Programme info

What does the programme entail?

Programme content

The future of sustainable development is critically related to the promotion of better governance at the local, national, regional and international level. Both a cause and a consequence of governance failures, violent conflict is incompatible with sustainable development. Processes of state formation, state failure and state reconstruction play a central role in this nexus between development, governance and conflict. The study programme analyses governance problems and possible responses with due consideration of the specific historical pathways of individual countries, as well as the interaction between dynamics at the national/state level and the local/society level. It also addresses the impact of global developments.
The Master’s programme in Governance and Development offers two tracks, each with specific objectives, courses and target audiences. The first track 'From violent conflict to peace and state reconstruction' explores issues of governance and development against the background of violent conflict and the challenge of post-conflict state reconstruction. The second track 'Local institutions and poverty reduction' addresses governance and development challenges from the perspective of local institutions 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 (Governance and Development) and III ('From Violent Conflict to Peace and State Reconstruction' 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 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).

Two tracks

Track 1: From violent conflict to peace and state reconstruction

This track focuses on the actors and factors involved in the governance dimensions of development within the contexts of conflict-prone environments and states that are facing a multitude of reconstruction challenges following violent conflict. The track offers theoretical and contextualised insight into the political economy of governance and development, focusing on the state as a central actor in the development process of a nation. The track also explores critical dimensions, drivers and dynamics of violent conflict, processes of peace and conflict resolution and post-conflict state reconstruction. It adopts a thematic perspective, supplemented by in-depth case studies drawn mainly from Sub- Saharan Africa. Students receive analytical and policy-oriented tools for carrying out knowledge-based interventions, particularly in environments affected by conflict.

This track is intended for participants with a variety of disciplinary backgrounds who are professionally active or aspire to careers in conflict-prone environments or post-conflict situations or who are interested in policy-oriented research on these topics. Participants should have work experience or academic interest in the public action domain, whether within government institutions (including public research institutions), donor agencies (including international nongovernmental organisations, bilateral and multilateral donors) or civil society (including advocacy groups, research institutes and universities).

Track 2: Local institutions and poverty reduction

This track focuses on the interaction between transnational, national and local actors in governance processes. The partial autonomy of local decision-making levels is an integral part of countries that are characterised by weak or fragile national-level state structures. It therefore requires careful scrutiny in the conceptualisation and assessment of development initiatives. Decentralisation has also become an important part of the agenda for governance reform and democratisation in many countries. For this reason, it is hardly possible to discuss issues of public-service provision and property rights without due consideration for local-level institutions and political dynamics. Special attention is also paid to the dynamics of poverty and the politics of poverty reduction.

The track is intended for participants who are professionally active or interested in research on the interface between the transnational, national and local level and/or between state and non-state development actors. Students should have work experience, academic interest or aspire to a career in the public action domain, whether within government institutions (including public research institutions), donor agencies (including international NGOs, bilateral and multilateral donors) or civil society (including research institutes, universities).

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 Phillipines).

Accepted lanugage 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), bu 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, courses on quantitative and qualitative research methods are offered during the first module to get acquainted to the debate between both approaches. The research methods are practiced through hands-on 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 feasibility of the recommendations made. IOB students can choose to conduct fieldwork abroad. IOB offers the possibility to apply for a grant.

Practice in your programme

The student population at IOB is somewhat special as some 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 field work to 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 Development Cooperation, Enabel, the European Commission, the World Bank, the United Nations, 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.