Poverty Reduction: Policy and Practice (MSc, PG Dip and PG Cert)


Gain a prestigious MSc in Poverty Reduction: Policy and Practice by distance learning

Poverty reduction is a key focus of the Millennium Development Goals and is at the heart of international, national and NGO development objectives and activities. Recent achievements in poverty reduction have varied widely across and within countries, regions, and social groups.

This programme focuses on rural areas which, despite growing urbanisation, continue to be home to the majority of the world’s poorest people. It examines the complex nature of poverty, its causes, and processes of poverty reduction.

A key feature of the programme is a unique partnership with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This has led to the involvement of key professionals from specialist CGIAR institutes in the design and development of the programme and of specific modules within it. These modules thus take advantage both of relevant professional expertise from specialist CGIAR institutes and of wider development and distance learning expertise of the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), SOAS and the University of London.

Programme aims

The purpose of this programme is to enable students to acquire and build multi-disciplinary
knowledge which integrates scientific, technological and economic insights and skills to enable them to analyse and address the poverty reduction challenges of this millennium. The programme will give students the opportunity to develop:

  • a critical, inter-disciplinary, integrative and global perspective on poverty reduction issues
  • a theoretical approach to intellectual enquiry of poverty reduction issues, which nevertheless emphasises the integration of theory and practice
  • broad understanding of ideas and approaches for managing organisations within their cultural, political, technological, social, and institutional contexts, to solve problems related to poverty reduction.

Programme summary

  You study Study period Cost (2015)
MSc 9 modules 2-5 years £9,225
Diploma 8 modules 2-5 years £8,200
Certificate 4 modules 1-5 years £4,100
Individual Professional Awards (IPA) Individual modules are ideal if you're keen to update your professional knowledge, enhance your career or sample the programme. Students who subsequently register for either the MSc or Postgraduate Diploma will be credited with any individual modules completed successfully. For 2015, the fee per module is £1,025. For further information on Individual Professional Awards, please see the CeDEP website.

Career progression

As with all CeDEP programmes, the Poverty Reduction programme is designed to assist both existing development professionals and people moving into the field of international development. For the former, the programme offers a chance to upgrade and update their expertise, and to reflect systematically and in depth on their accumulated experience in the light of up-to-date theory and literature. It is anticipated that most graduates of this programme will find work in:

  • government ministries and other public sector organisations concerned with policy analysis and implementation for poverty reduction
  • international and non-governmental organisations concerned with issues of poverty reduction
  • consultancies and development projects involved in activities promoting poverty reduction.

Particular opportunities may be related to choice of the specialisms in natural resources management, agricultural and rural development, or development management.


MSc and Postgraduate Diploma students may choose elective modules within a particular specialism. Choosing a specialism creates the opportunity for a clear focus in your studies, whereby you can develop understanding and skills relevant to specific professional interests. The name of the specialism will appear on the certificate awarded.

Comprehensive study materials and support

For each module we send you detailed study guides, textbooks and supplementary study materials which may include computer software. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format, but may also be printed if required. Tutorial support is via an online learning environment and the study forum. This allows for a range of contacts and peer-learning possibilities that will help to enrich the distance learning experience.

Your time commitment

You can begin your studies for any of the CeDEP qualifications in either February or June. The examinations for all students are in October. The study periods are 30 weeks for students starting in February and 15 weeks for those starting in June. For the 30-week study period, you will need to allocate 5-6 hours of study time per module, per week. For students starting their studies in June with the shorter 15-week session, 10-12 hours per module, per week, is recommended. 

Summary of key dates

Application deadline 7 November 2014 April 2015 (date TBC)
Registration deadline 28 November 2014 April 2015 (date TBC)
Programme starts February 2015 June 2015
Examinations take place October 2015 October 2015



Structure and Syllabus

MSc: 9 modules (3 core, 4 elective* plus 2 research)
PG Dip: 8 modules (3 core plus 5 elective* or 4 core plus 4 elective*)
PG Cert: 4 modules (at least 3 core plus up to 1** elective)

The core module, Understanding poverty, is compulory for all students. 

If you are taking a Masters degree or a Postgraduate Diploma you choose elective modules within a particular specialism. This creates the opportunity for a clear focus in your studies, whereby you can develop understanding and skills relevant to specific professional interests. The name of the specialism will appear on the certificate awarded.

* choose at least 3 electives from one specialism, plus 1 free choice from all specialisms

** 1 free choice from all specialisms

Core modules

Climate change and development

Provides a multi-disciplinary understanding of climate change processes and of their direct and indirect interactions with development. It describes the main climate change processes, scenarios and vulnerabilities, and international and national policy responses. Different sectors’ contributions and sensitivities to climate change (and to mitigation and adaptation responses) are identified, with their implications for policies and outcomes for different economies and for people’s livelihoods within them.

Economics and institutions for development

Examines the economic behaviour of people and firms, and interactions between these, institutions and national economies in development processes. It introduces development concepts and standard economic models and their relation with each other. The module explores the roles of institutions in economic exchange and resource allocation, and their contribution (or hindrance) to more efficient and equitable resource allocation and to development.

Managing knowledge and communication for development

Proven knowledge correctly applied can enhance poor people’s capabilities to participate in their own development and make choices about their lives. This module equips students to distinguish between different understandings of knowledge, evaluate alternative technologies for communication, and consider the implications for development policies and practice in the field of knowledge management and development.

Understanding poverty

Introduces concepts and definitions of poverty. It explores trends in poverty (especially rural poverty) across and within continents, along with debates about the causes of these trends, and introduces the national and international policy architecture for poverty reduction.

Elective modules

Development management
Rural development

Introduces rural development, looking at its history, key challenges, role in poverty reduction, the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, rural services (government and market roles in provision of infrastructure, finance, agricultural research and extension, and health and education) and natural resources (notably land and water policies).

Gender and social development

Examines gender and social development from both an analytical and a practical perspective. It describes tools and frameworks for analysing social and gender relations, and the relationship between academic and policy work in this field. Current thinking relating to the practice of social development and to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is explored.

Management in rural development

Considers the management and organisation of interventions to promote rural development. The course examines the scope and demands of rural development management, dimensions of rural development, the relevance of management theories of organisations and management, and the changing roles of the state, the private sector and civil society in rural development.

NGO management

Covers NGO growth trends, strategic planning, structures, systems, and management challenges. It explores these in relation to accountability, transparency, performance, monitoring and evaluation, and organisational learning.

Project planning and management

Considers the planning and management of public and private investment in the rural sector in the context of sectoral and national level programme support. Concepts of project identification, preparation, appraisal, and monitoring and evaluation are explored. Methods such as logical framework, financial and economic cost benefit analysis, and social and environmental assessment are presented.

Rural finance

Considers the importance of savings, insurance, credit and money transmission to poor rural households. It examines why these services are often either unavailable or available only on highly disadvantageous terms to such households, despite huge advances in microfinance in recent years. It then explores options for enhancing provision of rural financial services in poor economies.

Elective modules

Food and agricultural policy
Agricultural trade and policy

Introduces neo-classical trade theory and examines trade theory as it applies to a range of interventions in trade, in particular, agricultural trade. The course also introduces standard agricultural policy analysis tools, a review of current issues affecting international trade in agriculture, and analysis of the major environmental influences on trade and policy.

Food security and social protection

Considers in a unified manner two highly topical policy areas that too often are treated in isolation: food security and social protection. The basic conceptual approach centres on the livelihoods of poor individuals and households and their management of risk and shocks. Policies to help households manage risk and accumulate assets are critically evaluated and particular attention is paid to how greater complementarity can be achieved across policies for agricultural development and social protection.

Marketing for small agribusinesses

Markets are a key component of development. This module analyses the marketing challenges for micro- and small enterprises within a broad range of natural resource product and service sectors, focusing on how markets function, marketing management, and policy measures to support small firms and business services.

Political economy of public policy

This module takes a comparative political economy approach to explain important differences in the way that politics and policy making interact in different economies and societies. Insights are applied to agricultural policies across a range of developed and developing countries, shedding light on the question of why observed policies so often diverge from the optimal policies that theory would recommend.

Socioeconomics of rural livelihoods

Analyses the decisions facing poor rural people in managing their activities and resources. The module examines the circumstances and objectives of peasants and socio-economic theories that describe their livelihood strategies, and policy implications arising from this analysis.

Elective modules

Natural resource management
Environmental science and management

Provides an overview of the Earth system and its main subsystems and processes. It focuses on the science underlying the most prominent global environmental issues. Major approaches to, and principles of, environmental management are also examined.

International environmental law

Covers the principles and rules of international law which have as their primary objective the protection of the environment. It addresses how the international community has recognised and sought to deal with the interdependence of the global environment through regional and international agreements.

Natural resource economics

Examines a number of economic models of natural resource allocation and demonstrates their application to policy making and natural resource management to provide useful insights to both policy makers and managers. The second part of the module considers the economic dimensions of sustainable economic growth and development.

Sustainable land management

Covers the physical and biological processes essential to understanding soil science and processes of land degradation. It explores the causes of land degradation and measures for mitigation and conservation in a range of agro-climatic zones. Emphasis is placed on the interaction of physical, economic, social, political and institutional factors in determining land management practices.

Water resources management

Explains the key themes, concepts, and tools associated with water management. The module covers determinants of availability and scarcity, assessment and management from basin to user, economics and governance, the management and sustainability of irrigated agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, and environmental, social and political dimensions of water use.

Research modules (MSc only)

Research methods

Begins with a discussion of the nature and role of research and then seeks to provide a foundation of basic skills in research. The course covers sampling, data collection methods, basic statistical tests, an introduction to SPSS®, and procedures for qualitative data analysis.


The dissertation involves desk-based and/or field-based research. The report is assessed by submission of a research proposal (10%) and a 10,000 word written report (90% of final module mark). Students are individually assigned a research supervisor for support and advice. All research topics are subject to approval by the Senior Teaching Fellow.

*Choose at least 3 electives from one specialism, plus 1 free choice from all specialisms.

Individual Professional Awards
Modules can be taken as Individual Professional Awards (IPA) for professional development or as a taster of the full degree, diploma or certificate programme. To apply, please fill in the IPA application form available on the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (SOAS) website.

Study materials

How you study

Study is through distance and flexible learning.

The study year commences in February and modules are examined in October.

The study time required for each module is, on average, 5-6 hours per week over a period of 30 weeks (plus 4 weeks for revision). Some students may find that the study time required is longer than indicated, especially at the beginning, until they become more familiar with the subject matter and the mode of study.

Study materials

Once registered, you will be sent a comprehensive study package for each of your chosen modules. This includes:

  • A detailed study guide. Composed of ten units, this incorporates exercises, assignments and other activities into the study text, which will take you through your programme of self-directed study. Most module study guides are now provided in electronic format.
  • An indicative study calendar. This will assist you in planning your study, as well as highlighting deadlines such as those for Tutor Marked Assignments.
  • Books and other published materials. Generally textbooks, these are acquired on your behalf and should provide background as well as key extracts necessary for study of the module.
  • Integrated volumes of key readings. These are drawn from a wide range of sources and are provided as required readings. Information is also supplied regarding sources of further reading as well as weblinks, for students to look into should they so wish.
  • Supplementary study materials. These are included where appropriate, and include items
    such as computer software.

Library access

You will be issued with an Athens password to gain access to the University of London’s online library resources.

Study support

There are numerous opportunities for receiving support from tutors and CeDEP staff throughout the study year. Communication is increasingly carried out via email and the CeDEP's tailor-made Online Learning Environment (OLE).

It is now easier than ever for students to contact tutors and their peers electronically to gain help and support. Tutors are allocated to each module and are available to answer queries, promote discussion and offer feedback during the study year (February to October).

CeDEP tutors also provide a monthly update, to summarise activity on the OLE, answer any
frequently asked questions and draw attention to topical events which relate to their module. These are posted on the OLE and also emailed to all students to ensure they reach those with poor internet connectivity.

The Online Learning Environment (OLE)

The OLE provides you with the opportunity to extend your studies by discussing both academic and non-academic issues with tutors and fellow students through the Internet.

The OLE provides easy access to study resources, as well as to fast and efficient academic and administrative support. It also enables you to be part of a learning community in a way in which distance learners have seldom been accustomed in the past.

The OLE includes a number of learning support features:

  • student-student and student-tutor interaction
  • links to relevant resources
  • course-specific discussion rooms where you can debate and find solutions to queries about your course
  • assignment submission and tutor feedback area
  • administrative and technical help areas
  • electronic course documentation to download and print
  • notice boards where you will be informed of any important events, deadlines and new resources
  • student café where you can meet and talk to your fellow students socially
  • point of contact with the Study Director.


Fees may be paid in one of two ways:

Either, pay the total fee on registration by making a single payment for all module fees;

Or, if you prefer to spread out your payments, pay the fee for each module you want to take in the first year, and then in subsequent years pay the fee for each new module you take.

Fees are subject to annual review. The 2015 fees take effect from 1 October 2014. 

Fee per module (for Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and MSc)£ 1,025
Total Postgraduate Certificate (4 modules)£ 4,100
Total Postgraduate Diploma (8 modules)£ 8,200
Total MSc (9 modules)£ 9,225
Fee per individual module (IPA scheme*)£ 1,025
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Disclaimer: the currency conversion tool is provided to you for convenience only and does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the University of London; the exchange rates are provided dynamically via a third-party source, consequently, the University of London International Programmes is not responsible for their accuracy.

Other costs

In addition to the fees payable to the University, you should also budget for:

  • The fee charged to your local examination centre to cover its costs; this fee will vary.
  • Customs duties/taxes where these are payable on educational materials, including educational USB stick/CDs.
    • We recommend that you check the status of imported educational materials with your country’s customs authorities.


The University reserves the right to amend previously announced fees, if necessary. For a full list fees that may be applicable, please see the fee schedule.

*Individual Professional Awards: Individual modules may be studied for professional updating or to sample distance learning before undertaking a postgraduate qualification. Successful IPA students are eligible to register for the MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.



Each module, with the exception of Research Component of the MSc, will be examined by a two-hour unseen written paper and an Examined Assignment, worth 80% and 20% of the module mark respectively.

The Research Component of the MSc is composed of two modules, Research Methods and the Dissertation. The Research Methods module is examined by two Examined Assignments each worth 50% of the module mark. The Dissertation module is assessed by submission of a 10,000-word written research report


Academic Requirements

MSc degree

A good degree in an appropriate discipline acceptable to the University.

Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate

A degree or a technical or professional qualification and experience considered appropriate and relevant by the University.

Individual modules

Applicants may hold the qualifications specified above for entry to the Postgraduate Diploma/Certificate or to the MSc degree. Alternatively, if they do not hold such qualifications, the University may still consider the application but will require evidence of the student's ability to undertake an advanced course of study.


English language

For all applicants a high level of English language ability in reading, writing and study skills is required, equivalent to a score of 7.0 in the IELTS test, or 7 in both reading and writing; or a score of 600+ in the TOEFL paper-based test of English, with at least 5.0 in the test of written English; and in the TOEFL internet-based test, you will need  a score of 100+, with 25+ in the written English test. Applicants may be asked to provide evidence of language ability as tested by the British Council or another registered body.

Computing requirements

Access to use of a computer is considered a requirement of studying with CeDEP*. The degree of access necessary can vary with the type of qualification being taken and the study modules involved. However, computer access for email communication with the CeDEP team, tutors and supervisors is essential.

Those studying for an MSc must be able to spend sufficient study time using a computer if they are to effectively complete the research methods module. This module is compulsory and requires the use of computer-based statistical software.

You should have access to a PC with the following capabilities:

  • Internet connection and an up-to-date web browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari.
  • CD/DVD drive.
  • Access to email.
  • Software that can read Word and PDF files.
  • Sufficient capacity for downloading and use of any required software.
  • Access to a printer, if you choose to print your study materials.

*Prospective students are requested to contact us if the prerequisites for computer and printer access are likely to cause difficulties.


CeDEP - Academic leadership

The Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP) is a centre within the Department of Financial and Management Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). CeDEP aims to increase professional understanding of development, the environment, and related subjects by advanced research and by high quality postgraduate degree programmes.

A merging of the former Imperial College Distance Learning Programme at Wye with Public Policy and Management at CeFiMS (SOAS), CeDEP is now one of the largest international postgraduate distance learning programmes in the field. It currently has over 300 students working in a range of government, business and other organisations spread over more than 100 countries. Most of these students are professionals already working in their field of study, seeking to deepen and broaden their understanding and skills to open up new opportunities and make them more effective in their careers.

The diversity within the student community and the networking facilitated by the programme provides a wonderful opportunity to learn from and share experiences with peers in many different countries. For further information please visit the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy website.

Academic leaders

CeDEP - Staff

The academic directors each have individual research interests and collaborations and manage the courses. They are responsible for the academic quality of the course materials as well as being involved in course development, teaching and examining.

With extensive international experience in research and postgraduate education, academic directors are supported by subject specialist tutors in offering six degree pathways created from over 30 course modules. For further information on the academic and administrative team, please visit the CeDEP website.