SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

MSc/PGDip/PGCert Sustainable Development

Distance Learning Programme

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  • Teaching and Learning
  • Fees and funding
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Nadine R. Abi Zeid Daou, Centre for Development, Environment and Policy Student Profile

Overview and entry requirements

The global community faces problems of poverty and profound environmental change that are interconnected in complex and dynamic ways. As the Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge, in an increasingly integrated world, any development agenda must be a global one with shared responsibilities for all countries. However, the idea of sustainable development, that underpins the post-2015 development agenda, is also a controversial concept that requires critical examination.

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.

This online Sustainable Development postgraduate programme provides a theoretical basis for understanding the evolution, meanings and use of the concept of sustainable development and it will help you to gain practical research experience. You will also acquire the skills needed to understand current environmental, development and sustainability issues and debates.

The aims of the programme are:

  • to provide students with the skills necessary to analyse and interpret current issues and debates related to sustainable development
  • to enhance knowledge and understanding for decision- and policy-making on sustainable development issues
  • to enhance students' critical, analytical, and integrative skills for responding to sustainable development challenges
  • to provide research training and experience in relation to sustainable development.

See Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)


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

Entry requirements

  • 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.

Featured events

MSc/PGDip min. 2 years / PGCert min. 1 year




Sustainable Development is available as a Master of Science, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate.

Modules will be completed one at a time, over 16-weeks. Study sessions occur twice a year, beginning in April and October.

These two study sessions include one module and for MSc student an additional dissertation stage. The core and elective modules run over a 16 week period, during which you will need to allocate at least 10-15 hours of study per module, per week.

For MSc students, dissertation stages are taken immediately after each module. MSc students are required to enrol for their dissertation at the same time as their modules.

Three programme structures

Please note that all programmes must be completed with the registration period.


  • Four modules, comprising one core (30 credits), at three elective modules (30 credits each) from the list below (only one elective is permitted from outside CeDEP).
  • You will also be required to complete a dissertation (60 credits).
  • In a two-year MSc programme cycle, the dissertation is completed in four eight-week stages. These stages take place between the normal study sessions, but study in term time is also permitted.


Four modules, as per the requirements for MSc students, but will not be required to complete a dissertation (thereby gaining 120 credits in total).


  • One core module and one elective module from within CeDEP.
  • Modules from other departments - only students on MSc and PGDip programmes may take one module from other departments as listed below.


Module type Module name Apr '22 Oct '22 Apr '23 Oct'23
Core Understanding Sustainable Development * * * *
Elective Climate Change Adaptation * *
Elective Energy and Development *
Elective Food Security and Social Protection * *
Elective Global Environmental Change and Sustainability * *
Elective Low Carbon Development * *
Elective Understanding Poverty * *
Elective Urban Sustainability * *
Elective Water and Land Management for Sustainable Development * *
Elective The Politics of Gender and Feminisms in Development (offered through Development Studies) * *
Elective Understanding Violence, Conflict and Development (offered through Development Studies) *
Core Dissertation Sustainable Development (Stage 1) * * * *
Core Dissertation Sustainable Development (Stage 2) * * * *
Core Dissertation Sustainable Development (Stage 3) * * * *
Core Dissertation Sustainable Development (Stage 4) * * * *

Sample two-year MSc schedule

The schedule below shows how your MSc will progress over two years, through the completion of four × 16-week subject modules and four × 8-week dissertation sessions. Each year consists of two sessions. The first session starts in mid October, and the second starts in mid April.

Study schedule circle Image

Three-year MSc schedule

If you aim to complete your MSc in three years, there will be two study sessions when you will not need to study a taught module. You may choose not to study at all during these sessions due to work or other commitments. Alternatively, you may use this time to undertake additional preparation for your dissertation.

Registration period

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

Programme Specification

Important notice

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

This programme is taught 100% online through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Virtual Learning Environment (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 study guide: Either a core text or a short presentation to guide you through the topic and weekly readings, exercises, assignments and other activities, such as self-assessment questions, film clips and animations are included to help you with learning.
  • Key readings: A range of key readings, which accompany the core text, are accessed via the SOAS online library. 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 SPSS package software for research purposes.


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.

Course start period

You can begin your studies in April or October. MSc students take one module and one dissertation per study session. PGDip and PGCert students take one module per study session. Study sessions are 16 weeks in duration.

Hours of study

Each module runs over a 16-week study term, and we recommend studying, on average, 10-15 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 weekly topics covered in the unit
  • Preparing for and submitting the written assignments
  • Contributing to online discussion and activities.


Each module will be assessed via six e-tivities:

E-tivity 1 – Online participation (10%)
E-tivity 2 – Library information retrieval (not assessed)
E-tivity 3 – Literature critique (5%)
E-tivity 4 – Examined assignment proposal (20%)
E-tivity 5 – Analytical exercise (5%) 
E-tivity 6 – Examined assignment (60%)

Dissertation (MSc students only)

Dissertation involves desk-based and/or field-based research.

In the breaks between taught module sessions 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

Programme level MSc PGDip PGCert
Fee £10,270 £8,200 £4,100

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 enrol on.

Postgraduate loans

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
  • NGOs
  • Educational and other charitable trusts



Graduates from the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy leave SOAS with in-depth knowledge about the environment and sustainability challenges facing the world today, as well as the interdisciplinary skills to tackle them. Graduates go on to apply their learning in the private and public sectors, international organisations, NGO's, consultancies and development sector.

Recent graduates have been hired by:

  • African Development Bank Group
  • BP
  • Civic Exchange, Hong Kong
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  • Energy Networks Association
  • Energy UK
  • Ernst & Young LLP
  • ESB
  • Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office
  • Plan UK
  • Public Policy Projects
  • UN Environment Programme

Find out about our Careers Service.

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