Student Info

Dear all,

These are exciting times at ComDev!

As the spring application window for ComDev programs and courses opens from 15 March – 15 April we have great educational opportunities lined up for you!

First, the second round to apply to our flagship two-year part-time MA in Communication for Development is now open!
You can find all the details on the ‘1-year MA’ page.

This will be the first time that we will evaluate application letters for students starting the autumn course and based on our initial experiences for the spring course we strongly encourage you to submit a letter and strengthen your application!

Second, as you may have heard through the ComDev grapevine, it is now possible to apply for courses that will qualify for a 2-year, 120ECTS MA in Communication for Development! If you already completed our 60ECTS MA program this is an exciting opportunity to return to ComDev for a full-time year of practice- and reflective learning!

Third, our free-standing Communication for Development: Advances in Social Action, Planning and Evaluation course will also be available in the autumn semester!
Now formally part of the 2-year MA course package the third Advances course will attract a diverse group of ComDev alumni, new students and professionals from the global development industry-your ideal gateway to return to C4D and get to know (or continue) the ComDev experience!

All of our courses are 50% full-time courses taught in our online blended learning ‘glocal classroom’ that we have pioneered, improved and enhanced for more than 15 years!

You can also read what graduates from the course have said about ComDev.

Please note that applications have to be made through Sweden’s central university admissions website and that we only evaluate the letters of intent and not other parts of your application. University admission should always be your first point of contact regarding application matters.
However, our colleagues at Malmö University admissions (admissions(at) and our course coordinator Åsa Ulemark can be contacted for technical questions regarding your application as well – and you can also get in touch with the ComDev team at comdev(at) – just allow a few days for replying individually during this busy period of the semester.

We are looking forward to your applications and welcoming you to Malmö in September!

Tobias Denskus & the ComDev team

ComDev’s Tobias Denskus will be part of a Guardian Live Chat on Thursday afternoon (26 February); as this is a chat without video or audio, we will add a little interactivity from our side and broadcast the Q&A with additional comments; if you are a ComDev student or alumni you can join us on Live Lecture as well!

How can NGOs and the media work better together?

Development organisations and journalists need each other to do their best work in developing countries. How can they help rather than hinder each other?

Mainstream media is still the major route for NGOs to raise awareness of their causes. How can press officers and journalists work better together so they have a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship rather than an antagonistic one?

Do NGOs need to stop focusing on their professional reputation and instead let the work they do speak for itself? Do journalists need to be more willing to delve deeper into stories to give their readers more context and understanding of the world’s problems?

Join a panel of communications specialists and journalists to answer these questions and more on Thursday 26 February, 1-3pm (GMT)

As the ComDev autumn term was coming to an end, I had a discussion with a student about development work, career paths and the changing organizational landscape of the global aid industry. But it was actually on my bike ride home that I started to think more about my encounters with one particular, and often criticized, type of them: Large, traditional, bureaucratic organizations. I am talking UN system and international organizations, well-known INGOs or traditional bilateral donor agencies and national ministries. I have encountered them for almost twenty years. As early as a pre-university internship, throughout my research and professional work in the past 10-14 years and, even though it is not a development organization per se, through my academic employment at a Swedish university with more than 1,600 staff members. In the current climate of ‘Do-It-Yourself aid’, (social) entrepreneurial discourses, a start-up- and ‘maker’-culture, new philanthropic endeavors and something-or-other featuring ‘disruption’ it is easy to smirk at those dinosaurs, their bureaucratic procedures and organizational cultures that still block access to facebook and require approval by 2 managers to post a Tweet.
But when I thought about it further I came to realize that there are actually a few important aspects that those large organizations can teach us and that are worth experiencing first hand at some point in your career. Hence, I am arguing that as tempting as ‘field experience’ sounds for the next summer internship, or as enjoyable as your freelance career is at the moment it is worth engaging with one of the large tankers of the industry before dissing the white Land Cruiser culture, non-digital expense forms and global meetings where strategy documents are discussed by the sentence.

1. Large organizations can teach you valuable people skills
I do not mean skills like ‘sucking up to the boss’ or ‘circumventing protocol to finally get some work done around here’-only a few Michael Scotts (from The (U.S.) Office) work in large aid organizations. I mean genuine skills and skills that most of us would consider quite relevant for development: Empathy, listening skills, participatory approaches or working with sometimes stubborn bureaucrats. Our work and writing focuses a lot on ‘the action’, the field and helping others and administration is reduced to ‘overheads’ that any small organization wants to keep to a minimum because 99 cent of every dollar are supposed to go to program work…in reality, many days in the office are filled with small encounters where you can learn and apply good development skills, learn about compromise, persistence and power. That is why you chose to work in development and not in finance and that is why some colleagues put their family/children (or sometimes pets) before work. Learning to be a good citizen in this environment is actually not much different from being one in a refugee camp in Darfur or running a workshop in rural India.

2. Large organizations are more self-critical than you think
…they just don’t like to talk about it in public.

As development work has been absorbed by trade and foreign affairs departments in Australia, Canada or Denmark and US leadership at the World Bank is debated more openly than ever, large development organizations are aware that they operate in a changing global political environment. And it is a paradoxical environment-one that still believes that France and the UK are world powers in the sense of ‘permanent members of the UN Security Council’ and one that sees ‘development’ as a waste of resources in a globalized world where consumer capitalism is supposed to lift more people out of ‘poverty’ than any development program. Organizations change slowly-as does most of the rest of the world outside the innovation hubs in San Francisco, New York or Nairobi.
On an individual level, in many smaller teams and innovative country offices (see below) such changes are discussed, of course. As with most work places and organizational environments in the 21st century, the number of ‘lazy’ people who went into ‘internal emigration’ (I love the German ‘innere Emigration’) when Ronald Reagan was elected is shrinking; most global civil servants and bureaucrats are aware that their job may not disappear, but that their professional lives may become more uncomfortable if they do not put in a minimum amount of communication and ‘PR’. I believe that we will see more of these deliberations and debates in semi-public arenas in the future as large organizations become more transparent and approachable.

3. Large organizations have smaller filter bubbles
I am sure some will disagree. And yes, there are still broad mission statements in place and ‘corporate communication’ people who push a unified, sometimes apolitical message (see above) to the ‘members of the public’ and other stakeholders. But large organizations have eyes and ears in many places (which sounds a bit creepy in the our age of surveillance…) and they do have some diversity-staff affiliated to a previous government or leadership team and in international organizations diversity in backgrounds, nationality etc. This is a different culture from the Invisible Children approach to development or more generally when a small organization or company feels compelled to reinvent the wheel-often with a charismatic leader at the top who thinks that good intentions and a good idea are enough.
In the end, every organization has filter bubbles, but large organizations have at least more than one-they need to be attuned to the political machinery in the capital city/cities, but they also need to keep an eye on ‘the taxpayer’ or developments on the ground. As with my previous point, I hope that large organizations will become more transparent and willing to pinch some of these bubbles. The recent Save The Children discussion is an interesting example where global staff protested against the award for Tony Blair and ‘corporate communication’ pushed for a unified message.

4. Large organizations treat development as a ‘job’
Why is the colleague from HR never at her/his desk after 4.15p.m and why do travel reimbursements seem to take forever? Maybe these are actually signs of a healthy organization. Development is an industry, we often discuss health and well-being of aid workers and on numerous occasions we are reminded that humanitarian and aid work is for professionals, not a hobby for do-gooders. Large organizations often offer a work-live balance, benefits and the good feeling that if your project comes to an end in 6 months time you will probably be assigned to a new one without re-applying and re-locating.
In that sense large organizations are reminders of the long-term, complex nature of ‘development’. As I wrote in my first point, large organizations are often reminders of our values that are supposed to drive the sector-and that includes a colleague working from home looking after a sick child and emails not answered on Saturdays. Such an environment may not work for everybody for an entire career-but it’s worth experiencing it to make more informed decisions how and where you want to be placed in the industry.

5. Large organizations innovate and preserve at the same time
I already drafted one of my next book reviews, Martin Barber’s Blinded By Humanity. I do not want to go into detail here, but among other things the book is an important reminder how the UN system has worked on standards, treaties, binding documents and coordination of humanitarian affairs-and yes, this actually sounds a bit boring. But it is a reminder that this is part of what large organizations do-and it is not just ‘paper pushing’ for the sake or creating a new coordination secretariat. New research on ‘organizational progeny’ in international politics also shows the role and power of international organizations and senior staff to shape global governance in both innovative and preservative ways. We are not talking about development saints here, but skilled professionals who make sure that innovation does not automatically turn into disruption and that preservation is not necessarily just to cement the status quo.
Luckily, there is no Uber for humanitarian law or the coordination of millions worth of aid (and some critics will probably say that there should be one…).
Large organization have some historical and long-term memory and many wheels have already been invented in development so careful innovation probably trumps quick disruption in many areas.

So what’s the ‘tl:dr summary’ of this post?
Look beyond bureaucratic stereotypes when engaging with large development organizations; these organizations can offer a lot of insights into the development system, are often better at ‘practicing what they preach’ and can teach you skills and views that are still essential in a ‘digital’ world; do join one at some point in your life and career!

How to make the most of your ComDev MA studies

by Tobias Denskus January 5, 2015 ComDev

A few days ago, the smart people at TechChange featured an interesting end-of-the-year post: ‘How to Make Online Learning a Career-Boosting Habit’. This inspired me to think about some of the similarities and differences between various forms of online learning. As ComDev is about to start a new term with a fresh cohort of students […]

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Welcome to ComDev

by Oscar Hemer June 29, 2012 Comdev News

The ComDev Master programme welcomes a batch of new students to the Media, Globalization and Development course, starting in September. See the Course Start Timeline to the right of this post for instructions on how to get registered! Newcomers on the ComDev programme and second year students on the Öresund Master of European Studies will […]

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ComDev student Vanessa Vertiz interviewed for Malmö University web

by Anders Hög Hansen May 3, 2012 Comdev News

Communication for Development student Vanessa Vertiz was interviewed for the Malmö University’s web (in English) after the fine evaluation of the ComDev programme. We are of course thankful for the great students that help us to have reached the good results so far. Greetings, the ComDev Staff. ‘ Link to article with interview:

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Apply for a SPIDER Grant!

by Oscar Hemer April 13, 2012 Student Info

Malmö University is a member of SPIDER (The Swedish Program for ICT in Developing Regions) and we have the privilege to offer travel grants to Master level students for doing field work (Degree Project) in developing countries. You can apply for a grant from 15.000 to 25.000 SEK (ca 1.600 to 2.700 €). The project […]

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Opportunity for ComDev students to study local media in South Africa

by February 17, 2012 ComDev Jobs

The Eastern Cape Communication Forum (ECCF) in partnership with Walter Sisulu University (WSU) offers the opportunity for a student to conduct media related research in the Eastern Cape. ECCF is a registered non-profit organisation (NPO) which aims at strengthening and professionalising local independent media in the Eastern Cape, primarily grassroots newspapers and radio stations, to […]

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Apply now for a Minor Field Study grant!

by February 6, 2012 Comdev News

This year Malmö University was awarded 29 Minor Field Studies scholarships to distribute among students for doing field work in connection with their thesis (final degree project). This means that students from the Communication for Development program can also apply for a grant provided they comply with the general eligibility criteria. The Minor Field Studies […]

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A Warm Welcome from the ComDev Team

by Hugo Boothby August 30, 2011 ComDev11

If you are a new student beginning your studies with Communication for Development in the autumn then you will be getting to know these characters much much better . We are all really looking forward to welcoming you to the ComDev programme and what we hope will be an exciting journey for us all. Here […]

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