Postgraduate study

Circular Economy (Online Learning) MSc, PgCert, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgCert, PgDip

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

Online learning

Funding opportunities

A new, interdisciplinary degree with the Edinburgh Futures Institute

The circular economy is a way of thinking, researching and acting on climate change.

A ‘circular economy’ means moving away from the world’s current, predominantly wasteful economic model where resources are extracted, manufactured, used, and discarded to one where waste is designed out and products and materials kept in use for as long as possible.

Beyond the need for design innovations, a circular economy also means investigating how to change the way we consume and use goods and services, both locally and globally.

On this interdisciplinary programme, you will have the opportunity gain skills and knowledge of circular economy in order to support communities, businesses, and policymakers to create a more sustainable and equitable future.

The core courses will focus on both practical and theoretical approaches to:

  • the fundamentals of a circular economy, including foundational literature and concepts
  • designing for a circular economy
  • the circular economy business perspective
  • the evolving field of circular economy
  • responsiveness to the climate and environmental crisis

You will be able to shape your learning to meet your own interests and objectives, particularly through option course selection and your final project. This programme offers lots of opportunities to think differently, examine our finite global resources in the context of our changing world and society, and to act as an agent of change.

This programme is aimed at recent graduates and early- to mid-career professionals from across the globe, and from a wide range of backgrounds and skill sets.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you will be able to explore and nurture your ideas for disrupting the status quo and rethink how we currently design, make, and use resources in the world. The programme is designed to support student entrepreneurship, with an opportunity for you to explore your own circular business ideas through course work and the final project.

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 focussed on complex global and social challenges. Our programmes are 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.

The EFI model (which we call ‘fusion’ teaching) allows students to study on a fully online basis, or to combine online with on-campus study.

Since online and on-campus students study together, and we want to provide flexibility to move from on-campus to online study, we charge the same tuition fee levels for online study as for on-campus study.

For more information, see section on Studying with the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Students on this programme study the following:

  • Core courses (30 credits) specific to your programme.
  • EFI 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.
  • A wide choice of short 10 credit optional courses (50 credits), at least two of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire portfolio.
  • A project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project).

Core courses:

You will take the following 10 credit shared core courses, which are compulsory for the MSc Circular Economy.

  • Fundamentals of a Circular Economy
  • Designing for a Circular Economy
  • Circular Economy in Business

EFI core courses

You will also take the following 10 credit EFI core courses, which are compulsory for students across all Edinburgh Futures Institute’s Postgraduate Futures programmes:

  • Interdisciplinary Futures
  • Ethical Data Futures
  • And choose one of the following: Insights Through Data OR Text Remix OR Understanding the Climate Crisis*
  • And choose one of the following: Representing Data OR Building Near Futures

*If you do not have any grounding in climate change/environmental studies you must take Understanding the Climate Crisis.

On EFI core courses you will work in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other EFI programmes. 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.

(Revised 8 February 2023 to provide more comprehensive information regarding the core courses)

Optional courses

Edinburgh Futures Institute offers a wide range of more than 40 optional courses taught by academic staff from many different discipline areas, including those associated with your programme. The exact courses offered vary from year to year. In 2023-24 the courses associated with your programme may include:

  • Circular Economy in the Built Environment
  • Waste Law in Circular Economy
  • Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment
  • Sustainability on Both Sides of the Lens

Optional courses from across the EFI postgraduate portfolio 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 can 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 will be able to submit your final project as a written piece of work, or combine text with other forms as appropriate – for example, video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, or code.

You will identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect you to take an interdisciplinary approach to your project in order to connect with the creative, data and future-orientated nature of the Futures Institute.

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 2-year version, students take 80 credits of courses in year 1 and 100 credits (including the project) in year two.
  • For the 3-year versions, students take 120 credits of courses over years 1 and 2 (with up to 80 credits per year in each year), and then take the project (60 credits) in year 3.

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.

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
MScCircular Economy1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScCircular Economy2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScCircular EconomyUp to 3 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyProgramme structure 2023/24
PgCertCircular Economy9 MonthsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
PgDipCircular EconomyUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyProgramme structure 2023/24

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

  • the key concepts and principles of the circular economy and its diverse range of applications, from local to global scale
  • the societal and political landscapes in which a circular economy could operate
  • circular economy design, utilising a design thinking perspective
  • the business landscapes in which a circular economy could operate

You will be able to:

  • analyse facts and situations and apply creative and inventive thinking to develop the appropriate circular economy solutions
  • demonstrate analytical thinking to synthesise and appraise key issues for creating a more circular economy
  • effectively communicate circular economy ideas to a range of audiences with different levels of knowledge and expertise

The multidisciplinary nature of the MSc Circular Economy and Edinburgh Futures Institute gives graduates key skills to face the challenges of the modern world and a rapidly changing environment.

As the impact of the resource and climate crisis continues, governments, industries, and businesses are looking for employees with specialist circular economy skills and are creating roles that will help deliver a more regenerative, less resource intensive economy.

Graduates will be well equipped to enter the job market and meet the needs of this growing professional path. There are large global companies that have already embraced circular economy strategies, in addition to public sector and governments organisations which are looking to embed circular economy into policies, strategies, procurement, and community projects. The International Labour Organisation predicts a significant increase of jobs by 2030 due to the global shift to a more circular economy.

The core elements of the 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.

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 livestreamed
  • 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, assessment).

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.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

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 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

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:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScCircular Economy1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScCircular Economy2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScCircular EconomyUp to 3 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
PgCertCircular Economy9 MonthsPart-timeTuition fees
PgDipCircular EconomyUp to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees

Details of scholarships and funding available to help you pursue your ambitions.

*EFI 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 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(s) on which you would most like to focus during your time in EFI.

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

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