United Kingdom: Distance learning: Wellbeing and Human Development

Country or Region: 
United Kingdom
Level of instruction: 
Language of instruction: 

Continual Professional Development on-line course

This unit is offered to:

• Professionals who work in the area of development and poverty reduction, in both developed and developing country contexts.
• PhD students who are conducting research in the area of wellbeing and human development.

This unit is offered involves:

• 5 hours of reading and guided study every week from 4th October-3rd December 2010.
• 2,500 word final essay to be submitted by 15th January 2011.

The unit:

• Commences on 4th October 2010 and ends on 15th January 2011;
• Provides 6 credits towards Certificate (30 credits), Diploma (60 credits) or MSc (90 credits) degree;
• Is taken residentially by the students in the MSc in Wellbeing and Human Development
• Cost: £550


• A relevant university degree and/or relevant professional experience
• A good level of English (especially in listening, reading and writing skills)
• A good internet connection and webcam (all material will be posted on the e-learning interface Moodle)

Learning outcomes:

By the end of the unit, students should be able to:
• Understand the different conceptualizations of human development and wellbeing and their history.
• Critically evaluate these concepts in relation to different social science disciplinary perspectives.
• Show a critical awareness of how concepts of wellbeing are understood in different cultural contexts and influence public policy.
• Synthesise and compare information from different disciplines and frame original arguments.

Unit convenor: Dr Séverine Deneulin


Sample unit outline

Week 1: Why study wellbeing in development studies: This session introduces the unit and its rationale within the field of development studies. It explores course participants’ motivations for taking the MSc in Wellbeing and Human Development or the distance learning course.

Study guide Week 1

Week 2: Wellbeing in policy discourses: This session introduces the significance of wellbeing in public policy and international development, and discusses how the quest for improving people’s lives has become the aim of public policy in democratic contexts. It considers some of the different ways in which political discourses use the concept of wellbeing, and identifies the key elements of these discourses as they relate to academic study.

Study guide Week 2

Week 3: Wellbeing in development: A historical overview: Wellbeing has not only been understood differently across space but also across time. Improving people’s lives has been at the core of development policy. Yet, what is understood as ‘better lives’ has changed. This session reviews how the aim of development has shifted in the last decades, along with different understandings of wellbeing and of the means to achieve it.

Week 4: Subjective wellbeing: This session examines what is called ‘subjective wellbeing’. It introduces notions of ‘happiness’ and ‘life satisfaction’, and considers some contributions from the psychology literature. The session concludes with a discussion of the contribution of the subjective wellbeing literature to development policy.

Week 5: Objective wellbeing: This session reviews what are conventionally called ‘objective’ conceptions of wellbeing. Most of them emerged as a critique of ‘subjective’ approaches to wellbeing. We concentrate on two major objective conceptions of wellbeing found in the literature: basic human needs and the capability approach. We conclude by a critical examination of the subjective/objective distinction.

Week 6: Agency and culture: Agency is a core component of people’s wellbeing. This session considers the relationship between people’s abilities to act and the structures of society in which they live. It specifically examines culture as a meaning-giving structure to what people do and are, and also touches upon religion which is deeply intertwined with culture and acts as another important source of meaning in people’s lives.

Week 7: Securing wellbeing and human development: Wellbeing is a dynamic concept that can only be understood over time and in relation to others. The nature of a country’s welfare regime is one of the key determinants influencing people’s wellbeing. This session explores the importance of social policy for securing people’s wellbeing. It also analyzes the role of economic growth in human development.

Week 8: Measuring wellbeing and human development: Public policy heavily relies on measurement for evaluation and targeting. Yet, given the debate about what wellbeing consists of, measures have been a contested matter. This session discusses the various controversies and challenges surrounding the measurement of wellbeing and human development.

Week 9: Responsibility and wellbeing for all: Because people’s wellbeing is interconnected, the wellbeing and lifestyles of the Western world have a significant impact on people’s wellbeing in other parts of the world. This session discusses the policy implications of the interconnection of people’s wellbeing.

Method of instruction:

Supported by:
University of Bath

Support to:

Support for:

Dr Séverine Deneulin
Contact information: 
http://www.bath.ac.uk/sps/staff/ http://www.bath.ac.uk/soc-pol/postgraduate/cpd/concepts-measurement-policy.html