Postgraduate study

Managing Environmental Change MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Placements/internships

Programme website: Managing Environmental Change

The MSc in Managing Environmental Change offers a mix of applied natural and social environmental science. It provides strong connections to employers through the Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes and includes a four month professional placement in policy, management, or research. Students will develop a wide range of skills including digital media, research synthesis, policy briefings, teamwork and leadership.

We inhabit the Anthropocene. Humans have changed the environment so profoundly that many scientists consider this a new epoch - the age of humans. This new MSc responds to anthropocene issues with core teaching including the natural and social science of environmental change and the policy and practice of managing these changes.

In particular, we focus on the ecology of planetary life support systems, and interactions between these systems and human wellbeing, and we examine the possibilities for human societies to develop in resilient and adaptive ways. In the second part of the programme we focus on how environmental change is, and should be, managed: with frequent opportunities for engagement with practitioners, policy makers and business, through both the core teaching, a field course, and a four* month professional placement or project.

This MSc is particularly strong for the development of skills in interdisciplinary analysis at the interface of natural and social sciences, research skills, policy analysis and translating research into policy and practice. The programme also has a strong component of personal development, including leadership and group skills, analysis and decision-making techniques, and communication. Interdisciplinary expertise in this area is in great demand with these topical issues firmly rooted across government, the private sector and academic and non-governmental arenas.

The programme is designed to provide a Master’s level introduction to natural and social science, so you will need to be prepared to do extra reading in the area of science that you are less familiar with.

The programme is for you if you are looking to develop your expertise in the social and natural science of how the environment is changing, and how we can best manage these changes. The programme is available as a full time (1 year, Sept - Aug) course, but we also welcome part time students who can take the course over 2 or 3 years. The latter options entail either 1 or 2 half days of contact time per week during the semesters.

*(Revised 22 March 2019 to reflect 4 month duration instead of 3 as was previously stated.)

Compulsory courses (All 20 credits unless noted)

Semester 1: Ecosystems and Global change; Human Dimensions of Environmental Change; Applied Research Skills in Environment and Society.

Semester 2: Environmental Governance and Policy; Managing Environmental Change (incl. Fieldcourse); one optional (20 credit) course drawn from our current PGT offering.

Summer: Professional placement in Managing Environmental Change (60 credits)

Students select one course from a list of options to tailor the programme to their needs, including specialisations in spatial data science, economics, international development and law.

Field trip

To give you a chance to see real-world management of various forms of environmental change, the programme includes a field trip to the Highlands of Scotland. This provides students with extensive opportunities to interact with partners of the Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes and to meet a wide range of practitioners.

Professional placement

A key part of the MSc is a professional placement with an external organisation that works in the field of Environmental Change. This four* month placement takes place after the Easter break, with the final report due in August, with considerable flexibility for part time students.

The main goal of the placement is to allow you to develop your skills in using science to inform the management of environmental change, and to do so in a supportive environment with both academic and non-academic guidance.

The placement and the topic are planned during the first and second semesters. Through the Centre for Sustainable Forests and Landscapes , you will develop connections to a wide range of organisation that work on environmental change. Placements can be developed either from ideas suggested by the partner organisations, or from ideas that the student develops in collaboration with them.

The final output from the placement can take many forms including digital media. Examples might include web content, blogs, policy analysis reports, data analysis and decision support systems.

Current and past partners include, IIED, SNH, The New Economics Foundation, National Trust for Scotland (Mar Lodge), The James Hutton Institute, RSPB, SWT, Woodland Trust, Edinburgh and Lothian Greenspace Trust, Forestry Commission/Forest Research, Corrour Estate, SEPA, John Muir Trust, LTS international, Ecometrica, The Plan Vivo Foundation.

Professional placement

*(Revised 22 March 2019 to reflect 4 month duration instead of 3 as was previously stated.)

The programme equips students with:

  • Understanding of the role that ecosystems play in underpinning human wellbeing, and the ways in which these ecosystems are changing.
  • Analytical approaches for understanding human dimensions of environmental change (environmental economics, political ecology and social-ecological systems), and their application to different spheres of change, including climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change, water issues.
  • The ability to critically understand environmental governance strategies, and their manifestation in environmental policy.
  • Understanding of contemporary approaches to managing environmental change, through interaction with policy makers and practitioners in this field, and a fieldcourse in the Scottish Highlands.
  • Appreciation of, and ability to design and undertake applied research methods for the natural and social sciences involved in understanding environmental change (including quantitative, qualitative skills and natural and social science epistemology and research design).
  • Learning through the process of deep engagement with a professional organisation in the governmental, third or private sector, related to managing environmental change, and the ability to reflect on that organisation’s work and the student’s role within it.

Past graduates have roles in Scottish Government and local authorities, natural resources management agencies, non-governmental organisations, PhD programmes and research roles, and across the private sector.

A number of employability skills have been integrated into this programme design, most obviously in the form of the professional placement. As such, this MSc is particularly strong for the development of job-market ready skills in interdisciplinary analysis at the interface of natural and social sciences, research skills, policy analysis and translating research into policy and practice.

The programme also has a strong component of personal development, including leadership and group skills, analysis and decision-making techniques, and oral and written communication.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in natural or social science.

We will also consider applicants with a UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with appropriate professional experience.

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:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

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:

  • Room 216, Crew Building
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FF

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

Further information

  • Room 216, Crew Building
  • School of Geosciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FF