MSc Global Environmental Change and Policy

The course

Course type
Entry date
September, January

This is a new MSc degree delivered by the Lyell Centre - a joint collaboration between the British Geological Survey and Heriot-Watt. The course is taught by recognised international experts at one of Europe's leading centres for Earth and Marine science.


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The pace of change of our climate is staggering, with the climate system strongly influenced by numerous environmental and global feedback processes. Understanding these complex issues, as well as our role in these processes, is crucial to the development of mitigation and sustainability policies on global and local scales. Effective communication of this knowledge, whether in terms of climate literacy to the public or policy makers, is crucial to match our response to the pace of change.

The MSc in Global Environmental Change and Policy is designed to equip the next generation of Earth and Environmental scientists with the multidisciplinary skills needed to tackle the complex global issues associated with climate change, societal challenges and policy development.

The programme provides the highly integrated level of fundamental, applied and communication-based knowledge which is urgently needed to identify, characterise, and effectively find solutions to a range of challenges related to climate change. 

From a basic understanding of how the planet works as a holistic unit to socio-economic interactions between business and the environment, including the ability to communicate this knowledge to a broad spectrum of academic researchers, policymakers and the public. 

The programme has seven core courses in multidisciplinary topics, with the potential for students to widen their studies by choosing an optional course for further specialisation. Students will have the opportunity to perform their dissertation projects in collaboration (through co-supervision) with one of several world-leading Edinburgh based research organisations including:

  • British Geological Survey
  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Scottish Parliament Information Centre
  • Edinburgh's Dynamic Earth
  • Natural Museum of Scotland
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Dissertation projects may be field, or desk based and will be co-designed to address significant real-world issues aligned with the ongoing research projects undertaken at the Lyell Centre and in collaboration with the different research organisations. 

Research projects will be co-designed with the aim of professional development of the students, including addressing skills gaps, gaining wider impact and recognition, or leading to a publishable output.

September 2024 entry

The deadline for applications from UK students is 30 August 2024. For EU and overseas applicants, we guarantee to consider applications submitted by 2 August 2024.

Course content

8 taught courses (7 mandatory + 1 optional) plus a dissertation in collaboration with an Edinburgh-based research organisation.

Mandatory courses

  • Applied Skills in Laboratory, Fieldwork and Data Analysis
  • Earth System Science
  • Innovative Technologies and Global Water Challenges
  • Reconstructing Environmental Change and Tracing Ecosystem Function
  • Business of the Environment
  • Science Communication and Engagement
  • Ecosystems under Pressure

Optional courses (Semester 2)

  • Marine Biotechnology
  • Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management
  • GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists
  • Marine Environmental Monitoring
  • Practical Skills in Marine Biotechnology
  • Practical Skills in Marine Surveying


  • Earth Sciences MSc Project

Entry requirements

Masters (MSc) level entry applicants must have one of the following:

  • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent in a related subject area, preferably in an Earth or Environmental Science or general science qualification. A more diverse UG/PG background will also be possible.
  • For postgraduate conversion courses, non-related degrees will be considered.
  • Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered. 

PG Diploma level entry applicants must have an ordinary degree in a related subject area and relevant post qualification industry experience.

Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and possibly interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Recruitment.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above. Please refer to English language requirements for further details.

Some applicants may be asked for alternative evidence in line with UKVI recognised English speaking countries. Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

All evidence of English language needs to be dated within two years of the commencement of study.

We also offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your master's programme:

  • 20 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with minimum of 5.0 in writing and no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.0)
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.5)


Tuition fees for entry
Status Full-time
UK £10736
Overseas £26976
Tuition fees for entry
Status Full-time
UK £10736
Overseas £26976


  1. Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees.
  2. Overseas includes applications from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in the UK. Read more about the application process for EU nationals.

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.