Key Information

Taught 100% online, study Sussex’s world-renowned MSc Sustainable Development at a time and place that suits you.

A version of this course is also available to be studied on campus.

Course start dates:
There are six start dates every academic year, providing maximum flexibility for our students;

January | March | May | July | September | October

Course fee:  £11,450

Course overview

In September 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Aiming to end poverty and hunger while achieving gender equality, peace, responsible production and consumption, urgent climate action, as well as caring for life on land and below water, the Goals are challenging and ambitious.

Meeting the SDGs requires extensive transformations in the way markets, civil society and states work in much of the world. These sustainability transformations will need to be impassioned and practical, bridging different socio-economic sectors, knowledge disciplines and policy silos. They will need knowledgeable social entrepreneurs, engaged scholars and committed political activists, equipped to work across silos and sectors, with suitable interdisciplinary skills.

It is such entrepreneurs, scholars and activists that this distinct Masters aims to empower. Delivered by three of the most proficient research units in this area, the Science Policy Research UnitSchool of Global Studies and Institute of Development Studies, this interdisciplinary Masters will help develop conceptual and constructive skills based on interrogating knowledges across multiple disciplines. It will enable you to contribute effectively to the realisation of the SDGs through widespread sustainability transformations.

The University of Sussex has been ranked 1st in the world for Development Studies for the past three years (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017, 2018, 2019).

If you’d like to find out more about learning online with Sussex book a call with one of our Admissions Advisors.

This course is part-time and can be completed in a minimum of two years and maximum of four. Students have the opportunity to step on and off the course, pausing their studies if their work or life commitments require*.

You can also study an on campus version of our Sustainable Development Masters on a full or part time basis, find out more.

*Maximum study break times apply to this course

Download the course leaflet. 

Ranked 1st in the world for Development Studies*, the University of Sussex is at the forefront of teaching and research in sustainable development.

Studying the Sustainable Development MSc (online), you’ll learn to analyse the politics of sustainable development policies and practices, using different conceptual perspectives and methodological approaches, cutting across a wide range of social science disciplines. You’ll focus on real-world issues such as transforming energy production and consumption, climate-related disasters, agricultural intensification, waste and pollution. You’ll learn how social power and inequalities are implicated in processes of technological development and environmental change. And you’ll explore the conditions under which sustainability transformations are achieved, to tackle social inequalities and environmental degradation.

Teaching is interdisciplinary, incorporating perspectives from economics, political science, science technology and society studies, international relations, anthropology, economics, innovation studies and human geography. Engaging with Sussex lecturers and with fellow students from around the world, you will critically and constructively analyse the work of government, business and civil society actors in sustainable development.

With employability firmly in mind, you’ll take part in both independent and group work, studying sustainable development policies and strategies for international agencies, NGOs, public and private organisations.

*(QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017, 2018, 2019)

  • Sustainable Development: Politics and Policies
  • Science, Technology and Innovation
  • Policy Analysis
  • Understanding the Policy-Making Process
  • Key Perspectives in International Development
  • Democratising Science and Technology
  • Globalisation and the Environment: Capitalism, Ecology and Power
  • Perspectives, Methods and Skills
  • Innovation for Sustainability
  • Critical Issues in Sustainability: Environment, Agriculture, Health
  • Market-based Solutions for Sustainable Development: Pitfalls and Possibilities
  • Decolonising knowledge for Sustainable Development

Assessments will take place throughout each module and must be completed within the module teaching period for students to progress through the course/to the next module.

Professor Andrew Stirling

Professor of Science & Technology Policy

Professor Stirling is a member of the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), holding the post of Research Director from 2006 – 2013. After studying a Masters in archaeology and social anthropology he worked as a field archaeologist, ecology and peace activist and coordinated the nuclear, disarmament and energy campaigns for Greenpeace International, later going on to serve on national and international Greenpeace boards.

His teaching and research focuses on democracy and sustainability in science and technology. He is currently involved in projects including co-direct of the ESRC-funded joint IDS-SPRU STEPS Centre, Deputy Director for the DEFRA-funded joint Surrey-Sussex Research Group on Sustainable Lifestyles, and the Director of a spin-off University Enterprise on Multicriteria Mapping, as well as a longstanding member of the Sussex Energy Group.


Dr. Adrian Ely

Senior Lecturer

Dr. Adrian Ely is a Senior Lecturer within the Science Policy Research Unit, Deputy Director and Head of Impact and Engagement at the STEPS Centre and co-lead the ISSC ‘Transformative Pathways to Sustainability’ network as part of the work of the centre’s global consortium. He has been with Sussex since 2000, having joined the university originally as a postgraduate student.

As co-lead of the ISSC ‘Transformative Pathways to Sustainability’ network, his research focuses on decarbonising industrial systems (China), sustainable energy access (mobile-enabled pay-as-you-go solar in Kenya) and agri-food systems (UK and Argentina). He has a particular interest in the processes through which grassroots and other forms of innovation form hybrids contribute to sustainable development.


Professor Maria Savona

Professor of Innovation and Evolutionary Economics

Maria Savona is Professor of Innovation and Evolutionary Economics at SPRU, Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, UK. She was previously at the University of Cambridge, UK, Universities of Strasbourg and Lille 1, France.

Her research focus on the economics of innovation, employment and wage inequality; the structural change of the sectoral composition of economies, particularly the emergence of global value chains in services; economics and policy of innovation in services; spatial distribution of innovation and production activities; barriers to innovation and innovation failures. She has led and co-led grants funded by: the JRF on The Local Distribution of Productivity Gains: Heterogenous effects; the ESRC on Technical change, employment & inequality. A spatial analysis of households & plant data; the H2020 on Innovation-Fuelled, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth; the IDRC on Pathways of Structural Change and Inclusive Development. She has advised and produced reports for the IADB; ECLAC; UN ESCAP; OECD; NESTA; BEIS, DETI.

She is an Editor for Research Policy; AE for the Journal of Evolutionary Economics. She is an Academic Member of the ESRC Peer Review College and in evaluation panels for the EC, National Research Councils of Canada, Finland, Luxembourg, Italy, Norway, UK, US. She is currently a member of the High Level Expert Group on the Impact of Digital Transformation on EU Labour Markets for the European Commission


Dr Marie Claire Brisbois

Lecturer in Energy Policy

Dr. Brisbois is a Lecturer in Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) and Module Leader for Perspectives, Methods and Skills. Her work focuses on questions of structural power, politics and influence in energy, water and natural resource governance contexts. Before joining SPRU Marie Claire was a Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Marie Claire has consulted on technical and policy-level water and climate issues in Latin America and Canada, and has extensive experience in teaching, community building and facilitation through work with Waterlution, the Sierra Club of Canada, and the University of Waterloo.

Marie Claire is currently running the POWERSHIFTS project, investigating the impact decentralized renewable energy initiatives are having on existing policy decisions.


Professor Steve Sorrell

Professor of Energy Policy

Professor Steve Sorrell joined the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex in 1991 having previously worked as an electrical engineer. Steve is a specialist in energy and climate policy and is internationally recognised for his work on rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. Steve’s research is problem-oriented, interdisciplinary and applied, focusing in particular on energy demand and resource depletion.

Steve is Co-Director of Sussex’s Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Energy Demand Solutions, a member of the Sussex Energy Group and Honorary Senior Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College.

Steve has consulted for UK government departments and agencies (e.g. BEIS, DEFRA, Environment Agency), the European Commission, international agencies (e.g. UNIDO, WEC), private sector organisations and NGOs.


A lower second-class (2.2) undergraduate honours degree or above from any UK university or international equivalent.

Further information on applying for online Masters courses. 

Applicants whose first language is not English (and whose first degree was not taught in English) need to supply evidence of IELTS (Academic) Standard level (6.5 overall, including at least 6.0 in each component).

Course fee: £11,450
Cost per module: £955

Course fees will remain fixed for 24 months from the student’s first enrolment. Thereafter, the course fee will rise at a rate of 2.5% per calendar year (subject to rounding for administration purposes).

Please visit our fees and funding page for more information on funding for master’s students.

*Modules 1-11 = £955, module 12 = £945.

Science, Policy and Research Unit (SPRU)

University of Sussex, Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) – Masters courses