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Global Challenges: Prosperity


Admission requirements

Required course(s):



Prosperity, as development, is a concept widely used across different spectrums of society. Over a period, the intention of development which previously focused on material wealth has now broadened in scope to include human development (UNDP, 1990), happiness (Layard, 2006), strengthening of institutions (Easterly, 2006) and sustainability (UNDP, 2020).

Traditionally, development has been considered necessary for the ‘other’ – the Global South and other communities (Escobar, 1995; Chari & Corbridge, 2008). However, if the growing climate emergency, the global pandemic, forced displacement and rise of inequalities across the globe can present a message, it is that development needs to be considered everywhere. A fundamental rethinking of development incorporating several dimensions has never been more urgent, timely and salient.

The objective of this course, Global Challenges: Prosperity, is to be able to critically examine different theoretical perspectives and possible alternatives to how we think and understand prosperity. Collectively, the course demonstrates that development challenges are becoming increasingly complex and multi-faceted and are to be found in the Global ‘North’ as much as the ‘South’. It draws attention to structural inequality and disadvantage alongside possibilities for positive change.

The course is broken up into three parts.

  • Part 1 (weeks 1 and 2) interrogates the‘state of the field’ by examining some of the
    ongoing debates around the contours of development. Here, we focus on conceptualizing Prosperity as sustainable human development and taking stock of what the state of the world is. We also discuss the history of development and theories that have dominated the field of development.

  • Part 2 (weeks 3, 4, 5, 6) delves into a selection of two main groups of prosperity challenges: A) Long standing challenges of poverty, sustainability, and power asymmetries both at the global and local levels, and B) Game changers in the quest for prosperity such as health, demography, migration, and innovation

  • Part 3 (week 7) focuses on ways forward on how to address complex challenges for a positive change. Here, we focus on the role of participatory approaches to development as well as the role of cooperation for cross-cutting developmental challenges.

Students are strongly encouraged to pursue critical engagement across disciplinary boundaries alongside a process of ‘unlearning’. We want our students to look beyond the traditional theories and models that have dominated thinking and practice in the field of international – and now global – development, namely prosperity.

Course Objectives

  • Define key concepts and understand scholarly debates and genealogiesaround concepts such as prosperity, global development; global health, poverty; inequality; inequity; and the drivers of these processes.

  • Assess how current trends and forces, such as globalization, demographic changes, and climate change are shaping contemporary development issues.

  • Draw parallels and distinctions on how development issues affect communications in the Global North and the Global South.

  • Derive their own definition of what the means and ends of “development” should be.

  • Appraise how prosperity ‘problems and ‘solutions’ are understood according to different conceptual approaches to development.

  • Develop writing and research skills such as crafting an argument, theoretically framing claims, and using scholarly works to provide evidence.

  • Reflect critically about one’s place and role in global developmentand social change efforts. This will also mean examining the social structures, conditions of power and privilege that influence development projects and possibilities for social change, including opportunities to examine one’s own positionality in these contexts.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures – discussion-based seminars

  • Panel discussions

  • Student led case study presentations

  • Video clips

  • Podcasts

  • Interview clips

Assessment Method

  • Pre-Discussion Leads (15%): Weekly

  • QQIM Scrapbook (40%): Weekly

  • Take Home Final Exam (45%): Week 8

Reading list

  • Sims, Kearrin, Nicola Banks, Susan Engel, Paul Hodge, Jonathan Makuwira, Naohiro Nakamura, Jonathan Rigg, Albert Salamanca, and Pichamon Yeophantong, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Global Development. Routledge, 2022. (Available in Leiden Library Open Access)

  • Amitav Ghosh (2021) The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a Planet in Crisis. The University of Chicago Press


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Jyothi Thrivikraman,
Dr. Davina Osei,