We use cookies on this site. By browsing our site you agree to our use of cookies. Close this message Find out more

Home > Courses > Postgraduate > Practising Sustainable Development
More in this section Geography

Practising Sustainable Development MSc

UCAS code
Year of entry
Course length
1 year full time
2 years part time
Geography »
Location of study
Main Campus (Egham) »

Interest in development, environment and issues of sustainable development has never been so intense. UN climate change summits, Sustainable Development Goals and the World Social Forum have brought environmental and development issues and problems long on local and national agendas, onto the international scene.

Study Practising Sustainable Development at Royal Holloway, University of London and you’ll address the complex, dynamic network of natural, social, political and economic processes, graduating with a range of transferable research skills to take into your chosen career.

This popular programme continues to evolve and expand in both scope and appeal, attracting student from more than 30 countries and a diverse range of backgrounds. You’ll learn from expert academics with experience in different developing regions and economies in transition, including Latin America, the Caribbean, South, East and South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

You’ll join a department that is consistently highly ranked for the international quality of its research, and contribute to this leading research culture with your own dissertation project. 

The Politics, Development and Sustainability (PDS) research group consists of over 20 research-active staff, 35 PhD students and 50 Master’s students on four MSc programmes. We are committed to conducting collaborative research which seeks to understand and contribute to addressing problems of social inequality, environmental destruction and injustice. The breadth of its members’ research places it in an ideal position to contribute to theoretical and policy debates on key challenges facing Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean today.

Study Practising Sustainable Development at Royal Holloway and you’ll learn to tackle issues that are high on the national and international agenda, graduating with excellent employability prospects in the UK and abroad. This programme is also offered at Postgraduate Diploma level for those who do not have the academic background necessary to begin an advanced Masters degree.

  • Study in a department ranked 2nd in the UK for research by the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Learn from expert academics with experience in a range of developing regions and economies in transition.
  • Graduate with excellent employability prospects or progress to doctoral study.
  • Follow a highly regarded programme, preparing you for a career in the environmental and developmental fields.

Core modules

Sustainability, Development and Governance

In this module you will develop an understanding of the development of sustainable development as a discourse. You will explore key sustainability issues such as climate change, globalisation, and human responses, considering the emergence of environmental governance as a means to pursue sustainability.

Sustainability, Development and Society

In this module you will develop an understanding of the key social and environmental relationships, incorporating contemporary issues in the geographies of sustainability. You will look at the concept of 'risk society', sustainable cities, and the impacts of corporate sector activities on the environment. You will consider the challenges to sustainable development at household and community levels, with a focus on community-based approaches to sustainable development.

Technologies, Innovation and Development 

In this module you will develop an understanding of the role of technology in development, with particular focus on mobile phone and computer technologies. You will examine the key theoretical debates and look at how technologies have been applied in and across diverse sectors such as health and education. You will also learn how to use GIS (geographical information systems) methods and techniques within a development context.

Community Volunteer Project

You will undertake an independent volunteering project, giving you practical experience sustainability-related work in a not-for-profit organisation. The project will enhance your employability by providing you with an opportunity to gain a practical understanding of third-sector organisational objectives, cultures and practices.

Participatory Methods

In this module you will develop your understanding of the theoretical groundings of participatory research, and gain practical experience in using various methods and techniques. You will look at participatory diagramming, participatory video, and participatory environmental monitoring, reflecting on these approaches and evaluating the limitations of each method. You will also consider the role of participatory approaches to monitoring and evaluation.

Research Training

In this module you will develop an understanding of the practices of research design and training crucial to the practice of contemporary cultural geography. You will consider how you can take your research skills out into the world beyond the academy, with social social media training in blog writing and podcasting to communicate your research and facilitate knowledge exchange. You will reflect on the transferrable skills you have learned and consider how you may use these in your future career. You will also learn how to prepare your CV, write grant applications, and prepare a PhD proposal.


You will carry out an extended project on a topic of your choice, producing a written report of between 12,000 and 15,000 words. Working with your supervisor, you will carry out primary and secondary research, using theoretical and practical methods to tackle your research question. You will carry out your dissertation in collaboration with an organisation in the field of development and the environment.

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Climate Change, Governance and the Seas

In this module you will develop an understanding of the issues surrounding climate change and the governance of the seas, encompassing their development, geopolitics and security. You will look at key spaces where these issues intersect, such as small island states, and consider the governance challenges of both climate change and geographical engagements with the sea.

Project Work for Managers – Sustainability and Societies

In this module you will develop an understanding of how ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) inform sustainability management issues in large, transnational organisations. You will look at issues such as consumption and sustainability, assessing the dichotomy of economic and environmental interests. You will also examine a range of ethical beliefs and expectations that underpin environmental and social sustainability.

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods, including coursework and a dissertation.

On completion of the course you will have:

  • an understanding at an advanced level of the relationships between, and complexities of, social, economic, political and environmental aspects of sustainable development and ICT4D
  • an understanding at an advanced level of how the key issues in sustainable development theory and ICT4D influence policy and impact on practice
  • the ability to critically analyse complex or contradictory areas of knowledge in aspects of sustainable development.

This course is delivered in a single stage, equating to either one-year of full-time study or two years part-time, (or up to five years of part-time study by agreement with the Programme Director)

Entry criteria:

UK 2:1 (Honours) degree or equivalent in one of the following subjects:

  • Biology
  • Development Studies
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Studies
  • Geography
  • Politics

Computer Science Candidates with considerable professional experience in any agency involved in development and environment issues will also be considered.


English language requirements:

IELTS 6. 5 overall with 6.5 in writing and no subscore below 5.5.  For equivalencies, please see here

If you require Royal Holloway to sponsor your study in the UK, your IELTS must be a government-approved Secure English Language Test (SELT)

International and EU entry requirements

Please select your country from the drop-down list below

Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.

Practising Sustainable Development at Royal Holloway, University of London is a highly-regarded programme that provides graduates with excellent employability prospects in the environmental and developmental sectors.  Our alumni have gone on to enjoy rewarding careers as environmental and development workers, activists, teachers and researchers in a variety of international institutions and agencies.

You’ll be equipped with a range of transferable skills, including research design, project development, environmental monitoring and geographic information systems, making you a highly attractive candidate for employers in a variety of sectors. The programme can also be used as part of an ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) research training pathway for PhD study.

  • 90% of Royal Holloway graduates in work or further education within six months of graduating.
  • Programme can be used towards an ESRC research training pathway for PhD study.
  • Graduate with a Masters degree from one of the UK’s leading geography departments.

Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £7,200

International students tuition fee per year 2018/19*: £14,900

Other essential costs**: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying part-time are charged a pro-rata tuition fee, usually equivalent to approximately half the full-time fee. Please email student-fees@royalholloway.ac.uk for further information on part-time fees. All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway's policy is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see tuition fees and our terms and conditions.

** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

Back to course search results


Related degrees


Comment on this page

Did you find the information you were looking for? Is there a broken link or content that needs updating? Let us know so we can improve the page.

Note: If you need further information or have a question that cannot be satisfied by this page, please call our switchboard on +44 (0)1784 434455.

This window will close when you submit your comment.

Add Your Feedback