Sustainable Development BSc (Honours) 2022 entry

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.

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, and the chance of receiving an offer is the same for each of these degrees.

How to apply Register your interest

Key information

UCAS code


Course type

Bachelor of Science (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

  • Start date: 5 September 2022
  • End date: 30 June 2026

Entry requirements

These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. 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.

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

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.

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 English language requirements.

How to apply

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

No previous knowledge of this subject is required.

General entry requirements

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

Other qualifications

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.

Course information

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

St Andrews also offers an MA in Sustainable Development, which may be more suitable for students who wish to take sustainable development alongside Arts 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.

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, and at least two 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.
  • 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:

  • Sustainable Development: Frameworks for Implementation: explores conceptual frameworks that might be utilised (individually or together) to encourage and facilitate Sustainable Development.
  • Sustainable Development: Tools for Action: builds upon core themes from Frameworks for Implementation and looks at how different agents, such as governments, corporations, and individuals enact change.

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 a team-taught 'Contesting Sustainability' module. This module will provide 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 Honours modules that may form part of the programme:

  • Building Sustainable, Inclusive and Just Cities
  • Governance for Sustainability
  • Green Politics: Theory and Practice
  • Home and Energy Geographies
  • 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 which 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.


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 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 tutorials or 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.

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.

In addition to your studies in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.

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.


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. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

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Tuition fees for entry

Home-funded £1820
RUK (England, Wales, Northern Ireland) and Republic of Ireland £9250
Islands (Channel Islands, Isle of Man) £9250
EU and overseas £26350

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.

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 take Sustainable Development as part of a joint Honours degree alongside the following subjects:

Special joint degree notes

The joint option with Psychology can also be taken as a degree programme with British Psychological Society accreditation.

In taking a joint degree, you are required to take core modules in all of your subjects. Find out more about joint degrees.

Additional joint degree options are available for students who take the MA in Sustainable Development.

Your future


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.  

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.

Student life

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, ensure a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.

Students of sustainable development may be interested in joining the following student societies:

  • Sustainable Development Society: provides an open place for the discussion of sustainable development and regular group events. 
  • 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 University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings, parks and beaches, providing a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. Find out more about the town of St Andrews.

Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews.


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

Phone: 01334 462894

School of Geography and Sustainable Development website


Admission to the University of St Andrews is governed by our admissions policy.

Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Curriculum development

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