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Leaders with social ethics: How one King’s College London graduate is making waves in international development

While the field of international development falls shy of a clear definition, it is intrinsically connected to human development. Graduates of this sphere are the ones who inspire global efforts to beat poverty and all kinds of inequality, and also encourage worldwide improvements in areas such as health, education and sustainability.

For any aspiring student with a passion for making a difference, international development and all its accompanying pathways represent the ideal route into this rewarding field.

“I studied natural science as an undergraduate, and whilst doing that course, I got involved with the Labour Party, especially around issues of poverty and inequality,” said Mann Virdee, former student of the MSc in Emerging Economies and International Development at King’s College London.

“After I graduated, I wanted to focus on these issues in more detail, and felt that this particular masters… was really the best course to do that.”


Mann Virdee. Image courtesy of King’s College London.

Kings’ broad, non-specialised approach to understanding today’s global economic and political realities meant Mann’s scientific background did not affect his application. In fact, his undergraduate degree in natural science allowed him to draw on both theories and empirical analysis – skills that turned out to be incredibly useful in this particular line of work.

“Coming from a science background didn’t prevent me getting onto this course because I actually spent a lot of time outside my undergraduate degree focussing on politics, poverty and inequality, which prepared me for the topics on this course,” he said.

Mann’s studies encompassed a wide variety of data, including a nation’s gross domestic product or average per capita income, maternal survival and literacy rates, as well as things like life expectancy, human rights and political freedoms. Though similar, international development is not to be confused with humanitarian aid or disaster relief, which seek to provide short-term solutions to global emergencies – international development, on the other hand, strives for long-term, sustainable goals.

“During my undergraduate studies I got involved with international development issues through politics,” said Mann. “I found that poverty was political and this masters course has specialists in poverty and inequality… I became very interested in [these] issues… and a lot of the members of staff are also experts in this, and that was really one of the reasons that inspired me to choose this course.”


Image courtesy of King’s College London.

It’s always a wise choice to consider the reputation of faculty when deciding on a university, and Mann says that the quality of the teaching staff at King’s was a big draw when choosing this course. Andy Sumner, for example, a reader in international development of Co-Director of King’s International Development Institute, is a specialist in the fields of poverty theory and concepts, and the causes of global poverty.

On top of his career as an esteemed academic, Sumner also served as U.K. representative and Vice-President of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes between 2008-2014, and a council member of the Development Studies Association from 2000-2014. His knowledge and expertise in the field meant he was listed in Foreign Policy Magazine’s ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers’, and now serves as Deputy Editor of the Global Policy journal.

“King’s has an outstanding reputation and before I started the course I had a word with Peter Kingstone, who is one of the hiring directors of the Institute, and he told me about the staff they were hiring – because it was a new Institute – and really that they were hiring staff from all over the world. It was something that really appealed to me,” said Mann.

Upon completing his masters, Mann delved into the professional sphere with confidence and specialised expertise. Without his King’s experience, he believes he would have already missed out on a wealth of valuable work opportunities.

“Since I’ve graduated, I’ve produced a video where I interviewed Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and some Secretaries of State for international development and why it’s something that needs to be kept firmly at the top of the agenda, especially in a time of domestic austerity,” he said.

“For anybody considering doing a masters… I’d say that King’s is really one of the best places you can do it. Its location means that you’re best placed to be in touch with policy makers or NGOs and the academic standing of the people here at King’s is really second to none, it’s really quite amazing.”

Kings’ central London location is another perk for students of international development – not only are they studying at one of the U.K. capital’s most respected institutions, they are also positioned at the heart of one of Europe’s, and the world’s, humanitarian and political hubs.

“I think for somebody interested in development issues, a lot of NGOs are based in London, and it’s very easy to find networking events and events in parliament on global health and things like this. Really, London is the best place to be for a course like this,” said Mann.


Image courtesy of King’s College London.

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King’s College London is a world top 20 institution, ranked 19 in the most recent QS World University Rankings. The institution is internationally renowned for the high quality of its provisions, as well as for the global impact of a talented network of alumni. Looking ahead at a world that depends on being better connected, King’s has the advantage of offering disciplines that connect across different cultures, subjects, institutions and geographies. Not least of its advantages is its position in Central London, a truly international city with close connections to knowledge and influence that enrich university life in practical and inspiring ways.

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