Taught 100% online, study Sussex’s world-renowned MSc Sustainable Development at a time and place that suits you.
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
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 Unit, School 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
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)
This module provides an overview of the politics and policies of sustainable development in different parts of the world. From increasing inequality to toxic wastes and climate change, the challenges facing our world are daunting. Arguably then, the urgency of realising transformations to sustainability has never been greater.
The mission of the module is to provide students with a grounding in a variety of economic and noneconomic (systems) frameworks for studying issues of science, technology and innovation, and their collective relationship to energy production and policy. The module gives students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds the knowledge and shared concepts for their studies, enabling them to communicate with each other and with the wider industrial, academic and policy communities concerned with innovation. The module aims to provide deep understanding of the processes of technical change and their relationships to organisations, markets and regulations.
This module will provide students with the concepts and tools to understand and analyse specific energy policy problems, identify relevant goals, develop evaluation criteria, identify alternative policy options, assess the likely impact of those options against the evaluation criteria and provide practical policy recommendations. The approach will be interdisciplinary and applied, drawing in particular upon ideas from welfare economics and public choice theory. Students will apply these ideas to contemporary challenges within energy and climate policy.
This module will introduce students to the nature and operation of the policy process in modern societies. The module will examine the different stages of the policy process and assess competing explanations of that process, drawing upon ideas from policy studies and political science. The aim is to provide students with an understanding of how political systems are organised in different countries, how problems are constructed and brought onto the policy agenda, how policies are formulated, adopted, implemented and evaluated, how and why changes in policy occur, and how policy processes at different levels of government interrelate. Particular attention will be paid to international cooperation between nation states and the nature, operation and importance of the institutional arrangements that result (e.g. the UNFCC and the Paris agreement). These ideas will be illustrated with practical examples and exercises from energy and other areas.
This module provides the epistemological foundations of development studies, mapping the historical evolution of key ideas and the political, socio-economic and cultural influences on them. It highlights the deeply contested nature of development and the different insights that academic disciplines such as economics, gender studies, anthropology, sociology, geography and political science have contributed to the evolution of development thinking. Students will reflect on their own motivation and positionality and how these influence their interpretation of the meaning and goals of development.
Modern sciences and technologies are deeply entangled with social power. Techno-scientific developments such as gene editing and climate geoengineering are political issues, embroiled not only in controversies among scientists and engineers, but also subject to wider public debates. These debates highlight the importance of continuous opening up of the techno-sciences to democratic scrutiny, in order to achieve a greater diversity of knowledge, artefacts, ecologies and cultures necessary for achieving transformations to sustainability.
This module explores the central relationship between the organisation of the global political economy and processes of social and environmental change. It examines the key pillars of the global economy in terms of production, trade and finance as well as looking at the political economy of key issues such as climate change, energy, food and water. These issues are studied in terms of the economic origins of socio-ecological impacts, their governance and contestation and struggles for alternatives.
This module provides students with the basic building blocks for the production and use of social scientific research, giving special consideration to interdisciplinary research. The aim is to develop students’ abilities to understand, critically evaluate, conduct, and communicate research. Module contents are relevant to students interested in pursuing careers in public and private sectors, and in research. The module will help students develop more sophisticated interpretative lenses, a strong understanding of methodological approaches used in the social sciences, and effective communication abilities. These skills are highly applicable to academic and non-academic tasks.
This module will explore the role that innovation can play in sustainable development in industrialised and developing countries. A number of ideas will be used to provide a framework for experiential learning, including: include past and current theory on sustainability, growth and competitiveness (with specific reference to the role of technology); understanding and influencing directions of innovation – both in terms of green industrialisation and grassroots innovation; and the governance of socio-technical transitions. Specific topics will be explored to illustrate the utility of each idea, such as: the barriers to the diffusion of sustainable innovations; the role of innovative green niches in systems transformations; and the challenges of international co-ordination and regulation within the multilateral trading system. These topics will be illustrated with reference to real world case studies in a number of different sectors.
This module examines key policy issues and debates relating to sustainability and global development in the domains of agriculture, health and the environment. A case study approach is used to explore real-life policy dilemmas, through topics such as agricultural transformation, carbon politics, the commodification of nature, the governance of infectious diseases, resource extraction, and climate change.
This module is offered jointly with the Institute of Development Studies.
This module examines the emergent place and problems of market-based approaches for achieving sustainability and will cover topics such as payments for ecosystem services, carbon and biodiversity markets, offsetting and banking, and no net loss approaches. It probes questions of equity, justice and efficacy in treating nature as 'capital' and financialised commodity.
This module is offered jointly with the School of Global Studies.
This module examines the ways in which the current development apparatus is rooted in colonial history and ways of knowing, and how the politics and practices of sustainability both reinforce and challenge coloniality. We will explore non-Eurocentric forms of knowledge production focussing on the global South (such as feminist and critical race theory and practices, environmental and indigenous movements) that critique coloniality, rework the meaning of sustainability and offer visions for socio-ecologically just transformations.
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 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.View profile
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.View profile
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
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.View profile
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.View profile
A lower second-class (2.2) undergraduate honours degree* or above from any UK university or international equivalent.
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.
Help build a sustainable future - Sustainable Development MSc (online)
"Today’s challenges – from unemployment and increasing inequality to climate change – make it essential to reignite and redirect economic growth, and to innovate for sustainable, inclusive development."