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Sustainable Development (MSc) 2022 entry

Sustainable development is the most promising framework for addressing the environmental crises, social inequalities, geopolitical and economic instability that we face. On this MSc, you will explore sustainable development theory and practice, and learn skills needed for sustainability-related careers.


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Key information

Course type

Postgraduate, leading to a Master of Science (MSc)

Course dates

  • Start date: 5 September 2022
  • End date: 30 September 2023

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

Home: £12,590
Overseas: £25,450

Application deadline

Thursday 11 August 2022. Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

Application requirements

  • A CV or résumé. This should include your personal details with a history of your education and employment to date.
  • A 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. 
  • A sample of your own, single-authored academic written work such as an extract from a previous project, essay, or undergraduate dissertation.
  • 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.


  • Introduces key topics in sustainable development, providing a broad-based overview of the field.
  • Interdisciplinary character helps you to develop a more rounded understanding of sustainable development questions and concepts.
  • Critical study of socio-economic, political, and environmental aspects gives a remarkable richness and depth compared with conventional single-subject degrees.
  • 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 personal and professional competencies.

Using the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals as a common framework, you will:

  • engage with critical perspectives on sustainability and related subjects
  • gain an interdisciplinary understanding of sustainable development principles and practice
  • develop your ability to critically assess sustainable development problems and solutions from multiple perspectives.

The MSc includes an integrated programme of skills workshops that connect your academic learning with the development of personal and professional competencies. Workshops bring together students from other Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies Masters degrees, helping you to make new interdisciplinary connections.

Teaching format

The taught modules are taken over two semesters – September to December (Semester 1) and January to May (Semester 2). The period from June to August is used to complete the end of degree project.

Each taught module will use teaching and learning methods appropriate to its aims. These may include seminars, workshops, lectures, tutorials, and independent study.

Assessment methods used may include essays, reports, presentations, practical exercises, reflective exercises, and examinations.

Further particulars regarding curriculum development.


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 2021-2022 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2022 entry.

The MSc is structured around two compulsory taught modules:

Semester 1

  • Interrogating Sustainable Development: introduces the problems that sustainable development seeks to address and the tensions that characterise this field; you will also examine how sustainable development intersects with other frameworks for managing our resources.

Semester 2

  • Master Class in Sustainable Development: develops your understanding of advanced-level sustainability debates by engaging critically with interpretations of sustainability and the ways it stimulates interaction with partners beyond academia to address socio-environmental vulnerabilities.

Alongside compulsory modules, students will complete a number of optional modules (normally two per semester). Optional modules allow you to shape the degree around your own personal and professional interests.

It is recommended that students complete modules from the following list:

Semester 1

  • An Introduction to Global Climate Change: provides the scientific background to understand past, present and future climate change and its consequences globally. Topics will include air pollution, the causes of climate change (especially the anthropogenic greenhouse effect), and climate change denial.
  • Population Change and Sustainable Development: Patterns, Processes and Politics: equips students with knowledge of core concepts in population studies and develops critical engagement in the connections between population and sustainability using examples from across the globe and research from a range of social science disciplines.

Semester 2

  • Environmental Management: introduces and explores the relevance of environmental management to sustainable development and contemporary debates in environmental policy. Themes include conservation conflicts, managing environmental risks and hazards, and environmental justice.
  • Health, Inequality and Development: explores why health is a critical issue for human development that is sustainable, and why social scientists have much to offer an understanding of health that extends beyond its framing as a purely biomedical issue. The module explores how health and well-being are framed and measured, and encourages both an appreciation and healthy scepticism of differing epistemologies and approaches. 

Other optional modules are expected to be offered in the following areas:

  • environmental history
  • green politics: theory and practice
  • managing natural resources
  • managing non-governmental organisations
  • disease and environment
  • transitioning to sustainability: community, nature and governance
  • extractive environments.

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

The final part of the MSc is the end-of-degree project. This takes the form of a period of supervised research where you will explore a sustainable development topic in depth.

Through the project, you will show your ability to undertake sustained critical analysis, develop and improve your research skills, and produce an extended piece of written work that demonstrates a high level of understanding of your area of study.

You can choose to present your end-of-degree project in one of the following ways:  

  • a policy report that emphasises your ability to critically assess development policy and make convincing recommendations for policy changes.
  • a written dissertation that emphasises your ability to plan and execute academically rigorous research (open to students with appropriate methodological experience).

If students choose not to complete the project requirement 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 2022 entry. Take a look at the most up-to-date modules in the module catalogue.

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The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies

The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies was established in 2017 to foster interdisciplinary postgraduate education and scholarship.

The ability to work across subject boundaries is now recognised as an essential skill. The Graduate School’s Masters degrees will help you to develop a more rounded, interdisciplinary understanding of your subject and to use ideas from different disciplines to illuminate your studies.

As well as their interdisciplinary character, the Graduate School's Masters degrees are distinguished by an emphasis on the development and application of practical skills. In addition to broadening your subject knowledge, you will develop your skills of critical thinking and creativity, analysis and appraisal, problem-solving and decision-making, and project management and personal leadership.

One of the most appealing aspects of joining the Graduate School is the welcoming interdisciplinary community. The Graduate School is a place where you can make social and intellectual connections across subject boundaries and where students form close networks within and across their Masters degree groups.



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


The University of St Andrews’ global reputation makes its graduates highly valued by employers. The MSc in Sustainable Development provides subject knowledge and applied skills relevant to a range of career paths in government and public bodies, non-governmental organisations and charities, and the private sector.

In addition to broadening your subject knowledge and applying established techniques of research and enquiry, you will develop and demonstrate essential skills including:

  • critical thinking and creativity
  • analysis and appraisal
  • problem solving and decision making
  • personal leadership and project management
  • interpersonal communication and team-working.

The University also offers a programme of skills development activities for all students known as the Professional Skills Curriculum. This will help you develop your personal and professional capabilities and gain skills that you need to succeed in your studies 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.

"My programme has connected me to some of the most diverse backgrounds and expertise in my field and has enabled really stimulating discussions from a range of voices. Being so close to some of the most beautiful scenery in the country has been outstanding. Embrace everything with energy and enthusiasm and you will thrive!"

- Cambridge, England


The Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies
University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School
Abbey Walk
St Andrews
KY16 9LB

Phone: +44 (0)1334 46 2032

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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

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.

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.

Study at St Andrews

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