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School of Social and Political Science: Undergraduate study


Sustainable Development

The Sustainable Development degree programme is run by the School of Social and Political Science and is also affiliated with the University's Global Development Academy.

Several of our courses and teaching staff have been nominated for EUSA Teaching Awards 2016-17.


Our accelerating consumption of natural resources is damaging the ecosystems on which all life depends, posing fundamental challenges to modern assumptions about economic progress, democracy and social relations. Sustainable Development refers to the challenges of reducing global inequity and poverty, and improving well-being, while reducing threats to the earth's life support systems from industrial production and consumption. Effective environmental care and management in relation to climate stability, other species and natural resources requires the examination of how humans relate to each other and to their surroundings. The critical analysis from diverse perspectives that this degree provides will be essential to understand these challenges, and to evaluate the proposed responses.

The Sustainable Development degree at Edinburgh addresses the challenges mainly through social science perspectives, and focuses on the social, political and economic consequences, challenges and opportunities for change. It also gives students an understanding of the key scientific debates, and the ability to understand and evaluate the scientific knowledge and practices concerning sustainable development.

Students will be able to engage with sustainability issues from a variety of perspectives and in the interdisciplinary manner that sustainable development demands.

Sustainable Development at the University of Edinburgh

On course and out of class is where students really learn about and practice sustainable development and as a University we aim to lead by example. As such, the programme is part of the University's commitment to making world-leading contributions to understanding and addressing global challenges. The University has an outstanding record in research and teaching in a wide range of approaches to sustainability and human development, from across the social and natural sciences.The University is also engaged in many sustainability practices including the following:

Edinburgh is the only university in the UK with its own Transition project, Transition Edinburgh University. Students will have the opportunity to get to know about and participate in the practical projects on which TEU are working.

There are many sustainability initiatives across the University, including the Global Development Academies, which provide a forum for integrated teaching and research across a range of issues relevant to our Sustainable Development degree.

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation brings together experts from a range of disciplines from across the University and other higher education institutions to develop collaborative projects between academics and both policy and business practitioners to find solutions to climate change problems.

The University has a wide ranging and practical sustainability strategy, reflected in the teaching, research, knowledge exchange, and running of the University. There are regular sustainability events and schemes, and an annual awards programme. To read our strategy and find out what the University's own sustainability commitments are, visit the Edinburgh Sustainability homepage.

There is a special portal for students to be able to find out about and discuss sustainability issues and events, called Our Ed; this brings together students from across the University who are interested and concerned about the environment, health, development, and social justice issues.

The Edinburgh University Student's Union also has many successful pro-active groups involved in sustainability including The Carbon Management Society, People and Planet, The Conservation Society, EcoSoc and The Hearty Squirrel Food Co-operative which sources ethically produced food from local and Fairtrade suppliers.

The University also offers a wide range of teaching on sustainability topics at postgraduate level

Sustainable Development