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  • MPhil in Development Practice

MPhil in Development Practice

Programme Description

Keeping in tune with Ambedkar University, Delhi’s (AUD) vision of setting up interdisciplinary and practice orientated domains/fields of enquiry and engagement, AUD in collaboration with PRADAN, a leading development sector agent, launched the M Phil programme in Development Practice (duration: 2 years; credits: 64; seats: 20) in August, 2012. In-house AUD Faculty, Visiting Faculty, and Field Guides from PRADAN have been working collaboratively to train the first batch of M Phil students, both within the university setting and also during their field immersion in rural development practice. The plan is to offer to the country and to the developmental sector a cohort of 20 trained developmental professionals every year.


Going by the State of the World Population 2007 Report (United Nations, New York), even by 2030, at least 60 per cent of the population in India is likely to continue to live in rural settings. However, there is little societal focus on the issues faced by the rural poor. After 60 years of independence, there remains a huge deficit in the availability of quality human resources to work in the villages, along with communities. The extant practice of development has failed to address the lived experiences and the livelihoods-health-education-governance issues of a large segment of the Indian rural poor since independence.

This does not mean that developmental initiatives of the State and the non-State sector has not made any change in the lives of the rural poor; but such changes, fostered by primarily mainstream notions of development, have not been sustained, deep-rooted and participatory, especially when it comes to poverty alleviation, cultural and political empowerment, and self-determination. This requires new thinking about development (beyond mere critique), that is grounded in everyday rural realities, lack of basic services and inability to influence larger societal processes as also thinking that incorporates local traditions of sharing and collectivity. The MPhil in Development Practice is the first programme of its kind, based on these premises; it is helping evolve a professional identity for the grassroots worker and is expected to act as a model for the country and the development sector.


The idea driving the MPhil in Development Practice is that a new kind of training – in rural development and transformational skills – is required to fulfill India’s bottom-up version of the developmental dream, that is in turn seeking to link ‘transformation of self’ with larger goals of social justice and collective transformation.

The programme is based on a learner-centered and immersion-based pedagogy. The structure of the field and course work allows for reflection-based learning, so that the learner can draw on real life experiences to understand and engage with key conceptual ideas as well as ‘grounded-theory’.

The programme will also strengthen action research skills, particularly in relation to developing appropriate methodologies, both participatory and practice-oriented, for answering critical questions arising from and arising in the field.

The programme provides the conceptual, methodological, and emotional skills for a unique progression from understanding the rural context and problematizing the developmental issues therein to engaging with processes of change and transformation.


The core aims of setting up of the discipline of Development Practice are bridging the inherited divide between theory and practice, natural and social science, self-perspective and group-perspective, individual research and collaborative research. This is also a movement towards a repositioning of the social sciences (as also humanities) – repositioning it in terms of its direct conversation with society and not just the market). It is also a movement towards ‘problem solving’ modes of research and knowledge production that is tuned to the needs of the contemporary social.

The MPhil in Development Practice has two broad objectives –

  • To
  1. Institutionalize in a University-setting the professionalizing of development practice (as socially meaningful)
  2. De-institutionalize the current imagination of the University (academic, urban, elite) through its partnership with a grassroots level development agent of change (PRADAN) and take it to the rural sector, i.e., to make University work relevant to rural roots.
  • To build ‘capacities’ in terms of developing and increasing the pool of quality human resource in the development sector.

The MPhil programme in Development Practice revolves around a five-fold agenda

  • Develop a critical-analytical-reflective relation with the mainstream discourse of development (not to criticize or discard, but to re-form).
  • Engender a kind of self-transformation; engender perhaps a ‘non-coercive reorganization of desire’.
  • Learn to relate with groups and learn to work in community contexts.
  • Develop a framework for Action Research in collaboration with the rural community.
  • Learn to impact institutions (family, rural community, self-help groups, State, panchayats, gram sabhas, etc.)



The MPhil programme strengthens research skills, particularly in relation to developing appropriate methodologies, both participatory and action-oriented, for answering critical questions arising from the field. It is envisaged that dissertations would involve reflective exercises applying analytical tools to understand the implications of specific development interventions in which the learner may have been involved themselves.


Immersion II was envisioned as having two purposes – to have a sound understanding of groups and group processes, and to deepen one’s nascent action research question. However, the deepening of the Action Research question is not something one does alone. To put it telegraphically: it is not done in the ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ mode. One is expected to do it in the ‘we’/‘us’ mode. The idea is to deepen the Action Research project in collaboration with the community/group one is working with. The idea is to also see what the community/group ‘need’ is and relate ‘my need to know’ with the ‘community/group need to transform’; thus bring the two needs to a productive dialogue and a dialectic; reach a middle ground/path. The community thus has ownership over the research that is being conducted in its village. It is involved in our research. The community also wishes to build on our research and develop/design a frame of action/change/transformation.



A practitioner working in rural settings with the ‘poor’ faces continuous challenges and dilemmas in relation to her/his own role and positionality vis-à-vis the community. It is not easy to work long-term in rural areas; given the primarily urban or semi-urban upbringing of most university students, it requires a higher level of psychic resilience. The programme would therefore address important personal conflicts and self-doubts that may arise out of one’s rural location by enabling the learner to be self-reflexive and in touch with one’s own emotions, which in turns enables a kind of sensitivity to be in tune with the needs and feelings of rural Others. Interactions based on feelings of mutual respect, and willingness to listen and learn, can potentially transform the lives of both, the practitioner and the community.


Programme Structure

SEMESTER WISE COURSE LINE-UP (Credits per course in parenthesis)

IMMERSION (at Kesla, MP) Pre-Course Immersion and Orientation The Experience of Development (2) Integrated Natural Resource Management (2) Courses at Kesla   Rural Livelihoods (2)  
CORE INTERDISCIPLINARY COURSES Understanding the Rural (4) Gender and Development ( 2) Politics, Resistance, Change (2)
Experiencing the Self – Relating with Self and Others (4) Equality, Discrimination, Marginalization, and Development ( 2) Intervention, Inclusion, Collective Action (2)
Philosophy of Development Practice: In the Context of Developing Societies (4) Environment, Natural Resources, and Development ( 2) Reflections on Justice (2)
Discourses on Well-Being (2)
RESEARCH METHODS Introduction to Research Methods (2) Listening, Learning, and Communication (2) Participatory Research and Grassroots Engagement Methodology (2) Project Management (2)
SEMINARS/ WORKSHOPS   Special Lecture Series The Development Practitioner
IMMERSION Preparatory Village Stay Immersion II – Village Study and Stay;10 weeks (2) Immersion III – Developing Competencies; 10 weeks (2) Pilot Study for Action Research: Village Stay; Immersion III: Action Research; 20 weeks (12)
REFLECTIVE PRACTICE Group Processes I – (1) Group Processes II (2) Rural through Art, Literature, and Film (4)   Group Processes III (1)  

*Deems to change, keep checking the website for updates.


 Masters with 55% (with 5% relaxation to SC/ST/PD) in the Social Sciences, Humanities and Natural Sciences or professional degrees like law, engineering, agriculture and medicine. Admissions would be based on results of Selection Process comprising of Written Test, Group Discussion and Personal Interview.


Fee Structure

Fee Structure:

As per AUD norms.

Stipend and Scholarships:

(Stipend will be paid Rs.12000/- per month for 22 months + Rs. 33000 as annual contingency).


Admission Procedure

Online application submission usually begins in the month of May. Entrance tests usually take place in 1st or 2nd week of July.

Entrance test include:

  • Written test
  • Group discussion
  • Interview


Admission Updates


Online Application Form