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Postgraduate Taught

MSc Sustainable Development

Please note: The below is for 2025 entries. Click here for 2024 entries.
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


  • This interdisciplinary course explores environmental, social and economic sustainability challenges from local to global scales.
  • Enhance your career and employment prospects by studying both the theory of sustainable development and its implementation in a range of contexts.
  • Examine international policies, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and specific policy areas such as climate change, energy, human health, wellbeing and environmental governance.
  • Study at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall: a living laboratory with diverse marine and terrestrial habitats, a wealth of natural resources, and creative and resilient communities.
  • Join our vibrant postgraduate community benefiting from research-inspired teaching and access to outstanding facilities.

Apply online

View 2024 Entry

Fast Track (current Exeter students)

Open days and visiting us

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Programme Director: Dr Rachel Turner

Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72

Why study MSc Sustainable Development? 

Top 10 for Geography and Environmental Science

10th in The Times and the Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024

Top 50 in the world for Geography

QS World University Subject Rankings 2024

1st in the UK for Climate Action

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

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. We learnt about the various fish and how they are caught, challenges that fishermen face on the coast and the limited quotas placed on them. It was such a worthwhile and educational experience.

Studying at Exeter was challenging initially as it was my first time in the UK, but I am mastering the whole system now. The students wearing ASK t-shirts in welcome week were really helpful and made me feel comfortable on campus.

I chose this university because of the quiet environment to study and the graduate job prospects upon finishing. Living on the Penryn Campus has been a series of awesome moments with other international students and very supportive staff.

I would like a career as a Sustainability Manager in the water sector. The career prospects after this programme are so varied.

Read more from Evelyn


MSc Sustainable Development

Entry requirements

MSc Sustainable Development

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

Helping you to apply

Which disciplines are considered relevant?

Qualifications in the following disciplines are automatically considered to be relevant: 

Geography, Human Geography, Environmental Studies, International/Global Development, Planning (Urban, Rural and Regional), Politics, International Relations, Sociology.

If you have qualifications in another subject, please explain in your application how they will support you in your study of sustainable development.

What makes a good application?

In your personal statement, please tell us about:

  • your motivation for pursuing this programme at the University of Exeter
  • your educational background and how it will support your study of sustainable development
  • any work or voluntary experience that is relevant to the programme
  • your interests and career goals

What happens next?

If you receive an offer from us, you’ll be invited to an offer-holder visit day where you can find out more about the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science and meet some of the academics who will be teaching you.

Entry requirements for international students

Please visit our entry requirements section for equivalencies from your country and further information on English language requirements.

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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.

Since leaving Exeter I have been working as an Environmental & Sustainability Manager for fit out contractors, Overbury and Morgan Lovell. I think 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 on the job, but the soft skills I had to use from the start.

In my current role 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 loved the size of the Penryn 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.

Read more from James


MSc Sustainable Development, 2014 graduate

Course content

MSc Sustainable Development provides a unique opportunity to study sustainable development from a multi-disciplinary perspective, critical for understanding and tackling complex sustainability challenges. The programme involves a practical and problem-based approach to learning, offering a grounding in the principles that underlie sustainability and their implementation in a range of professional and practical contexts.

You will be taught by expert staff who are active researchers in sustainability and environmental social science.

Compulsory modules examine contemporary debates about global environmental change, limited natural resources, and human wellbeing and inequalities, and equip you with the skills to design and undertake your own research. You will also choose from a range of optional modules covering debates in climate change, energy policy, health, heritage, 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.

This course has given me back my ability to learn, to soak up information and know where to seek out research, articles, and debates that I find interesting or are relevant to my career. I feel that through this course I have woken up to my own potential. I am excited to get stuck into my new role as Lead Adviser with Natural England!


MSc Sustainable Development 2020 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. This includes over £5 million in scholarships for international students, such as our Global Excellence Scholarships*.

For more information on scholarships, please visit our scholarships and bursaries page.

*Selected programmes only. Please see the Terms and Conditions for each scheme for further details.

I got my place on the University of Exeter’s MSc in Sustainable Development through the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship. What I really like about the programme is that it covers how the destruction of our environment affects humanity and what initiatives can be introduced to achieve a specific standard.

It’s the bridge between environmental science and how it helps humanity, which is especially important for me, living and working in a developing country.

Read more from Emmanuel


MSc Sustainable Development graduate

Teaching and research

Research in the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science

Our research groups in the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES) span the breadth of the discipline: 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.

Researchers in CGES and ESI are also part of university-wide research networks such as Exeter Marine and Exeter Energy. 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 the University of Exeter: more than any other university in the world.

Our academics

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.

How you will learn

Our vibrant learning environment combines traditional forms of delivery (lectures, seminars, and tutorials) with practice-based learning including work placements, expert guest speakers, field trips, and linked project work.

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. During the degree there are opportunities to apply your academic learning in a variety of real-world environmental contexts.

How you will be assessed

We use a variety of assessment techniques, including:

  • essays
  • presentations
  • project and group work
  • reflective essays
  • policy briefs
  • reports
  • dissertation.

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

Graduate School of Environment and Sustainability

You will become part of Exeter's Graduate School of Environment & Sustainability - a vibrant and supportive postgraduate community based here on our Penryn campus in Cornwall. The Graduate School brings together experts from across the spectrum of earth and life sciences, engineering, humanities, social sciences and business. You will interact with students from other MScs and have the opportunity to explore issues from a range of perspectives, benefiting from a truly interdisciplinary experience. All our programmes are designed with a focus on developing solutions to global challenges and creating a better future for our planet and its people.

Read more


Employer-valued skills this course develops

The interdisciplinary and applied nature of MSc Sustainable Development equips you with a depth and breadth of knowledge, skills and experiences that make graduates highly employable across a diverse range of careers. The degree offers high-quality social science research training and applied expertise which could lead to careers that focus on:

NGOs and third sector

MSc Sustainable Development graduates are well placed to take up roles in non-governmental and civil society organisations that are working towards environmental and social sustainability around the world. These roles include project development, research, monitoring and evaluation of interventions, community support, and advocacy for policy change.


A range of consultancies specialising in areas such as environmental management, climate change and international development require graduates with interdisciplinary knowledge of sustainability challenges. These roles include practical applications of knowledge through environmental and social impact assessments, independent research and advisory roles.

Business and sustainability

There is growing demand for innovation to meet sustainability challenges in the private sector. This area includes roles responsible for sustainable development policy, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and responsible business management in a wide range of economic sectors including energy consortia, the financial sector, and industry.

Public sector

Careers in the public sector are highly varied and examine the role of sustainability in planning, resource management and social development. Opportunities include national government agencies such as Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department for International Development (DFID). At a local level, jobs aligned to this expertise include local authorities and planning departments.

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

My analysis and critical thinking skills improved significantly after my studies. These skills help me a lot in my current position as Project Manager, to constantly innovate, develop new project strategies and approaches in the context of a highly dynamic environment. Learning about the systemic approach to solving human/environmental problems has so far been most useful in my career.


MSc Sustainable Development 2018 graduate