Postgraduate study

Energy, Society and Sustainability

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

The world is facing an ‘energy trilemma’; how to achieve energy security, energy equity and environmental sustainability. Whilst equipping students with an active understanding of low carbon technologies, policies and markets, this new MSc programme is focused squarely on analysing the social, societal and environmental dimensions of energy transitions. You will examine how citizens are involved in and are affected by changes in energy systems.

On a more theoretical level, the programme will enable you to relate supply-side issues to geo-politics and political economy, whilst energy demand will be studied in relation to broader challenges of sustainable consumption.

On a more practical level you will explore the potential of ‘smart’ ICT to affect consumption and inform strategic choices in sustainable living at household and community level. With Scotland being a world leader in renewable electricity generation (especially wind and marine), but also being economically dependent on declining North Sea oil and gas and suffering from high levels of energy poverty, this interdisciplinary MSc. benefits from close access to a high number of insightful case studies, which will serve to examine links between global and local issues, explore international best practices and identify locally suited pathways to more sustainable energy management.

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.

The programme has been designed to develop transdisciplinary perspectives on the energy trilemma and integrative analytical skills (qualitative and quantitative) which are in short supply in the energy sector. The full-time programme is divided into two semesters of taught courses, followed by a field trip at Easter before the dissertation period over the summer. We are happy to accommodate different working patterns for part-time students, including a half day a week schedule for three-year part time study.

The programme consists of four core modules (20 credits each, two core courses per semester), two optional modules (20 credits, one for each semester) and a 60 credit dissertation.

Compulsory courses*

Semester 1:

  • Energy and Society I: Key themes and issues
  • Energy in the Global South

Semester 2:

  • Energy and Society II: Methods and applications
  • Energy Policy and Politics

Students will also undertake one 20 credit course per semester. The University of Edinburgh offers an unrivalled selection of relevant optional courses for the MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability. Bearing in mind your particular background and interests, the Programme Director will assist you in your choice from a large menu of optional courses related to six potential specialisation pathways; sustainable technologies and economics, politics, development, environmental sustainability, science and technology and public policy.

Optional courses may include*:

  • Technologies for Sustainable Energy (10 credits) AND
  • Energy and Environmental Economics (10 credits)
  • Applications in Ecological Economics
  • Global Environment: Key issues
  • Global Environmental Politics
  • Resource Politics and Development
  • Governance, Development and Poverty in Africa
  • Principles of Sustainable Development
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Sustainability
  • Climate Change Management
  • Case Studies in Sustainable Development
  • Science, Knowledge and Expertise
  • Development, Science and Technology
  • Controversies in Science and Technology
  • Economic Issues in Public Policy (Semester 1)
  • Political Issues in Public Policy (Semester 2)

**Please note, 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
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2018/19
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2018/19

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

UK research councils cite a major skills gap in the energy sector, one of the biggest growth sectors within the UK economy in recent years. 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 train our graduates to translate complex science into effective policies and new business opportunities. We have strong 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 organise careers events and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

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; please contact us to check before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • UKVI list of majority English speaking countries

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

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

  • PTE(A): 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

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. IELTS, TOEFL, Pearson Test of English and Trinity ISE must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.*

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

Find out more about our language requirements:

Applicants receiving an offer of admission, either unconditional or conditional, will be asked to pay a tuition fee deposit of £1,500 to secure their place on the programme.

This has to be paid by 31 March for offers made by 1 March, within 28 days for offers made before 30th June and within 14 days for those offers made from 1st July onwards.

Find out more about tuition fees and studying costs:

  • Programme Administrator, Heather Dyson
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 7126
  • Email:
  • 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. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit a 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

  • Programme Administrator, Heather Dyson
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 7126
  • Email:
  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP