Looking at grad schools in the UK? You may not have heard about this one

By Molly Anders 04 November 2016

Attendees of a lecture hosted by the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. Photo by: IDS UK / CC BY-NC-ND

When Grace Lyn Higdon, a project assistant at Oxfam from New Orleans, Louisiana, began researching grad schools, she was surprised to find little awareness among her American peers about options in the United Kingdom.

While she knew about the International Development Studies program at the University of Sussex through her work in the U.K. and overseas with development organizations, she told Devex she’s surprised word hasn’t really reached the other side of the pond. Despite IDS’ strong performance in rankings, U.S. friends and colleagues are more familiar with Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics for their development graduate programs, she said.

“I think it’s one of the most underrated programs out there,” she told Devex on the sidelines of the London Feedback Forum, a gathering of funders and social change practitioners from across Europe examining the use of systematic feedback, “but Americans especially don’t really seem to know about it.”

Higdon, who works with Oxfam to explore technology-enabled feedback loops that complement internal workflow systems for humanitarian response, said her studies have so far been “an incredible experience,” and and her colleagues at Oxfam appreciate the added value.

“At charities it’s really well-known and respected by the top-level executives,” she told Devex, explaining that even before starting the program, she knew it was well regarded by practitioners.

Currently on the “Participation, Power and Social Change” track, Higdon described the program as “avante-garde” and “progressive,” with a strong emphasis on discussion, international placement and student-led research.

“The discussion [seminars], which you know, you might not necessarily look forward to at other programs, I always look forward to the discussions more than anything else,” she said. The small class size, and diverse student body are a boon for the program, she said.

While IDS doesn’t offer regional specializations like the programs at more well-known School for Oriental Studies and Oxford University, Higdon said the seminar-style courses and diverse student body allowed her to “learn about contexts you might not otherwise formally study.”

Choosing to study development in the U.K. over the U.S. also typically means a shorter program — most schools require only one year for a master’s, with a two-year, part-time option for working students. The cost of studying is usually lower in the U.K. as well: IDS tuition costs 14,800 pounds per year, ($18,500), and LSE charges 19,344 pounds for overseas students, while programs at Georgetown University costs $49,332 per year for domestic students, according to their respective websites.

You know you need a postgraduate degree to advance in a global development career, but deciding on a program, degree and specialization can be overwhelming. Devex and our partners are digging into all things graduate school and global development in a weeklong series called Grad School Week. Join online events and read more advice on pursuing a postgraduate education here.

About the author

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Molly Andersmollyanders_dev

Molly is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in London, she covers U.K. foreign aid and trends in international development. She draws on her experience covering aid legislation and the USAID implementer community in Washington, D.C., as well as her time as a Fulbright Fellow and development practitioner in the Middle East to develop stories with insider analysis.


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