Programme info

What does the programme entail?

Programme content

The Master in Development Evaluation and Management focuses on the efforts made, particularly by external (public and private) actors, to promote development.

It provides a solid understanding of the past and present aid policies of multilateral and bilateral donors, also addressing the major aid modalities and instruments deployed. The institutional characteristics of the actors involved - be they governments, community-based organisations, international NGOs, bilateral or multilateral donors - are analysed in order to attain a better understanding of processes and outcomes. The main theoretical perspective is that development can be understood as a set of interlocking collective action problems. The Master programme offers methodological and practical insights into development evaluation, its relevance and challenges.

The programme offers two tracks, each with specific objectives and course packages that are intended for a specific audience. The first track 'National Institutions, Poverty Reduction Strategies and Aid' is focused primarily on the macro (international and national) level, while the second track 'Local Institutions and Poverty Reduction' focuses mainly on the micro (local) level.

Programme structure

The Master’s programme comprises 12 months, starting and ending mid-September, and consists of four modules.

  • The first module (Theories of Development, Research Methods I and II) provides an overview of theories of development and gives students up-to-date knowledge of research methods and techniques, both general and programme-specific.
  • In modules II  (Evaluating Development effectiveness) and III ('National Institutions, Poverty Reduction Strategies and Aid' or 'Local Institutions and Poverty Reduction') research-driven interactive education is offered.
  • In module IV (Dissertation) each student conducts an individual development research project under the guidance of a supervisor. The topics covered relate to the thematic focus of modules II and III. A limited number of students receive IOB travel grants in order to conduct fieldwork or participate in an internship for their research project. The dissertation is the subject of a public presentation and defence.

Module I, module II and module IV are attended by all students while students choose their module III depending on their choice of track.

Teaching and Assessment Methods

IOB is development policy-oriented. Our research and education combine the latest social scientific insights with relevance to  the development challenge. Students are expected to learn from each other’s experiences as well as from their exposure to living and working in the North. All modules are taught by a team of lecturers, who actively work towards an optimal interaction with students. The focus lies on student-centred learning and the approach involves a broad variety of teaching and evaluation methods. These methods are well considered to make sure they match with the required competencies.

IOB Assessment Policy

Interuniversitary cooperation

IOB also participates in various inter-university partnerships with institutes in the South, such as the Universidad Centro-Americana (Managua, Nicaragua), the University of Cuenca (Ecuador), the University of Bukavu (DR Congo), the University of Western Cape (South Africa), the Mbarara University of Science and Technology - MUST (Uganda), the Université du Burundi, and the Mzumbe University (Tanzania).


Track 1: National Institutions, Poverty Reduction Strategies and Aid

This track focuses on the analysis of the interaction between national institutions, local politics and external actors. The basic question addressed concerns why development interventions are sometimes successful but more often fail. This leads to further, more operational questions such as: which lessons have been learned from the study of past failures and successes, and how convincing are current prescriptions and paradigms for development policy? The programme teaches students to use appropriate analytical frameworks and to apply relevant scientific methods in evaluating results and drawing policy conclusions. It introduces students to various kinds of evaluation, based on quantitative as well as qualitative techniques. This track is intended for participants who have work experience or who aspire to a career in government institutions (including public research institutions), donor agencies (including international NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donors), civil society (including research institutes, universities). Candidates work in the field of development intervention or poverty reduction initiatives, and they are oriented towards macro-level policy. Professionally, they are middle managers with policy responsibilities and/or responsibility for managing the interface between different policy levels (e.g. national to international, national to local) or between different arenas (e.g. government-donors, INGO-national NGO).

Track 2: Local Institutions and Poverty Reduction

This track conceptualises socio-political and economic development as the outcome of interactions between a conditioning institutional environment and the agency of local, national and international actors, including multilateral and bilateral, governmental and non-governmental aid actors. Special attention is paid to the importance of micro-level institutions and processes, as well as to how they condition the effectiveness of development efforts in improving livelihoods and neutralising processes of social exclusion. The detailed exploration of how local contexts transform processes involving the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development interventions is of crucial importance to recognising opportunities for resolving the poverty conundrum. This track is intended for participants who have work experience or who aspire to a career in civil society in the South (e.g. at research institutes or universities, or with local NGOs or entrepreneurial associations), donor agencies (including international NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donors) and government institutions. Candidates should be involved in development interventions or poverty reduction initiatives in micro-level or meso-level projects and programmes. Professionally, candidates are middle-managers with policy and/or managerial responsibilities at the interface between different policy levels (e.g. local to national, national to international) or between different arenas (e.g. civil society-government, government-donors, INGO-national NGO).

Are you eligible to start the programme?

Educational and professional background

  • Applicants must hold a Master degree in development studies or a related discipline, with good study results. Related disciplines are for example Economics, Economic Planning, Political Sciences, Administrative Sciences, International Relations, Public Administration, Sociology, Business Economics, Geography, Anthropology and Demography.
  • Applicants with a Bachelor degree of four years of study are not automatically excluded but need to demonstrate equivalence to a Master degree on the basis of the Bachelor's curriculum that includes several research-oriented courses, successful attendance of relevant additional academic courses/trainings and/or highly relevant professional experience.
  • Applicants with only a Bachelor’s degree of three years of study will not be admitted to the Advanced Master programmes. Several Bachelor’s degrees of three years are not equivalent to a Master degree. Certificates from continuing education courses (for example Postgraduate diploma's) are not equivalent to a Master degree.
  • Applicants who obtained their University degree under the European Bologna system (see, must hold a Master degree.


Applicants need to be proficient in English, the language of instruction for all our programmes:

  • If English is not your language of instruction at university level, a language proficiency certificate is required.
  • If English is your language of instruction at university level, a language proficiency certificate is not required, except when you obtained your university degree in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, the French-speaking part of Cameroon or in an Asian country (except India and the Philippines). In those cases, a language proficiency certificate is required. If, for reasons beyond your control, you were not able to take the language proficiency test, you may nevertheless be admitted to the Master programme provided you attend the intensive English language course (see below).

Accepted language proficiency scores:

  • TOEFL: minimum score of 79 for the internet-based test; The IOB accepts the TOEFL iBT home edition.
  • IELTS: minimum overall score of 6.5 and a minimum score of 6.0 on each component.
  • Alternative language proficiency certificates may be accepted on a case by case basis. However, IOB does not accept the TOEFL ITP.
  • Language proficiency certificates will be checked on their authenticity.

Intensive English language course

The intensive two-week English language course is organised prior to the start of the Master programme. In addition to bringing the student's English proficiency up to the required level, this course also offers an introduction to international development literature and practice.

This language course is accessible for students (1) who do not meet the English language admission criteria for direct admission (see above), but who obtained either a paper-based TOEFL score between 500 and 550 (or internet-based TOEFL score between 61 and 79) or an IELTS score between 5.5 and 6.0; (2) who, for reasons beyond their control, were not able to take a language proficiency test.

The course can be attended on a voluntary basis if permission is granted by IOB.

The course is offered free of charge.

Research in your programme

The master programme has a modular structure. Each module connects to one of the research lines at IOB. This allows for close interaction and synergy between the ongoing research by IOB staff, their policy-oriented work and education. Students are familiarized with state of the art research on the topics under review as well as lecturers’ policy-oriented research. They become familiar with the key actors in the development arena and their perspectives on development issues.
At IOB, students learn from the staff’s research but in addition improve their own research-related skills and attitudes. In the first module the students practice academic reading & writing skills, with special attention to referencing. Students are taught to find and use the most relevant data sources and to interpret these materials correctly. Additionally, all students  attend courses on quantitative and qualitative research methods and get acquainted to the debate between both approaches. The research methods are practiced through hands-on training sessions.  At several stages students are required to write papers. They receive feedback on both content and academic writing style. The papers are presented in front of an audience of professors and fellow students in a conference-like format. Presentation skills are practiced and evaluated at various times throughout the programme. In the classroom, there is room for debate and students are required to actively participate. They must be able to critically reflect on what they have learned.
Finally, the modular structure, offering many subunits, allows students to define their own personal learning path – thereby selecting courses and paper topics close to their research interest. This ends up in the writing of a master’s dissertation. The  student is expected to solely, though under close supervision of the promoter, conduct research and write a dissertation. The quality of the dissertation can be gauged by the scientific rigour with which the research has been undertaken, its relevance in addressing real-life policy issues and the political feasibility of the recommendations made. IOB students can choose to conduct fieldwork or to do an internship abroad. IOB offers the possibility to apply for a grant.

Practice in your programme

The student population at IOB is somewhat special as most of the students already have professional experience before they start their master programme at IOB. This makes for a unique wealth of experiences of development actors from different sectors (government, donors, civil society, academia, …) from over thirty different countries. Student evaluations show that students learn a lot from the exchange with other students’ professional experiences. Group work and joint exercises are often geared toward tapping into the wealth of that variety of professional experiences and thereby facilitating learning about other sectors, other perspectives, other countries’ good practices or mistakes in certain areas.
As part of their dissertation project students are provided the opportunity to do an internship with a key development actor ( e.g. bilateral or multi-lateral donor agency, …) or through field work get some first-hand experience with data collection & analysis, consequently getting a feel of what academic research is all about.
IOB highly values policy oriented  research and as such IOB staff frequently engage in policy advisory work. In the past, research has been carried out for, amongst others, the Belgian Directorate General for Development Co-operation (DGD), Belgian Technical Co-operation (BTC), the European Commission, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), as well as countless non-governmental organisations. The insights that such staff exposure provides is a major source of inspiration for the teaching programmes.
Finally, students themselves meet with a number of key actors from the professional field, either via external lecturers or through class visits (e.g. OECD DAC (Paris), World Bank, …). In certain modules, simulation games are used to get a better understanding of the actual professional roles that actors in the development arena play, what incentives drive them, and how different sectors & cultures use different strategies.