Sustainable Development BSc (Honours) 2024 entry

The information on this page is for 2024 entry. If you are considering applying for 2025 entry or later, some of these details may differ and we advise you to check the page again before you apply. To receive a notification of when applications open for 2025 entry, please register your interest.

Sustainable development is widely regarded as the most promising framework for addressing environmental and developmental challenges in the 21st century. These challenges include 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 BSc (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. 

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2028
Four years full time
School of Geography and Sustainable Development
“My favourite aspect is the interdisciplinary nature of Sustainable Development – we receive expert teaching from across the University. It is empowering to know that I am learning tools and concepts necessary to address the big issues of our time. In addition, I really enjoy the tutorial discussions that deepen the learning and critical thinking process and allow me to debate issues with fellow students.”
- Cape Town, South Africa

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.

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 entry requirements as outlined on their pages.

  • Standard entry grades:
    Minimum entry grades:
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    Minimum entry grades:
  • Standard entry grades:
    38 (HL 6,6,6)
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5)

General entry requirements

All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.

  • SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Applications of Mathematics
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of this subject is required.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:


Sustainable Development is available as both a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and a Master of Arts (MA) degree. The content of the subjects is the same irrespective of Faculty. Students who have a background in the sciences or who wish to study Sustainable Development alongside Science subjects at St Andrews should apply for the BSc. For those interested in studying Sustainable Development alongside Arts subjects, the MA in Sustainable Development may be of interest instead. The entry requirements are the same for all single Honours Sustainable Development degrees.

Study abroad

Sustainable development students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad site.

International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The BSc (Hons) in Sustainable Development is a four-year course run by the School of Geography and Sustainable Development.

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. 

Alongside sustainable development, in the first year of your studies, you will be required to study an additional two subjects. In the second year you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects, sometimes two. Find out more about how academic years are organised.  

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 
  • environmental politics 
  • ocean governance 
  • sustainable technologies 
  • social justice 
  • urban sustainability.  

During your final year, you may also complete a dissertation module which focuses on a topic of your choice, with structured support from an academic in an appropriate school. 

The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure web page.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours), you will take the four 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. For Honours level (your third and fourth years), you choose from a range of Honours modules.

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. 
  • Sustainable Development Goals: Challenges and Opportunities: offers detailed investigation of a selection of core issues in sustainable development - and how these issues are addressed by key players. 

Students will take the following compulsory second-year modules: 

  • From Sustainable Development to Human Security: focuses overarching approaches for developing sustainability solutions, whose interests they represent, their implications on the "individual", the benefits and trade-offs. 
  • Changing Natures: develops student appreciation of the diverse ways that natures are known, protected and changed. It explores the roles of people, politics and policies, and the nature of change that is required to meet contemporary challenges. 
  • Sustainable Scotland: draws on Scotland’s unique landscapes, patterns of urbanisation, and the geography of population to examine interrelated issues of land use and social inequalities to the broader questions of sustainability here in Scotland. 

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. 

In first semester of third year, all students must complete team-taught:

  • Contesting sustainability: provides students with the broad conceptual skills required to engage critically with the history and contemporary use of the language and concepts of sustainability. 

Here is a sample of optional Honours modules  that may form part of the programme: 

  • Building sustainable, inclusive and just cities 
  • Extractive Environments
  • Global Health Disparities
  • Governance for Sustainability 
  • Green Politics: theory and practice 
  • Home and Energy Geographies 
  • The Blue Economy and Maritime Security Intersections and Interdependence
  • The Nature of Political Ecology
  • Transitioning to Sustainability: Community, Nature and Governance. 

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 quantitative and qualitative skills. 

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

The compulsory modules listed here must be taken 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. For Honours level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.


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 200 to 350 students for lectures 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 15 to 40 students for seminars and laboratories down to 1 to 5 students for supervisions. 

When not attending lectures, tutorials and laboratory classes, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve: 

  • working on individual and group projects 
  • undertaking research in a laboratory 
  • undertaking research in the library 
  • preparing coursework assignments and presentations 
  • preparing for examinations. 

All sustainable development sub-honours modules are assessed by at least 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 aims to provide feedback on every assessment within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments. 

Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge of sustainable development. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of laboratory classes and seminars under the supervision of the module leader. 

You can find contact information for all sustainable development staff on the School of Geography and Sustainable Development website.

The University’s Student Services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long-term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

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.

Funding and scholarships

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

Joint Honours degrees

You can also take Sustainable Development as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

Course name UCAS code
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Sustainable DevelopmentF896
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Economics and Sustainable DevelopmentF893
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Geography and Sustainable DevelopmentF802
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Management and Sustainable DevelopmentF898
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Philosophy and Sustainable DevelopmentRV48
Bachelor of Science (Honours) Psychology and Sustainable DevelopmentCS82
Master of Arts (Honours) Arabic and Sustainable DevelopmentF889
Master of Arts (Honours) Art History and Sustainable DevelopmentAS01
Master of Arts (Honours) Economics and Sustainable DevelopmentF892
Master of Arts (Honours) English and Sustainable DevelopmentSEN1
Master of Arts (Honours) Film Studies and Sustainable DevelopmentPV33
Master of Arts (Honours) Geography and Sustainable DevelopmentL701
Master of Arts (Honours) German and Sustainable DevelopmentF888
Master of Arts (Honours) German and Sustainable Development (With Integrated Year Abroad)F884
Master of Arts (Honours) International Relations and Sustainable DevelopmentF895
Master of Arts (Honours) Italian and Sustainable DevelopmentF887
Master of Arts (Honours) Italian and Sustainable Development (With Integrated Year Abroad)F883
Master of Arts (Honours) Management and Sustainable DevelopmentF897
Master of Arts (Honours) Modern History and Sustainable DevelopmentSV10
Master of Arts (Honours) Philosophy and Sustainable DevelopmentRV47
Master of Arts (Honours) Psychology and Sustainable DevelopmentCS81
Master of Arts (Honours) Russian and Sustainable DevelopmentF886
Master of Arts (Honours) Russian and Sustainable Development (With Integrated Year Abroad)F882
Master of Arts (Honours) Social Anthropology and Sustainable DevelopmentF894
Master of Arts (Honours) Spanish and Sustainable DevelopmentF885
Master of Arts (Honours) Spanish and Sustainable Development (With Integrated Year Abroad)F881


Given sustainable development’s high global profile, graduates with this degree are in demand because of their keen interest in the nature and future of the planet, and their skills in thinking critically and creatively about today’s key challenges. 

Sustainable development students have a rare combination of quantitative and qualitative skills, an ability to integrate and analyse diverse data, and a deep understanding of human-environment interactions. 

Career pathways for graduates include: 

  • conservation 
  • education 
  • environmental management 
  • government 
  • non-governmental organisations (NGOs) 
  • impact assessment 
  • strategic planning and development 
  • the energy sector 
  • business and finance 
  • consultancy 
  • scientific research. 

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.

What to do next

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We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online or in-person visiting days.

Contact us

01334 462894
School of Geography and Sustainable Development
The Irvine Building
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

School of Geography and Sustainable Development website

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