MSc Sustainable Development

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Geography
LocationCornwall (Penryn)
Start date September


Why study MSc Sustainable Development at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus?

Staff and students discuss the MSc Sustainable Development programme at the University of Exeter. View full size.

Our MSc Sustainable Development takes a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to exploring environmental, social and economic sustainability issues. We take a practical and problem-based approach to learning, focusing on both the study of sustainable development and its implementation in a range of professional contexts. This balance between theory and its application is designed to enhance your career and employment prospects. You will discuss and analyse the outcomes of recent policy making; specific policy areas such as biodiversity, climate change, and forests; and social enterprise. Additionally, a range of optional modules will allow you to cover wider debates in fields of climate change, energy policy, risk management, and the environment.

This Masters is based on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall—an exceptional place in which to study issues related to the environment and sustainability. The duchy is a living laboratory offering a diverse range of marine and terrestrial habitats, a wealth of natural resources, and creative and resilient communities. The Penryn Campus is also home to the University's Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) – a £30 million centre leading cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research into solutions to problems of environmental change and enhancing people’s lives by improving their relationship with the environment.

"My favourite thing about the programme is the research skills that I have acquired in project designing. I’ve also really enjoyed the field trip to Newlyn fish market."


Evelyn, MSc Sustainable Development. Find out more

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

This Masters provides a practical and problem-based approach to learning focused on both the study of sustainable development and its implementation in a range of professional contexts. You will be taught by expert staff who are active researchers in sustainability and can give you invaluable insights into the latest research findings, plus training in research methods for sustainability.

Our vibrant learning environment combines traditional forms of delivery (lectures, seminars, and tutorials) with practice-based learning including work placements, expert guest speakers, and linked project work including, for example, an Environmental Impact Assessment. During the degree there are opportunities to apply your academic learning in a variety of real-world environmental contexts, including field work, consultancy, business, and social enterprise.

Throughout the programme you will engage with external agencies and employers such as Environment Agency, South West Water, National Trust, Natural England, Met Office, Eden Project, Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Teignbridge District Council, Network Rail, farmers in Devon and Cornwall, Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve, RSPB, Riverford Organic, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, and Climate Vision.


We use a variety of assessment techniques, including essays; oral, written, and web presentations; project work; learning journals; and a written dissertation.

In the Independent Work-based Learning module, your performance will be assessed by the partner organisation.


The University of Exeter has an excellent reputation with graduate recruiters and our students and graduates compete very successfully in the employment market. The interdisciplinary and applied nature of the MSc Sustainable Development enables you to pursue a range of career opportunities once you have graduated. Through our practice-based approach to learning we aim to provide plentiful opportunities for you to engage and make professional contact with potential employers throughout the programme. You’ll also be able to access a range of training and events offered by the University's Career Zone, such as Enterprise Skills Workshops which are designed to further support you in developing enterprise skills and an entrepreneurial outlook.

In addition, the degree offers high-quality social science research training and applied expertise which could lead to careers that focus on:

  • Business and sustainability, such as those responsible for sustainable development policy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and responsible business management in a wide range of economic sectors
  • Planning for sustainability, such as professional planning careers examining the role of sustainability in the planning system and resource management; jobs aligned to this expertise would relate to energy consortia, utility companies, government departments, local planning departments, and government agencies
  • Community regeneration and development, including community support officers and community planners; at the macro planning level and micro community level, both emerging and re-developing communities require expertise to integrate sustainability into social aspects of development

Graduate destinations

Below are a few examples of initial jobs undertaken by graduates of our Geography postgraduate programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17. Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Recent graduates are now working as:

  • Adviser
  • Analyst Consultant
  • Ecological Planning advisory intern
  • English teacher
  • Environmental Impact Assessment Consultant
  • GIS specialist
  • Graduate Research Assistant
  • Marine and Environmental Consultant
  • Research Assistant
  • Research Officer
  • Self-employed
  • Vulnerability Assessment Framework Coordinator

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • Asian Development Bank
  • BMT Isis
  • British Gas
  • Carbon Tree
  • City of London Corporation
  • Clicper Logistics
  • EDF Energy
  • E-on Energy
  • Fable Videographics
  • FX Plus
  • Hong Kong Outstanding Education
  • Intesa Sanpaolo Group Services
  • Joint Marine Environ Guard Limited
  • Legal and General
  • Met Office
  • Overbury and Morgan Lovell
  • Ovo Energy
  • Plowright Organic
  • Sense
  • SLR Consulting Ltd
  • Sustainable Restaurant Association
  • Taylor Woodrow
  • Teamwork Energy Bureau Services Ltd
  • Tetra Pak
  • The Energy and Resources Institute
  • TTP Consulting
  • Turkish Petroleum Company
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton

Further study

Further study is a popular choice for a number of students following graduation from a University of Exeter    Geography Masters programme. Below are a few examples of further study undertaken by recent graduates of our Masters programmes. This information has been taken from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) Survey 2016/17.

  • MPH Environment, Energy and Resilience
  • MPH Geography
  • MPhil Geography
  • PhD Physical Geography

Further information

Further information is available through the Careers pages of the University’s Postgraduate Study website.

“Since leaving Exeter I have been working as an Environmental & Sustainability Manager for fit out contractors, Overbury and Morgan Lovell. I have been responsible for waste management for the company; assisting our clients with environmental assessments for their projects; ensuring sustainable sourcing of materials and maintaining our ISO 14001 certified environmental management system.

I think that the most important skills I gained during my study were the soft skills; such as communication and presentation skills. I learnt the important environmental management skills whilst learning on the job, but the soft skills I had to use from the start; especially the communication skills as I meet a lot of people in my job.

I was on the Cornwall campus, and I loved the size of the campus, as well as the size of our lectures and classes, it was much more of a personalised experience. You knew all of your classmates and your lecturers knew you and your interests.”

James, MSc Sustainable Development, 2014 graduate

Research areas

Our academics and research

A wide range of optional, research-led modules enables you to explore aspects of sustainable development from different disciplinary perspectives, with academics based in geography, politics, biosciences, health and the humanities. Find out more about the academic staff involved in delivering modules:

Your project work or Dissertation may be supported by staff teaching on the programme or academics from the wider Geography team who have expertise in your chosen area of interest:

Entry requirements

All applicants are considered individually on merit although we usually require a 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £10,900 full-time; £5,450 part-time
  • International: £21,100 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.


Find out about funding opportunities available to students on our taught Masters programmes.

University funding

The Scholarships, Bursaries and Studentships website has information on all available options for funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.

Contact us

If you have any queries about this programme, please contact:

Web: Enquire online
Tel: +44 (0)1326 371801

The Programme Director is Dr Rachel Turner.

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