Taught course

Development and Emergency Practice

Oxford Brookes University · School of Architecture

Entry requirements

The programme is open to all candidates who fulfil at least one of the following conditions: hold a good honours degree in a relevant discipline; hold a relevant recognised diploma or professional qualification (eg in architecture, planning, environmental psychology, public health, geography, public administration); are in their final year of studying architecture or planning and are able to demonstrate their proficiency in written and design work; have substantial and proven field experience.

Months of entry


Course content

The Development and Emergency Practice (DEP) course provides a unique academic setting for the study of international development, conflict, disaster management, urbanisation, humanitarianism and human rights. With its emphasis on practice, the course offers students the opportunity to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes in the rapidly changing fields of development and emergencies.

The programme is targeted at those with, or seeking, careers in NGOs, bilateral or multilateral humanitarian, development and human rights agencies, or governmental and commercial organisations working in international development.

This programme is run by the Centre for Development and Emergency Practice (CENDEP), which is based within the School of Architecture.

For the postgraduate certificate it is compulsory to pass the core module, Critical Inquiry, Development and Emergencies: Theory and Policy, and pass other modules to achieve a total of 60 credits. For the postgraduate diploma you must pass 120 credits from the taught modules, including both compulsory modules. For the MA you must gain at least 180 credits, including the dissertation.

As courses are reviewed regularly the module list you choose from may vary from that shown here.

Critical Inquiry Development & Emergencies: Theory and Policy (compulsory 20 credits) This module provides a basis for students to understand and critically examine development and emergency practice from the perspective of poverty, vulnerability and humanitarian issues involved in the same. The module begins by an enquiry into the development paradigms, and explores experiences of poverty and vulnerability. It introduces students to different analytical frameworks and approaches to development and emergency practice. They include basic needs and social protection approach, livelihoods approach and rights based approach. It further introduces approaches in relation to social groups; such as gender and equity approaches. The module also introduces key policy dimensions relevant to the humanitarian sector, including the humanitarian performance appraisal and post-conflict and transitional justice approaches. The module also explores the wider contexts of governance and aid which influence development and emergency practice. The module aims to develop an insight into current debates, discussions and understandings within development and emergency practice. The module includes presentations, group work, visiting speakers, case studies, and role play.

Human Rights & Governance (optional 20 credits) In any historical account of the second half of the twentieth century, the establishment of the international human rights protection system must be seen as a moral, legal and political milestone. The gradual entrenchment of the concept of human rights in law and practice has had a profound impact on the way we think about international relations today.

Disasters, Risk, Vulnerability and Climate Change (optional 20 credits) The course will investigate the nature, scope, context, concepts, and dynamics of vulnerability, risk and disasters, and their links with development. It starts by looking into how modern development and climate change is contributing to new kinds of vulnerabilities. It further critically appraises different models of conceptualising risks and disasters. It investigates the social, economic and political factors contributing to the making of disasters, and their effects. Issues such as culture, and other social variables that mediate disasters are investigated thoroughly. It further evaluates strategies and tools to under risk assessments, and the framing of the discourse/policies for disaster risk reduction or resilience building. Specific case studies such as famine, earthquakes, floods, and urban disasters are used to develop critical insights into the dynamics of disasters.

The Refugee Experience: Forced migration, protection and humanitarianism (optional 20 credits) The most conservative estimates put the numbers of displaced people globally at more than 40 million. This includes those who have crossed international borders in search of refuge from persecution, as well as those displaced by conflict within their own country. It does not include many millions more who have fled other types of disaster or unfavourable environmental conditions, or who have not sought formal refugee status, not to mention other types of forced migrant, such as victims of human trafficking. Forced migration is both a central part of the human experience in the twenty-first century and a key challenge to humanitarian practitioners.

Conflict, Violence and Humanitarianism (optional 20 credits) This module examines contemporary armed conflicts stressing on the understanding of violence, culture of war, political and legal contexts. It aims to introduce conflict analysis and sensitivity and how those approaches may shape international humanitarian action. It also examines conflicts and responses to them through the perspectives of the actors involved in it: mostly local populations and the international community.

Shelter after Disaster (optional 20 credits) While few humanitarian organisations list post-disaster shelter reconstruction as one of their main activities, many often become instrumental in the delivery of large-scale shelter projects in the wake of a natural disaster. Yet, as evidenced by the recent Haiti earthquake and previous large disasters, such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake, shelter after disaster is complex. It spans the immediate relief needs of security and comfort, through a transitional stage, as well as permanent housing. It also looks at longer term developmental issues of land, funding, community engagement and political control. This module analyses the scale and complexity of these issues and examines shelter as an emerging discipline. The module uses case studies to illustrate different models of shelter programming and identifies the principles behind the implementation of a good shelter project. Emphasis is placed on both product and process: on product, the importance of engineering and good building to reduce vulnerability; and on process, the necessity for participation and a sense of ownership, always remembering that the affected families are the first responders and the most important partners. The module is highly participatory, using lectures, seminars, group work, simulations and case studies of practice. A practical building workshop will be included to show the importance of safe building techniques. The focus is on the importance of safe houses as a step towards immediate recovery and long-term reduction in vulnerability, placing people and community centre stage.

Programming and Partnerships (optional 10 credits) Emergency and development aid and assistance in the 21st century presents a diverse and complex landscape for new professionals to navigate. New actors are competing for space and resources with traditional aid agencies, and established principles and ways of working are increasingly under question. This module aims to equip students with a working understanding of the primary frameworks and approaches that aid organisations use to guide and structure emergency response and longer term development programs. With an emphasis on practical, 'real world' application, students will explore how aid programs are designed, implemented and evaluated; how access and resources are negotiated; and the challenges of leading a team in the field. Recognising the importance of partnerships to any effective aid program, at every stage students will be introduced to the range of relationships they will need to broker, develop and sustain if their programs are to be successful and impactful. Above all, however, this module will seek to develop the habits and behaviours of reflective practice: rejecting prescribed solutions and instead building the skills to listen, learn, adjust and adapt in the conditions of complexity and uncertainty typical of the contexts in which aid workers operate.

Improving Humanitarian Action: Responding to crisis in 21st Century (optional 10 credits) This module allows students to identify and critically analyse the key challenges facing international humanitarian action in the early 21st century; to consider the root causes of these challenges; to debate the degree to which the solutions that have been proposed for these challenges are desirable and realistic; and to suggest how they would address these challenges in the context of current humanitarian field operations. It will also consider how decisions are made in the humanitarian system; the role of evidence in establishing humanitarian policy and practice, and how, and by whom, changes in global humanitarian approaches might be effected.

Working with Conflict (optional 10 credits) Conflict, as distinct from violence, is an inevitable dimension of any work for change, including development, rights and emergency relief. It constitutes a potentially positive, as well as destructive dynamic, and practitioners need to have the awareness and skills to make the most of the opportunities it offers as well as the ability to manage the risks it poses. To be effective we need to be able to analyse, quickly and effectively, the situations we are working in, and have the wisdom and expertise to implement the full range of options available in such situations. This module focuses in turn on analysing conflict, developing strategy and methods of intervention.

Independent Study (optional 10 credits) Candidates with research experience or with substantial practice and field experience may select a predominantly research or practice-oriented route to the MA through the independent study. Students will be required to produce a proposal and agree this with their supervisor prior to commencing work. The independent study route could include literature reviews in preparation for dissertation work, reflecting on the outcomes and successes of already implemented projects, work in progress, unconventional piece of work or research on untaught topics.

Research Methods (optional 10 credits) Aims to advance your understanding of research, including both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Dissertation (50 credits) Gives you an opportunity to explore an aspect of development and emergency practice in an extended piece of self led study. The dissertation can be written or can be “unconventional”, for example a film, a play or a piece of creative art.

Information for international students

At least 6.5 in IELTS, with a minimum of 6.0 across all four components of the test.

Fees and funding

Please see https://www.brookes.ac.uk/studying-at-brookes/finance/

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months


part time
21 months
full time
9 months


part time
9 months
full time
3-9 months

Course contact details

Programme Administrator
+44 (0)1865 483230