School of Social and Political Science

MSc Global Environment, Politics and Society

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Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines for this programme. See 'how to apply' below for the application deadlines.

Combine environmental politics and environmental sociology with normative philosophy

The Global Environment, Politics and Society (GEPS) programme offers interdisciplinary exploration and immersion in social scientific inquiry used to understand and address environmental issues.  Students have a great amount of latitude to design their own course of interest, and can take many methodological, disciplinary, and integrative approaches.  The core coursework combines environmental politics, environmental sociology, and normative philosophy, but many students engage with a range of other social science disciplines as well.  Coursework is taken from fields across the University.

Understanding issues such as climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity requires knowledge about the political, moral and societal dimensions of environmental problems and solutions. The Global Environment Politics and Society degree provides a social science-based, practice-oriented exploration of these global environmental challenges and solutions.  Prospective applicants should note that whilst we broadly focus on social sciences, and this can stretch beyond the disciplines listed above, our particular programme does not focus on economics, business, or finance.  There are other strong programmes in these areas at the University of Edinburgh.

In the GEPS programme, students will develop the knowledge and analytical tools to address questions such as:

  • Are meaningful environmental agreements possible in a system of sovereign states?
  • Is the environment more than an economic resource for human exploitation?
  • What drives groups, individuals or institutions to take action on environmental issues?
  • What are the effects (and manifestations) of such mobilisation?
  • What does environmental justice look like and to what extent is it achievable, and how?

Students on this programme can also take advantage of the many climate and sustainability activities offered by the University's Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department and new Earth Initiative. 


Students on this programme will:

  • develop a critical understanding of the key concepts, actors and dynamics characterising global environmental problems and solutions
  • engage critically with different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives on environmental issues
  • assess competing claims and make informed judgements about current global environmental problems
  • develop their ability to present - in written and verbal form - coherent, balanced arguments
  • use a range of research skills to plan and execute a significant project of research on a major global environmental challenge

Teaching methods will include seminars, group work, lectures, presentations and guided independent study.


Students will be assessed through coursework, seminar assessment and presentations.


Students will also undertake a supervised research dissertation, or may apply to complete a project-based report with an NGO, government department, political party, or business over the spring and summer.

Career opportunities

You will acquire an advanced, multidisciplinary understanding of the major contemporary environmental challenges facing the world, and the different disciplinary and theoretical perspectives (from politics, international relations, ethics and sociology) used to explain them.

You will graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to assess competing claims and make informed judgements about current global environmental problems and possible solutions.

Such knowledge and skills are sought after by a wide range of public and private employers in the fields of environmental policy, consultancy and advocacy. Alumni of our MSc programme have gone on to work for a range of employers in local, national, and international government organisations, environmental NGOs, independent research organisations, universities, private industries, consultancy groups, and on to further (PhD) study.

How to apply

Application Deadlines

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline when we will offer a proportion of the places available to applicants selected through a competitive process.

Please ensure that you have submitted all supporting documentation and paid the application fee before the deadline for the round you wish to be considered in.

Deadlines for applicants applying to study in 2024-2025:

RoundApplication deadlinePlaces awarded by
11st November 202321st December 2023
24th January 20247th March 2024
311th March 20249th May 2024
43rd June 202431st July 2024


Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode 
MSc 1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MSc 2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
Reading recommendations 

Climate and environmental governance:

  • Bulkeley, H., & Newell, P. (2023). Governing climate change. Taylor & Francis.
  • Clapp, J., & Dauvergne, P. (2011). Paths to a green world: The political economy of the global environment. MIT Press.

Climate justice:

  • Cripps, E. (2022). What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Action close to home:

  • Pollan, M. (2007). Second nature: A gardener's education. Open Road+ Grove/Atlantic.
  • Tallamy, D. W. (2020). Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your    Yard. Timber Press.

Sociology and capitalist critiques:

  • Huber, M. T. (2022). Climate change as class war: Building socialism on a warming planet. Verso Books.
  • Brand, U., & Wissen, M. (2021). The imperial mode of living: Everyday life and the ecological crisis of capitalism. Verso Books.
  • Malm, A. (2021). How to blow up a pipeline. Verso Books.
  • Chancel, L. (2020). Unsustainable inequalities: Social justice and the environment. Harvard University Press.
  • Angus, I. (2016). Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil capitalism and the crisis of the earth system. NYU Press.
  • Satgar, V. (2018). The climate crisis: South African and global democratic eco-socialist alternatives (p. 372). Wits University Press.

Environmental and climate fiction:

Consider titles by: Barbara Kingsolver, Nathaniel Rich, Jeanette Winterson, Margaret Atwood, or Kim Stanley Robinson (sci-fi). N. K. Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy has also been recommended by colleagues in our department. Other environmentally-themed fiction you might find enjoyable (especially if you like your comedy dark and cynical) include short stories or books by T. C. Boyle, who dissects the dilemmas of environmental radicalism and unintended effects of conservation (see also Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom).

Additional information

NEWS: SPS students recognised for enhancing the reputation of the University

Three students on the MSc Global Environmental Politics and Society programme have been jointly awarded the University of Edinburgh 2021 Sir William Darling Memorial Prize for enhancing the University’s reputation through community building and engagement with global challenges. 

READ: SPS students recognised for enhancing the reputation of the University



Student Testimonials

Hear about studying Global Environment, Politics and Society with us from those who know it best: our students and graduates.

Hear from our students