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Course content

This programme examines development planning in the context of environmental concerns in urban areas of the Global South. It challenges mainstream approaches to development, focusing instead upon transformative action for environmental justice. Many of our graduates go on to help shape future sustainable development agendas in local government, international agencies and civil society organisations.

About this degree

The focus of this degree is the complexity and variety of current environmental problems in urban regions, their causes and impacts, and the possibilities and limitations of environmental planning and management. Students learn how to respond to processes that generate social and environmental change, and how to develop strategies to steer urban environmental planning towards sustainability and environmental justice.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of three core modules (90 credits), one or two optional modules (30 credits), and a dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma, three core modules (90 credits), one or two optional modules (30 modules), full-time nine months, is offered.

Core modules

  • The Political Ecology of Environmental Change
  • Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice
  • Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development

Optional modules

  • Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South
  • Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities
  • NGOs and Social Transformation
  • Food and the City
  • Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South
  • Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development
  • Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Policy
  • Socially Sensitive Development in Practice
  • Social Development and Poverty Reduction: From Theory to Practice
  • Managing the City Economy
  • Housing Policies: Practical Dimensions and Alternative Options
  • The City and Its Relations
  • Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management

Not all modules may be available.

Dissertation/report

All MSc students submit a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic related to the main themes of the programme. The topic can be chosen to enhance career development or for its inherent interest.

Teaching and learning

The programme comprises reading, essay writing, critical discussion and project work, facilitated through lectures, seminars, workshops, extensive fieldwork and discussions with practitioners covering theoretical and practical tasks and case study analysis. Assessment is through coursework, examinations, and the dissertation.

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Environment and Sustainable Development MSc

Careers

Most previous graduates of this programme are now engaged in professional activities, ranging from local and national government, consultancy firms and national and international NGOs, to United Nations programmes and international aid agencies all over the world. 

Examples of organisations where graduates are employed include:

  • Public Sector: DEFRA and DfID (UK), Ministerio das Cidades (Brazil) and many other local government organisations
  • International Agencies and NGOs: UNEP, UNDP, UN-Habitat, JICA, GIZ (former GTZ), InsightShare, Save the Children, and WWF
  • Think tanks, academic and research organisations: IIEED, Stockholm Environment Institute, Resources for Development Center, WaterWise and the Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport
  • Private companies: HappoldConsulting, EcoSecurities, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Dialogue by Design, and BioRegionalQuintain.

Recent career destinations for this degree

  • Campaign Manager, Urban Design Research Institute
  • Research Consultant, IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development
  • Researcher, Physical Activity Research Centre
  • Research Assistant, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity
  • Sustainable City Metabolism Officer, Peterborough City Council

Employability

Our programme equips students with several interdisciplinary and transferable skills including report writing, data collection and analysis, communication, research and project management skills and teamwork.

Our students network with diverse organisations in the UK and internationally, and in the field they may work directly with local public and private partners. Academic staff are involved in research, consultancy and development practice, influencing global debates on development such as UNFCCC negotiations, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Habitat III agenda. Students can meet alumni and other individuals and groups forming part of this network, which is concerned with issues of socially just and sustainable development in the Global South.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2013–2015 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

This programme offers an in-depth theoretical and practical understanding of socio-environmental change, equipping graduates with the skills required to face global challenges in urban regions while being sensitive to local contexts.

For the last 60 years the Development Planning Unit at UCL has championed forms of development planning that promote social justice in the context of rapid urbanisation in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The programme provides opportunities to interact with leading thinkers in development planning and students will join an international network of researchers and practitioners.

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Development Planning Unit

81% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.


Visit the Environment and Sustainable Development (MSc/PGDip) page on the University College London website for more details!

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