Sustainable Development MSc
Why choose this course
As our world rapidly progresses, how can we better protect our planet?
In the wake of the 2015 United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals, our MSc in Sustainable Development gives you the knowledge to help organisations towards a greener future.
Our MSc in Sustainable Development is run by our Centre for Environment and Sustainability (CES) – a centre for forward-thinking environmental and sustainability-related research and postgraduate teaching.
CES accommodates a wide range of disciplines dedicated to resolving environmental problems, and this course will prepare you to join a new generation of environment and sustainability professionals ready to tackle the strategic challenges ahead.
What you will study
Questioning what you thought you knew about sustainability and the environment, we’ll inspire you to face society’s major sustainability challenges.
We also provide insight into the latest thinking in numerous important areas, covering the tools essential for analysing the relationship between environmental issues and human society. As part of this approach, you will evaluate political, socio-economic, ethical, cultural and regulatory frameworks. You will acquire a sensitive appreciation of the issues surrounding sustainable development and an understanding of the theory and application of sustainable development.
Our course also gives you the opportunity to hear from a wide variety of external speakers from industry, government and NGOs who are active in establishing sustainable development. They’ll provide you with real insights into their organisations.
It is also worth noting that our course provides a route to the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment graduate membership.
Study and work abroad
There may be opportunities to acquire valuable European experience by working or conducting research abroad during your degree or shortly afterwards. It is possible to do this in the summer period with an Erasmus+ grant working on your dissertation or as a recent graduate. In order to qualify your Erasmus+ traineeship must be a minimum of two months.
This course is normally completed in 12 months on a full-time basis, or between 24 and 60 months when completed on a part-time basis.
High-profile guest lecturers will assist with the teaching of some of the modules. CES modules make maximum use of guest lecturers, drawing on the practical skills and experience of important 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, adviser 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.
If you’re a full-time student, you will be able to do an industrial placement module which enables you to spend six to 12 weeks working for a company or non-governmental organisation, doing the type of work you aim to find on graduation.
Examples of organisations at which recent industrial placements have taken place include:
- Minimise Solutions
- Portsmouth City Council
- Diocese of London
- The Radisson
- LC Energy
- Solar Aid
Graduates of this course go on to a diverse range of careers implementing sustainable development and dealing with the real environmental challenges facing humanity.
You could work as an energy efficiency officer for a local government or an environmental officer in a multi-national chemical company. Studying this course could also lead to you starting a career as a sustainability adviser for a national television or radio station or working as an environmental consultant for an engineering consultancy. You could also become a programme officer with a sustainability charity.
Other graduates use the research skills they have developed to go on and do PhDs.
Equality and diversity
We welcome applications from LGBT+ students. At Surrey, we have an active LGBT+ student society along with an LGBT+ Network to support staff. Every year, we run ‘LGBT History Month’ with many events happening across campus to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues. We also participate in the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme.
The University's home town of Guildford has been voted the leading university town for LGBT+ according to a new study. The research carried out by the Alternative UK University City League, is based on information from LGBT+ charity, Stonewall.
If you have any queries or want to find out more about how we support our LGBT+ students, contact Jonathan Chenoweth, our CES LGBT+ representative.
Learning and disability
The University welcomes applications from students with disabilities. Teaching on the MSc courses takes place in a single large teaching room, on the same floor where the departmental academic staff offices, staff and student kitchen and toilets are located. There is also direct lift access to the level from the ground floor.
We support students with disabilities and encourage any considering studying in the department to contact our disability representative, Moira Foster.
CHENOWETH JL Dr (CES)
Terms and conditions
When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.
This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.
Academic year structure
Both full-time and part-time students must complete five compulsory modules and four elective modules by the end of their MSc. The dissertation forms one of the compulsory modules.
The academic year begins with an induction week when students are introduced to the university and full-time students choose their elective modules. (Part-time students can enrol in modules close to the time they wish to take a module).
Modules are taught on an intensive five day basis, with classes running from approximately 9 to 5 Monday to Friday over the course of a single week. All modules require students to do individual study in preparation for the intensive week (readings and in some cases a pre-class assignment) and each module includes a post-taught component assignment.
All students are allocated a personal tutor who acts as a liaison between the student and the University.
During the second semester, students begin to focus on their dissertations, with a series of seminar events held to help students focus their ideas and make a start. Students are free to choose their own dissertation topic, with most students choosing topics related to issues or ideas encountered in the taught modules or in a professional context which relates to environment or sustainability. Each student is allocated a dissertation superviser to help guide them through the dissertation process.
Modules listed are indicative, reflecting the information available at the time of publication. Please note that modules may be subject to teaching availability, student demand and/or class size caps.
The University operates a credit framework for all taught programmes based on a 15-credit tariff. Modules can be either 15, 30, 45 or 60 credits, and additionally for some masters dissertations, 90 credits.
The structure of our programmes follows clear educational aims that are tailored to each programme. These are all outlined in the programme specifications which include further details such as the learning outcomes:
Optional modules for Year 1 - FHEQ Levels 6 and 7
Students are to take four optional modules.
Unstructured (2-5 years)
Optional modules for Unstructured (2-5 years) - FHEQ Levels 6 and 7
Students are to take four optional modules.
Each module on this programme is taught on an intensive modular basis. There is pre-reading to do for each module and on occasion a pre-module assessment, followed by the intensive taught week where classes run from approximately 9 - 5, Monday - Friday for one week. Post-module coursework is to be completed over the four week period after the intensive week.
Learning and disability
We have two services, Academic Skills and Development and the Disability and Neurodiversity Service which can help develop your learning.
Academic Skills and Development
Academic Skills and Development is a learning space in the Library where our learning development team is based. It comprises dedicated Student Learning Advisers and Information Skills Librarians who can help you develop your academic and research skills, including writing, presenting, revision and critical thinking.
Find out more about the study support available.
Disability and Neurodiversity Service
The University’s Disability and Neurodiversity Service supports students with disabilities, long-term health conditions, specific learning differences (such as dyslexia and dyspraxia) and other neurodiverse conditions (including autism spectrum and attention deficit disorder).
If you tell us about any conditions and register with us, we can give you appropriate support during your studies.
We can arrange exam and learning support adjustments, give advice on applications for the Disabled Students' Allowance, and test you for dyslexia and dyspraxia. We can also offer regular study skills and mentoring support.
English language support
Our English Language Support Programme (ELSP) provides tailored English language support during your studies. It is particularly valuable to students who speak English as a second or additional language, but native speakers are also welcome.
A minimum of a 2:2 UK honours degree, or a recognised equivalent international qualification.
Relevant work experience may also be considered.
View entry requirements by country
English language requirements
IELTS Academic: 6.5 overall with 6.0 in Writing and 5.5 in each other element.
View the other English language qualifications that we accept.
If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.
The University of Surrey recognises that many students enter their higher education course with valuable knowledge and skills developed through a range of professional, vocational and community contexts. If this applies to you, a process called recognition of prior learning (RPL) may allow you to enter your course at a point appropriate to your previous learning and experience, or to join the start of a course without the formal entry requirements. This means that you may be exempt from certain elements of study in the course for which you have applied and be awarded credit based on your previous qualifications/experience. There are restrictions on RPL for some courses and fees may be payable for certain claims.
Please see the code of practice for recognition of prior learning and prior credit: taught programmes (PDF) for further information. Please email Admissions with any queries.
- These fees apply to students commencing study in the academic year 2019-20 only. Fees for new starters are reviewed annually.
- If you are on an unstructured self-paced part-time course, the fee shown is per 15 credits for the 2019-20 academic year. The fee payable in subsequent years will be reviewed annually.
There are associated costs with this programme:
- Commuting (local travel expenses): Unable to specify amount - Some optional modules are taught at City University, which requires travel to London for each day of the intensive taught week.
Grand total: Unable to specify amount.
Scholarships and bursaries
We're committed to making sure that we offer support for students who might need it.