SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

MSc in Sustainable Development

Distance Learning Programme

2 - 5 years

2017 Entry requirements

  • A good degree in an appropriate discipline acceptable to the University and a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.

Featured events

  • Overview
  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Fees and funding
  • Employment
  • Apply


Start of programme: February / May

Mode of Attendance: Distance Learning

The rationale for this innovative programme of 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 co-ordinated 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.



For the MSc in Sustainable Development students will take:

  • 3 core modules
  • 4 elective modules*
  • 2 research modules

* including one free choice from across all programmes (subject to approval on the Programme Convenor)


If you are taking an MSc or a Postgraduate Diploma you choose elective modules within a particular specialism. This creates the opportunity for a clear focus in your studies, whereby you can develop understanding and skills relevant to specific professional interests. The name of the specialism will appear on the certificate awarded.

Core Modules 
Elective modules
Development Management
Environmental Economics
Environmental Management
Natural Resource Management
Rural Development and Change
Research component 


Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Academic level

All CeDEP programmes are taught to Master’s (Second Cycle) level, which involves building upon existing knowledge and understanding typically associated with the Bachelor’s (First Cycle) level or its equivalent. Study at Master’s level requires:

  • originality in developing and/or applying ideas, and extending or enhancing previous learning
  • application of knowledge and understanding, including problem solving in new or unfamiliar environments within broader (or multidisciplinary) contexts
  • integration of knowledge and handling of complexity
  • formulating judgements with incomplete or limited information, including reflection on social and ethical responsibilities
  • clear and unambiguous communication of conclusions, and the knowledge and rationale underpinning these, to specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • learning skills to study in a manner that may be largely self-directed or autonomous.

Prospective students should note that distance education of this kind demands a high degree of commitment, determination and self-discipline. Whilst CeDEP provides significant support through the tutorial system and by other means, students taking on programmes of this nature should possess a strong measure of self-reliance.

Study Expectations

How long will it take? For students in full time employment, the MSc and Postgraduate Diploma usually take three to four years to complete and the Certificate 2 years.

Master of Science (MSc) Postgraduate Diploma Postgraduate Certificate
Min. registration period 2 years 2 years 1 years
Max. registration period 5 years 5 years 5 years

Below is a recommended progression pathway for those intending to complete an MSc in three years:

Study Period Year 1
(February / May)
Year 2
(February / May)
Year 3
(February / May)
Modules 2 core modules 2 core modules
1 elective module
3 elective modules

When can I study?
You can begin your studies in either February or May. The examinations for all students are in late September or early October. The study periods are 30 weeks for students starting in February and 15 weeks for those starting in May.

How many hours a week?
For the 30 week study period starting in February, you will need to allocate 5 hours of study time per module, per week. For students starting their studies in May with the shorter 15 week session, 10 hours per module, per week is recommended.


How you will be assessed

The final assessment for each module is a two-hour unseen examination held on a specific date in late September or early October. This exam is worth 80% of your total module mark.

The remaining 20% of your mark is determined by an Examined Assignment. This assignment is submitted during the study year and marked by your tutor. Assignments are submitted to CeDEP electronically via the virtual learning environment.

Examination arrangements

Examinations are held in students’ countries of residence, using the University of London’s network of approved Overseas Examination Authorities. Fees for taking examinations (excluding London) are the responsibility of the student.

Assessment of the Research Component

The Research Component comprises two modules:

  • Research Methods, and
  • Dissertation.

Research Methods is assessed through two examined assignments (each worth 50% of the module mark) submitted during the study year.

The Dissertation is assessed through a proposal (worth 20% of the module mark) submitted in February, followed by a 10,000 word dissertation (worth 80% of the module mark) submitted in September.

In order to qualify for an MSc, it is mandatory for CeDEP students to pass the Research Component.

Research Component

The Dissertation is usually carried out during the final year of registration, once all core modules and the Research Methods module are complete.

The Research Methods module provides skills and techniques which will assist with the subsequent development and conduct of your research and preparation of your Dissertation. Research Methods can only be studied in the February study session. Therefore, if you are intending to complete your MSc in two years, you must register for Research Methods alongside your core modules in February of your first year.

You can apply to study the Dissertation once:

  1. you have completed all your core modules and Research Methods, or
  2. you have submitted all the relevant assignments and exams, and are awaiting results.

You will be required to submit a short topic form, outlining your initial ideas for your Dissertation research, when you make your application.

The Dissertation involves conducting desk or field-based research in a relevant topic of their choice. All research topics are subject to approval and each student is assigned a personal supervisor. The period between November and February is used for background reading and preparation of the assessed proposal, after which the main research work takes place.

Fees and funding

MScPGDipPGCertSingle Module
£9,450 £8,400 £4,200 £1,050
Pay as you Learn

Our distance learning programmes can be paid in full at the time of enrolment or on a pay as you learn basis. Pay as you learn means you only pay for the module you are enrolling on.

Postgraduate loans

If you have been a resident in England for 3 years you may be eligible. Click here to learn more.


Click here for a list of postgraduate scholarships.

Alternatively, we recommend students approach their local British Council, British High Commission or British Embassy, for information on local funding.

Dependent on nationality, employment circumstances and other factors, funding and sponsorship sources can include:

  • United Nations (UNESCO, FAO, UNDP, UNEP etc)
  • Bilateral Aid Agencies (SIDA, GTZ, etc)
  • European Union
  • British Council
  • UK Department for International Development / Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • NGOs
  • Educational and other charitable trusts


Career prospects for graduates

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 and non-governmental organisations concerned with the sustainable dimensions of economic change
  • consultancies and development projects concerned with issues of sustainability and analyses of the interface between environment and poverty
  • applied research and teaching in institutions of research and higher education

A Student's Perspective

When I discovered the MSc course in Sustainable Development on the internet I was thrilled because I could study part-time and work, all at the same time. The fact that the degree can be studied over a five year period is excellent especially as I have a very busy schedule.

Caroline Makasa, Zambia


Find out more

  • Contact us
    By phone:
    +44 (0)20 7898 4098
    By email:
  • Got a question?

    If you still have questions about this programme or studying at SOAS get in touch.

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  • Apply

    CeDEP distance learning applications should be made through our online application form.

    Start your application