SUM4026 – What Works? Success Stories in International Development

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Course content

Poverty and inequality appear as resilient as ever and human development – understood as development that prioritises human well-being and aims at enlarging opportunities, freedoms and choices – continues to proceed slowly. However, efforts by a wide range of actors to promote development and reduce poverty have in recent times yielded numerous positive results. Thus, we have been witness to improvements in agricultural production, life expectancy and literacy together with a reduction in child mortality and the incidence of infectious disease in many parts of the world. The course will focus on selected stories, cases and events that can be considered to be “successes” in that they have improved the wellbeing of the poor and/or contributed towards overall societal development by a fair distribution of available resources. This interdisciplinary course will be based on empirical research undertaken by the lecturers in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. For further details, please see attached lecture schedule and proposed syllabus.

Learning outcome

Students will:
• Learn how to better understand what works, how and why in relation to global and national development programmes and anti-poverty interventions
• Obtain a nuanced understanding of how development is understood and measured, including the methodological challenges involved
• Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to successful development strategies
• Identify, differentiate and analyse the impact of conventional and participatory approaches to development and poverty reduction
• Critically examine the impact of specific development programmes and projects at reducing poverty

Students will be able to:
• Critically read and evaluate existing studies on development-related topics
• Apply theoretical approaches to analyse specific cases of poverty reduction at international, national and local levels
• Undertake comparative studies of successful development in differing contexts
• Illustrate some of the major successes and failures of public policy
• Organise and differentiate between major development interventions and their impact at international, national and local levels

Students will:
• Acquire and further strengthen their ability to undertake critical, independent and thorough analyses of complex issues and questions
• Enhance their ability to critically evaluate empirical research
• Strengthen their overall ability to understand interdisciplinary theory and practice


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

No obligatory prerequisites beyond the minimum requirements for entrance to higher education in Norway.


2015: The course will this semester be given in combination with a Massive open online course (MOOC) that will be launched in the beginning of 2015. The teaching will mainly consist of online lectures that the students can watch together at SUM, or anywhere they want. Course leader Dan Banik will be present at the introduction-, mid-way- and final lecture/seminar, and all students are expected to attend these three meetings.

2013 and 2014:

10 lectures will be given, in addition to 2 meetings where students will present their work in groups.
The lectures will be held intensively over a period of 5-6 weeks, with the exam in the sixth or seventh week.
This course will be taught at the University of Oslo.
The course is part of the regular course offerings at the Centre for Development and the Environment.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


2015: Three hour written school exam

2013 and 2014: Participants will be evaluated on the basis of two components (portefolio): (1) one essay (15 pages in length, including list of references), and (2) a 3-hour written exam. In order to receive a passing grade on the essay, the topic will have to reflect the course readings and curriculum. All chosen topics should be approved by the course instructor before the deadline. Assignments or essays submitted may be checked for plagiarism.  
Students will receive one overall grade for the course including essay and school exam (3 hours).
The Centre for Development and the Environment is responsible for the exam.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course


The course will not be given spring 2016

Teaching language