International Development

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    International Development

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    International Relations

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This Honours course focuses on international development and important contemporary issues such as conflict mitigation and resolution, population, migration, poverty reduction, food security, environmental challenges, and the sustainable development goals.

    Learning Goals

    • At the end of this course, you will have:
    • Deeper insight into the complexities of international development and the role of bilateral and multilateral development cooperation and underlying motives and interests
    • Understanding of fundamental and interrelated development issues
    • Ability to apply various perspectives and conduct group work to present a single case study
    • Ability to write a well-structured and balanced essay on development, incorporating different perspectives from the lectures and literature.


    The course intends to provide deep insights into the complexity of international development from various perspectives. Last year, migration provided the focus at the start of the course, together with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2016-2030). This year we will start with another topic that draws much international media attention: Conflict Mitigation and Resolution and associated Challenges for International Development. It is therefore fitting that the key-note address on the of 3rd April is by Dirk-Jan Koch, Professor by Special Appointment on International Trade & Development Cooperation, at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Radboud Nijmegen. Dirk-Jan Koch is also Member of the international board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the Chair of the governance board of the European Partnership for Responsible Minerals. He will speak in his key-note address about the intended and unintended effects of international cooperation: complexities in diplomatic responses to conflicts in Africa.

    Africa will be key in several sessions since VU's geographical focus in current projects include countries such as South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Great Lakes Region of Africa (Virunga transboundary parks in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda). Moreover, to date, seven Desmond Tutu chairs have been created at the VU. The Desmond Tutu Programme themes concern ‘Bridging Diversities for Academic Advancement’ and some of the Tutu professors will speak on issues concerning conflict and conflict resolution from the perspective of their respective disciplines.

    The course will respond to questions such as: what is the impact of (armed) conflicts related to issues such as food insecurity, land grabbing, and overexploitation of natural resources on (international) development? What are the effects on economic development and does humanitarian aid contribute to conflict prolongation? What is the relationship between education and conflict, and how should the education sector respond to conflict? What are the environmental effects of (armed) conflicts, particularly in a transboundary setting, and how can such conflicts be best mitigated in a sustainable way? What is the role of the UN, the state and diplomacy in conflict mitigation and resolution? What is the role of religion in conflict mitigation and resolution and does religion hamper or stimulate development?

    The course consists of sector-specific lectures (education, economy, etc.) and lectures about global development issues (development politics, poverty, migration, peace and fragile states, etc.). Next to these is a working session where contentious issues such as multi-nationals and aid effectiveness are discussed. In groups, students prepare and present a case study.  There is no examination, but students submit four QAQC’s (Quote, Argument, Question, and Connection) and an individual essay of 2500 words showing insights from multiple perspectives.

    This course is designed so that each of the learning goals listed above is achieved through individual and group assessments. Individual assessments make up 70% of the final score while group assessment makes up 30%. Four compulsory QAQC’s are part of individual assessment. To achieve a passing grade for the course, students will need to have at least a 5.0 on average for individual assessments and at least a 5.0 for the group assessment. The total average should be 5.5 or higher to pass the course.


Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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