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Postgraduate Taught

MRes Sustainable Futures

UCAS code 1234
Duration 1 year full time
2 years part time
Entry year 2024
Campus Penryn Campus
Discipline Geography
Typical offer

View full entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline

Contextual offers


  • MRes Sustainable Futures seeks to produce a new generation of researchers who can address the pressing social issues of sustainability in the face of a growing global population.
  • Through a broad interdisciplinary approach, gain an understanding of the economics, law, politics and psychology of sustainability, as well as the geography and demographics of those affected.
  • Prepare for a career as a professional researcher in either academic or non-academic environments, with core training in interdisciplinary social scientific philosophy, epistemology, methodology and analysis.
  • Apply concepts and skills developed to specific, contemporary topics of enquiry in sustainable futures.
  • Study at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall: a living laboratory with a diverse range of marine and terrestrial habitats, a wealth of natural resources, and creative and resilient communities.

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Programme Director: Dr Rachel Turner

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Top 10 for Geography and Environmental Science

8th in The Complete University Guide 2024

Home to the £30 million Environment and Sustainability Institute: researching solutions to environmental change

6th in the UK for world-leading research in Geography and Environmental Studies

Based on 4* research in the Research Excellence Framework 2021

Part of the ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership: a hub of world-class social science research.

1st in Europe for Climate Action

My biggest highlight so far has been conducting practical research as part of my core modules. It was really great testing and trying new techniques in the field, as it developed and prepared me for future research within and beyond academia. Penryn Campus has opportunities to study important topics such as sustainable development whilst being situated by the beautiful Cornish coast.

The level of depth and variety we are introduced to is great, and it's nice being taught by lecturers who are some of the foremost researchers in their field.

I have also enjoyed being able to forge my own path in terms of the modules I have chosen and the type of research that I have engaged with. I conducted a piece of research in collaboration with Plastic Free Penzance regarding the impact they made in their local community.

I love living in Cornwall because of its scenery and surrounding coast. Plus the support at the Penryn Campus is exceptional. I have had to seek support from my tutor and welfare team regarding future assignments, and they have been very helpful and facilitated me reaching my potential.

Read more from Andrew


MRes Sustainable Futures

Entry requirements

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

Entry requirements for international students

English language requirements

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile B2. Please visit our English language requirements page to view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

Course content

Sustainability research asks how human wellbeing can be maintained and enhanced for the long term given rising populations, limited natural resources and a fragile environment. The field, with its clear applied focus and strong strategic, future-directed policy implications, has social sciences at its heart.

We therefore deliberately expose you to a broad range of material, in order to appreciate and understand interconnected perspectives, and to provide you with skills to work effectively across disciplines. You will be encouraged to review and critically evaluate approaches to research and their application, and also identify, evaluate and investigate your own research questions.

Compulsory modules include our innovative ‘Contemporary Debates in Sustainable Futures’ module which is taught across institutions using the University’s Access Grid facility.

You’ll also choose from a range of optional modules covering debates in climate change, energy policy and the environment.

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.

I chose MRes Sustainable Futures as I wanted to focus on sustainability but also wanted the flexibility to do something not completely science-focused. I also wanted to live in Cornwall as I love the outdoors and being by the water. I love how we have classes and modules we can pick as well as the research side of the degree; I picked some that focused on sustainability in the real world.

I also did a climate change class that I thought would be hard because it is science-based; however my lecturer was amazing and was able to explain things in a way that someone who’s not a scientist can understand it. There are also tons of dissertation project opportunities with the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) which is based on the Penryn Campus. 

As I’m an older student, I was worried that everyone would be much younger than me. However, there’s a nice mix of ages on the programme. If anyone is hesitant to apply because of their age, they shouldn’t be. I love that every single person is from a different background and I’ve learnt so much from so many different people that I would have never known before coming to study here; I’ve really enjoyed this aspect of studying.

Read more from Megan


MRes Sustainable Futures 2021 graduate


2024/25 entry

UK fees per year:

£13,700 full-time; £6,850 part-time

International fees per year:

£27,500 full-time; £13,750 part-time


We invest heavily in scholarships for talented prospective Masters students and have Global Excellence Scholarships available for international fee paying students applying for January 2024 entry and September 2024 entry.* For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page.

*Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details of eligible programmes and candidates. Awards may vary from year to year.

Teaching and research

MRes Sustainable Futures forms part of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) - a hub of world-class social science research comprised of five universities in the South West.

The MRes also forms the first part of a collaborative (MRes + MPhil/PhD) pathway, which includes further collaborative elements with institutions in the SWDTP.

Research in Geography and climate change

Our research groups span the breadth of geography: Cultural and Historical Geographies; Environment and Sustainability; Life Geographies; Space, Politics and Society; Cryosphere, Coastal and River Dynamics; and Landscape and Ecosystem Dynamics. We are engaged in interdisciplinary research in areas including climate change and sustainable futures, environmental sciences and earth system science.

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.

We enjoy strong links with national and international research projects, and we attract funding from a wide range of sources including research councils, charities, the UK government and industry.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has seven contributors from Exeter: more than any other university in the world.

Where will I study?

The Penryn Campus in Cornwall is an exceptional place in which to study issues related to the environment and sustainability. Cornwall offers a diverse range of marine and terrestrial habitats, a wealth of natural resources, and creative and resilient communities.

How will I learn?

An innovative element of this course is its inter-institutional teaching: for the ‘Contemporary Debates in Sustainable Futures’ module you will work with leading scholars from the five SWDTP universities using the University’s Access Grid facility.

In addition, you will receive specific interdisciplinary research training via the ‘Interdisciplinary Research Design’ module that provides you with a way of discussing the challenges of working across disciplines with staff and fellow students.

The programme adopts a range of small-group teaching methods alongside supporting independent study. Specifically, you will be exposed to the following learning and teaching methods:

  • seminars;
  • lectures;
  • tutorials;
  • guest speaker presentations;
  • role play;
  • virtual learning and online interaction.

How will I be assessed?

We use a variety of assessment methods, including:

  • presentations;
  • reflective journals;
  • essays;
  • group work;
  • role play;
  • field work note books;
  • technical exercises;
  • report writing;
  • and writing a research dissertation.

If you choose the optional Independent Work-based Learning module, your performance will be assessed by the partner organisation.

Facilities and expert support

Geography and Environmental Science at Penryn Campus benefits from outstanding analytical and experimental laboratories for environmental change and process studies, including a high-performance computing facility and dedicated geographical information systems (GIS) suite for geographical modelling and remote sensing, and a sedimentology lab. Our facilities are supported by an expert team of laboratory, research and computing technicians.

Read more

I am an environmental social scientist focusing on marine resource governance and coastal communities. My research addresses how people respond to change in social-ecological systems. This includes understanding vulnerability, adaptation, wellbeing, livelihoods, gender and environmental governance.

Dr Rachel Turner

Programme Director and Senior Lecturer in Environmental Social Science


Employer-valued skills this course develops

The MRes Sustainable Futures is designed to prepare you for a career as a professional researcher in either academic or non-academic environments. The programme sets the core training in inter-disciplinary social scientific philosophy, epistemology, methodology and analysis within a contemporary context, allowing you to apply the wider concepts and skills introduced in the broader social scientific setting to specific topics of inquiry in environment and energy.

Careers support

The University of Exeter has an excellent reputation with graduate recruiters and our students and graduates compete very successfully in the employment market. We have a dedicated, award-winning Careers Service offering careers training, events, advice and mentoring to ensure you have the tools you need to succeed in finding employment in your chosen field.

Career paths

MSc graduates from the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science have gone on to varied careers. You can read about some of their experiences within our graduate profiles.

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
  • Vulnerability Assessment Framework Coordinator

Recent graduates are now working for:

  • British Gas
  • Carbon Tree
  • City of London Corporation
  • Clipper Logistics
  • EDF Energy
  • Fable Videographics
  • Hong Kong Outstanding Education
  • Joint Marine Environ Guard Limited
  • Met Office
  • SLR Consulting Ltd
  • Sustainable Restaurant Association
  • Taylor Woodrow

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

Read more