Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

MA Sustainable Development

UCAS code: HL23

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Social and Political Science

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Sustainable Development

Sustainable development refers to the challenges of reducing global inequalities and improving wellbeing. It is also about 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 you to examine:

  • how societies organise social, economic and political activity
  • how they relate to their surroundings
  • how they ensure the renewal of natural resources for future generations

How we address global issues

Our programme addresses these global issues primarily through multidisciplinary social science teaching, focusing on:

  • the social consequences of current ways of living
  • patterns of development
  • opportunities for change

Programme structure

Students will enrol on core courses in Sustainable Development alongside core courses in a chosen disciplinary subject.

Alongside this, you will have access to a wide range of optional courses to complement and broaden your learning. There are options for students wishing to pursue scientific perspectives on sustainable development, but these are not compulsory.

Alongside core courses in Sustainable Development, you will choose 1-2 main subject areas.

Currently, these are:

  • Geography
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Social Anthropology
  • Sociology

This provides you with substantive disciplinary training - theoretically and methodologically. This will empower you to critically engage with sustainable development and its future.

Year 1

You will study two compulsory courses. The first will introduce the concept and principles of sustainable development.

The second will consider the way that science and technology shape the relationship between humans and the environment.

You will choose a main subject area and take two courses from this subject:

  • geography
  • politics and international relations
  • sociology
  • social anthropology

You will also 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 as well as receiving research training in your main subject area, and study courses from other related disciplines.

Year 4

You will undertake a dissertation on a real-world sustainable development issue within your main subject area, with guidance from a supervisor.

You will also choose honours-level options in courses relevant to sustainable development, your main subject area, and from other related disciplines.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2021/22)

Our facilities

Teaching is primarily based at facilities in the centrally located George Square campus. However, 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 during Year 3 through international exchange programmes.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • fieldwork

How will I be assessed?

The programme is assessed through:

  • exams
  • coursework
  • tutorial participation
  • project work

Graduates of this programme will be in demand in:

  • environmental research and management
  • environmental education and teaching
  • development and environment campaigning and NGO work
  • teaching careers
  • national, international and local government
  • environmental politics
  • environmental auditing
  • corporate social responsibility
  • risk management
  • sustainable citizenship

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAAA-AAAA (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAB - ABB.
  • IB: 36 points with 665 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE/IGSCE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Sustainable Development

Additional costs

You may incur some small additional costs in Year 3 for compulsory field trips.

These costs will vary depending on the location of the trips. If payable, these would be small transport costs for day trips in south east Scotland.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding