Postgraduate study

Sustainable Lands and Cities MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time, Part-time Intermittent Study

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Sustainable Lands and Cities

A new, interdisciplinary degree with the Edinburgh Futures Institute

The climate emergency brings an urgent awareness of the inter-relationships between land and human development. The pervasive exploitation of natural systems means populations face fundamental challenges for their future.

Sustainable Lands and Cities brings together people who are committed to creating, shaping, and conserving sustainable communities. The programme is designed for both recent graduates and professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds in the public, private, and third sectors.

This programme focuses on the fundamental nature of land; how it can be defined, understood, managed and used.

The programme equips students with the skills to influence and create resilient and sustainable relationships between lands and cities. This will be explored in both rural and urban environments, harnessing practices of smart growth, understanding planetary boundaries, and advocacy for justice and equity.

Postgraduate study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute

This programme is part of an interconnected portfolio of postgraduate study in the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). EFI supports interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research that is focused on complex global and social challenges. Our programmes are all taught by academic experts from many different subject areas. As an EFI student, you will develop creative, critical and data-informed thinking that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. You will have the space to think deeply about questions linked to your own passions and professional goals, and will develop a project based on an issue that you care about.

As well as knowledge specific to your area of study, studying at EFI will give you the skills and understanding you need to become a creative, confident and critical citizen in a fast-changing world. These will include:

  • core data skills
  • data ethics
  • the ability to interrogate issues of global scope
  • the creative and analytic approaches to knowledge that are vital for building better futures

You can join us regardless of whether you already have skills in the use and application of digital data.

Students on this programme study the following:

  • A portfolio of ‘shared core’ courses (40 credits) which teach the essential, critical and hands-on data skills, climate change understanding, enquiry methods, ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies.
  • Core courses (30 credits) specific to your programme.
  • A project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project).
  • A wide choice of short 10 credit optional courses (60 credits), at least two of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire portfolio

Core courses

You will take the following 10 credit shared core courses, which are compulsory for Edinburgh Futures Institute students across programmes:

  • Either Understanding the Climate Crisis OR choose one of Insights through Data OR Text Remix
  • Interdisciplinary Futures
  • Ethical Data Futures
  • Representing Data OR Building Near Futures (Choose one)

On all these shared core courses you will be in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other programme areas. You will learn to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and designing the future. You will also learn the fundamentals of data ethics, and how to use creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.

You will also take the following 10 credit core courses for the programme MSc Sustainable Lands and Cities

  • Envisioning Sustainable Lands and Cities
  • Evaluating Sustainable Lands and Cities

Optional courses

Edinburgh Futures Institute offers a wide portfolio of about 40-50 optional courses taught by academic staff from across many discipline areas including approximately six to eight courses on topics associated with your programme. The exact courses will vary from year to year – in 2023-24 the courses associated with your programme may include:

  • Land Communities and Power
  • The EcoCity
  • Regenerating Place
  • A Systemic Approach to Sustainability
  • Data, Mobility and Infrastructure

Optional courses from across the wider portfolio will cover a range of themes and topics, such as:

  • Critical perspectives on how new technologies are changing society
  • Data, programming and research skills that advance the skills taught in the EFI shared core
  • How new and rapidly changing technologies and data sources are transforming the future of democracy
  • What the future of education might look like
  • How narratives drive the way we understand the world
  • Bringing service design and service management together to build change in a data-driven society
  • Current challenges and futures for the creative industries

The project

In your final project, you will be able to apply your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern which drives you. It could be based on your own personal or professional interests, defined by your employer, sponsored by one of EFI’s industry, government or community partners, or aligned to one of our research programmes.

You can submit your final project report as a written piece of work, or combine text with other forms as appropriate – for example, video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, code. You will provisionally identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect projects to take an interdisciplinary approach which connects with the creative, data and future-oriented nature of the EFI core.

Part-time and full-time options

Full-time students on the programme take these courses in one year. Part-time students take the same courses as full-time students, over either two or three years:

  • For the two-year version, students take 80 credits of courses in year one and 100 credits (including the project) in year two.
  • For the three-year versions, students take 120 credits of courses over years one and two (with up to 80 credits per year in each year), and then take the project (60 credits) in year three.

Students can also study towards a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma:

  • Students have two years to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma, taking the same taught courses as students on the MSc, but not the project. They will take a total of 120 credits of courses - between 40 and 80 in each year.
  • Students have one year to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate, taking 60 credits of courses, including between 10 and 40 credits of the EFI ‘shared core’ courses, between 20 and 50 credits of programme-specific courses (either the programme core courses or optional courses), and up to 30 credits from the broader suite of EFI optional courses.

On successful completion of this programme, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how data science and technological change can contribute to effective sustainable strategies.
  • the sustainable characteristics of lands and cities and the interplay of rural and urban environments.
  • the interdisciplinary contexts in which sustainable development strategies can be applied.
  • how sustainability and consumption narratives are created and communicated in an interdisciplinary way
  • the quantitative means by which sustainable strategies can be created, tested and validated.

The core elements of this programme address the data and higher-order skills we know are important for the future of work, confident and critical citizenship, and a thriving, just society. Graduates will be able to work collaboratively to create and execute sustainable strategies in the workplace. Our graduates will have cross-disciplinary skills and understanding to support decision-making in complex environments.

Graduates have a range of career opportunities available, both for existing professionals and newer entrants to the job market including:

  • Public, private and voluntary sector organisations with an increasing need to respond and create sustainable development policy, drivers and targets.
  • Consultancy and environmental planning sector which is developing multidisciplinary interventions to address and mitigate climate change
  • Businesses and commercial operators looking to anticipate and engage with new perceptions and policy frameworks for climate change.

Graduates of this programme will be able to:

  • create commercial and sustainable strategies to meet both business needs and ethical requirements.
  • respond to a broad range of challenges applicable in different professions and organisations.
  • specialise in sustainable development across a range of sectors and roles, for example in planning, engineering, design, project management, the environmental sciences, public administration, law and advocacy.

What does interdisciplinary study mean?

Interdisciplinary study is at the heart of the EFI programmes. It means the ability to synthesise and apply knowledge and skills from across different disciplines, and is crucial to addressing many current complex challenges and planetary-scale issues.

We support you to develop interdisciplinary perspectives in different ways. For example, the EFI shared core courses draw on diverse disciplines to support you to work creatively and ethically with all kinds of data. Each programme develops interdisciplinary perspectives in the ways most appropriate to their specific domain and focus. And finally – because you will have such wide choice in the optional courses you choose to take in EFI – you will have the flexibility to design your own disciplinary pathway through your studies, integrating your insights and reflecting on their interdisciplinary power through your project-related work.

Flexible study choices

You will have a lot of flexibility in how you choose to study in EFI. All the core and optional courses offered for this programme, and almost all the broader portfolio of optional courses, are taught in ‘fusion’ mode: a distinctive approach which allows you to combine on-campus with online study, and teaches on-campus and online students together as a single cohort.

As a full-time, on-campus student you may choose to study most of your courses on-campus, but you will have some freedom to choose to study online. Please note however that full-time students on study visas have particular attendance and engagement requirements and need to be based entirely on-campus.

If you are considering full-time online study, please note that all courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom. Get in touch with us with questions before applying.

You can choose to study on a full-time basis over one year, or part-time over two or three years. You can register for a full MSc, or for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate. Part-time students can choose to study either entirely on-campus, online or via a combination of the two.

How you will learn in EFI

The EFI approach to teaching places student experience and choice at its heart and connects global cohorts in new ways.

Students study in teaching spaces and digital learning environments designed to enable on-site/online sharing of teaching and learning activity. Your classes and contributions will be recorded and livestreamed so that they can be shared – and learning communities built – across modes and time-zones.

Students studying online will have a presence in on-site classrooms (via video, audio and text in different forms), and students studying on-campus will be able to work with diverse teams located across the globe. All courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom. While there may be opportunities to engage in some activities asynchronously from different time zones, applicants should be aware of the requirement to join live classes at particular times. Please get in touch with us to discuss your particular circumstances before applying.

All students will have a presence in the digital spaces where teaching happens – video-based classes, real-time collaboration spaces, live chats, asynchronous forums, shared exhibition and blogging spaces and more.

Teaching methods will include:

  • group work
  • expert lectures both live and live-streamed
  • data skills and programming workshops online and on-campus
  • on-site and virtual drop-ins
  • hybrid seminars
  • interactive journal clubs
  • external stakeholder challenges and code-alongs
  • data visualisation exercises

Apart from the shared core, most EFI courses are delivered in intensive two-day blocks of teaching and learning activity, combined with pre- and post-intensive wraparound activity that will include a range of scheduled and self-directed activities (for example, group project activities, reading, and assessment).

How do I apply

You must submit one reference with your application.

We will decide which applications to offer places to on the basis of:

  • Educational achievement
  • Professional experience (where relevant)
  • Quality of personal statement

Your personal statement should include why you are interested in studying on this particular programme and – if relevant – how it will support your career development. The Edinburgh Futures Institute provides a space where students can pursue projects on issues they care about, so it would also be helpful (though not essential) if you could indicate the area on which you would most like to focus during your time in EFI.

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

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

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

We will also consider your application if you have other professional qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply. In particular, we welcome applications from professionals with experience (e.g. working in companies, government, or third sector organisations) designing or implementing projects, programmes, or policies that aim to diminish inequalities.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSustainable Lands and Cities1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScSustainable Lands and Cities2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScSustainable Lands and CitiesUp to 3 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
PgCertSustainable Lands and Cities9 MonthsPart-timeTuition fees
PgDipSustainable Lands and CitiesUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU

We operate a number of selection deadlines. We may make a small number of offers on an ongoing basis, but we will hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline before deciding which applicants to make offers to. 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 and will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made.

If you are applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

Deadlines for applicants applying for study in 2023-24 are:

Round Application deadline Places awarded by
1 09 February 2023 30 March 2023
2 17 April 2023 8 June 2023
3 25 July 2023 10 August 2023

You must submit one reference with your application.

You must submit one reference with your application.

We will decide which applications to offer places to on the basis of:

  • Educational achievement
  • Professional experience (where relevant)
  • Quality of personal statement

Your personal statement should include why you are interested in studying on this particular programme and if relevant how it will support your career development. The Edinburgh Futures Institute provides a space where students can pursue projects on issues they care about, so it would also be helpful (though not essential) if you could indicate the area on which you would most like to focus during your time in EFI.

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

Further information

  • College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
  • 57 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9JU