater depth with conflicts in Somalia, Rwanda, the Congo and West Africa. The role of the regional, sub-regional, non-state actors and recent changes in the UN and AU's conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms will be assessed and compared. 

POLS7036 The State in Africa: Democratisation and Crisis

This course takes as its starting point debates about the genesis and the development of the African state.

This unit will explore the tensions which exist between those views of the state in Africa that perceive it to be inherently authoritarian and moreover disengaged from society and those arguments which support the adoption by African countries of liberal democratic constitutions derived from advanced industrial societies.

SOCL7039A Social Transition

Social Transitions is an intensive critical theory seminar. The first half of the course lays a foundation from which to think about ‘Theory’. During this time we explore four questions: Whose theory is Sociological Theory? Where is ‘the sociological imagination’ located? What is the ‘dark side’ of this imagination? Which other sociological imaginations are available to us as scholars? The second half of the course explores these relationships between theory and power through the lens of theories about 'race' in modernity.

SOCL7009A Development as Ideology and Practice

This course examines different ways in which “development” has been theorised and attempted to be attained in practice. The first half examines critiques of mainstream development. The second half engages with different theories and critiques that have emerged about development as ideology and discourse. We do so by focusing on theories and practices of industrialisation and development in several regions of the world namely, Western Europe, Southern Africa, East Asia, China & Russia and Latin America.

SOCL7036A Feminist Theory

Feminist Theory shall introduce students to key and cutting edge debates in Women's and Gender Studies and Feminist Theory and Politics today particularly from a postcolonial perspective, such as transnational feminism, governance feminism, African and Islamic feminism, to name but a few. It shall equally interrogate key concepts like Ethics, Politics and Subjectivity from a feminist perspective.

SOCL7010 Economic Sociology: Institutions, Capitalism and Markets

This course will introduce students to the main paradigms that shape modern economic policy debates and positions. Not an economics course, it will, nonetheless, provide post-graduate students in the social sciences with a solid grounding in economic and social theory in a manner that will enable effective policy advocacy and critique.

SOSS7084A HIV/AIDS, Sexual and Reproductive Health in Social Context

This course adopts a multi-disciplinary approach in exploring the social and historical context relevant to HIV/AIDS as a global pandemic. The aim of the course is to equip you with the skills and the insights to better understand the complexity of the epidemic in order to be able to make a meaningful contribution to the efforts to combat its devastating effects.

HIST 7025 The Making of Urban South Africa

The course explores the social, political and economic history of urbanisation in South Africa from the late 19th to the late 20th centuries. Its central focus is the Witwatersrand, but it also examines parallel and especially divergent processes in Cape Town, Durban, East London, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Pretoria.


Entry Requirements

  • 68% and above average for your Honours. (Masters by Coursework and Research)
  • 70% and above average for your Honours. (Masters by Research)
  • Social Sciences background is an advantage
  • NQF of 8 on SAQA ( Only for International Students)
  • Work or Volunteer experience in the Development field an added advantage

Supporting documents required with your application (International & Non-Wits Applicants):

  • CV
  • Certified copies of your ACADEMIC RECORD/S inclusive of statement of good conduct
  • Certified copy of Certificate of Evaluation from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). Details of how to apply for the certificate are on their website: (Only for International Students).
  • Letter of Motivation as to why you wish to pursue this line of study
  • Sample of Work (maybe a marked essay or a chapter from previous research conducted, etc.)
  • A 3 – 5-page Research Proposal outlining your research interest. (Masters by Coursework and Research)
  • A 5-page Research Proposal outlining your research interest. (Masters by Research)
  • In terms of the University rules, an applicant who has not used English in his/her academic education up to this point will be required to supply proof of proficiency in English at the time of application. A British Council IELTS test is recommended. Please go to for contact details.
  • Non-refundable Application Fee of R200.00

Supporting documents required with your application (Wits Applicants):

  • CV
  • Letter of Motivation as to why you wish to pursue this line of study
  • A 3 – 5-page Research Proposal outlining your research interest. (Masters by Coursework and Research Report)
  • A 5-page Research Proposal outlining your research interest. (Masters by Research)
  • Sample of Work (maybe a marked essay or a chapter from previous research conducted, etc.)


  • Students should choose their optional courses according to the kinds of issues they wish to cover in their Research Report.
  • Many optional courses are offered at both the Honours and the MA levels. Students will sit in the same class, but the requirements of the course will differ depending on the level at which it is taken.
  • NB: If you have taken a course at Honours level you may not take it again at the MA level.

University Application Process

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.