Program Structure

photo of a Grassy-Narrows mercury poisoning protest at Queen's Park in Toronto. Photo by Kelly Pflug-Back

Grassy-Narrows protest in Toronto. Photo by Kelly Pflug-Back, 2016.

As a coherently structured step-by-step interdisciplinary program, with specifically devised course menus designed for a dedicated cohort of students, DVST is a uniquely focused, but flexible graduate program.

The program is structured as a five-term program combining course work, research and fieldwork.

Course work

image of a stylized graphic of a book as an iconDVST courses are interdisciplinary in orientation. Core courses have been specifically designed to provide students with a full range of conceptual and methodological tools to engage the current problematique of development as it confronts us in our globalizing world. DVST elective courses complement and expand on the core curriculum, covering the latest developments in the study of political economy, civil society, policy, refugee flows, and culture and development. Students may also select one elective course from other graduate programs with permission of the graduate program director. The number of required course credits varies depending on whether students choose the MRP or MRT option. See Degree Requirements for further information.


image of a stylized flask used as an iconA major goal of the program is to encourage students to use their own field research and hands-on experience in the Global South to reflect on the theories and ideas discussed in the classroom. Our program requires all students to conduct fieldwork and research on a particular aspect of the larger field of development studies during the summer months of the first year. This research, combined with the theoretical and methodological foundations built through course work and the student’s fieldwork experience, forms the basis for sustained reflection in the form of a Major Research Paper or a Thesis. Students are trained to develop a detailed research proposal for approval prior to departure to the field. Upon return from the field, they enroll in Critical Reflections on Field Work, a required core course that provides concrete opportunities for guidance and collective feedback as they prepare to analyze their data and to write their Major Research Papers or Theses.

Fieldwork and Internship/Work Placement

image of North and Central America on a circle used as an iconAs a degree requirement, students are expected to undertake fieldwork for a period of three to four months during the summer semester of the first year. As part of their fieldwork experience, students also complete an internship or volunteer position with a relevant organization (NGO, international development agency, civil society organization, government agency, university, etc.) concerned with issues close to the student’s research topic. While students are encouraged to identify a relevant organization/place on their own, all students will be required to receive formal approval in writing from the Graduate Program Director about their fieldwork plan. If necessary, students will be assisted in choosing the location of their fieldwork by the Graduate Program Director. Students must submit a fieldwork report upon their return from the field and arrange for their host organization to send an evaluation report to the program.

Students must leave for the field in mid-May of their first year and make concrete plans for their return to York before the beginning of the fall classes.

Please note: York University does not usually let students travel to countries with “Avoid travel” warnings as advised by Foreign Affairs Canada. To make the clearance of the ethics process easier, please try to avoid studying countries with this warning or be prepared to justify why you are travelling there.