Postgraduate study

Energy, Society and Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

The world is facing an ‘energy trilemma’. How do we achieve energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability?

Often invisible and intangible, energy drives the availability and affordability of all material resources. It is thus key to human development and the heart of any sustainable debate. With the challenges of global climate change, the world is seeking a fast but fair transition to a low carbon society.

The MSC in Energy, Society and Sustainability equips you with an understanding of low carbon technologies, policies and markets with a focus on the analysis of the social, societal, and environmental dimensions of energy transitions.

Through the programme, you can explore the scope and risks, costs and benefits of energy transitions in the face of wider societal processes such as demographics, economic trends and shifting political landscapes.

You will examine how citizens are involved in, and are affected by changes in energy systems. You will be able to relate supply-side issues to geo-politics and political economy. Energy demand will be studied in relation to the broader challenges of sustainable consumption, inequalities in access to basic energy services and the spatio-temporal distribution of social and environmental impacts of the energy supply chain. You will also gain the practical skills to explore the potential of ‘smart’ information and communications technology (ICT) to affect consumption and inform sustainable living.

Scotland is a world leader in renewable electricity generation, but is also economically dependent on declining North Sea oil and gas, with high levels of energy poverty. Field trips and guest speakers provide you with unique opportunities to apply theory to practice. This MSc programme is delivered within the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) an award-winning contemporary study space that brings together experts in law, business, technology and policy making.

You will benefit from our close access to a high number of insightful case studies, which examine links between global and local issues, explore international best practices and identify pathways to more sustainable energy management.

This MSc attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating unique opportunities for interdisciplinary peer-to-peer learning. Students with a natural science background can seek to understand more about the social factors associated with a transition to a lower carbon economy, whilst social science students can expand their skills and knowledge for a career in low carbon energy.

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Visit our student blog, where our students share their experiences of postgraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

This MSc programme is comprised of:

  • 4 Compulsory courses
  • 3 or 4 Option courses
  • Dissertation
  • Field trip

Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice. Places on optional courses can be restricted on the basis of numbers, room capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses*.

*(Revised 11 December 2019 to include information on optional courses.)

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking. Courses can be delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, practicals, short field trips and longer field courses.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education whilst continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

The programme aims for students to develop transdisciplinary skills in the assessment of the transition potential of energy systems towards greater sustainability, focussing especially on the human dimension of technological change and working and experimenting with energy users to co-produce knowledge about pathways to change.

Upon successful completion of the programme, students will have gained:

  • Understanding of energy systems and the energy trilemma
  • Understanding of social theories that underpin human attitudes and behaviour in relation to energy use
  • Understanding the non-technical and more-than-technical aspects of energy transitions
  • Understanding how energy-related decisions are linked to other societal challenges and socio-technical developments
  • Understanding of energy literacy

The MSc will enable you to translate complex science into effective policies and new business opportunities.

Demand has never been higher for sound evidence on behavioural change, public engagement with energy issues, and public support for community and commercial investments in low carbon energy generation.

We have links with government departments, energy relevant NGOs and key industry players who want to make use of these skills. Committed to helping you meet prospective employers and network with those active in the field, we also organise careers events and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

Our graduates have been very successful in securing employment in the energy sector around the world, from international energy consultancies, national and regional government institutions to third sector organisations, including NGOs and institutes of higher education.

Field trips

Field trips are an excellent way in which to explore the factors and forces that shape our world and enable you to put valuable skills into practice.

You will have a unique opportunity to develop your experience and skills in energy research via our residential field trip. This will immerse you in real-world problems, whilst providing you with support for experimentation and exploration of practical methods.

Previous locations have included the Orkney Islands, where students had the opportunity to collaborate with communities and organisations regarding energy and sustainability concerns, exploring how the early adoption of low carbon technologies (fed by local marine and wind energy) could help to address socio-economic fragility (e.g. aging population, poor housing standards, seasonal employment, stretched or intermittent service provision).

  • We are pleased to advise that we do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips. Travel and accommodation costs are covered by your programme.
  • Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons. In any given academic year, the main destination of the field course will be announced as soon as possible*

Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation

This programme is strongly associated with the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) - a work and learning space designed as a forum through which university academics and other professionals can work with businesses and local government to help develop a low-carbon society. Not only is the building exceptionally well-equipped, you will be working and networking alongside professionals and employers within this high-demand field.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent.

We may also consider a UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with relevant work experience, a strong personal statement and supportive reference; feel free to contact us to check before you apply.

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

For 2020 entry 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). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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

For 2021 entry we will 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). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

*(Revised 21 February 2020 to remove PTE Academic from 2021 entry requirements.)

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.

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.

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Field trips and field courses

We do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme fees. However incidental/ personal expenses are to be met by the student.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

School of GeoSciences Scholarships

Browse funding opportunities

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding for which you may be eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • 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.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Applicants receiving an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500. Please see the fees and costs section for more information.

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

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP