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  • Semester 1Multi-mode
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  • Semester 1Online Scheduled



Unit rationale, description and aim

In seeking to improve the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, international development draws attention to global inequalities and seeks to rectify them. Yet, international development has also been critiqued for not just reproducing inequalities but also creating new ones. This unit provides an introduction to the multi-disciplinary field of development studies as a means to acquaint students with the key questions, concerns and debates shaping the field of international development. It introduces students to main ideas, theories and issues in development studies, with a particular emphasis on how they affect the lives of people in developing countries. The unit examines the historical evolution of development theories and approaches as well as the range of actors and institutions that make up the development community. Through a series of global case studies, students will explore a range of pressing development issues like poverty, gender, health and conflict, focusing on their consequences for the world’s most marginalised and vulnerable communities. Throughout, students will be encouraged to think critically about the development enterprise: what it is, how it can best be carried out and what it can achieve. The aim of this unit is to introduce students to the diversity and challenges of development theories, approaches and issues, which will be expanded on in subsequent units.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Describe the different kinds of development practice in NGOs, government aid organisations and the UN systemGC1, GC2, GC9, GC10
LO2Explain key theories, approaches and concepts in development studiesGC1, GC9
LO3Examine and appraise practical contributions in international development, particularly with regard to their impact on the lives of people in developing countriesGC2, GC4, GC5, GC7, GC8, GC11, GC12
LO4Apply theories and concepts of development to development issues and problems at an introductory levelGC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC11, GC12
LO5Investigate the historical, political, social and economic development of a developing country or region from an ethical perspectiveGC2, GC3, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC11, GC12


Topics will include: 

  • The historical evolution of the development project
  • Global inequalities between the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries
  • Theories, ideologies and strategies of development
  • European colonialism, decolonisation and the Cold War
  • Foreign aid and Australia’s aid policy
  • Neoliberalism and structural adjustment
  • Poverty
  • Gender and development
  • Health in the developing world
  • Good governance and poverty reduction strategies
  • Major development actors like the state, multilateral and bilateral organisations, civil society and NGOs
  • Indigenous and First Nations worldviews
  • The ethical responsibilities of a development practitioner

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit engages students in active learning activities, such as reading, writing, discussion and problem-solving to promote analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Lectures will be used to introduce theoretical concepts and illustrate practice. Readings and online resources, like video or podcasts, are made available on the online learning platform or in recommended texts. Ideas from lectures, readings and other resources are explored and discussed in tutorials. Students use case studies to explore how what they have learned applies to real-world situations.


This unit comprises 150 hours in total with a normal expectation of 36 hours of directed study and the total contact hours should not exceed 36 hours. Directed study might include lectures, tutorials, webinars, podcasts etc. The balance of the hours becomes private study and for assessment tasks.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy allows students to engage in a variety of tasks, each aligned with the learning outcomes. The Debates and Concepts Task allows students to develop their understanding of major debates in the field of international development studies. The Reflective Journal or Reading Responses allows students to reflect and appraise key issues in international development and think about development from an ethical perspective. The Major Essay allows students to develop, research and write an essay on an issue and part of the developing world that most interests them.

In order to pass this unit, you are required to you are required to achieve a final grade of 50% or better as an aggregate of all points from assessment tasks completed in this unit, and achieve the learning outcomes for the unit at a pass level. The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for you to demonstrate your achievement of each learning outcome.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Debates and Concepts Task

The purpose of this task to allow students to develop their understanding of the major debates in international development studies.


LO1, LO2, LO3

Reflective Journal or Reading Responses

The purpose of this task is for students to learn how to reflect and appraise key issues in development from an ethical perspective.


LO2, LO3

Major Essay

The purpose of this task is to help students develop their skills of researching a topic on an issue in the developing world.


LO3, LO4, LO5

Representative texts and references

Baud, I., Basile, E., Kontinen, T. & von Itter, S. (Eds.) 2018. Development Studies for the New Millennium. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bezner Kerr, R. & Luginaah, I. (Eds.) 2016. Geographies of Health and Development. London: Routledge.

Carroll, T. & Jarvis, D. (Eds.) 2016. Markets and Development: Civil Society, Citizens and the Politics of Neoliberalism. Oxon: Routledge.

Cohn, S. & Blumberg, R.L. (Eds.) 2019 Gender and Development: The Economic Basis of Women’s Power. London: Sage.

Kothari, U. (Ed.) 2016. A Radical History of Development Studies: Individuals, Institutions and Ideologies. London: Zed Books.  

Mac Ginty, R. & Williams, A. (2016) Conflict and Development. London: Routledge.

Mason, C.L. (ed.) 2018. Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies. Oxon: Routledge.

Potter, R., Binns, T. & Elliot, J.A. (Eds.) 2017. Geographies of Development: An Introduction to Development Studies. 4th ed., Routledge: London.

Veltmeyer, H. & Wise, R.D. (2018) Critical Development Studies: An Introduction. Practical Action Publishing.

Verschuur, C., Guerin, I. & Guetat-Bernard, H. (Eds.) 2019. Under Development: Gender. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan.

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