School of Social and Political Science

Sustainable Development


The MA Sustainable Development

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 you an understanding of the key scientific debates, and the ability to understand and evaluate the scientific knowledge and practices concerning sustainable development.


MA Sustainable Development Degree Programme Handbooks for each year of study 2019-2020 can be accessed as follows:

Years 1 and 2

Below are the core courses for Years 1 and 2.

SD1A: Introduction to Sustainable Development  

There will be two lectures per week, from 09:00 - 09:50 as follows:

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:10 - 13:00, Medical School, Teviot Lecture Theatre - Doorway 5.

Course Convenor

Dr Isabelle Darmon
Room 6.27
Chrystal MacMillan Building
Tel: 0131 651 1574
Email: Isabelle

Course Secretary 

Laura Thiessen
Undergraduate Teaching Office
Room 1.16
1st floor
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 3932

What will I learn?

This course addresses the central problems facing us in the 21st century, concerning equitable access to water, food, energy, shelter and sustainable livelihoods in the context of a destabilising climate and the degradation of environmental resources.

The course explores sustainable development from multiple disciplines, as it begins with the principles and background to ‘sustainable development’, and draws insights from sociology, politics, human geography, and social anthropology.

You will think critically about what sustainability means and how it can be applied across contemporary societies from global to local levels.

The course will also enable you to evaluate the changes that capitalist and socialist societies, industrial development and technological advancement have brought to living patterns and the environment.

Science, Nature and Environment

There will be two lectures per week, from as follows:

  • 09:00 - 09:50, Tuesdays and Fridays: Lecture Theatre 1, Appleton Tower
Course Convenor

Dr Kirsten Jenkins
Lecturer in Science Technology and Innovation Studies
Room 3.31
Chisholm House
High School Yards

Course Secretary

Alexander Dysart
Room G04/05
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 651 5197

What will I learn?

This course considers the ways that science and technology shape the relationship between humans and the environment.

We will examine a number of topical historical and contemporary cases and in the process reflect on the role played by science and technology in how societies understand nature and environment.

Here, you will learn about scientific knowledge as something that is socially constructed and that is used by various groups in society for specific purposes.

Student workload

Assessed by a Short Assignment, Tutorial Reflections and Long Essay.  In order to pass the course, the long essay must be passed.

Entry conditions

There are no entry requirements for Year 1 courses.

You may do either of the courses as self-standing courses but all MA Sustainable Development students must take both courses as above.

Sustainable Development 2A

There will be two lectures per week, am as follows:

10:00 - 10:50, Wednesdays: Basement Theatre, Adam House

10:00 - 10:50, Fridays:  G.07 Meadows Lecture Theatre, Doorway 4, Medical School

Course Organisers

Professor Lynn Jamieson
Room 5.04
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 4002

Dr Jacob Doherty
Room 4.15
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 651 3785

Course Secretary

Laura Thiessen
Undergraduate Teaching Office
Room 1.16
1st floor
Chrystal Macmillan Building
Tel: 0131 650 3932

What will I learn?

This course provides a multidisciplinary examination of key perspectives on – and issues of – sustainable development. It builds on the core course of Semester 1, Year 1, which introduced sustainable development as a contested area.

Each perspective is illustrated through a case study of a particular sustainability issue, such as transport, reduction of carbon emissions, and flooding. You will learn to use different lenses to think about sustainable development and the challenges it poses for everyday lives, for interventions, as well as for conceptions of life in common on the planet.

Each perspective is also seen into action, usually through a separate case study class on a particular sustainability issue and the struggles they give rise to, including:

  • sustainable transport
  • reduction of carbon emissions
  • sustainable water
  • sustainable energy
  • food security
  • waste

You will also examine how these issues can be understood through a wide range of other perspectives.

Further, you will reflect upon the implications of those different perspectives for our overall understanding of sustainable development.

Programme specifications

Programme specifications are summary statements about our degree programmes, regularly revised and approved by our Board of Studies.

They provide very useful overviews of the fundamental objectives and structures of degree programmes. They also provide key information about:

  • basic educational aims
  • anticipated learning outcomes
  • core skills students are expected to acquire through their studies
  • the structure and progression of programmes over the four years

Current versions of the Degree Programme Specifications (DPS) can be found alongside the relevant programme title in DRPS.

Student category
Programme Information