The course

Course type
Entry date
September, January


Entry dates

This study programme has two entry points, September and January. If you are interested in applying, and would like to start in January 2021, this option will be available to new applicants and existing offer holders from mid-July.


The MSc in Global Environmental Change and Sustainability is designed to equip the next generation of Earth and Environmental Science graduates and professionals with the multidisciplinary skills needed to tackle complex global issues associated with climate change and societal challenges.

The programme provides the highly integrated level of fundamental, applied and communication-based knowledge which is needed to identify, characterise, and effectively communicate these challenges. 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, policy-makers and the general public.

The programme has seven core courses in multidisciplinary topics, with the potential for the student to widen their studies by choosing an optional course for further specialisation. Students will have the opportunity to perform their dissertation projects in collaboration with one of several world-leading research organisations (e.g. British Geological Survey (BGS) or Dynamic Earth).

Course content

Programme lead: Dr Alex Poulton

Semester 1

September – December, 4 mandatory courses

Mandatory courses

  • Earth System Science  
  • Innovative Technology and Global Water Challenges
  • Reconstructing Environmental Change and Tracing Ecosystem Function
  • Applied Skills in Laboratory, Fieldwork and Data Analysis

Semester 2

January - April, 3 mandatory courses and 1 optional course

Mandatory courses

  • Science Communication and Engagement
  • Ecosystems Under Pressure
  • Business of the Environment

Optional courses

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

Semester 3

May - August, dissertation (MSc students only)


This course is designed to lead to career opportunities for academic earth system and environmental scientists (e.g. future PhD students, University staff), non-academic environmental researchers (e.g. BGS, CEH, National Oceanography Centre (NOC), British Antarctic Survey (BAS)), industrial and political stakeholders (e.g. Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)), Environmental Agency (EA), Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), environmental consultants, Scottish and UK government departments, (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affair (DEFRA), Department for International Development (DFID)) and their consultants (e.g. Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)), all dealing with fundamental scientific knowledge, its practical application and development of environmental policy and regulation.

International equivalents of such organisations include examples such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US), WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, US), NIO (National Institute of Oceanography, India), CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia) and GEOMAR (Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany). These include both national and international employment opportunities and hence the graduates from this programme will have global employment and career opportunities. 

Industry links

  • British Geological Survey (BGS)
  • Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Scottish Parliament Information Centre
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Entry requirements

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

  • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in a related subject area.
  • 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.

Recognition of Prior Learning

We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.

English language requirements

If English is not the applicant’s 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:

  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5)
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills)
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading and writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking and listening)


Tuition fees for and entry
Status* Full-time
UK / EU £8680
Overseas £21800

* If you are unsure which residency status category you fall in to, you should complete a fee status enquiry form, which allows us to assess your fees.

The fees shown are for one year only and may be subject to an increase each year. Our fees for September 2021 will be available shortly.

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.