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MSc in Sustainable Development

Course Description

The rationale for this innovative programme of study lies in the global environmental and development challenges that have been articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. It is clear that solutions to the challenge of sustainable development require holistic, integrated and co-ordinated actions across a very wide range of sectors, and will increasingly require a multidisciplinary approach. This programme aims to provide students with a broad grounding in the main concepts associated with sustainable development, but also provides the opportunity to specialise in one area in greater depth.

Visit the website https://www.soas.ac.uk/cedep/programmes/sustainable/msc/


For the MSc in Sustainable Development students will take:

- 3 core modules
- 4 elective modules*
- 2 research modules

* including one free choice from across all programmes (subject to approval on the Programme Convenor)

- Specialisms
If you are taking an MSc or a Postgraduate Diploma you choose elective modules within a particular specialism. This creates the opportunity for a clear focus in your studies, whereby you can develop understanding and skills relevant to specific professional interests. The name of the specialism will appear on the certificate awarded.

Core Modules:

- Understanding Sustainable Development [compulsory]
- Climate Change and Development
- Environmental Science and Management
- Ethics for Environment and Development

Elective modules:

Development Management:
- Economics and Institutions for Development
- Managing Knowledge and Communication for Development
- NGO Management
- Project Planning & Management
- Management in Rural Development

Environmental Economics:
- Economic Principles [advised]
- Economics of Environmental Policy
- Environmental Valuation: Theory, Techniques and Application
- Natural Resource Economics

Environmental Management:
- Introduction to Environmental Economics & Policy
- Environmental Assessment
- Environmental Auditing and Environmental Management Systems
- International Environmental Law

Natural Resource Management:
- Water Resources Management
- Sustainable Land Management
- Biodiversity, Conservation and Development
- Natural Resource Economics

Rural Development and Change:
- Agricultural Trade and Policy
- Understanding Poverty
- Food Security and Social Protection
- Rural Development
- Gender & Social Inequality

Research component :
- Research Methods
- Dissertation

Teaching & Learning

1. Academic level

All CeDEP programmes are taught to Master’s (Second Cycle) level, which involves building upon existing knowledge and understanding typically associated with the Bachelor’s (First Cycle) level or its equivalent. Study at Master’s level requires:

- originality in developing and/or applying ideas, and extending or enhancing previous learning

- application of knowledge and understanding, including problem solving in new or unfamiliar environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts

- integration of knowledge and handling of complexity

- formulating judgements with incomplete or limited information, including reflection on social and ethical responsibilities

- clear and unambiguous communication of conclusions, and the knowledge and rationale underpinning these, to specialist and non-specialist audiences

- learning skills to study in a manner that may be largely self-directed or autonomous

Prospective students should note that distance education of this kind demands a high degree of commitment, determination and self-discipline. Whilst CeDEP provides significant support through the tutorial system and by other means, students taking on programmes of this nature should possess a strong measure of self-reliance.

2. Study Expectations

- How long will it take?
For students in full time employment, the MSc and Postgraduate Diploma, usually take three or four years to complete and the Certificate 2 years.

- When can I study?
You can begin your studies in either February or June. The examinations for all students are in October. The study periods are 30 weeks for students starting in February and 15 weeks for those starting in June.

- How many hours a week?
For the 30 week study period starting in February, you will need to allocate 5–6 hours of study time per module, per week. For students starting their studies in June with the shorter 15 week session, 10–12 hours per module, per week is recommended.

- How many modules can I take per study year?
We strongly recommend that students should take only one or two modules in their first year, so that they can adjust to studying at a distance, whilst combining this with work and family life.

Students wishing to complete an MSc in two years they will need to enrol/pay for three core modules and both Research Methods and the Dissertation in the first year although the Dissertation is written and submitted in the second year. Please contact your programme convenor by email.

3. Assessment

- How you will be assessed
For each module you will sit a two-hour unseen examination held on a specific date in October, worth 80% of your total module mark. There is also an Examined Assignment (worth 20% of the total module mark) which is submitted during the study year and marked by your tutor.

- Examination arrangements
Examinations are held in students’ countries of residence, using the University of London’s network of approved Overseas Examination Authorities. Fees for taking examinations at all examination centres other than London are the responsibility of the student.

Assignments are submitted to CeDEP electronically via the online learning environment.

- Assessment of the Research Component
The Research Methods module (P506) and the Dissertation (P541) are not assessed through final written examinations. These two modules constitute the Research Component of an MSc and are assessed entirely by submitted coursework.

4. Research Component

In order to qualify for an MSc, it is mandatory for CeDEP students to pass the Research Component.

The Research Component comprises two of the nine modules necessary for completion of an MSc. These are a Research Methods module (P506) and the Dissertation (P541). The modules are assessed as follows:

- RP506 through two examined assignments submitted during the study year
- P541through a 10,000 word dissertation

The Research Component is studied over two consecutive years. The Research Methods module (P506) must be studied and successfully passed before the Dissertation module (P541). This is because it provides skills and techniques which will assist with the subsequent development and conduct of your research and preparation of your dissertation. Students are required to enrol and pay for P506 and P541 at the same time.

The dissertation is usually carried out during the final year of registration with CeDEP. Students conduct desk- or field-based research in a relevant topic of their choice. All research topics are subject to approval and each student is assigned a personal supervisor. Background reading and preparation of the proposal take place between the October exams and commencement of the final study year in February.


For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section (http://www.soas.ac.uk/registry/scholarships/)

Career prospects for graduates

Graduates of this programme will have a wide range of backgrounds and will typically find work in:

- government ministries and other public sector organisations concerned with policy analysis in the fields of sustainable development and environmental planning

- international and non-governmental organisations concerned with the sustainable dimensions of economic change

- consultancies and development projects concerned with issues of sustainability and analyses of the interface between environment and poverty

- applied research and teaching in institutions of research and higher education

Find out how to apply here - http://www.soas.ac.uk/cedep/applying/

Visit the MSc in Sustainable Development page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

All Available Videos:

(Student Profile)

Caroline Makasa, Zambia

The term sustainability was often used at meetings, workshops and other forums and so I began to wonder what it really meant. The more I read about it, the more I became interested and wondered about how it could be applied to what I was doing. At that time I was working for the Zambia Development Agency, which is charged with the responsibility of promoting trade and investment in the country.

When I discovered the MSc course in Sustainable Development on the internet I was thrilled because I could study part-time and work, all at the same time. The fact that the degree can be studied over a five year period is excellent especially as I have a very busy schedule.

My study experience has been both challenging and exciting. I began my studies in 2008 and I often had to juggle between working and studying, as my work frequently involved travelling to other countries. The following year, I changed jobs and now work for UNIDO as National Project Coordinator for the Joint UNIDO –WTO Trade Capacity Building Framework Programme. In this job I have been able to apply many of the things that I have learnt, such as issues relating to sustainable development and project planning. I have realised that there are some things that can be better incorporated into a project and also the importance of continuous monitoring and evaluation.

I have a keen interest in the interface between trade, development and poverty reduction. These are wide areas with unending debates such as the Doha Round of negotiations which are still ongoing at WTO and mainly relate to agricultural subsidies that developed countries give to farmers. Development can also be viewed from different perspectives but ultimately very little can be achieved without political will and good governance. My research topic for my MSc is a case study which looks at bureaucracy versus entrepreneurship in a public sector service organisation. I will be submitting my research report in this year and look forward to graduating in December!

(Student Profile)

Luminita Cuna

I was born and raised in Romania and I obtained my bachelor degree in the US. On graduation I took on an IT project management job with Citigroup. However, curiosity and childhood dreams took me to South America. I visited and lived with a number of indigenous communities: the Quechua and Huaorani in the Amazon region of Ecuador, and the Matses in Peru. I developed close relationships with these three indigenous communities and we have built friendship and mutual trust.

These communities are confronted with incredible issues that affect their livelihoods, human rights and the environment in which they live. I started helping these communities the best I could, with modest means and at a grassroots level by providing medicines and school supplies (that had been collected from friends in the US), and by improving community initiatives such as the making and sale of handicrafts and eco-tourism. I soon realised that if I wanted to have a more significant and sustainable impact I needed to work on a different level, and acquire both knowledge and credibility.

I researched many online programs in the US, Canada, and the UK, but I found that the SOAS CeDEP Master of Science is the one that suited my needs best in terms of quality, content, flexibility and finances. It had all the characteristics I was looking for in a programme and I liked the idea of being able to study while working and I found it intriguing to be able to study from any part of the world. This way I can accommodate my studies to any schedule I want. I really enjoy the course material and the academic team goes a long way to help distance students plan their schedule (which is one of the more challenging parts of studying remotely). Also, having classmates from different backgrounds, many are currently working on relevant projects to the subjects we study is enriching my experience because we can share real life experiences that complement the course material.

In November 2011, I started Maloca, a grassroots organisation to support indigenous people in the Amazon to preserve their land, culture and environment. At Maloca I work directly with communities and we try together to build strategies to respond to their diverse needs. I hope to get a larger network of friends to help these indigenous communities establish self-sustaining strategies for their future.

(Student Profile)

Eyob Ghilazghy, Eritrea

My concerns over environmental destruction, the inequitable and unsustainable use of the natural resources and associated social injustices led me to my studies of Sustainable Development. I found this subject area interesting due its integrative and interdisciplinary approach to addressing the problems facing humanity and the environment, both today and in the future. I believe that if conducive mechanisms and conditions are created and translated it into practice, then the problem of sustainability can be addressed.

I come from Eritrea where there are no universities that offer post-graduate education and pursuing further studies abroad was not an option. Therefore, distance learning was the only way to continue my studies. I completed 80% of my studies in 2 years whilst in Eritrea but then I moved to South Sudan working for an NGO, and was able to complete my MSc by writing my dissertation whilst working.

The learning experience was exciting and interesting yet with some challenges also. I liked very much the way the courses have been designed with various forms of media particularly the electronic ones on CD. I found the tutor-marked assignments very important and useful as they provided a means of assessing the level of understanding and preparation prior to the examinations. I also liked the nature of the exam which focuses on the level of understanding of concepts and the subject rather than on memorising information.

From my studies I now find that I approach my research and reporting on human rights and humanitarian situations through the principles of sustainable development; looking at the inter-linkages of the economic, social and environmental dimensions and the consequence of an action relating to one aspect on the other. For example, I reported the effect forced resettlement in Eritrea has on the society, economy and environment.

I have also been able to apply the knowledge I gained from my studies in my employment where I have designed a food security and livelihoods programme incorporating the principles of sustainable development.


Canon Collins Scholarships - No. of awards TBC

These scholarships are for Masters study in any subject field.
The application process normally opens in December and closes in February, for study commencing in September the following year. Please go to the Canon Collins website and click "Apply for A Scholarship" and then "Canon Collins Scholarship for Masters Study in the UK" for further information on how to apply.

Value of Scholarship(s)

See website


Country/Nationality: Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Application Procedure

See the website

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Good first degree in an appropriate subject area, English language competency

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Recipient: SOAS University of London

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