7 Reasons Why Development Studies Is Important

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Development studies is an area of academia focusing on addressing global inequality and assisting poorer countries to achieve development. Courses in international development are offered at some of the top universities around the world. Each year thousands of graduate’s complete degrees in development studies. But why? What does development studies cover and why is it important?

It Trains The Next Generation Of Development Workers

The first reason why development studies is important is that it trains people to become development workers. As the development sector has professionalized in recent decades, a greater enthesis has been placed on gaining a technical understanding of development. Development studies courses are a key way people learn the foundations of international development.

In order for international development to be successful, it’s crucial that development workers understand the history, techniques, methods and tools needed to achieve lasting and sustainable development. A major reason why development studies is important is because it provides students a deep understanding of how successful development happens.

People from many different backgrounds become development workers. Development studies is crucial in providing those entering the international development sector with the knowledge needed to run successful development projects around the world.

Development studies has proven vital in both developed countries and the Global South in training the next generation of development workers.

Research Is Done Into Important Development Issues

The second reason why development studies is important is because key research is undertaken into international development issues.

Conducting research and gaining a deeper understanding of development is vital to its success. Development studies courses play an important part in conducting this research.

Through providing space for students to investigate development issues; to funding research and allowing academics an arena to explore development topics without constraints – a better understanding of how long-term sustainable development can be achieved is gained.

In order for the world to become a more equal place, a strong understanding of how the world has developed unequally must be taught. It is also key that research is conducted into different factors that lead to countries achieving development. Studying international development is important because it provides a space where this research can be done.

Many of the foundational theories in international development have come from research conducted as part of development studies courses. This shows the importance of development studies to reducing global inequality.

Links Are Built Between The Developed And Developing World

Development studies is taught at leading institutions around the world. A big reason why it is important is that it creates links between academic institutions in the developed and developing world.

In order for poorer countries to achieve sustainable development, a wide range of knowledge, understanding and research needs to be brought together. Both the Global North and developing world must work together to ensure global inequality is addressed.

Development studies is important because it brings academics and students together and creates spaces where knowledge can be shared.

Many students from developing countries travel to the Global North to complete courses in development studies. Universities also link academics from the around the world in the field of development studies. Many academic institutions run conferences that bring together leading thinkers in international development. These are just some of the ways that development studies courses create important links.

New Tools For Development Are Created

Another reason why development studies is important is because it helps in the creation of new tools and resources that can assist development workers.

International development is an ever-evolving discipline. As the world changes, new ideas are needed to ensure poorer countries can meet development challenges. Development practitioners must also adapt their tools and ways of working in order to remain at the forefront of their field. Simply put – what worked in developed ten years ago won’t work now.

Development studies is vital in creating the resources needed for developing countries to meet the challenges of today.

Development studies is important because it provides a space where new theories of international development can be developed and tested. It is vital that orthodoxies within the development sector are challenged and new thinking and ideas are debated.

Development studies courses play a vital role in ensuring a rigorous discourse is had about how global inequality can be addressed.

International Development Online Courses

If you want to know about why development studies is important, we recommend taking an online short course. We think the Management of International Development: Towards Agenda 2030 course is great. It looks at the current international development model as well as the trends that will be key to global development in the near future. Follow the link to the course’s page for more information.

We also think the online course Sustainable Development in the 21st Century by Yonsei University to be one of the best for those interested in international development. Delivered by former UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, the online course would be a great addition to the CV of anyone looking to work in international development. The link is to the course’s page.

If you are interested in the practical methods used on international development projects, we recommend the online course How To Design & Fund International Development NGO Projects. The course teaches students the tools needed to establish and run impactful development projects. Click the link to visit the course’s page for more information.

Questions Are Raised About How Development Is Done

International development has not always been successful. Billions of dollars are spent each year on development projects and over recent decades there has been debatable success.

Development studies is important because it allows questions to be raised about why development projects may fail and creates a space where new theories of development practice can be developed.

Over recent decades, different theories and ideas about how developing countries can improve the lives of their citizens have been proposed. Development studies plays a vital role in allowing people from different backgrounds to come together and work on development issues. This is important because it means a wide range of critiques can be had of current development practices.

If international development is to succeed it must be adaptable. Development studies is key to changing how international development is done. Key changes in development practice, such as a focus on sustainable development, women’s empowerment, community development and environmentalism have all come from development studies. This shows its importance.

Students Build International Relationships

Development studies courses attract a wide range of students. People join universities to study international development from many different countries and backgrounds. Development studies is important because it allows students to connect from around the world whilst sharing ideas on how to address international inequality.

Successful development projects require collaboration. Ideally, expertise is combined between different development actors across the Global North and South. Development studies is vital in launching these collaborations.

Development studies courses allow students to mix from different cultures, backgrounds and countries and debate ideas about how international development can improve.

The relationships that are built through studying international development are vital. Students are forced to confront their ideas about how the world is and why some people live in poverty whilst other accumulate wealth. Development studies courses are crucial in bringing students, academics and development professionals together and forming relationships that can improve how international development is done.

It Promotes International Development

A final reason why development studies is important is because it promotes international development.

There are growing calls in developed countries to scale-back the amount of development assistance provided to poorer nations. This would have a major effect on poorer countries around the world. Development studies is important because it’s a key way that the successes of international development can be shared more widely.

There are hundreds of international development courses taught all around the world. Each year, thousands of graduate’s complete degrees in international development. Many go on to work for major international NGOs, the United Nations and government agencies. Development studies is important because it provides students with a crucial understanding of international development that they can use in their future careers.

International development has played a vital role in helping to lift millions of people out of poverty. As an academic practice, development studies has been vital in drawing-up people into the industry and providing them with the tools, resources and skills needed to run successful development projects around the world.

The more  tangible and sustainable development can be achieved, the more donor agencies will be willing to continue to fund vital development work. Development studies plays a hugely important role in this. 


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.