The challenge of development is becoming increasingly difficult to address. At a time when the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the 2020 Paris climate accord call for long‐term strategic planning to address our most pressing social and environmental crises, we are confronted by enduring and deepening forms of socioeconomic inequality, climate change denial, persistent conflict, mass displacement and widening democratic deficit. New forms of poverty are emerging through the very processes that have brought prosperity; at the same time, the reconfiguration of the global development landscape through enhanced South−South cooperation (SSC) presents both opportunities and obstacles for poverty alleviation.
Such complexity of change within the international development arena is paralleled by equally dramatic shifts within the higher education sector. Over recent decades, student numbers have exploded to exceed 150 million globally, and are projected to reach 250 million by 2020 (Altbach, 2015: 4, cited in Engel andReeves, 2018). The massification of university programmes has seen classroom numbers rise dramatically, while the growing neoliberalisation and corporatisation of higher education has produced increasingly casualised, competitive and precarious workplaces where enhanced efficiency and resource pressures limit educator efforts to provide quality training and knowledge transfer (Jakimow, 2015: 43). In the new ‘results-driven’ university of increased metric auditing and managerialism, many forms of political engagement and activism are no longer valued as serious scholarship (SIGJ2 Writing Collective,2012). Many academics have come to perceive teaching as an inhibitor of the ‘more important’ tasks of publishing and securing research grants(Castreeet al.,2008), and–as space for critical thinking continues to be squeezed out by ‘industry relevant’ curriculum–there is growing con-cern that higher education is no longer preparing students to meet society’s needs(Arvanitakis and Hornsby, 2016).
As both the global development sector and global higher education sector are transformed in ways we have not previously experienced, there is a pressing need to think anew about development studies pedagogy. What, for example, are the key challenges that future development practitioners are likely to encounter, and how can we best equip students to successfully meet these challenges? What social, cultural, conceptual and ethical competencies will be required for future development practitioners working within an increasingly multipolar and multi-actor global aid landscape? How can educators best encourage students to think critically about the implicit power relations that inform knowledge production, including their own positionality and performativity within development hierarchies? What sort of industry or policy sector partnerships are most valuable in teaching development, and how can such partnerships be cultivated? And how can development educators better contribute to the decolonisation of the development studies paradigm? Each of these questions, and others, are explored within the eight papers that makeup this Special Issue.1