MSc/PGDip/PGCert Sustainable Development


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

Mode of Attendance: Online Learning

The global community faces problems of poverty and profound environmental change that are interconnected in complex and dynamic ways. As the Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge, in an increasingly integrated world, any development agenda must be a global one with shared responsibilities for all countries. However, the idea of sustainable development, that underpins the post-2015 development agenda, is also a controversial concept that requires critical examination.

The rationale for this innovative programme of the 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 coordinated 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.

This programme provides a theoretical basis for understanding the evolution, meanings and use of the concept of sustainable development and it will help you to gain practical research experience. You will also acquire the skills needed to understand current environmental, development and sustainability issues and debates.

The aims of the programme are:

  • To provide students with the skills necessary to analyse and interpret current issues and debates related to sustainable development.
  • To enhance knowledge and understanding of decision- and policy-making on sustainable development issues.
  • To enhance students' critical, analytical, and integrative skills for responding to sustainable development challenges.
  • To provide research training and experience in relation to sustainable development.

Who is this programme for?

This programme is designed to assist both existing professionals working within environment and development spheres, and people moving into international and national-level organisations and agencies promoting sustainable development.

For existing professionals, the programme provides the opportunity to upgrade and update their expertise, and to reflect systematically and in-depth on their accumulated experience in the light of up-to-date theory and literature.


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 organisations, such as UN agencies, concerned with the sustainability of economic change.
  • Non-governmental organisations NGOs.
  • Private sector organisations, concerned about the social and environmental impact of their operations.
  • Consultancy organisations providing advice on issues of sustainability.
  • Applied research and teaching in institutions of research and higher education.

The programme also prepares students to apply for further academic research in this field (for instance, a PhD).


Sustainable Development is available as a Master of Science, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.

Modules will be completed one at a time, over a 16-week study session. Study sessions occur twice a year, beginning in April and October.

Programme structures*

  • MSc: four modules, comprising one core (30 credits), at three elective modules (30 credits each) from the list below. You will also be required to complete a dissertation (60 credits). In a two-year MSc programme cycle, the dissertation is completed in four eight-week stages. These stages take place between the normal study sessions, but a study in term time is also permitted.
  • PGDip: four modules, as per the requirements for MSc students, but will not be required to complete a dissertation (thereby gaining 120 credits in total).
  • PGCert: one core module and one elective module.

*Programmes must be completed with the registration period.


Core: Understanding Sustainable Development


Climate Change Adaptation
Energy and Development
Food Security and Social Protection
Gender and Social Inequality
Global Environmental Change and Sustainability
Low Carbon Development
Understanding Poverty
Urban Sustainability
Water and Land Management for Sustainable Development

Additional List B modules will be offered through other SOAS programmes. The first module to be offered in this way will be Human and Critical Security. It is our intention to expand the number of additional List B modules over time.

Sample two-year MSc schedule

The schedule below shows how your MSc will progress over two years, through the completion of four × 16-week subject modules and four × 8-week dissertation sessions. Each year consists of two sessions. The first session starts in mid-October, and the second starts in mid-April.


Three-year MSc schedule

If you aim to complete your MSc in three years, there will be two study sessions when you will not need to study a taught module. You may choose not to study at all during these sessions due to work or other commitments. Alternatively, you may use this time to undertake additional preparation for your dissertation.

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.

Admissions and Applications

You can apply for an Online and Distance Learning programme via our online application forms

The application process

  1. Submit the online application form.
  2. If successful, you will be offered a conditional place on the basis of the submission of your supporting documentation.
  3. You submit your supporting documentation to verify your qualifications – this information can also be submitted at the time of application.
  4. Once verified you will be offered an unconditional place on the programme.

We aim to assess your application and respond within 10 working days.

Entry Requirements

A good first degree in an appropriate subject area, as accepted by the University of London, and a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.

Master of Science (MSc)

Direct entry to the MSc requires a good first degree in an appropriate subject area, as accepted by the University of London. You will be expected to complete four modules (30-credits each) plus a dissertation (60-credits).

Postgraduate Diploma

Entry to the Postgraduate Diploma requires either a degree or technical or professional qualification and experience considered appropriate by the University. You will be expected to complete four modules (30-credits each), with no dissertation component.

Postgraduate Certificate

This has similar entry requirements to those for the Postgraduate Diploma.

You will be expected to complete two modules (30-credits each), with no dissertation.

English Language Entry Requirements

For all of our modules, you are required to have a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.

If your first degree was not taught in English, you will need to provide evidence of language ability. You will meet the English language requirement if you have passed any of the following within the past three years:

  • (IELTS) International English Language Testing System (Academic) with an overall score of 7.0 or above, including a minimum of 7.0 on the written sub-test.
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) with an overall score of 67 or above, including a minimum of 67 attained on each of the reading, writing, speaking and listening elements.
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English.
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English with an overall score of 185 or above, including a minimum of 185 attained on each of the reading, writing, speaking and listening sub-tests.
  • (TOEFL) iBT Test of English as a Foreign Language with an overall score of 95 or above, including a minimum of 24 attained on the reading and writing skills sub-tests and a minimum of 25 attained on the speaking sub-test and 22 attained on the listening sub-test.
Last updated Jul 2020

About the School

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues.

SOAS University of London welcomes the brightest minds to study on its central London campus with like-minded individuals who feel passionately about contemporary world issues. Read less
London , Singapore + 1 More Less