Postgraduate study

Environmental Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

The best thing was being around so many engaged people all wanting to make the world a better place. In my latest role - campaigning against large scale bioenergy developments - I can finally put the same political thinking I developed during the Masters course into my job. I wouldn't have even got close to this without my year in Edinburgh.

Mark Robinson MSc Environmental Sustainability
Mark Robinson               MSc Environmental Sustainability

Ensuring the environmental sustainability of society is one of the most significant 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 well-being?
  • How can 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?

With the MSc Environmental Sustainability, you can explore these questions and other significant challenges affecting our world today, and in the future.

What will I learn?

You will be encouraged to think across different disciplines to blend scientific, socio-economic and policy perspectives for a stronger understanding of sustainability and how it can be achieved.

You can explore key social and global issues and ways to address these to benefit individuals, communities, societies and our world.

The programme gives you an international perspective, with a focus on regions in both the ‘Global South’ and ‘Global North’.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Our world is facing a variety of significant and complex challenges from rising inequality and a rapidly growing population, to environmental issues and global climate change.

Because of these challenges, more organisations are working to promote sustainable development or reduce human impacts on the environment, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Edinburgh is a hub for these organisations seeking to influence national and international environmental sustainability debates, giving you access to exciting case studies and opportunities for networking.

We also have excellent relationships with a variety of organisations, providing access to potential employers, and opportunities to collaborate on dissertation projects that provide valuable real-world experience.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute

This MSc programme is also associated with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI).

ECCI brings together experts in law, business, social science, technology, and policy to help develop a low-carbon society.

Through ECCI, you will have the opportunity to be working and networking alongside professionals and potential employers within this high-demand field.

Find out more from our students

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

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

Throughout the programme, your teaching team will work with you to prepare for the dissertation project. This will be your opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in relation to the programme.

Teaching methods

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 teaching and learning styles including:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • practicals
  • short field trips
  • longer field courses

Please view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery, including due to Covid-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

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 limited, due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Part-time study

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

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.

On completing the MSc Environmental Sustainability, you will be able to:

  • assess the sustainability of policies, programmes and projects at scales ranging from the local to the global
  • critically 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
  • be comfortable using interdisciplinary approaches to summarise technical scientific documents for use in policy and business strategies
  • speak about, and understand environmental sustainability from multiple perspectives and appreciate the complexity of development, environmentalism and sustainability

The MSc Environmental Sustainability will prepare you for a wide range of roles within:

  • environmental consultancy
  • national and local government
  • non-government organisations (NGOs)
  • non-profit organisations
  • environmental agencies
  • education or research at community, national or international levels

You can apply critical thinking, policy analysis and interdisciplinary environmental skills in sectors as diverse as transport, renewable energy, ecosystem planning and management, community development, technology innovation and beyond.

There is diversity within the programme, where your option courses and dissertation can be tailored to support your intended career path.


We also have a host of guest speakers throughout the year that often have dissertation project ideas that can be undertaken and have led to further employment opportunities.

###Our graduates Recent graduates have been employed in sustainability-related roles in organisations such as:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  • Carnegie Wave Energy
  • E.ON
  • Friends of the Earth
  • German Council for Sustainable Development
  • Global Justice Now
  • Institute for European Environmental Policy
  • International Energy Agency
  • London Borough of Camden
  • Marine Conservation Society
  • Northumbrian Water Group
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
  • John Muir Trust
  • The Scottish Government
  • Transport for London
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC secretariat)
  • World Resources Institute
  • Zero Waste Scotland

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, offering a range of tailored careers and personal development guidance and support.

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

The MSc Environmental Sustainability includes a week-long residential field course to gain an insight into sustainable development in Scotland.

It will provide you with a grounding to the case studies discussed in class and the chance to observe and reflect on sustainable development in practice.

We will aim to travel to the islands of Eigg and Rum on the west coast of Scotland, where you can experience the long-term environmental management of red deer populations.

You can also explore sustainable energy and social sustainability programmes including:

  • environmental governance
  • environmental policy
  • environmental management
  • consultancy
  • public transport
  • waste management
  • eco-tourism
  • community energy schemes
  • eco-farming

During induction, there is also a two-day residential field trip, providing a good opportunity for you to get to know fellow students.

Trips are often to the Scottish Highlands, where you can enjoy some of Scotland’s famous rural landscapes.

In previous years, we have visited Findhorn ecovillage, an internationally-renowned exemplar of sustainable living, and the Cairngorms National Park, an important area for nature conservation and tourism.

There are no additional charges for compulsory field trips.

Local day trips

The programme provides several opportunities for day trips to visit sustainable development programmes, showcasing a mix of rural and urban sustainability solutions.

We may also visit Historic Environment Scotland as well as Lothian Buses to learn about the fleet electrification programme.

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19.

Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

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 not suitable for entry.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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 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 (including Special Home Edition): 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

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 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:


You will need to pay this deposit if you receive an offer of admission (either unconditional or conditional).

  • £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)

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, you must pay for incidental or personal expenses.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition 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
  • Geography Building
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline.

We aim to make the majority of decisions within six weeks of the selection deadline.

If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:

  • your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
  • your application is still being considered, will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 2021 15 March 2021
2 31 March 2021 15 May 2021
3 30 June 2021 15 August 2021

(*Revised 9 March 2021 to add information on decision timescales.)

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

Further information

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