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MSc Environment, Politics and Development

Course Description

The programme attracts applications from students with a variety of academic and experiential backgrounds. We welcome applications from those who have worked in a broad field of development, but also from students without relevant work experience who can demonstrate a strong interest in, and understanding of, environment-development issues. A good first degree in a social science is preferred.

This programme takes a critical political ecology frame and examines environmental policy and its intersections with development from a social justice angle. It is taught and convened by leading political ecologists and offers a critical analysis of key issues including water, forestry, climate, fisheries, agricultural production, biodiversity, conflicts and energy supply.

The masters asks important questions including:

- How does the environment intersect with global poverty, wealth and questions of inequality?
- Can Carbon trading offer a solution to managing climate change?
- How does access to water intersect with dynamics of wealth and poverty?
- Is wildlife conservation implicated in social injustices?
- What role can and do environmental movements play in development?
- Is there a link between environmental change and violent conflict?
- What is the political ecology of forests?

The MSc programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills has been of great benefit to the many graduates who have returned to, or taken up, professional careers in development in international organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations. Students also benefit from the wide range of modules on offer, both within the Department and across the School, allowing them to create individualised interdisciplinary programmes.

The MSc Environment, Politics and Development has four components: two compulsory modules; one full-module option or two half-module options; and a dissertation of 10,000 words. Please see Postgraduate Modules (http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/programmes/pgcourses/) for details on core and optional modules taught within the Department.

Visit the website http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/programmes/mscenvironpoldev/


- Overview
There are four main components to this degree: three taught modules and a 10,000 word dissertation. All students take a core module, Political Ecology of Development. They then select one of four further core modules: Political Economy of Development; Theory, Policy and Practice of Development; Political Economy of Violence, Conflict and Development; or Law and Natural Resources. Through these modules students build their analytical skills and knowledge of the main issues and debates in Development Studies.

- Specialisation
Students also take optional modules (one full unit module or two half-unit modules), allowing them to specialise in particular areas of environment, politics and development and potentially to develop a dissertation in a related theme. By tying these to their individual dissertation topic, students design their degree to suit their own interests and career development goals.

Students should be aware that not all optional modules may run in a given year. Modules at other institutions are not part of the approved programme structure.

Programme Specification

Programme Specification 15/16 (pdf; 85kb) - http://www.soas.ac.uk/development/programmes/mscenvironpoldev/file101710.pdf


- SOAS Library
SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.5 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.

Teaching & Learning

Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.

The MSc programme consists of three taught modules (corresponding to three examination papers) and a dissertation.

- Lectures
Most modules involve a two hour lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.

- Seminars

At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work. Students make full-scale presentations for each unit that they take, and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.

- Dissertation

A quarter of the work for the degree is given over to the writing of an adequately researched 10,000-word dissertation. Students are encouraged to take up topics which relate the study of a particular region to a body of theory.

Find out how to apply here - http://www.soas.ac.uk/admissions/pg/howtoapply/

Visit the MSc Environment, Politics and Development page on the SOAS University of London website for more details!

(Student Profile)

Jessica Blomfield

SOAS has a great reputation. I’d heard stories from friends studying there and it sounded like a very unique and important place to be.

The MSc Environment, Politics and Development looked really exciting - I was particularly drawn to the political ecology component, as I think this discipline brings an important social and political perspective to environmental studies. The flexibility of the programme was also a big draw.

The Department of Development Studies has a high calibre of lecturers and tutors with a wide range of backgrounds. My teachers have been really inspiring, and are always open to questions and feedback. SOAS offers such an open environment that fosters creative learning and encourages students to be proactive.

I love my programme because it brings so many perspectives to environmental issues – it’s made me see the environment in a totally new light. Each one of my courses has given me a new perspective on seeing important issues in the world today. SOAS really gives you the skills to think critically and engage with what you are learning about.

I feel like SOAS has changed my outlook – I’m far more inquisitive and critical, and much more confident academically.

(Student Profile)

Stina Maria Lindholm

I had dreamt about applying to SOAS since I started my undergraduate degree as it was presented to me as one of the best schools to study international development.

I realised that one of the most pressing contemporary issues in need of qualified social scientists is climate change. I wanted a program that skilled me with the multidisciplinary understanding necessary to deal with the complexity of this challenge. The course will not only provide you with the academic tools needed to critically engage with issues such as climate change, environmental degradation and political economy- it will question everything you thought you knew. Most of all, the course teaches you to ask the right questions. At the other end of the course I feel better equipped, personally and professionally, to contribute to a different, more sustainable and fair development. I have been exposed to a variety of approaches that have made me understand the crucial importance of mainstreaming environmental issues in all development approaches.

My time at SOAS has been the most inspiring time of my life. I have met people from all over the world, with the same passion for making a difference. Our discussions, in class, over lunch or in the bar inspire me every day. Interacting with passionate, challenging and knowledgeable people has opened my eyes to new perspectives. It has been an intense, but rewarding journey - both academically and personally.

SOAS is not only a school, it is a community. A community in which the students mobilise to protect the staff of the library, where the samba band makes you dance in protests and a place where you can go at any given moment and have great discussion about everything from world affairs to the bees on the roof. SOAS makes you think everything is possible. It is a place where an alternative is created.

(Student Profile)

Hannah Duncan

I heard about SOAS from a friend I worked with in the humanitarian response sector, who told me if I wanted to do a Masters in Development Studies, this was the place to apply. When I looked into it more thoroughly, the range of courses offered and the flexibility of degree programmes at SOAS was a real attraction, as was the quality of teaching and the guarantee of a critical and multidisciplinary approach.

The MSc in Environment Politics and Development is a fantastic course which explores the human face of environmental problems and struggles – everything from the politics of climate change, to indigenous struggles over resources and meaning, to broader themes on how ideas of ‘nature’ and ‘development’ intersect in practice to shape people’s lives. The teaching team is excellent, and the analytical skills you pick up throughout the course are invaluable.

I am inspired by someone new every day, and constantly motivated to consider new ideas and experiences by those around me who all hail from such diverse backgrounds and have such incredible talents. Everyone comes to SOAS for a reason, and getting to know people and figuring out their story is the best part.

SOAS has given me the space to ask questions of myself and of my studies which I hadn’t had before, it gives you the academic and ideological freedom to explore your own ideas. This has been really important for me, and changed the way I address challenges and experiences more generally.


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



SOAS Master's Scholarships - Faculty of Law and Social Sciences - 16 Awards

There are six SOAS Master's scholarships available in the Faculty of Law and Social Sciences. Each is valued at £16,765 each in total. Fees will be deducted from this amount and the remainder will be used toward maintenance. In addition to these six SOAS Master's scholarship, the Faculty will offer an extra 10 scholarships, each valued at approximately £1,500.Candidate Assessment:
- Candidates will be assessed on academic merit by an Advisory Panel consisting of at least three academic members of the Faculty. - The assessment of your application will be based on the information provided in your scholarship application and in your on-line admission application for admission. Selectors will be looking at the degree results and also at academic references, statement and other relevant information.Scholarship Application Deadline
- Scholarship applications must be received no later than 17:00 (UK local time) on 24 February 2016. - In order to be considered for this scholarship, you must ALSO submit a complete online application to the degree programme as soon as possible and then submit an application for the scholarship. Applicants applying for scholarships must also submit an application for admission well in advance. Please note that complete applications for admission can take up to 4 weeks to be considered by the Department, although this duration can vary depending on the time of year. - You should prepare to wait up to 6 weeks in busy periods.

Value of Scholarship(s)



- Applicants must possess or expect to be awarded a First Class Honours Degree or equivalent. Students with a non-UK degree to be adjudged in the top rank by their referees and transcript.
- This scholarship is open to UK/EU applicants only.
- Applicants must have an offer of admission to pursue one of the eligible full-time masters programmes at SOAS by the scholarship application deadline.
- The scholarship cannot be held along with any other major scholarship or studentship.

Application Procedure

You must apply for this scholarship via the on-line scholarship application form

Further Information


Entry Requirements

Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). Relevant work experience may also be considered.Subjects Preferred: Social Science

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