Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Environmental Sustainability MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Environmental Sustainability

The best thing was being around so many engaged people, all wanting to make the world a better place.

In my latest role, I am 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 environmental sustainability and achieving it, is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity in the 21st century.

  • What is sustainability?
  • What are the debates and challenges surrounding different models of sustainable development?
  • How can economic and energy systems be restructured to combat climate change?
  • What policies foster sustainability? What are the challenges and implications of implementing these in the ‘Global South’ and the ‘Global North’?

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 and consider scientific, socio-economic, and policy perspectives to better understand sustainability and how it can be achieved in different geographical contexts.

You can explore critical social and global issues and ways to address these to benefit individuals, communities, societies and nature.

Our programme gives you an international perspective, focusing on regions in both the ‘Global South’ and ‘Global North’.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Our world faces significant and complex challenges, from rising inequality to environmental issues. Global climate change is now affecting everyone on the planet.

At this critical moment, more organisations are working to promote sustainable development, reduce human impacts on the environment, and achieve economic equity. These initiatives include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Edinburgh is a hub for 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 degree is associated with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI).

The ECCI brings together consultancy, 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 is it really like to study with us?

No one knows what it is like to study here better than the students themselves.

Our students are sharing their experiences - from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in between.

Get social with us:

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' 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

Courses are delivered by staff who are active researchers in each field. Their expertise is supplemented by selected guest speakers, generally from industry or other research organisations.

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.

We also work with our wide network to find opportunities for dissertation projects with external organisations, enhancing the real-world relevance of your degree.

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.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide the highest standards for your 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

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

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
MScEnvironmental Sustainability1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScEnvironmental Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScEnvironmental Sustainability3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

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 considered 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, business strategies and other local and international initiatives.
  • speak about, and understand environmental sustainability from multiple perspectives and appreciate the complexity of development, conservation, environmental justice 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 diverse sectors such as transport, renewable energy, ecosystem planning and management, community development, technology innovation and beyond.

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

Networks

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

We have a host of guest speakers throughout the year, and they often have dissertation project ideas that you can undertake. Previously, this has led to further employment opportunities for our students.

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

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 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

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.

You will have a unique opportunity to participate in a residential field trip as part of this programme.

Through the field course, you will have the chance to observe and reflect on what sustainable development means in practice.

On recent trips, students have explored a range of 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

Previous field trips have been to central Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. We strive to deliver a low-carbon experience that also supports the local economy.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation.

Local day trips

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

We may visit sites in Edinburgh such as Historic Environment Scotland and Lothian Buses to learn about the fleet electrification programme.

Changes to 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.

Accessibility on field trips

We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend a fieldwork trip, we will provide alternatives with comparable learning outcomes where necessary.

Where you will study

You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.

For example:

  • laboratories
  • libraries
  • study spaces (some of which are open 24 hours)
  • computing facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

Most of your compulsory courses will be taught on the Central Campus in the city's historical centre. Occasionally, you may also have classes in Kings Buildings.

Depending on the option courses you choose, you may study at various campus locations in Edinburgh.

Students in this MSc will have access to the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI) Masters Hub.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute

This programme is linked with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). You will have access to the shared 'Masters Hub' study space in ECCI as well as the café and shared working spaces on the ground and first floors. Some of your teaching will take place in the ECCI.

ECCI is also close to many teaching spaces and facilities within the Central Area campus. For example, the Main Library and gym.

King's Buildings campus

The King's Buildings (KB) is the main campus of the College of Science and Engineering.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by bus. You can also cycle (10 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the central area.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 10th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2023.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in - it is the perfect location to study the subject you're studying. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life. We have rich environmental locations to explore right on our doorstep. Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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 B.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

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:

Deposit

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. This may include suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

Living costs

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

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEnvironmental Sustainability1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEnvironmental Sustainability2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScEnvironmental Sustainability3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

(Revised 05 February 2024 to add 'ScottishPower Master Scholarships' to the featured funding section)

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.

Mastercard Foundation Postgraduate Scholarships

Scholarships are available for this programme. The postgraduate study scholarships for the 2024/25 academic year will accept applications from 23rd October 2023 at 10:00 AM until 7th December 2023 at 5:00 PM (UK Time). Applicants must be residents and citizens or hold refugee status in a Sub-Saharan African country. For more information and how to apply, visit:

Please note: If the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is the only scholarship you are interested in applying for at the University of Edinburgh, please apply for the Mastercard Foundation scholarship only first. If you receive a scholarship offer from the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, then you can apply for the academic programme.

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. Sometimes it may take longer than eight weeks to complete our decision-making and when this is the case we will contact applicants directly to provide an updated timeline for decision-making.

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 15 December 1 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

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