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The purpose of this module can summarised by the questions that students will be asked to think about and analyse in their study of this topic.

  • Has aid increased the rate of economic growth in the aid recipient countries?
  • Does aid change government policies?
  • Does aid have a detrimental effect on governments' accountibility to their citizens?
  • Do donor conditions have an effect on the quality of governance in recipient countries?
  • Does the aid industry distort the labour market in recipient countries and adversely affect government capacity?
  • Do donors need recipient governments more that governments need donors?
  • Does food aid adversely affect food production?
  • Does aid promote corruption?

Learning outcomes

The learning outcomes of this module are that you will be able to:

  • define what is meant by development assistance and its constituent parts and outline the main trends in development assistance
  • discuss some of the theory of economic growth and the role of development assistance in promoting economic growth and how successful it has been
  • describe what makes for successful and unsuccessful humanitarian assistance, including the relationship between immediate disaster relief and longer term reconstruction and development assistance
  • explain the evolution of development assistance policy in relation to poverty reduction and human development, including the definition and measurement of poverty
  • evaluate some of the evidence of the impact of development assistance on poverty reduction and social development
  • describe the main aid agencies and their ways of working, and the links between them and governments
  • analyse the main trends in the provision of ODA by the Development Administration Committee member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and from non-member countries
  • gauge the growth in the role of NGOs and private foundations in the provision of development assistance and the sources of their funding
  • discuss the resource allocation processes of the aid agencies
  • describe the technical assessment processes that agencies go through prior to allocating funds
  • distinguish between the different ways of distributing aid (projects, policy support, budget support)
  • assess the extent to which the Paris Accord, Accra Agenda for Action and Busan Statement have been implemented in practice.

Study materials

Study guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight units. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Virtual Learning Environment.


Riddell R (2007) Does Foreign Aid Really Work?. Oxford UK, Oxford University Press.


You will receive three volumes of readings containing a selection of key academic articles which supplement the module Study Guide.

Virtual learning environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed study centre. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Module overview

Unit 1 A Brief History of Development Assistance
  • 1.1 What is Development Assistance?
  • 1.2 Development Assistance: Main Trends
  • 1.3 A Brief History of Development Assistance
  • 1.4 Why Do Countries Give Development Assistance?
  • 1.5 Aid Allocation
  • 1.6 Conclusions
Unit 2 Development Assistance and Economic Development
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Development Assistance and Economic Development – Theory
  • 2.3 The Impact of Development Assistance
  • 2.4 The Impact of Different Modalities of Development Assistance
  • 2.5 Conclusions
Unit 3 Humanitarian Assistance
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Emergencies
  • 3.3 Is Humanitarian Aid Effective?
  • 3.4 Aid in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations
  • 3.5 Case Studies
  • 3.6 Conclusions
Unit 4 Making Poverty History
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Foreign Aid and Poverty: The Evolution of Development Policy
  • 4.3 Concepts and Measurement of Poverty
  • 4.4 Poverty and Development Assistance
  • 4.5 Evaluation of the Impact of Development Assistance on Poverty
  • 4.6 Conclusions
Unit 5 The Aid Agencies
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 National Aid Agencies
  • 5.3 Multinational, Government Based Agencies
  • 5.4 Private Foundations
  • 5.5 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
  • 5.6 The Multilateral Development Banks
  • 5.7 Managing Aid
  • 5.8 A Critique of the Operation of the Aid Agencies
  • 5.9 Conclusions
Unit 6 Funding and Resource Allocation
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 The Funding of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA)
  • 6.3 Non-DAC Bilateral Aid Donors
  • 6.4 NGO Funding
  • 6.5 Aid Volatility
  • 6.6 Assessing Eligibility
  • 6.7 Conclusions
Unit 7 Implementation: Aid Modalities, Conditionality and Aid Effectiveness
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Choice of 'Aid Modality'
  • 7.3 ODA, Governance and Reform
  • 7.4 Case Studies
  • 7.5 Conclusions
  • 7.6 Feedback on Case Studies
Unit 8 Reflections on Development Assistance
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Dead Aid?
  • 8.3 Give Money to the Poor?
  • 8.4 Schools of Thought
  • 8.5 Have Your Opinions Changed?
  • 8.6 Preparation for the Examination

Tuition and assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in September/October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.

Module sample

Click on the link below to download the module sample document in PDF.