Programme info

What does the programme entail?

Programme content

The objective of the Master programme is to provide students with a solid understanding of the current global development context in all of its dimensions (worldwide markets for goods and services, capital and labour/migration, the planetary challenge of sustainable development in this era of environmental crisis/climate change). It also offers insights and tools with which to analyse and improve the impact of the global context on local development and poverty alleviation in the Global South and vice versa. As such due consideration is given to the complexity of local-global interactions in the multifaceted arenas of globalisation.

This Master offers only one track: 'Local Institutions and Poverty Reduction'. This track focuses on the analysis of the interaction between external and local actors at the interface of global, national and local arenas and development processes, in order to identify the changing opportunities for and constraints to beneficial institutional change for inclusive, sustainable development and poverty reduction.

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 (Globalisation and Development) and III (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.

All modules are attended by all students enrolled to this master.

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 applied involves a broad variety of teaching and evaluation methods.

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: Local Institutions and Poverty Reduction

This track focuses on the analysis of the interaction between external and domestic actors at the interface of global, national and local arenas and development processes, in order to identify the changing opportunities for and constraints to beneficial institutional change for inclusive, sustainable development and poverty reduction. In this context, special attention is paid to the way in which these interactions can produce inequality and poverty, as well as how they can promote well-being. Each student can focus on one or two policy challenges at the local-global interface and follow a tailor-made study trajectory (e.g. inclusive value chains and/or microfinance, the global financial architecture, international migration, impact of trade policies, access to land; governance of natural resources, the climate change challenge, promotion of gender justice…).

The programme is intended for participants who have work experience or an interest in pursuing careers in local, regional and/or national government institutions; at research institutes or universities; in (social or green) businesses, local NGOs, advocacy or entrepreneurial associations; or in international organisations (e.g. with international NGOs, bilateral and multilateral institutions) or multinational corporations. Candidates are actively involved in development or poverty-reduction initiatives, in micro-level or meso-level projects and programmes and/or in macro-level policymaking. Professionally, the candidates hold middle or upper management or policy (or policy research) positions; ideally, these also entail at least some experience at the interface between different policy levels (e.g. international to local, national to international) or between different arenas (e.g. civil society - government, government - international forums and institutions, INGOs - 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 jpart 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 bzasis. However, IOB does not accept the TOEFL ITP.
  • Language proficiency certificactes 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.