NMMU Development Studies


NMMU Development Studies, The Department of Development Studies at the Nelson Mandela University is positioned as a leading academic department in sustainable socio-economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. We offer a full range of academic programmes from undergraduate (Bachelors degree) to Doctoral level, and engage in research in a number of development-related fields in South Africa and across Africa.

The Department enjoys national, regional and international recognition, based on its internal staff, its network of research associates and visiting scholars, the quality of its work and its engagement with real-world development challenges.

The Department has a number of strategic alliances with regional and international universities and development organizations. The Department also hosts a growing number of national and international, multi-partner research and development projects. Through a collaborative approach the aim/vision is to establish a world-class facility for advanced and innovative work in development.

The focus of our programmes and our research are in the fields of social, economic and ecological development; development finance; and maritime and coastal development. The BA Development Studies offers a comprehensive interdisciplinary undergraduate programme with majors in Development Studies and Economics.

The suite of advanced postgraduate programmes in development studies are designed for students to combine academic potential with first-hand developing country experience. The postgraduate programmes consist of an Honours and a Masters by coursework in Development Studies; an M Phil in Development Finance; and a Post Graduate Diploma in Maritime Studies. A Masters and PhD by research is also offered, with experienced supervisors in the above fields.


The Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies is an inter-disciplinary undergraduate programme which provides students with a foundation in Development and Economics. The programme integrates a deep understanding of social and economic development with an accompanying set of skills. The programme aims to provide candidates with a sound theoretical grounding in the principles and practices of development as it pertains to implementation of policy in a development context. Candidates will demonstrate the following exit-level competences:

  • An in-depth knowledge and understanding of the complexities of development theory as it applies to the principles and practices of social and economic development as well as the roles played by different stakeholders in development implementation
  • The ability to design and implement appropriate research projects, apply relevant research methods and present reports in appropriate format in a development context
  • The ability to measure the performance of different areas, countries and institutions in terms of economic development by applying appropriate criteria.


The postgraduate coursework programmes are offered on a part-time, block-release model. The programmes encourage students to reflect upon and deepen their knowledge, innovation and practice through an inter-disciplinary perspective.  The courses have an applied approach.  Students are provided with structured opportunities for study, dialogue, application and critical reflection.  A wide range of teaching methods are employed to vary the learning experience.  These include lectures and seminars, workshops, project-work in small groups and the use of videos. Supervision is offered in small groups and individually.

Students who leave with a postgraduate qualification in Development Studies will be equipped with:

  • A practical, multi-skilled approach to development issues for careers in regional, national and international organizations as well as private and public sectors,
  • An understanding of conceptual, theoretical and methodological approaches to development,
  • Abilities of critical thinking, analysis and reflective practice, and personal development of values useful in pursing relevant approaches in development practice.


The Postgraduate Diploma Programme in Maritime Studies is designed to equip students for exciting career opportunities in the booming fields of marine, maritime and coastal development, port management and development, as well as the associated areas of coastal and marine tourism.  More particularly it seeks to:

  • Equip students with knowledge of socio-economic and economic aspects of marine and maritime affairs so as to provide them with the skills necessary in understanding a coastal economy;
  • Provide qualified professionals with additional skills in marine and affairs and maritime studies;
  • Meet the growing national need for marine and maritime studies professionals;
  • Respond to the need for competent maritime specialists particularly in regard to the sustainable development and beneficiation of coastal economies; and
  • To respond to the national and international demand for specific skill sets to diagnose and resolve policy issues in
  • Marine, maritime and coastal economies; and 
  • To provide the analytical skills necessary to respond to emerging options and projects in the area of port management, development and security.



During the Honours year in Development Studies, students develop analytical capacity in development theory and in contributing social science disciplines including economics, conflict management, politics, geography and sociology, by examining a wide range of current development issues and their contexts. There are electives offered in rural development practice, transformation management, project management, conflict management, issues in economic development, geospatial methods, local economic development and business in developing economies. By doing their own research project, students become more skilled in writing reports and must write a treatise to complete their Honours degree.


At the Masters level in Development Studies, each student is encouraged to develop her or his particular focus of interest, with a variety of electives offered and through a research treatise in one of the research areas offered with the assistance of experienced supervisors. Along with the coursework modules the preparation of their research project serves as the main vehicle for developing these interests as well as being the key mode of assessment.

Compulsory modules in development theory, development policy and research methodology constitute the core coursework of the Masters progamme. Electives available on this programme include development economics, international finance, monitoring and evaluation for development practitioners and social movements, social change and development.


The two full research degrees offered are a Masters by Dissertation and a PhD by Thesis, in the field of Development Studies.  The Department of Development Studies research areas encompass many of today’s most important challenges. These range from climate change, sustainable development, energy and food production, globalization, and poverty alleviation, to social capital, human security, peace and development, and industrial development, local economic development and development policy. Please see the Departmental research focus areas and the specific focus areas of staff members.


The M Phil in Development Finance provides a unique platform for postgraduate research and training in the field of development finance in developing and transitional economies. It is especially designed to equip government employees at central, provincial and municipal levels as well as parastatal, NGO and private sector employees in development finance institutions with the knowledge, competencies and ethical value systems required in the field of development finance.

Upon completion of the M Phil in Development Finance, students will demonstrate:

  • Advanced knowledge, insight and understanding of the principles, practices and procedures prevalent in infrastructural development, project finance, micro-enterprise and international finance for development, 
  • The ability to critically analyse the theories, techniques and procedures for financial sector development, financial management and finance issues for development in a developing and emerging market context,
  • The ability to apply these techniques and procedures in a professionally competent manner,
  • The ability to undertake independent research and to present research findings in a form that can be disseminated effectively to users.


The advanced research programme will provide candidates from the public and private sectors who have completed Master’s programmes in Development Finance and cognate fields with the opportunity to conduct advanced research in areas such as  Public Finance, Micro-enterprise Finance, Project Finance, International Finance for Development, Economic Analysis and Modelling, Monitoring & Evaluation, Local and Regional Development and related fields. 


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