Undergraduate study - 2018 entry

Subject area: Sustainable Development

Why choose Sustainable Development at the University of Edinburgh?

  • The University has an outstanding record of world-leading research and teaching in a wide range of approaches to sustainability and human development, from across the social and natural sciences.

  • You will be able to engage with sustainability issues from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, and in the interdisciplinary manner that sustainable development demands.

  • The programme allows you to focus on the social science issues that are crucial for sustainable development, although you can also choose to study science courses if you wish.

Study abroad

I really enjoy having a wide range of lecturers; it’s very interesting to get lots of different views and programme organisers put a lot of effort into keeping us informed. I feel equipped for my future career by being shown how wide the field of sustainable development really is.

Charlotte Lancaster MA (Hons) Sustainable Development graduate
Charlotte Lancaster MA (Hons) Sustainable Development graduate

Sustainable development refers to the challenges of reducing global inequity and improving wellbeing, while reducing threats to the Earth's systems from industrialised production and consumption.

Effective environmental care, in relation to climate stability, biodiversity and renewal of natural resources, requires the examination of how societies organise social, economic and political activity, how they relate to their surroundings and how they ensure the renewal of natural resources for future generations.

Our programme addresses these global issues primarily through multidisciplinary social science teaching, focusing on the social consequences of current patterns of development and opportunities for change.

At the same time you will develop understanding of the key scientific debates and the ability to evaluate scientific knowledge and practices concerning sustainable development. There are options for students wishing to pursue scientific perspectives on sustainable development, but these are not compulsory.

Year 1

You will study two compulsory courses. The first will introduce the concept and principles of sustainable development, and the second will consider the way that science and technology shape the relationship between humans and the environment.

You will also choose a main subject area – geography, politics, international relations, sociology or social anthropology – and take two courses from this subject. You will select two further options from a wide range from across the University.

Year 2

In semester 1, you will study issues of international development planning, policy, and aid. In semester 2 you will explore key topics and theories of sustainable development from an interdisciplinary perspective.

You will also continue to study courses from your main subject area, and two other courses from a wide choice.

Year 3

You will take two compulsory courses. The first explores and appraises a range of actual and proposed methods of responding to sustainability challenges. The second is a fieldwork-based sustainable development course. You will choose honours level options in your main subject area, and study courses from other related disciplines, as well as receiving research training.

Year 4

You will undertake a dissertation on a real-world sustainable development issue. You will receive guidance from either a geography or social science supervisor, depending on your topic. You also choose honours level options in your main subject area, and from other related disciplines.

Are there additional costs?

There are small costs associated with fieldwork in Year 3.

Our facilities

Teaching is primarily based at facilities in the centrally located George Square campus although there will be opportunities to take courses in other parts of the University, including the Kings' Buildings site. You will have access to the University's computer facilities and libraries.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad through the University's Erasmus and international exchange programmes.

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, seminars and fieldwork.

How will I be assessed?

The programme is assessed through exams, coursework, tutorial participation and project work.

Graduates of this programme will be in demand in the growth areas of environmental management, environmental education and teaching, development and environment campaigning and NGO work, national, international, and local government, environmental politics, environmental auditing, corporate social responsibility, risk management and sustainable citizenship.

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