Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

MA Single Honours in Sustainable Development

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: N/A
Final award: MA Honours
Programme title: Sustainable Devleopment
UCAS code: HL23
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Sociology, Politics, Social Anthropology, Politics, Geography, Environmental Studies
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr Elizabeth Bomberg
Date of production/revision: June 2009/May 2012

External summary

Sustainable development is about the long-term relationships between people and the environment.  It involves an examination of environmental and resource management, but also issues of economic growth (consumption, trade, poverty) and social development (democracy, participation, human well-being).  Edinburgh University’s unique Sustainable Development MA programme enables the study of these issues through the prisms of several complementary disciplines including geography, politics, international relations, social anthropology and sociology.  Students will focus on social scientific and humanities subjects, but will also receive a non-specialist natural scientific introduction to the topic That interdisciplinary, critical, questioning approach is a key feature of Edinburgh University’s Sustainable Development degree. The University has an outstanding record in research and teaching in the wide range of disciplines (both social and natural sciences) central to the Sustainable Development degree.

The aim of the programme is to develop graduates who are able to recognise and respond to the interdisciplinary issues raised by our evolving understanding of sustainable development. Effective conservation efforts in relation to climate stability, forests, oceans, other species, soils and water resources require transformation of inter-human as well as human-nature relationships. The degree thus captures the emerging interdisciplinary nexus between development theory and practice, and the natural and social sciences. This nexus provides the guiding intellectual vision for this programme.

Educational aims of programme

The programme aims to develop:

  • Substantive knowledge of a range of areas linked to sustainability and development, and the empirical evidence underlying them, informed by an active research culture;
  • The ability to understand, evaluate and use a range of theoretical frameworks developed to understand sustainable development;
  • The ability to use a range of  methods to collect, evaluate and interpret empirical evidence, and undertake independent research;
  • The capacity to apply both natural and social science knowledge to the understanding and evaluation of development and sustainable issues and problems in the contemporary world;
  • Key generic skills in critical thinking, evaluation of evidence, conceptual analysis, logical argument and oral and written communication.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

On completion of the programme students should be able to:

  • understand and explain key global challenges, such as urbanisation, population pressure, poverty reduction, energy demand, climate change, water demand, food security and global health;
  • critique the different conceptual models of sustainable development;
  • explain how contemporary narratives, ideologies and practices are shaped by particular experiences, backgrounds and evidence;
  • demonstrate awareness of the different theoretical, conceptual and methodological approaches underlying a range of disciplines core to sustainable development (including Geography, International Relations, Politics, Sociology, Social Anthropology and Development,  Economics, Philosophy etc.);
  • demonstrate a depth of knowledge, to Honours degree level, in at least one of these disciplines;
  • propose solutions to key global challenges;
  • demonstrate awareness of the ethical implications of possible solutions.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Graduates in Sustainable Development will be able to create new knowledge and opportunities for learning through the process of research and enquiry. These will include the ability to:

  • analyse and address complex real-world social and environmental issues through applying more than one disciplinary perspective;
  • identify and design ways of solving problems with social, cultural, and natural science dimensions;
  • research, critique, and apply social scientific knowledge;
  • integrate knowledge and information from a range of other sources;
  • understand and use appropriately scientific data and publications;
  • present arguments in spoken and written form with accuracy and fluency;
  • plan and execute a research-based dissertation or project.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Graduates in Sustainable Development will be able to work independently in a way that is informed by openness, curiosity, and a desire to meet new challenges involved in this multidisciplinary degree, including the abilities and dispositions to:

  • be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning and are committed to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
  • be able to sustain intellectual interest by remaining receptive to both new and old ideas, methods, and ways of thinking;
  • be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
  • be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views;
  • be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts;
  • have a personal vision and goals and be able to work towards these in a sustainable way.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Sustainable Development will recognise and value communication as the tool for negotiating and creating new understanding, collaborating with others, and furthering their own learning, including the abilities to:

  • make effective use of oral, written and visual means to critique, negotiate, create and communicate understanding of sustainable development issues and debates;
  • use communication as a tool for collaborating and relating to others;
  • further their own learning through effective use of the full range of communication approaches;
  • seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;
  • recognise the benefits of communicating with those beyond their immediate environments;
  • use effective communication to articulate their skills as identified through self-reflection.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates in Sustainable Development will be able to effect change and be responsive to the situations and environments in which they operate, including the abilities to:

  • apply their understanding of sustainability issues to diverse stakeholders;
  • make constructive use of social analysis skills in personal, professional, and community life;
  • respond to changing social and geographical contexts of sustainable development;
  • understand and promote effectively the values of diversity and equity, while also recognizing possible trade-offs between these.
  • transfer their knowledge, learning, skills and abilities from one context to another;
  • understand and act on social, cultural, global and environmental responsibilities, and help others to do the same;
  • be able to work effectively with others, capitalising on their different thinking, experience and skills;
  • have the confidence to make decisions based on their understandings and their personal and intellectual autonomy;

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Library, information location and retrieval skills; use of word processing and presentation packages (e.g. Powerpoint); field work design and execution.

Programme structure and features

The structure of the Sustainable Development Degree Programme is available at: http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk

 

Year

Year 1, Academic year 2012/13

Level

Credit

1

COMPULSORY COURSES This DPT has 2 compulsory courses in Year 1.

Code                                 Course Name

SCIL0808                      SD 1a: Introducing Sustainable Development

SCSU08004                  Science and Society 1b: Nature and Environment

8

40

1

MAIN SUBJECT COURSES

Select a minimum of 40 credits Level 8 courses from Schedules J or N

Choose one of the following subject areas which will serve as your main subject area:  Geography, International Relations, Politics, Social Anthropology, Sociology. All 40 credits must be within the same subject area.)

8

40

1

COURSE OPTIONS

Select 40 credits Level 7/8 courses in Schedules A to Q, T and W

See the Sustainable Development Programme Handbook for recommended outside Year 1 courses [weblink to handbook here when available]

8

40

2

Year 2, Academic year 2012/13

2

COMPULSORY COURSES This DPT has 2 compulsory courses in Year 2.

Code                                 Course Name

TEMPSXXX                   Perspectives on Sustainable Development (SPS)

ENVI108001                  Sustainability, Society and Environment (GEO)

8

40

2

MAIN SUBJECT COURSES

Select a minimum of 40 credits from Level 8 courses from Schedules J or N

Choose the required Year 2 courses from your main subject area (Geography, International Relations, Politics, Social Anthropology or Sociology)

Students pursuing a Geography pathway must select a minimum of 40 credits from the following list of courses, as available

Code                 Course Name

GEGR08003       Economic and Political Geography

GEGR08001       Environmental Sensitivity and Change

GEGR08002       Geomorphology

GEGR08004       Social and Cultural Geography

Students pursuing an SPS pathway must select at least 20 credits from their main subject area AND 20 credits from  the following list

Code                 Course Name

SSPS08002 Social and Political Theory or

SSPS08004 Social and Political Enquiry

 

8

40

2

COURSE OPTIONS

Select 40 credits Level 7/8 courses in Schedules A to Q, T and W

See the Sustainable Development Programme Handbook for recommended outside Year 2 courses [weblink to handbook here when available]

8

40

Note 1:  Entry to third year normally requires successful completion of the first two years of the curriculum. Students pursuing a main subject area within the School of Social and Political Science must also normally achieve marks of 50% or more at the first attempt in all required second-year courses for their main subject

3

Year 3, Academic year 2012/13

3

COMPULSORY COURSES This DPT has 1 compulsory courses in Year 3.

Code                                 Course Name

SPSS10014     Case Studies in Sustainable Development

10

20

3

MAIN SUBJECT COURSES

Note 2: If the chosen main subject area requires core courses in Honours years, Sustainable Development students must take at least 40 of these required credits over the course of the two Honours years.

Select a minimum of 60 credits from Level 9/10 courses in Schedule J or N, as available

Select all 60 credits from your main Subject Area

9/10

60

3

COURSE OPTIONS

Level 9/10 courses in Schedules A to Q, T and W

(see Programme Handbook for recommendations)                                              

9/10

40

Note 3: Over the course of Years 3 and 4 students must take at least 40 credits of level 9/10 course in subjects other than their main subject area.

4

Year 4, Academic year 2012/13

4

COMPULSORY COURSES This DPT has 1 compulsory course in Year 4.

Code                                 Course Name

GEOXXXX  Dissertation in Sustainable Development, Geography OR

PLITXXXX   Dissertation in Sustainable Development, SPS                             

10

40

4

MAIN SUBJECT COURSES

Select a minimum of 40 credits from Level 9/10 courses in Schedule J or N, as available

Select all 40 credits from your main Subject Area

10

40

4

COURSE OPTIONS

Select a maximum of 40 credits from Level 10 courses in Schedules A to Q, T and W (see Sustainable Development Programme Handbook for recommendations)

10

40

Progression:

Y1

Students must pass all subjects.

Y2

A pass in six courses overall, with a mark of 50% or more in required courses.

Y3

End of semester degree examinations

Students with sufficient credits may exit at end of Year 3 with BA Humanities and Social Science. Students who choose not to continue after year 3 of the Honours programme may also, with the discretion of the examination board, be awarded the BA.

Y4

Degree classification based on performance in 240 credits courses taken in Y3 and Y4, assessed in the year they are taken.

Modes of study

Study in most courses in years 1 and 2 combines lectures and small group tutorials. Most courses in years 3 and 4 combine lectures with student discussion and presentation. The required courses in year 3 (Cases in Sustainable Development) involves field work within and outside of Edinburgh. In year 4 a Dissertation (in Geography or Social Science) will be undertaken by the student working individually but guided by a series of supervision meetings with a member of staff, and supported by a series of workshops with the Programme Director.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

In Year 1

Lectures

Tutorials

Seminars

Problem based learning activities

Group work with peers

One to one meetings with personal tutors

In Year 2

Lectures

Tutorials

Seminars

Problem based learning activities

Group work with peers

One to one meetings with personal tutors

In Year 3

Lectures

Tutorials

Seminars

One to one meetings with personal tutors

Problem based learning activities

Field work linked to Sustainable Development projects (Cases course)

Group-work with peers

In Year 4

Lectures

Tutorials

Seminars

One to one meetings with personal tutors

Problem based learning activities

Group work with peers

One to one supervision (Dissertation)

Workshops to develop research skills (Dissertation workshops)

Across all years:  

Resources 

In addition to several University libraries, students have access to dedicated Computing labs and a large Undergraduate Reading Room reserved for undergraduate students. Located in the Chrystal Macmillan building, it offers computing, studying and reading space as well as and materials.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 119810
Year 217830
Year 352966
Year 44960

Assessment methods and strategies

Assessment

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and can take the form of formative work which provides the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for credit.

In Year 1

Essays

Written Examinations (unseen)

Assessment of participation in tutorials

Wiki exercises (e.g. for ‘Our Changing World’ course)

In Year 2

Essays

Written Examinations (unseen)

Assessment of participation in tutorials

In Year 3

Essays

Written Examinations (unseen)

Policy Briefs 

Policy Reports 

Field work journal (Cases in Sustainable Development)

In Year 4

(as for Year 3) plus:

Assessment of original research work (Dissertation)

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 147251
Year 234264
Year 333265
Year 400100

Career opportunities

Our students will have acquired the skills and knowledge needed to work in the many fields related to sustainable development, such as corporate social responsibility, environmental education, environmental auditing, environmental politics, risk management, sustainable citizenship. Others will use their interdisciplinary and real-world problem-solving skills to enter the public sector (governmental and non-governmental) at local, national or international levels of governance.  Still others  may choose to pursue postgraduate degrees before entering the public, teaching or corporate sectors.  Some other students may further their study in preparation for an academic career.

Other items

The University’s Strategic Plan has a strategic theme of ‘promoting equality, diversity, sustainability and social responsibility’. This programme will build on positive examples of good practice in these areas, reinforcing the idea of the University as a ‘learning community’ which engages all members of the University in the pursuit of forms of understanding that are much deeper than ‘knowledge’.