Sustainable Development MA (Hons)
2017 entry

Sustainable Development is widely regarded as the most promising framework for addressing environmental and developmental challenges in the twenty-first century, including: the provision of clean water and adequate sanitation, energy generation and supply, human health, food production and distribution, and the continuing threat to biodiversity.

The MA (Hons) in Sustainable Development encourages students to rise to the challenges of the environment and society, and focuses on the study of principles and practices of sustainability in an interdisciplinary environment.

Sustainable Development is studied up to Honours level in both the Faculty of Science (BSc) and the Faculty of Arts (MA). Students who have a background in the arts or who wish to study Sustainable Development alongside arts subjects at St Andrews should apply for the MA. For those interested in studying Sustainable Development alongside science subjects, the BSc in Sustainable Development may be of interest.

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

UCAS code


Course type

Master of Arts (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

Entry requirements

SQA Highers AAAB
GCE A-Levels AAA
IB points 36

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.

Find out more about international entry requirements.

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of this subject is required.

Faculty entry requirements

You must also meet the Faculty of Arts minimum qualifications. These vary depending on which qualifications you hold.  

Other qualifications

Passes in other examinations at equivalent levels and subjects may be accepted by the Dean of the Faculty.

Find out more about Faculty of Arts entry requirements.

Course information

The MA (Hons) in Sustainable Development is a four-year course run by the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, with contributions from other Schools at the University.

St Andrews also offers a BSc in Sustainable Development, which may be more suitable for students who wish to take Sustainable Development alongside science subjects. The Sustainable Development element within both the BSc and MA degree programmes is exactly the same.

Your first two years of study illustrate the breadth of issues involved in sustainable development as well as how to move from unsustainable to sustainable development.

The knowledge you gain will prepare you for your final two years, during which you will have the opportunity to choose from a range of modules from different Schools. These modules allow you to pursue your specific interests and explore the practice of sustainability through specific field visits. Subjects in these modules include (but are not limited to):

  • climate change
  • environmental management
  • sustainable technologies
  • business and corporate responsibility
  • social justice. 

During your final year, you will also carry out a dissertation module which focuses on a topic of your choice, with structured support from a member of staff in an appropriate school.

Find out more about studying Sustainable Development at St Andrews.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours) you will take required modules in Sustainable Development alongside modules in at least one other subject.

Typically, you will take one Sustainable Development module per semester during your first two years, and four sustainability modules per semester during your third and fourth year (known as Honours). Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

Students will take the following compulsory first-year modules:

  • What is Sustainable Development?: provides an introductory overview to Sustainable Development, such as social justice, human well-being, inter-generational equity and environmental stewardship.
  • Welcome to the Anthropocene: Society, Population, Environment: shows how Geography is uniquely placed to understand our changing world.

Students will take the following compulsory second-year modules:

If you decide to take Sustainable Development in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including modules from separate Schools within the University.

Here is a sample of Honours modules which have been offered in previous years:

  • Reconstructing Past Environments
  • Oceans and Climate
  • Scrutinising Segregation: Geographies of Diversity and Inequality
  • Frontiers in Sustainability Research: Do Good Lives Cost the Earth?
  • Colonial and Postcolonial Geographies.

You have the opportunity to undertake extensive training in research through a residential field course where you will learn how to conduct research, explore research methods and gain statistical and quantitative skills.

In fourth year, students will complete a dissertation module which combines expertise from partner disciplines with an understanding of sustainable development in researching a topic of your choice. 

The modules listed here are the compulsory modules that students must take in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. A full list of all modules currently available can be found in the module catalogue.


Teaching format

Sustainable Development is taught using a wide variety of methods including:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • laboratory classes
  • tutorials
  • field excursions
  • research projects.

At sub-honours level, class sizes range from 150 to 200 students for lectures, 15 to 25 students for seminars, and 8 to 12 students for small-group tutorials.

At Honours level, much of the teaching is in small groups and there is a considerable amount of one-on-one contact with staff. Honours class sizes range from 10 to 50 students for seminars and laboratories down to 1 to 5 students for tutorials.

In addition to lectures and tutorials, students are expected to undertake substantial independent, but guided, work outside of the classroom. 


All Sustainable Development sub-honours modules are assessed by 50% coursework. Depending on the individual module, the remaining 50% is made up either of further coursework or written examinations.

At Honours level, Sustainable Development modules are assessed by a variety of methods that include coursework and examinations.

Modules run by contributing Schools have varying methods of assessment.

Examinations are held at the end of each semester during a dedicated exam diet with revision time provided beforehand. The School provides feedback on every assessment, with a view to improving your performance in future.


Tuition fees for 2017 entry

Scotland and EU £1,820
Rest of the UK £9,250
Overseas £20,570

For overseas students, tuition fees will be fixed at this level for the duration of your programme.

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation in 2017.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Faculty of Arts scholarship

The Dr Lawrence M Wodehouse Scholarship provides financial assistance for students studying in the Faculty of Arts who are academically gifted but would otherwise struggle with the cost of studying at St Andrews.

Find out more about undergraduate scholarships.

Your future


At a time when sustainable development is rising higher up the national and international agenda, and as businesses and organisations accept the need to adopt more sustainable practices, graduates with a degree in Sustainable Development are in strong demand.

Sustainable Development students are able to critically interrogate the principles, practice and plurality of sustainable development and to contribute to the evolution of innovative, interdisciplinary thinking and action in this area.

Career pathways for graduates include:

  • central and local government
  • non-governmental organisations
  • teaching
  • conservation
  • impact assessment
  • management
  • strategic planning
  • consultancy.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.

Study abroad

The University is delighted to offer undergraduates a number of exciting opportunities to apply to spend a semester or year abroad as part of a St Andrews degree programme. St Andrews is partnered with large and small institutions, ancient and young, across the globe. What unites all of our programmes is the quality of the academic provision, ensuring that participation in a St Andrews Study abroad programme opens the door to a new and valuable academic experience at another world-class institution. Study Abroad for credit is permitted on existing University-approved programmes only.

Student life

From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.

Students of Sustainable Development may be interested in joining the following student societies:

  • Geological Society: organises academic activities such as lectures and networking events as well as social events and field trips to places such as Oban, Skye, and Loch Ness.
  • Geography Society: organises regular social meetups and Geography-related events throughout the year for students and staff. 

The School of Geography and Sustainable Development is housed within the Irvine Building, an attractive building close to the sea in the historical heart of the University between St Salvator's Quadrangle and St Salvator's Hall. Students attend tutorials, seminars, lectures and individual meetings with tutors in this building.

The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As the campus is located around town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland. Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews.


School of Geography and Sustainable Development
University of St Andrews
Irvine Building
North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2894

Geography and Sustainable Development website