Postgraduate study

Environment and Development MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Environment and Development

I have learnt to appreciate the social aspect of the environment through studying this programme. It has helped me get a deeper understanding of economics, anthropology, gender issues and policies. This was very valuable having come from a pure science background and it helped me integrate the two since they go hand in hand. Moving forward, I plan to be more involved in initiatives that promote social mobility and justice among the poor communities, especially in being able to access vital resources like renewable energy.

Anita Owiti MSc Environment and Development
Anita Owiti               MSc Environment and Development

Are you ready to explore some of the world's most pressing challenges?

Understand the link between the environment and development agendas and global inequalities - for today and the future.

The MSc Environment and Development enables you to critically evaluate the multiple dimensions of the inter-relationship between development and the environment, with an abiding concern for social and environmental justice.

What will I learn?

You will learn about issues that are inherently transboundary, multi-generational and multi-faceted, such as:

  • sustainable development
  • climate change
  • diminishing natural resources
  • biodiversity conservation
  • water
  • food
  • 'waste'
  • energy
  • disaster risk
  • vulnerability and adaptation
  • gender and social equality
  • urbanisation

Attempts to understand and address these interconnected issues need to pay close attention to their contested, political and ideological nature.

That is why our MSc foregrounds society and nature as inherently linked, historical contexts as highly relevant to current debates, and global capitalism as an underlying force of change.

Issues will be explored across a range of geographical scales, seeing the local and global as necessarily inter-related.

It will consider the increasingly diverse set of actors, practices and processes driving environment and development issues, and question the power of these to direct agendas and actions.

The MSc has relevance in both the 'Global South' and 'Global North', drawing attention to relationships of inequality and marginalisation as they occur for particular environments and sections of society worldwide.

It will provide you with a unique critical perspective, as it draws on expertise from across the University, especially from development geography, social and political sciences, and environmental studies.

You can explore society and environment issues through different theoretical and conceptual lenses, examining the interplay of sociocultural perspectives, economics and governance, development debates and ecological dynamics.

There is much diversity in what you can study and conduct research on. Our flexibility enables you to develop your interests at an advanced level in an area you are most passionate about.

How will I learn?

Our teaching approach encourages you to reflect upon your own role, as both researchers and as professionals, in transformations towards social and environmental justice, considering the ethics of engagement in an unequal world.

The programme helps you develop:

  • critical reflective skills
  • strong research and critical analysis capabilities
  • professional skills tailored to environment and development sectors
  • a deep understanding of social and environmental issues

It provides a strong basis for engaged citizenship in the world, enabling you to contribute to world debates and actions for reducing inequalities and working towards social and environmental justice and more sustainable practices.

Reputation, relevance and employability

You will be taught by world-leading researchers and experienced practitioners working in environment and development fields in various sectors from non-government organisations (NGOs), consultancies, or state organisations.

Guest speakers and teaching staff will provide insights into real-world applications.

We will challenge you to cultivate reflective research thinking that is cross-cutting and globally relevant.

This programme is affiliated with the University's Global Development Academy.

Is the MSc for me?

The MSc Environment Development will suit a range of students, including those who have practical experience in the broad field of environment and development, either as practitioners, volunteers or activists.

It is suitable for students from a wide range of undergraduate disciplines, from the environmental and natural sciences to the social and political sciences and humanities.

We are fortunate to attract a wide range of students from around the world, and we celebrate that diversity and the opportunities for learning that it brings.

What's it really like to study here?

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

When to apply

Please note: Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of early application deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

For dates and details, please refer to 'Application Deadlines' and 'How to apply' on the right panel of this page.

You should also avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred.

If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application.

Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

Throughout your studies, we will work with you to prepare you for the dissertation project. This will be your opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in relation to the programme and prepare a dissertation that you can use to demonstrate your work to potential employers.

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.

How will I learn?

You will experience a range of learning styles while studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.

You can view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods through the ‘Programme Structure’ link under compulsory and option courses below.

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.

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 Environment and Development, you will:

  • be able to critically analyse the multiple, contested relationships between development and the environment, and underlying questions of power and responsibility
  • be able to appreciate the value of understanding multiple ideologies and agendas on environment and development issues, emphasising minority and oppressed voices.
  • be familiar with key theories and debates within political ecology and critical development studies and their agendas for social and environmental justice and decolonising development
  • be comfortable using a range of tools and approaches commonly employed by environment and development practitioners in different sectors, including NGOs, consultancies and government agencies
  • develop the capacity to critically reflect upon your own positioning, privilege and power in transformations towards social and environmental justice, considering the ethics of engagement in an unequal world

As a graduate of the MSc Environment and Development, you can seek roles in a variety of sectors, including:

  • international and national development agencies
  • state agencies
  • think tanks
  • non-government organisations (NGOs) and civil society
  • environmental and development consultancies
  • the private sector

Our students are also well-placed to progress to PhD research and academia. For example, recent graduates have progressed to doctoral studies focusing on marine governance in southeast Asia and conservation practice in east Africa.


Through this MSc, you will meet a range of environment and development practitioners who offer their perspectives on taught courses, or through dedicated postgraduate career activities, and potentially through collaborations during your own dissertation research.

Our graduates

Examples of where our recent graduates have secured positions include:

  • United Nations
  • Oxfam
  • Edinburgh-based consultancies and environmental certification organisations
  • a range of smaller NGOs and home-country government departments around the world

It was clear from the start that I wanted to work in international development, and doing this MSc was one of the essential steps to get there. I started applying for jobs around Easter of my Masters year, with some excellent support from the University Careers service. I am now in Dublin working for Oxfam Ireland as a Programme Quality Officer, supporting long term development programmes across Eastern and Southern Africa. The work I do is very rewarding, and I feel like I am constantly learning, so I am happy and grateful. Rosa Brandon, MSc Environment and Development

Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Field trips are an excellent way to explore the factors and forces that shape our world and enable you to put valuable skills into practice.

Through our residential field trip, you can meet with a range of people from government, development agencies, non-government organisations (NGOs), grassroots organisations, research institutions and local communities who can introduce you to a variety of projects and practices.

Previous students have explored:

  • water management
  • community forestry
  • adaptations to climate change
  • biodiversity conservation

There are no additional charges for compulsory field trips.

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience. 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. We will announce any changes as soon as possible.

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.

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.

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

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 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 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 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:


If you receive an offer of admission you will need to pay a deposit to secure your place.

  • £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. The programme fees will cover costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips. 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

Featured funding

School of GeoSciences scholarships

Scholarships and student funding

You can find funding opportunities, tuition fees and costs of living for prospective UK and international postgraduate students on the University website.

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding outside the University for which you may be eligible.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

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

Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of selection deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications may close earlier than the published deadlines if there is exceptionally high demand.

We may make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis. However, the majority of applications will be held until the advertised deadline.

We aim to make the majority of decisions within eight 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
  • your application is still being considered, it will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline, and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

The final deadline may be extended if any places remain on the programme.

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 31 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

*(Revised 11 November to update selection deadline dates and clarify when decisions on applications will be made.)

Failure to submit all required documents will prevent the Admissions team from considering you for a place on the programme. It may also delay the decision on your application beyond the stated deadline.

We advise you do not apply to more than one programme. Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.

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