Sustainable Development MSc

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Why Surrey?

This programme is run by the Centre for Environmental Strategy (CES) – a leading centre for environmental and sustainability-related research and postgraduate teaching.

CES accommodates a wide range of disciplines dedicated to resolving environmental problems, and this Masters programme prepares a new generation of environment and sustainability professionals for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Programme overview

This programme equips you with the tools essential for analysis of the relationship between environmental issues and human society, in order to make informed decisions. As part of this approach, you will evaluate political, socio-economic, ethical, cultural and regulatory frameworks.

You will acquire a sensitive appreciation of issues surrounding sustainable development and an understanding of the theory and application of sustainable development.

This programme provides a route to graduate membership of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment.

Programme structure

This programme is studied full-time over one academic year and part-time students must study at least two taught technical modules per academic year. It consists of eight taught modules and a dissertation.

Example module listing

The following modules are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.

Guest lecturers

Several high-profile guest lecturers have assisted with the delivery of some of the modules. CES modules make maximum use of guest lecturers, drawing on the practical skills and experience of key experts from government and industry to complement the theoretical components of the modules offered.

For example, Jonathon Porritt, former chairman of the Sustainable Development Commission, gives a guest lecture on the Sustainable Development Applications module, analysing the standing of sustainable development in business and policy making.

The extensive expertise of CES academics and researchers is also drawn upon in modules. Professor Tim Jackson, advisor to the government and international bodies and author of the seminal book, Prosperity without Growth – economics for a finite planet– also lectures on some CES modules.

Industrial placement

Full-time students are able to undertake an industrial placement module which enables them to spend six to twelve weeks working for a company or NGO, doing the type of work they will aim to find on graduation.

Examples of organisations at which recent industrial placements have taken place include:

  • Minimise Solutions
  • Portsmouth City Council
  • GAP
  • Diocese of London
  • The Radisson
  • LC Energy
  • Solar Aid
  • NUS

Career prospects

Graduates go on to a diverse range of careers implementing sustainable development and dealing with the real environmental challenges facing humanity.

Recent examples include working as an energy efficiency officer for a local government, an environmental officer in multi-national chemical company, a sustainability advisor for a national television / radio station, an environmental consultant for an engineering consultancy, and a programme officer with a sustainability charity.

Other graduates use the research skills they developed to go on and do PhDs.

Educational aims of the programme

  • To provide participants with a thorough conceptual framework and the skills necessary to understand the concept of Sustainable Development, and make judgements about Sustainable Development policies and their implementation
  • To equip participants to evaluate existing political, socio-economic, ethical, cultural and regulatory frameworks to inform decisions regarding Sustainable Development
  • To encourage participants to develop a sensitive appreciation of the significance of the contextual settings of sustainable development, especially as they relate to developing countries
  • To develop and enhance participants' research and data handling skills

Programme learning outcomes

The programme provides opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding, skills, qualities and other attributes in the following areas:

Knowledge and understanding

  • The concept of sustainable development, and awareness of current debates
  • Ecological principles and processes and how they are affected by human activities
  • How to integrate sustainable development into the day-to-day management and functioning of organisations, and on-going performance monitoring
  • Accessing and using environmental data

Intellectual/cognitive skills

  • Absorb complex information and communicate them effectively through logically constructed arguments
  • Critical reading and analysis of sustainable development principles
  • Learn the value of teamwork to solve problems that require multi-disciplinary engagement
  • Independent learning and study through self-directed assignments and dissertation
  • Inductive reasoning: using specific examples/observations and forming a more general principal
  • Deductive reasoning: use stated general premise to reason about specific examples

Professional practical skills

  • Evaluate technical, social, environmental, economic and political aspects of sustainable development
  • Adapt economic and social assessment tools to support decision-making
  • Incorporate ethical dimensions to project design and implementation
  • Give coherent presentations
  • Lead discussions on complex subject areas
  • Competently handle environment information
  • Self-motivation, self-regulation and self-assurance

Key/transferable skills

  • Independent learning capacity
  • Deliver a structured and successful presentation
  • Team work (group)
  • The use of analytical approaches appropriately in different decision-making situations
  • Write effectively as a means of communicating important ideas
  • Communication of findings and presentation of research to a non-specialist audience
  • Lead discussion of small/large groups
  • Organise and manage a research project
  • Basic to advanced IT skills

Global opportunities

We often give our students the opportunity to acquire international experience during their degrees by taking advantage of our exchange agreements with overseas universities.

In addition to the hugely enjoyable and satisfying experience, time spent abroad adds a distinctive element to your CV.

Learn more about opportunities that might be available for this particular programme by using our student exchanges search tool.

Related programmes

Postgraduate (Taught)

Related departments/schools

Related research areas

Programme leader

Professor Stephen Morse

Find out more

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

Admissions enquiries:


Programme facts

Type of programme:


Programme length:

  • Full-time: To be confirmed
  • Part-time: To be confirmed

Start date:

Sep 2017

Entry Requirements

The normal entry level is a minimum 2.2 honours degree (or equivalent) in social, life or physical sciences, or engineering disciplines. Applicants without a qualifying degree, who have significant relevant experience, will also be considered.

Students are accepted on our MSc programmes from a wide range of academic backgrounds, the strengths of which will be built upon during each specific course.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, 6.0 in each component (or equivalent)

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time Sep 2017 £9,500 £19,000
Part-time Sep 2017 £1,100* £2,200*

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/2018 only. Annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our Masters Programmes


The Surrey International Scholarship for Excellence

For all (with the exception of MBA) postgraduate taught courses starting in September 2017 within the Surrey Business School and the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management we are offering all applicants who hold a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent the opportunity to be awarded between £2,000 and £4,000 through the Surrey International Scholarship for Excellence Scheme. Download a flyer or read more for eligibility and to apply.

For more details

Discounts for Surrey graduates

Thinking of continuing your education at Surrey? As an alumnus of Surrey you may be eligible for a ten per cent discount on our taught Masters programme fees. Learn more.

For more details

Admissions Information

Our Admissions Policy provides the basis for admissions practice across the University and gives a framework for how we encourage, consider applications and admit students.

Further information for applicants

Postgraduate Study Advice

Steps to Postgraduate Study is an official, independent guide for anyone considering a taught postgraduate course. The guide is produced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, the Scottish Funding Council and the Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland.

Find out more


Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that not all modules described are compulsory and may be subject to teaching availability and/or student demand.