Sustainable Development (MSc) 2020 entry

On the MSc in Sustainable Development, you will explore the socio-economic, political, and environmental aspects of the inter-relationships between human development and sustainability. You will develop an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainable development questions and concepts as well as learn skills needed for sustainability-related careers.

Graduate School

This programme is now delivered through the Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies (and no longer the School of Geography and Sustainable Development). Some changes, including entry requirements, have been made to this page to reflect this change.

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Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 7 September 2020
  • End date: 30 September 2021

If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Sustainable Development (MSc) page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.

Course duration

One year full time; part-time study is not currently offered.

Entry requirements

The MSc in Sustainable Development welcomes applicants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds including, but not limited to:

  • biology 
  • business or management
  • economics
  • environmental history
  • environmental science
  • geography
  • mathematics
  • politics
  • sociology.

The qualifications listed are indicative minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

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Tuition fees

UK and EU: £9,450
Overseas: £23,090

Application deadline

Wednesday 12 August 2020. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.
  • personal statement explaining:
    • why you have applied for this course
    • how the course relates to your personal or professional ambitions
    • how your academic and professional background show you have the skills needed to work effectively at postgraduate level. 
  • two original signed academic references on headed paper
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

Course information

The MSc in Sustainable Development explores the socio-economic, political, and environmental aspects of the inter-relationships between human development and sustainability. You will develop an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainable development questions and concepts as well as learn skills needed for sustainability-related careers.

Highlights

  • Degree structure and content helps students with limited direct subject experience to develop advanced knowledge and understanding.
  • Interdisciplinary character allows you to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies.
  • Critical study of socio-economic, political, and environmental aspects gives a remarkable richness and depth compared with conventional single-subject degrees.
  • The course considers sustainability from the perspectives of the public, businesses, and policymakers and the relationships between academia, policy, and society.
  • Integrated training programme connects your academic learning with the development of professional competencies that enhance employability.

The MSc in Sustainable Development is distinguished by its interdisciplinary character. Sustainable development is now widely regarded as the most promising framework within which challenges can be addressed, such as:

  • clean water and adequate sanitation
  • energy generation and supply
  • human health
  • food production and distribution
  • threats to biodiversity.

The ability to provide solutions to these problems requires an understanding of the different aspects of the complex inter-relationships between human development and sustainability.

The degree will develop your ability to critically assess sustainable development problems from multiple perspectives. You will be encouraged to develop a more rounded, interdisciplinary understanding of sustainable development questions and concepts and to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies. The core modules bring together subject experts from across the University, providing different disciplinary perspectives on key topics.

As well as a need for an advanced understanding of sustainable development problems, there is a need to consider sustainability from the perspectives of the public, businesses, and policymakers and to promote engagement beyond academics and researchers. The degree explores tensions and synergies between different forms of governance and decision-making, engages with sustainable development policy and practice across a range of scales (local, national, and international), and considers the relationships between academia, policy, and society. Coursework components are, in part, intended to help you develop and demonstrate skills in communicating sustainable development concepts to different audiences. 

The degree includes an integrated training programme. The training programme connects your academic learning with the development of professional competencies that enhance employability. The training programme brings together postgraduates from all Graduate School Masters degrees, helping you to make new interdisciplinary connections and providing a supportive social aspect to the Graduate School community.

Teaching format

The MSc in Sustainable Development is a one-year full-time degree. You will complete one compulsory module in Semester 1 (September to December) and a second compulsory module in Semester 2 (January to May). You will complete one or two optional modules in each semester.

You will use the period from June to August to complete an advanced study project.

The MSc involves both independent and group study, and teaching methods include seminars and workshops.

Most modules are assessed through coursework including essays, reports, and presentations.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.

Modules

The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2019-2020 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2020 entry.

Each semester is organised around compulsory modules exploring sustainable development theory and practice.

Semester 1

  • Interrogating Sustainable Development: explores the concept of the history of sustainable development and introduces students to a range of disciplinary perspectives and case studies.

Semester 2

  • Master Class in Sustainable Development: prepares students for the advanced study project and provides training in transferable skills tailored to sustainable development contexts.

Alongside the compulsory modules, you will complete one or two other optional modules in each semester. Optional modules allow you to shape the degree around your own personal and professional interests.

Optional modules are expected to be offered in the following areas: 

  • quantitative methods
  • qualitative methods
  • health and development
  • environmental management
  • global environmental change
  • population change and development. 

Optional modules are subject to change each year and may require a minimum number of students to be offered (see the University’s position on curriculum development).

The final module of the MSc is the advanced study in sustainable development project. This allows you to critically explore a sustainable development topic and present your findings in both academic and policy-relevant formats. You will also demonstrate key transferable skills in synthesising, evaluating, and communicating the evidence needed to underpin sustainable development.

The project module is assessed through three components:

  • an academic literature review
  • a policy brief or data project
  • a reflection on the process of translating academic review into policy advice or addressing key questions identified in the academic review by way of secondary data analysis.

If students choose not to complete the advanced study project required for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitability qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc. 


The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2020 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

Visit St Andrews

If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join us at a visiting day to explore the town, find out about our courses and meet current students.

Upcoming postgraduate visiting days:

  • Wednesday 11 March 2020

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Virtual events

Find out more about studying at St Andrews, why it's unique and what it will do for your future.

Upcoming virtual events:

  • Friday 22 November at 9.15am (UK time)
  • Friday 29 November at 3.15pm (UK time)
  • Thursday 5 December at 9.15am (UK time)
  • Thursday 12 December at 3.15pm (UK time)

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The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies

The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies is the University of St Andrews’ newest academic school and has been established to foster interdisciplinary postgraduate education and scholarship.

The Graduate School’s interdisciplinary programmes and community provide postgraduates with a stimulating environment in which you can:

  • Learn across subject boundaries and expand your knowledge base, allowing you to maximise the intellectual and professional value of your time at St Andrews.
  • Develop and apply practical skills relevant to academic and professional contexts, enhancing your employability.
  • Benefit from being part of a vibrant and welcoming postgraduate community and a Graduate School that is wholly focused on understanding and meeting the needs of Masters students.

Funding

Scholarships 

Scholarships are designed to help students support themselves during their studies. Find out more about postgraduate scholarships.

Postgraduate loans

Loans are available for students who meet the residency and other criteria. Find out more about postgraduate loans.

Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews. Find out more about the Recent Graduate Discount.

After the MSc

Research degrees

St Andrews offers a vibrant and stimulating research environment. One of the great strengths of a St Andrews research degree is the collegiate atmosphere which enables access to expertise beyond your formal supervisors and the ability to conduct interdisciplinary research. 

Research students are supported by a supervisory team throughout their studies and are assessed by means of a substantial thesis of original research.

Research degrees

Careers

The University of St Andrews’ global reputation makes its graduates highly valued by employers. The MSc in Sustainable Development provides the subject knowledge and applied skills needed for sustainability-related careers in government and public bodies, non-governmental organisations and charities, and the private sector.

On this MSc you will:

  • Explore sustainable development practice and learn skills needed for sustainability-related careers.
  • Demonstrate your understanding of sustainable development problems and your ability to critically assess sustainability issues.
  • Demonstrate professional competencies including critical thinking and creativity, analysis and appraisal, problem-solving and decision making, project management and personal leadership, team working and interpersonal communication. 

Alongside your studies, you will be able to complete M-Skills, a programme of in-person and online workshops and training materials for Masters students. M-Skills will help you develop the broader academic and personal skills you need to succeed in your degree and enhance your employability. 

Additionally, the Careers Centre provides advice and support to help you plan your professional development and achieve your career goals. As well as online resources, the Careers Centre offers one-to-one appointments to discuss any career-related matters.

Contact

The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies
University of St Andrews
Bute Building
Queen's Terrace
St Andrews
KY16 9TS

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2032
Email: gradschool@st-andrews.ac.uk

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Policies

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

Curriculum development

As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).

Tuition fees

The University will clarify compulsory fees and charges it requires any student to pay at the time of offer. The offer will also clarify conditions for any variation of fees. The University’s approach to fee setting is described online (PDF, 84 KB).