Start of programme: September intake only
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
The MA in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development provides a unique specialisation in a rapidly developing area of law. Environmental law has grown rapidly over the past five decades and is now one of the key areas of both domestic and international law. The increasingly vast scope of environmental law is reflected in the umbrella notion of sustainable development that captures the links between traditional environmental issues and broader development concerns. Environmental law thus covers not only traditional nature conservation and pollution control issues but also broader the use and conservation of natural resources. In addition, we emphasise links between environmental regulation and other related fields of law, such as human rights, trade or intellectual property rights.
The SOAS degree offers a distinct mix of modules that covers the main areas of environmental law in their international and national dimensions. This includes modules covering global and international environmental issues, either in their general context (Law, Environmental and Sustainable Development in a Global Context) or focused on specific regimes (Climate Change and Energy Law and Policy), modules focusing more specifically on the resource dimension of environmental law (Law and Natural Resources) and inter-disciplinary modules focused on specific resources (Water Law: Justice and Governance).
Beyond the courses you will take during your time at SOAS, you will also be invited to become student members of the Law, Environment and Development Centre (LEDC). The LEDC is the focal point for environment-related research activities in the School of Law, including a vibrant PhD cohort, an annual seminar series, the publication of the Law, Environment and Development Journal (LEAD Journal), and other activities linked to ongoing research.
For further information about the general structure of the MA in Law programme at SOAS, please visit the General MA in Law (MA in Legal Studies) page.
Introducing Postgraduate Studies in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development
Professor of International and Environmental Law, Philippe Cullet, outlines the features of the SOAS programme in this rapidly expanding area of both domestic and international law.
What does the course involve?
Environmental challenges abound and are increasingly shaping our lives and our future. These include the ubiquitous issue of climate change, and the ongoing sixth mass extinction of species and pollution, caused by items of everyday use such as plastics. MA in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development explores all the most important environmental issues of our time at the international level, with a particular focus on North-South issues, particularly looking at countries of the Global South. The study of environmental law at SOAS goes far beyond the traditional aspects of environmental law. Indeed, we focus as much on environmental conservation as on the use of environmental or natural resources. This reflects the broader notion of sustainable development that reflects the links between the environment, social equity and economic growth. The courses we offer reflect these broad categories and include overviews of international environmental law, climate change, natural resources, and water.
What kind of students will the course appeal to?
This course will appeal to anyone who wants to better understand the implications of the anthropocene (referring to the current geological age during which human activity has been the dominant influence on the planet) for the environment; students interested in the human rights dimensions of environmental protection; students interested in understanding the links between conservation and the use of natural resources; and anyone concerned by our future survival as a species, as well as our individual place on the planet.
What facilities are available?
SOAS offers strong support for environmental law in the School of Law through the Law, Environment and Development Centre (LEDC), which brings together the different law-related activities in the department, including seminars, PhD scholars and the Law, Environment and Development Journal (LEAD Journal) co-published by the LEDC. SOAS also offers a strong interdisciplinary framework for environmental studies with a number of lecturers in departments as varied as development studies, economics, and politics.
What is special about the programme at SOAS?
SOAS offers a unique programme that combines a strong focus on traditional environmental law issues, a combination of courses interrogating international and national law and policy with a distinct focus on the North-South dimension of environmental law, unparalleled expertise in jurisdictions of the Global South, and courses that are novel in their approach, such as natural resources law that address cutting-edge policy areas, such as water.
Can you recommend a good book to read on Environmental Law?
As an entry point to some of the main strands of study we undertake at SOAS, Louis Kotzé ed., Environmental Law and Governance for the Anthropocene (Hart Publishing, 2017) provides a good introduction to the broader challenges faced by the planet, and Elena Blanco and Jona Razzaque, Globalisation and Natural Resources Law: Challenges, Key Issues and Perspectives (Edward Elgar, 2011) is relevant on issues related to natural resources.
What do students do after graduating?
Students have gone on to take up a variety of exciting opportunities. Some graduates have decided to carry on with further academic studies and have undertaken a PhD in environmental law; some have gone on to practice environmental law in their own countries; some have worked for environmental consultancies, such as Milieu in Brussels or specific environmental law advisory organisations, such as ClientEarth and Climate Law and Policy; some have gone on to work on environmental issues in international organisations; and some have gone on to work more broadly on sustainable development in international NGOs and inter-governmental organisations. A postgraduate degree in environmental law and sustainable development thus opens up many doors, reflecting the broad scope of the course and the multiplicity of ways in which it can be applied in the workplace.
To facilitate the study of law, all MA students are required to attend a two-week Preliminary Law, Legal Reasoning and Legal Methods in the September before beginning the MA programme.
Students must take modules to a total value of 180, consisting of a dissertation (60 credits) and 120 credits of taught modules. Taught modules are worth either 15 or 30 credits.
Students who wish to graduate with a specialised MA are required to take at least 60 credits associated with his or her specialised MA, a further 30 credits within the School of Law (General Law Postgraduate Taught Module List), and a final 30 unit which can either be taken within the School of Law or from the Language Open Options or Non-Language Open Options pages with the MA Programme Convenor’s permission. The dissertation topic will be undertaken within the MA specialisation.
Please note: Not all modules listed will be available every year. Please see the individual module page for information.
Students must complete a Dissertation (12,000 words) in Law, which should be on a topic relating to their chosen MA specialism.
Choose modules from the List A below to the value of 60 credits
Choose a module(s) from the List A or General Law PGT list below to the value of 30 credits
Choose a module(s) from the General Law PGT Options list below or from Postgraduate Open Options to the value of 30 credits
List of Modules (subject to availability)
General Law Options
Other non-law options might also be available, for example:
Open Options Note
Open options from cross-Faculty list will need approval of deputy PG programme convenor (LLM or MA)
This is the structure for applicants
If you are a current student you can find structure information on Moodle or through your Department.
Teaching & Learning
All Masters programmes consist of 180 credits, made up of taught modules of 30 or 15 credits, taught over 10 or 20 weeks, and a dissertation of 60 credits. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.
As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework, revising for examinations and so on. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary.
More information is on the page for each module.
Knowledge & Understanding
- Students will acquire specialist knowledge of environmental law in an international and comparative perspective.
- This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, knowledge and understanding of the following:
- the theoretical and practical underpinnings of environmental law internationally;
- the context in which law is made, interpreted, adjudicated, and amended;
- the role played by law, particularly environmental law in different situations internationally, particularly its role in promoting sustainable development in the global South;
- the role and function of legal institutions in managing the environment and natural resources;
- the weight and significance of different sources and methodologies.
- Students will develop knowledge of how to locate relevant materials and assess their relevance and/or importance.
Intellectual (thinking) Skills
- Students should develop rigour in analysis and assessment of legal arguments.
- Students should develop the ability to understand, summarise and critically assess differing perspectives on theoretical debates.
- Students should develop independence of thought and the confidence to challenge the accepted wisdom.
- Students should learn to identify issues and formulate questions for further research through independent work.
- Students will be encouraged to bring to bear their own previous experience and knowledge in addressing legal issues in an interdisciplinary manner.
Subject-based Practical Skills
The programme will help students develop the ability to:
- Write clear research essays and dissertations.
- Research in a variety of specialized research libraries and institutes and online, and retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources.
- Present seminar papers and defend the arguments therein.
- Discuss ideas introduced during seminars.
- Develop essay and dissertation research questions.
- Read legal source materials rapidly and critically.
- Present legal arguments in moots and debates.
The programme will enable students to:
- Communicate effectively in writing.
- Structure and communicate ideas and arguments effectively both orally and in writing.
- Read and comprehend significant quantities of reading rapidly and effectively and develop critical faculties.
- Find and use a variety of written and digital materials, especially legal materials, in libraries and research institutes.
- Present (non – assessed) material orally.
- Develop teamwork skills.
Full details of postgraduate tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Tuition Fees page.
This is a Band 5 tuition fee.
Fees for 2018/19 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year.
||Part-time 2 Years
||Part-time 3 Years
||LLM only 4 Years
Application Deadline: 2018-01-29 00:00
Application Deadline: 2018-01-29 00:00
Application Deadline: 2018-02-20 17:00
Application Deadline: 2018-02-20 17:00
Application Deadline: 2018-02-20 17:00
Application Deadline: 2018-06-19 17:00
For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section