Monday, 23 April 2018

Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response

Hot Topics in Humanitarian Response


We are hosting a talk by Mark Lowcock, head of OCHA, 6.30pm Monday 30 April, in ALT (Paul Webley Wing)


Mark Lowcock is the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). He was the UK’s Permanent Secretary of DFID from 2011 to 2017. Mark has over thirty years professional experience in humanitarian and development work and will be sharing his insights and answering questions on the contemporary challenges of responding to humanitarian disasters.

All welcome!

Friday, 9 March 2018

Saferworld photo exhibition in SOAS

Saferworld have installed a photo exhibition in the Development Studies department corridor. It is a series of photographs that accompany some research they are doing in northern Kenya on the way that life has changed for people as the oil trade has affected the region.

The photos provide real insight into the conditions of the oil mining and the social and political context in which it is taking place; what is very apparent is the diversity of experience and interest among the people who are living in what has become a mining area.

A full set of the photos, and more details on the research, can be accessed through the link below.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Aid, authoritarianism and how it all plays out

Last week I went to Oxford to give a talk to the Oxford Central Africa forum. I was presenting a chapter that I wrote for Tobias Hagmann and Filip Reyntjens' 2016 book "Aid and Authoritarianism in Africa."
It was really fun to meet the DPhil students and others who came to the seminar, and to hear about their research. The issues surrounding aid and governance are played out in so many different ways, and surrounded by a host of different narratives. At the centre of the discussion is what aid is for and how it achieves its stated  aims. The observation of the editors of the book, and many of the contributors, is that aid is often used to shore up the power of authoritarian leaders who are able to impose an agenda that produces positive development indicators, and who violently suppress opposition to their continued power.
A side-line to the discussion concerned the scandal that is currently shaking Oxfam, as we were considering the role of public opinion in aid provision. It is interesting to reflect on how the actions of errant individuals within an organisation are judged - publicly - more harshly than organisational policy that has fortified abusive leaders, and that has completely failed populations in Syria and Yemen, to cite just two examples.

Oxford, always worth a visit :)

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Dept seminar with Benjamin Selwyn and Mark Duffield

What a night; it was fantastic to see the lecture theatre completely packed out. Ben Selwyn, a former PhD student in the department was presenting his new book "The struggle for development" with Mark Duffield and me as respondents.

We took three very different approaches to the discussion. Ben's book focuses on the relationship between capital and labour and the ways of envisaging a future in which the working classes escape their exploitation through radical democracy and participatory economics. Mark presented his work on precarity and the way in which the experiments being carried out on the Global South are foreshadowing the future for the Global North. I took the example of Congo and asked about how people who have been made redundant to a globalised market find ways of changing their lives and life opportunities, despite the constraints they face.

Photo by Jai Bhatia

Photo by Jai Bhatia

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Development and Conflict Summer School announced

News - our annual Development and Conflict Summer School has just been announced. This year it will be led by Joshua Rogers, who lectures on our core course and specialises in analysis of the conflict in Yemen. Full details of the summer school can be found here:

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Alumni panel

We had a great alumni panel last night with four former students from across the department presenting their experiences up to and after studying at SOAS. Their paths were very different: one working with a UK NGO, one writing a PhD, one working in micro-finance, and one in the humanitarian sphere. They all gave engaging accounts of how they have found their career paths and gave excellent advice on identifying organisations to work with, getting an entry point and negotiating into exciting and fulfilling posts.
It is impossible to summarise the advice given, but it was fantastically refreshing to see such enthusiasm and success. Key elements are persistence, patience and vision of where you want to go.
As convenor it is really heartening to see former students doing so well and working in organisations that use their VCD skills and do great work.

Molly Blackburn, Matt Juden, Graham Wrigley and David Jones

Friday, 2 February 2018

FAQs from prospective candidates

Frequently asked questions

I have been talking to a number of MSc VCD offer holders; here are some of the questions that come up, and some of my answers :)

  • Are there scholarships?

All scholarships can be found here:

Details of scholarships are released throughout the year, so it is worth checking from time to time.
  • Can I work at the same time as studying?

If your visa permits (or if you do not need a visa) you can work whilst studying. Many students take on a few hours of work a week; if you do this, you will need to organise it round your study schedule. If you need to work more you should study part time.
  • Is there preparation before the course?

There are a few books listed on the website that will orient you with the sorts of debates and perspectives of the course. It is also possible to sign up for your module choices once you have registered, and the earlier you do that, the higher the chance that you will get your first choice modules.
  • What is the time frame for dissertation?
The dissertation proposal is handed in at the end of January. Students are then allocated to a supervisor and work with them until the end of June. July and August are for independent research and writing, and the dissertation is due in early September.

  • Can I learn a language?

You can take a language as part of your MSc (as a module); you can take an evening class, which is not assessed for your MSc (and is charged separately); or you can take a language in term 2 as part of the Language Entitlement Programme.