Postgraduate study

Energy, Society and Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Learning so much from dedicated professors and peers and being in Edinburgh contributed to a year I will never forget!

I have since started working at an energy company with renewables engagement. I work with stakeholders to get them involved while also working with the climate change department to contribute to climate policy drafting and board organisation. It's been a challenging start with working remotely, but an experience that's been well worth it and a position that the MSc prepared me for.

Emma Persson MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability
Emma Persson               MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability

How do we achieve energy security, energy justice and environmental sustainability across different contexts, timescales, places and people?

This question we all face is the ‘energy trilemma’.

With the MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability, you can explore these challenges affecting our world today and in the future.

Energy - at the heart of sustainability

Energy comes in many forms. First, its availability in the landscape, such as coal, wind or the sun, must be transformed into electricity. It is then carried in pipes and grids to where it is needed to power our everyday lives.

All this takes materials and has an economic, environmental and human cost. Yet, energy is essential to everyday human life and at the heart of sustainability. To address global climate change, the world needs a fast but fair transition to a low-carbon society.

Scotland and Edinburgh are prime contexts in which to investigate such dynamics. Scotland is a world leader in renewable electricity generation. It has a history of hydroelectricity and North Sea oil and a future in tide and wave energy. However, it also has high levels of energy poverty, a challenge faced by many.

What will I learn?

The MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability equips you with an understanding of how different societies can address the challenge of balancing energy with sustainability. It brings together a social, political, economic, and environmental understanding of low-carbon technologies.

You will explore the risks, costs, and benefits of transitioning to low-carbon energy in a globalised world.

The programme will equip you with a critical awareness of related local, regional and global debates and challenges, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the role of energy in development.

You will benefit from our access to insightful case studies, as well as the organisations and communities our lecturers work closely with, from local Scottish islands to international corporations. These cases demonstrate global best practices and identify paths to sustainable energy management.

Reputation, relevance and employability

You will be taught by experts and researchers, many of whom are leaders in their field.

We are also committed to helping you benefit from our excellent relationships. We engage with government departments, energy-relevant NGOs, and key industry players from community energy organisations to start-up renewable energy companies.

These networks provide opportunities for you to meet potential employers and for dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations, helping you gain valuable real-world experience.

Is the MSc for me?

We welcome students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary shared learning.

Students with a natural science background might seek to understand the social factors associated with a lower carbon economy. Social science students might expand their skills and knowledge for a career in low-carbon energy.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute

The MSc Carbon Management is associated with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). ECCI brings together law, business, social science, technology, and policy experts to help develop a low-carbon society.

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

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.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

On completing the MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability, you will:

  • possess in-depth knowledge and understanding of the inseparable social, technical and environmental dimensions of whole energy systems and energy transitions
  • have a critical awareness of related local, regional and global debates and challenges, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the role of energy in development
  • be familiar with key theories and analytical approaches that underpin the energy social sciences in order to evaluate the advantages and implications of these for current and future energy challenges
  • develop and demonstrate evidence-informed analysis and argumentation related to individual, institutional and systemic challenges of energy sustainability, including diverse and conflicting claims
  • be able to gather and analyse appropriate qualitative data using a variety of interdisciplinary methods in order to answer the latest questions around energy, society and sustainability, from energy justice to global energy futures
  • gain experience in collaborating and communicating effectively with key stakeholders on energy and sustainability issues
  • gain experience in the application of energy social science theories and methods in practice

Demand has never been higher for sound evidence on behavioural change, public engagement with energy issues and public support for community and commercial investments in low-carbon energy generation.

The MSc will enable you to translate complex social and technical issues into effective arguments, policies and innovative business opportunities.

We are committed to helping you meet prospective employers and network with those active in the field. Our network is comprised of many organisations seeking graduates who possess the skills gained in our MSc programme. We have links with government departments, energy-relevant NGOs, and key industry players from community energy organisations to start-up renewable energy companies.

We also organise careers events and encourage dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations.

Our graduates

Our graduates have been very successful in securing employment in the energy sector worldwide, from international energy consultancies, national and regional government institutions to third sector organisations, including NGOs and institutes of higher education.

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.

The MSc gives you a unique opportunity to develop your experience and skills in energy research through collaboration with energy communities and organisations.

Previous fieldwork locations have included Orkney, the islands off the northeast coast of Scotland.

These islands generate 120% of their electricity from renewables, including community-owned wind energy, micro wind turbines, as well as waves and tides. The islands are also the site of a smart grid and have several hydrogen technology projects, from hydrogen storage to the development of a hydrogen aeroplane.

Prior students have had the opportunity to collaborate with the companies and communities in the islands.

Previous projects investigated the energy and sustainability concerns of Orkney, all informed by current ideas and concepts. For example, projects examined the islands' early adoption of low-carbon technologies such as hydrogen storage, flexible grid and marine energy.

In addition, they examined how these technologies are helping address Orkney's energy infrastructure fragility and socio-economic challenges such as fuel poverty, low housing standards and an ageing population.

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

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEnergy, Society and Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeTuition 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
  • Institute of Geography
  • 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.)

You must submit one reference with your application.

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
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP