Aid and Poverty: the Political Economy of International Development Assistance (906N1)

15 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Spring teaching

International development assistance (aid) has been a feature of the relations between rich and poor nations since the Second World War. Despite strong growth in many aid recipient countries and graduation of many middle income countries from some types of aid, such assistance remains a significant resource for encouraging growth and the reduction of poverty.

Climate change and other global public goods are increasingly important as a priority for aid flows. The political economy of aid has become more polarised as global security concerns and global trade reform influence the purposes and practice of aid. There are many critics, and anthropological, economic and political science analyses question the dominant aid paradigm.

Budget stringency in many traditional donors may radically affect public support and willingness to provide aid. But the recent past has also seen rapid growth in South-South co-operation and in flows of philanthropic assistance, especially from North America. For many poor economies international development assistance is a very significant part of public expenditure.

You’ll take a critical look at:

  • the operation of international development assistance
  • the changing international architecture of aid.

The module provides a historically grounded assessment of international development assistance and its potential to reduce poverty through detailed treatment of the arguments for and against aid. There's a strong focus on the new aid architecture as well as the special circumstances of fragile states and the role of aid. Questions you’ll explore include:

  • Who decides what resources are given or lent, to which countries and under what conditions?
  • What types of aid are effective?
  • How does aid affect relationships?
  • Is aid inherently a second-best solution?
  • Will the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) radically shake up the whole international co-operation paradigm?
  • What are the post-emergency priorities in countries suffering from the effects of man-made or natural disasters and how can international aid work best in such conditions?


100%: Lecture


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 18 hours of contact time and about 132 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.