Postgraduate study

Environmental Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Environmental Sustainability

In this programme, students are encouraged to think across different disciplines to blend scientific, socioeconomic and policy perspectives for a stronger understanding of sustainability and how it can be achieved. This wider perspective is attractive to organisations which promote sustainable development or seek to reduce humanity’s effect on the environment.

Ensuring the environmental sustainability of society is one of the major challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. How can the needs of the world’s growing population be met without threatening the ecological processes that support human wellbeing?

How can the economy and energy systems be restructured to combat climate change? What policies foster sustainability? How can the necessary changes in the behaviour of organisations and individuals be promoted? This MSc programme explores these and related, topical questions.

This programme is affiliated with the University's Global Environment & Society Academy.

This programme consists of six taught courses, studied over two semesters. Students will also undertake a research project leading to a dissertation of up to 15,000 words.

Compulsory courses typically will be:

  • Principles of Environmental Sustainability
  • Case Studies in Sustainable Development
  • Dissertation

Option courses: In consultation with the Programme Director, you will choose from a range of option courses. We particularly recommend:

  • Atmospheric Quality and Global Change
  • Climate Change and Corporate Strategy
  • Energy & Society 1: Key Themes and Issues
  • Foundations in Ecological Economics
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Change and Sustainability
  • Environmental Valuation
  • Development: Principles and Practices
  • Understanding Environment and Development
  • Energy Policy and Politics
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Forests and Environment
  • Participation in Policy and Planning
  • Political Ecology
  • Sustainability of Food Production
  • The Ecology of Ecosystem Services
  • Waste Reduction and Recycling
  • Water Resource Management

Courses are offered subject to timetabling and availability and are subject to change.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnvironmental Sustainability1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScEnvironmental Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScEnvironmental Sustainability3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

Students will be equipped to:

  • assess the sustainability of policies, programmes and projects at scales ranging from the local to the global
  • analyse environmental problems using knowledge from different disciplines, leading to well-founded and effective solutions
  • advocate sustainable development and engage in informed debate on current environmental controversies

This programme prepares students for a wide range of roles within environmental consultancy, national and local government, non-profit organisations, education or research. The choice of option courses and dissertation projects can be tailored towards your chosen career path.

Would you like to know what it’s really like to study at the School of GeoSciences?

Visit our student experience blog where you can find articles, advice, videos and ask current students your questions.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, social science or other relevant subject. Due to the focus of this programme, business-related degrees are, unfortunately, not suitable for entry.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections; the "Enabling Skills" sections are not considered)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*

(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fee deposit

If you receive an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, you will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500 to secure your place on the programme.

Any applicants who are required to pay will receive an offer with full details. (If there is no information on your offer about the deposit then you are not required to pay.)

  • If you receive an offer before 1 March, you must pay your deposit by 31 March.
  • If you receive an offer between 1 March and 30 June, you must pay your deposit within 28 days.
  • If you receive an offer on or after 1 July, you must pay your deposit within 14 days.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnvironmental Sustainability1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEnvironmental Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScEnvironmental Sustainability3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Deputy Programme Director & Admissions Contact, Dr Simon Allen
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 7215
  • Contact: simon.allen@ed.ac.uk
  • School of GeoSciences
  • Geography Building
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Deputy Programme Director & Admissions Contact, Dr Simon Allen
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 7215
  • Contact: simon.allen@ed.ac.uk
  • School of GeoSciences
  • Geography Building
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP