International Development Studies Program

Masters of International Development Studies

The MA in IDS is an interdisciplinary degree program accepting students from many disciplinary backgrounds. It was the first of its kind in Canada, and continues to be a leader in research and teaching in IDS. 

The Benefits of Doing an MA in IDS at Saint Mary’s  

  • The Program boasts a faculty engaged in real-world research on complex development problems, who publish widely and enjoy working with students. 
  • The Program’s modest size permits greater individual student attention and supervision.
  • We have linkages with international partners who visit as participants in a renowned Speakers Series
  • The inter-disciplinary nature of our program provides students with the opportunity to study and engage in research not only with core IDS Faculty, but with Faculty from a wide range of disciplines both inside and outside the program, who are members of our Programme Committee, or Adjuncts, or Program Associates.
  • You will be studying in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the Eastern seaboard, one of the most beautiful ports in Canada. Saint Mary’s is located in the heart of Halifax, Atlantic Canada's largest metropolitan centre, and benefits from its proximity to the region's four other universities, its colleges, provincial government offices, and its centres of arts and culture.

MA Program Requirements 

The MA Program in International Development Studies is a 16-month, 27-credit hour Program, with the option to complete a Thesis or a Major Research Paper (MRP). Each course is worth 3 credit hours. 


1) Required Courses – 12 credit hours (4 courses):

  • IDST 6601 - Dynamics of Development: Frameworks of Analysis I
  • IDST 6695 - Research Design
  • Oneof the following regional courses:
    • IDST 6661 - Southeast Asia: Contemporary Development Issues
    • IDST 6662 - Sub-Saharan Africa: Contemporary Development Issues
    • IDST 6663 - Latin America: Contemporary Development Issues
    • OR, any additional Special Topics Regional Course on offer in a particular year
  • One specialized graduate-level IDST course chosen from available courses on offer during the academic year in question. Options may include:
  • Conflict, Security, and Development; Education and Development I and/or Education and Development II; Environment and Development; Gender and Development; Global Food Sovereignty; Labour and Development; Urbanization and Development; etc.

2) Elective Courses: 

  • Thesis Option: requires an additional 9 credits hours of electives (3 courses)
  • Major Research Paper Option: requires an additional 12 credit hours of electives (4 courses)
  • Note: When necessary and with the approval of the supervisor, a student may take a specialization course at another university, through a letter of permission, for the successful continuation of a graduate student’s research. 
  • Note:With permission of the Graduate Program Coordinator, students planning to conduct fieldwork can enrol in IDST 6660: Field Research in Development (worth 3 credit hours). 


3) Master's Thesis or Major Research Paper (MRP):

  • Thesis Option: IDST 6690 - Master's Thesis Research - 6 credit hours
  • IDST 6690 requires a one-time enrollment during the first term of study. Enrollment will remain active until the successful defense of the thesis.
  • MRP Option: IDST 6691 - Major Research Paper - 3 credit hours
  • IDST 6691 requires a one-time enrollment during the first term of study. Enrollment will remain active until the successful completion of the MRP. 


MA Thesis: The Master's Thesis is developed through independent and original research, and consists of an in-depth exploration of a particular topic. It should demonstrate a comprehensive and well-rounded understanding of the relevant literature in the field, the development of a theoretically and methodologically rigorous framework of analysis, and should, where possible, make an original contribution to the field of analysis. Topics should be approved by thesis Supervisors, with research and writing carried out under the guidance of the Thesis Committee, consisting of a Supervisor and a Reader. Theses are publically defended and must satisfy the requirements of the Examination Committee, consisting of the Supervisor, the Reader, and an External Examiner. Theses should be approximately 85-100 pages in length and will be graded according to a Pass/Fail scale. 

Major Research Paper: The Major Research Paper consists of an extensive paper on an approved topic, allowing students to develop an in-depth examination and analysis of the relevant issues and considerations that shape the topic. MRPs should demonstrate theoretical rigor alongside an extensive engagement with the literature relevant to the topic. The MRP Committee will consist of a Supervisor and a Reader. MRPs should be approximately 50 pages in length and will be assigned a letter grade upon successful completion. 

Thesis/MRP Supervision: 

Students are assigned Supervisors upon admission to the MA Program.

*Please review the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research's Guiding Principles for Graduate Student Supervision for a detailed discussion on the role of graduate Supervisors and the student/Supervisor relationship

* In the event that a change of Supervisor is warranted, please review the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research's Policy on Changing Thesis Supervisors

4) FGSR 9000 - This non-class, administrative course keeps you continuously connected to the University’s Banner registration system. You must register for this course every semester until you defend your thesis or complete your MRP in order to stay active in the MA Program. 

Additional MA Program Information: 

  • Minimum time to completion: 16 months
  • Maximum time to completion: 4 years
  • Course descriptions can be found in the Graduate Academic Calendar

5) IDS Speaker Series: All graduate students in the IDS Program are required to participate in the IDS Program's Speakers Series, held on selected Fridays throughout the academic year from 12-1:30pm. The Speaker Series provides a forum for students to discuss central development issues with invited guests from academia, NGOs, multilateral agencies, NGOs, and the private sector, amongst others. 

For further information, see the Graduate Handbook 2018-19.

Apply to our Masters Program