Climate change is the most significant challenge to achieving sustainable development globally, threatening current patterns of growth and poverty reduction whilst creating global injustice and vulnerability. Yet we are well placed with the knowledge and solutions to simultaneously tackle the crisis, meet the Sustainable Development Goals and improve the lives of people all over the world.
Businesses, governments, development agencies and NGOs alike now seek to integrate low-carbon and climate-resilient approaches into their work. The Climate Change and Development programme equips students with a grounding in the conceptual and practical dimensions of mitigation of and adaptation to climate change as they relate to development issues.
Why study MSc Climate Change and Development at SOAS?
- This online degree is designed to meet the needs of people working on, or hoping to work on, climate change and development issues, including in businesses, government, international agencies and NGOs.
- The online format enables students to study for a MSc degree alongside work, caring or other commitments. Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma options are available for those unable to meet the commitments of the full MSc.
- The degree brings together a cohort of students from around the world into online discussions, led by specialist seminar tutors and convened by international experts.
- The modules draw from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, concepts and methods including economics, environmental science, human geography, social development, political economy and environmental law.
Watch these short videos to hear from our programme tutors as they discuss their research interests covering topics such as climate change communications and artists, poverty reduction and government policy in SME development.
What will you study?
The core module for the MSc provides a multidisciplinary understanding of climate change processes and their direct and indirect interactions with development. It describes the main climate change processes, scenarios and vulnerabilities, and international and national policy responses. Contributions and sensitivities to climate change in different sectors (and options for mitigation and adaptation responses) are identified, with their implications for policies and outcomes for different economies, and for people’s livelihoods within them. It aims to provide students with a foundational, multidisciplinary understanding of core issues and processes, and their interactions with development and with poverty and poverty reduction.
Students will be best equipped to respond to, and anticipate, the rapidly changing science, environmental and social/political/economic contexts of climate change by an education in integrative core processes. Learning is contextualised with relevant applied explanations and case studies.
Students can then select elective modules from a range of topics spanning climate change and sustainable development issues (see Structure tab above).
What will you learn?
This programme equips students with the skills and understanding to:
- develop the analytical skills to solve adaptation problems and identify low carbon development options
- contribute to producing the next generation of environment and development professionals working on climate policy and practice
- offer critical insight into how current development models produce environmental problems like climate change, which themselves threaten the objectives of development
- pose the question of what magnitude of change is required to confront the problems of climate change: do we need reform or revolution?
- provide the most academically gifted students with a route into PhD studies on climate change and development.
Who should apply?
We welcome applications from those working in the field of sustainable development who wish to further their skills and understanding in climate change. We also encourage applications from those with a strong first degree but without relevant work experience, who can demonstrate a strong interest in climate change and development issues.
Watch the latest webinar with Dr Thomas Tanner and Dr Annabel de Frece
Start of programme: October / April
Mode of Attendance: Online Learning
Phone: +44 (0)20 7074 5003
- A good first degree in an appropriate subject area, as accepted by the University of London, and a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.
- MSc/PGDip min. 2 years / PGCert min. 1 year
Introducing the MSc Climate Change and Development
Dr Thomas Tanner is a Reader in Development Studies at SOAS and the programme convenor for MSc Climate Change and Development. He describes what students can expect who join the programme
What does the course involve?
This world leading distance learning MSc programme consists of a core module in Climate Change and Development, three additional elective modules and a dissertation. The programme is taught over two years, with modules starting in October and April each year. Students are expected to contribute to online discussions, interact with their colleagues and module convenor, and submit written work to deadlines. The choice of modules will enable students to build up the requisite theoretical and empirical knowledge to conduct their dissertation, which is completed throughout the cycle of modules and is the final piece of submitted work.
What kind of students will the course appeal to?
The MSc Climate Change and Development is designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of backgrounds and professional experiences, as it is through this diversity in the cohort that conversations around climate change are enriched. As an online programme, it will appeal particularly to those who are not able to move to London or who are not in a position to stop working during their studies. We welcome applications from those who are already working in climate change and sustainable development fields, and those who are intending to move into this area of work. We also welcome applications from people who have experience in these fields of work and are moving towards a career in research or policy-related work.
What facilities are available?
The programme is delivered online through a Virtual Learning Environment (intranet page) that sets out the course materials and readings for each week, the guiding questions for discussion and hosts the discussion boards. This page provides a platform to share other material such as videos, internet links, quizzes and feedback on assignments. Students also have access to a vast amount of academic and policy-related material through the SOAS library. The library has subscriptions to relevant electronic journals and electronic books that allow students not only to access their weekly reading but to explore their own research interests and build a thorough knowledge and bibliography to support their dissertation-writing.
What is special about the programme at SOAS?
SOAS provides a world-leading distance learning programme on climate change and development. The Virtual Learning Environment allows us to teach in a way which allows students to make connections to their existing knowledges and experiences, encouraged by the facilitation of expert tutors and convenors.
The degree draws on research and professional experience from colleagues working on climate change across SOAS, a university with an international reputation for its work in the Global South. This includes leadership, academic expertise and applied research from within the Centre for Development and Environment Policy (CeDEP) but also across the University in areas such as sustainable finance, development studies and environment law. CeDEP has been a pioneer of distance learning approaches and is increasingly sharing elective module choices with other departments as they expand their online programmes.
As part of efforts in SOAS to decolonise the curriculum, this MSc also encourages students to challenge our shared assumptions about climate change issues, which issues are worth studying and how they should be studied. The programme also seeks out a greater diversity of authors and perspectives, with the online fora linking course material to students existing knowledges and experiences.
Can you recommend a good book to read on Climate Change and Development?
The compelling best seller This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein challenges readers to seize the climate crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.
For those seeking a clearly explained exploration of development issues, check out Climate Change and Development by Tanner and Horn-Phathanothai.
Climate Change and Development is available as a Master of Science, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.
Modules will be completed one at a time, over a 16 week study session. Study sessions occur twice a year, beginning in April and October.
MSc: four modules, comprising one core (30 credits), at least one elective module (30 credits each) from list A and up to two elective modules (30 credits each) from list B below. You will also be required to complete a dissertation (60 credits). In a typical two-year MSc programme cycle, the dissertation is completed in four eight week stages. These stages take place in between the normal study sessions, but study in term time is also permitted.
PGDip: four modules, as per the requirements for MSc students, but will not be required to complete a dissertation (thereby gaining 120 credits in total).
PGCert: one core module and one module from List A.
*Programmes must be completed with the registration period.
Sample two-year MSc schedule
The schedule below shows how your MSc will progress over two years, through the completion of four x 16 week subject modules and four x 8 week dissertation sessions. Each year consists of two sessions. The first session starts in mid October, and the second starts in mid April.
Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and MSc Students are registered for a maximum of five years, as per the University of London International Programme Regulations. If a student upgrades from a PG Certificate to PG Diploma or PG Diploma to MSc the five year registration period will apply from the date the students commences study on the first programmes.
The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.
Teaching and Learning
Teaching & Learning
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
This programme is taught 100% online through our VLE. In the VLE you will have access to learning materials and module resources anytime so you can fit your studies around your existing commitments. For each module, students will be provided with access, through the online Library, to all necessary materials from a range of appropriate sources.
Developed by subject experts, the module materials are designed to meet all your study requirements. We encourage you to follow up further interests and explore other information more widely, but the material we provide is comprehensive and sufficient for the required elements of each module.
The details will vary from module to module, but a typical set of materials will include:
- A detailed study guide:
- All of our modules use a core text which is specially written and this will take you through your self-directed study. Exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning.
- E-books and key readings
- Most modules also draw upon textbooks, key extracts and articles, which accompany the core text, to be accessed via the online library. A wide range of sources are provided as required readings. Information is also supplied suggesting sources of further reading as well as links to relevant web pages.
- Supplementary study materials
- These are included where appropriate, and include items such as computer software.
Each module has a dedicated tutor who is a subject specialist. The tutor will guide the students through the units of the module and prepare them for the examination, using the module discussion forum and other learning activities, depending on the module, on the virtual learning environment. Tutors are also in email contact with their students.
When can I study?
You can begin your studies in April or October. Students take one module per study session. Study sessions are 16 weeks in duration.
How many hours a week?
Each module runs over a 16-week study term, and we recommend studying, on average, 15 hours per week during this time. These hours can be broken down into three main tasks:
Reading the unit materials and key readings on each of the 15 topics covered in the unit
Preparing for and submitting the written assignment, worth 40–50% of the module mark
Contributing to online discussion and activities.
Additional time is then required for exam revision, which happens after the 16-week study term is completed.
Each module will be assessed on one written assignment (40–50 % of the module mark), a hand-written examination (40–50 % of the module mark), and in some modules, online participation in regular learning and discussion exercises (10–20% of the module mark).
Dissertation (MSc students only)
Dissertation involves desk-based and/or field-based research.
In the breaks between terms one and two of a typical two-year MSc programme, there is dedicated time to work on the dissertation. In year one, you will learn how to conduct original research and acquire the methods you need to go about doing it. In the first year, you will be required to produce:
- a topic form, on the basis of which a supervisor will be allocated
- an assessed proposal, an elaborated plan of proposed topic, based on learning done around research gaps, questions, research design, methods and data analysis, along with input from the supervisor.
In year two, you will move to the data collection stage and follow this up with the analysis and write-up to be undertaken, as in year one, mostly within the 8-week breaks between the two study terms. Your dissertation is assessed through two components: the assessed proposal (20% of the final module mark); and the 10,000-word dissertation (80% of the final module mark).
Fees and funding
You will make one payment of £2,054 for each taught module. For MSc students, the dissertation module is an additional £2,054, with payment split across four stages.
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. You will make one payment of £2,054 for each module you enroll on.
If you have been a resident in England for 3 years you may be eligible for a postgraduate loan. Find out more about fees and finance options.
There are a number of postgraduate scholarships available for SOAS students. We also 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
- Educational and other charitable trusts
This programme is designed to assist both existing professionals working within the sustainable development sphere, and people seeking to move into climate change and development fields. For existing professionals, the programme provides the opportunity to upgrade and update their expertise, and to reflect systematically and in depth on their accumulated experience in the light of up-to-date theory and literature.
Graduates of Climate Change and Development go on to apply their learning in the private and public sectors, international organisations, NGO's, consultancies and development involved in:
- policy analysis and implementation
- project design and management
- corporate and government climate change strategies
- social enterprise development
- corporate social responsibility
- technical assistance and capacity development
- academic and applied research
A Student's Perspective
Caroline Makasa, Zambia
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.
Apply now via our online application form
Application and enrolment deadlines as well as session start/end dates can be found on Online and Distance Learning Key dates - Term dates.
Take a look at our guides on applying below: