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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental SciencePostgraduate study

MSc Sustainability (1 year)

The MSc in Sustainability is an interdisciplinary master’s degree designed to explore sustainability issues in both developed and developing societies. It addresses critical global challenges including enabling population health and wellbeing in an increasingly stressed planet, delivering food, water and energy to an urbanising world, and understanding the present and future development impacts of patterns of settlement, land use and land cover change. It also addresses challenges such as understanding the inter-dependencies between people and the planet, and preparing for the impact of climate change and weather extremes on people and places.

The course offers a solid foundation for developing careers in the public, private and third sectors, as well as national and international agencies such as the United Nations and the Department for International Development.

Introducing your course

The MSc Sustainability will allow you to flourish within the interdisciplinary arena of sustainability. The course is designed with flexibility to allow you to create a programme of study that is tailor-made to your requirements and aspirations.

Guidance is provided on the wide variety of optional modules which allows you to specialise in pathways centred round consultancy, population and remote sensing & GIS or to gain a broader experience across the disciplines. A constant focus on applied research and field-based methods will leave you well equipped to tackle sustainability challenges in the real world after your studies.

Teaching is delivered by research-active academics from multidisciplinary backgrounds and equips students with applied and critical thinking skills and specialised problem-solving skills in tackling sustainable development issues.

Distinctive features:

  • The opportunity to work with external organisations working on sustainability issues
  • Participation in field-based research methods courses
  • Immersive interdisciplinary environment with focus on the application of theory and knowledge
  • Flexibility of module choice with guidance on suggested pathways
  • Applied modules giving opportunities to develop and practice skills
  • Tailored study plan accessing wide range of modules across the University

View the programme specification for this course for 2019/20 entrants

View the programme specification for this course for part-time 2019/20 entrants

View the programme specification for this course for 2020/21 entrants

View the programme specification for this course for part-time 2020/21 entrants

To Apply

We encourage prospective applicants to apply as early as possible. Limited places are available per academic year. Applications can be made using the University's on-line application form. Applications can be submitted at any time, although we would encourage applicants to apply before the end of May. Prospective applicants will be asked to write a personal statement to explain their motivation for wishing to take the course and to indicate their future career plans. For all applications, two academic references are required.

Programme Structure

The standard PGDip/MSc Sustainability programme is normally studied over 1 year full-time or 27 months part-time. The taught component consists of 30 study weeks divided into two semesters. Students who successfully complete the taught component undertake a three-month period of supervised research for a masters dissertation (six months for part-time students).

The MSc is modular and once students have taken their core modules they can take any combination of optional modules with guidance offered as required. Potential module choices could create pathways in remote sensing and GIS, consultancy or population, or cover a broader spectrum of sustainability. For those with a particular interest in GIS, you may also wish to consider our MSc in Applied Geographical Information Systems and Remote sensing.

In Semester 1 students will take two core modules in sustainability, plus at least two optional modules. In Semester 2 students will take one core module in sustainability, with the remainder from optional modules.

The MSc Sustainability (Research) incorporates a more substantial compulsory research methods training element.

Professor Craig Hutton
Professor Craig Hutton

Programme Director

Professor Craig Hutton is the programme director for this course.

Typical entry requirements


The usual entry requirement for the MSc programme is an honours degree (usually 2:1 or above) or equivalent qualification. Students with lower or not usual entry qualifications may be admitted on the basis of relevant work experience or professional qualifications with the requisite approval.

Selection process

Intake: 15-45

Mature students

Mature applicants without formal qualifications, or those who fail to meet minimum entry requirements, but with relevant experience are also welcomed. Such applications will be considered on an individual basis depending on experience and background and will be assessed by the Admission Team.

International Students

We welcome applications from international students.

  • Qualifications: Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent approved by NARIC [National Recognition Information Centre]
  • English requirements: IELTS or equivalent score [6.5 average, minimum of 6 in each individual component]

The University runs a number of English language courses to prepare international students for study.

This page contains specific entry requirements for this course. Find out about equivalent entry requirements and qualifications for your country.

Typical course content

An important feature of the Sustainability degree is the ability for students to tailor their program by selecting optional modules from an extensive cross-faculty list. Students work with their Personal Academic Tutors (PAT) to select these optional modules. They will work closely with their PAT to develop the topic for their sustainability dissertation. Students may exit earlier with a Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainability [30 ECTS] or a Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainability [60 ECTS].

Year 1

Core [?]
A core module is a module which must be taken and passed.
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).

These modules are only indicative examples of the options available. There is a wide array of option modules to choose from, subject to availability.

Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).
Credits are based on the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS).

Please note: This specification provides a concise summary of the main features of the programme and the learning outcomes that a typical student might reasonably be expected to achieve and demonstrate if s/he takes full advantage of the learning opportunities that are provided. More detailed information can be found in the programme handbook (or other appropriate guide or website).

Tuition fees

List of tuition fees for this course and it's variations
NameAwardYear of entryMode of studyUK/EUInternational
SustainabilityMSc 2020Full-time£9,250£21,800
SustainabilityMSc 2020Part-time£4,625£10,900
View the full list of course fees


Scholarships, bursaries, sponsorships or grants may be available to support you through your course. Funding opportunities available to you are linked to your subject area and/or your country of origin. These can be from the University of Southampton or other sources. See the link at the bottom of this page to find out more about all funding opportunities.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarships

We are partnering with the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission (CSC) to offer international scholarships to support students from select Commonwealth countries who would not otherwise be able to study a Masters programme in the United Kingdom. The CSC is accepting applications for the MSc Sustainability 2020 entry.

The scholarship offers full funding including fees, a monthly stipend payment and travel costs.

To check your eligibility and find out how to apply for the scholarship, please visit the Shared Scholarships section of our Commonwealth scholarships page and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission website.


Find out more about Commonwealth Shared Scholarships

Costs associated with this course

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

There will also be further costs for the following, not purchasable from the University:

ClothingYou will need to wear suitable clothing when attending field courses, e.g. waterproofs, walking boots. You can purchase these from any source.
OtherGeodata CPD GIS courses. Geodata offers RIS-IGB accredited CPD courses which can be taken in addition to MSc modules. These courses are offered to University of Southampton PGR and PGT students at significant discount. Courses cost between £200 and £350 depending on type and length
BooksWhere a module specifies core texts these should generally be available on the reserve list in the library. However due to demand, students may prefer to buy their own copies. These can be purchased from any source. Some modules suggest reading texts as optional background reading. The library may hold copies of such texts, or alternatively you may wish to purchase your own copies. Although not essential reading, you may benefit from the additional reading materials for the module.
EquipmentApproved Calculators: Candidates may use calculators in the examination room only as specified by the University and as permitted by the rubric of individual examination papers. The University approved model is Casio FX-570 This may be purchased from any source and no longer needs to carry the University logo.
FieldworkE.g. Accommodation, Insurance, Travel costs, Immunisation/vaccination costs. Any costs associated with conducting fieldwork as part of the dissertation research must be covered by the student
OtherField Trips- There is an optional two-week overseas residential field course module "Water, People and Environment". Costs apply-please see the GEOG6104 module handbook for more information.
Printing and copyingIn the majority of cases, coursework such as essays; projects; dissertations is likely to be submitted on line. However, there are some items where it is not possible to submit on line and students will be asked to provide a printed copy. A list of the University printing costs can be found here:

In some cases you'll be able to choose modules (which may have different costs associated with that module) which will change the overall cost of a programme to you. Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

Learning and teaching

The programme is interdisciplinary, taught across two faculties (Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Engineering and Physical Life Sciences). We adopt a teaching approach that enables students to relate their learning to real-life problems and situations, where students will learn about resource management, community relationships and local and global economic impacts.

Experiential and interactive modes of learning will encourage students to develop and reflect on their own and others' values and experiences. Critical reflection on values and assumptions supports ‘transformative learning'. Prior knowledge and attitudes are taken into consideration in planning teaching and learning activities. Participatory learning approaches, peer-learning and collaboration - within and beyond the classroom - are promoted, allowing students to be exposed to multiple perspectives and enabling creative responses to emerge.

We will ensure that:

  • Divergent views can be shared and explored in a safe environment
  • There are opportunities for deep and critical reflection on students' own perspectives and what has influenced their thinking and practices in this area
  • Participatory learning is encouraged
  • Interdisciplinary approaches, systems and holistic thinking are employed
  • Teaching, learning and assessment activities are linked to real-life concerns

A number of teaching and learning methods that are particularly effective in supporting more traditional methods include:

  • Case studies
  • Stimulus activities
  • Simulation
  • Experiential project work
  • Problem-based learning
  • Field-based learning



Assessment provides opportunities for students to demonstrate achievement of graduate outcomes in the core areas of sustainability, notably: 1) Citizenship, stewardship, justice and wellbeing; 2) Complex social-ecological systems; 3) Future thinking; and 4) Co-production of knowledge.

Assessment will involve:

  • Formative tasks that enable the development of critical thinking and problem-solving
  • Opportunities to apply these skills to real-world problems
  • Synoptic assessments that explore the relationship between the disciplines within the programme and wider issues of sustainability
  • Activities that encourage affective learning in the domains of values, attitudes and behaviours

Study locations

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