MSc Sustainable Development in Practice

Entry year
Course code
School of Architecture and Environment
One year full-time; Two years part-time
Full-time, part-time, starts September
Programme leader
Dr Georgina Gough

This course is open for applications

Page last updated 6 February 2024


A highly-topical course that focuses on the urgent challenges organisations, communities and government face in bringing about sustainable change in individual behaviour, business practice and wider society - all studied in the European Green Capital 2015.

Accreditations and partnerships:

Businesses, governments and communities are taking on the practical challenges that come with creating a sustainable future. Innovation is a big part of overcoming these challenges thinking differently, and finding new ways to reconcile the needs of people and businesses with those of our planet.

Sustainable development is now a mainstream agenda, with implications for every area of society:

  • Businesses and organisations ensuring sustainability informs every aspect of their operations, from the environmental and social impacts of product design, logistics, manufacturing and waste management, to communicating with shareholders, the workforce and consumers.
  • Governments, policy makers and NGOs to create the frameworks of innovation that will ensure pro-sustainability changes. 
  • Individuals making better choices about things like food sourcing and waste, to energy use, transport and buying goods and services.

Employer Enhancing Skills

You'll get to work on live briefs and real world projects, and have invaluable access to the organisations and case studies we offer through UWE Bristol's research activities, and its thriving network of sustainability partners. You will learn to apply your skills and knowledge to enhance your employability.

You'll also benefit from the expertise and experience our multi-disciplinary team brings from consultancy, policy and practice.

"The course's focus on transforming individual behaviour, business practice and wider society will be absolutely crucial to effect change."

Lynne Ceeney, Director of Corporate Sustainability EuMENA, Parsons Brinckerhoff

European Green Capital

You'll be studying in a pro-sustainability setting as Bristol is European Green Capital 2015, and is home to the largest number of environmental organisations outside London. These organisations include sustainability consultancies, sustainable businesses and leading NGOs such as Sustrans, The Soil Association, Forum for the Future and the Centre for Sustainable Energy.

You can find out more about MSc Sustainable Development in Practice by following us on Facebook and Twitter.



The course's structure and content is informed by extensive research with potential employers, as well as publications and policies from organisations including government. Sustainability needs graduates with the knowledge, tools and abilities to bring about pro-sustainability change in a wide range of contexts and settings.

You will study:

  • Sustainable Development: Principles and Practice (15 credits) - You'll explore the fundamental nature, causes and consequences of sustainable and unsustainable development. Practical exercises and projects give you first-hand experience of putting key concepts, frameworks and tools for implementing sustainable development into practice.
  • Creating Sustainable Behaviour Change (15 credits) - With case studies and examples, you'll explore a range of different theoretical and practical approaches to understanding and influencing pro-sustainable behaviour.
  • The Sustainable Organisation: Vision into Practice (15 credits) - This module examines the vision of a sustainable business operating in a complex ecosystem with resource constraints, and compares this with the reality of contemporary business. Case studies and project work provide insight into the knowledge and skills necessary to help organisations achieve sustainable strategies and operations.
  • Communications Campaigns: Creative Approaches and Tools (15 credits) - You will analyse a range of historically significant campaigns and social movements, and their implications for pro-sustainability change. The assessment enables you to develop and evaluate a communication strategy for changing cultural understanding, attitudes and behaviour.
  • Work-Based Learning in Sustainability and Environmental Management (30 credits) - You'll gain vital practice-based experience and build your professional network, as we work with you to identify a host organisation relevant to your career aspirations. Past and present hosts include Arup,  Bristol City Council, Bristol Food Policy Council, Bristol Green Capital Company, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Common Cause, Eat Drink Bristol Fashion, Forum for the Future, Happy City, Go Bristol, Good Energy, Oxfam, Soil Association and Stride Treglown. You can also opt to work in UWE Bristol's Sustainability Team, or gain research experience within one of our Research Centres.
  • Master's Project (60 credits) - You'll investigate, tackle and report on a specific issue in current sustainability practice, with supervision from specialist subject tutors.

A wide range of options allows you to tailor your course to your career needs. In addition to modules from the fields of Environmental Management and the Built Environment students may also choose from optional modules which enable them to:

  • explore the application of sustainability in specific fields, for example in engineering
  • further develop skills in affecting sustainability change, such as advanced feature writing
  • specialise in one or more aspect of sustainability, such as air quality
  • explore sustainability further at national and international level, such in law.

Availability may vary due to timetable scheduling and the number of optional modules needed will depend on credit requirements.

The University continually enhances our offer by responding to feedback from our students and other stakeholders, ensuring the curriculum is kept up to date and our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the real world. This may result in changes to the course. If changes to your course are approved we will inform you.

Learning and Teaching

We use a variety of learning methods to teach this course, including:

  • Taught sessions on campus, from an interdisciplinary team with expertise in areas such as sustainable development, behaviour change, business management, health and well-being, and media and communications.
  • Guided learning, through lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops, visiting speakers, online resources and case studies. A lot of this is collaborative, through group projects, peer assessment and virtual communities including blogs, online discussions and peer-assisted learning.
  • Independent study, so you acquire the knowledge to challenge existing perspectives and apply creative thinking and knowledge.
  • Work-based learning, involving a six-week professional project.This allows you to apply your sustainability knowledge and skills to a project based with one of our professional partners or in your own workplace.

See our full glossary of assessment terms.


Study time

Part-time students start the project dissertation during Year two, and complete it in Year three if necessary, with the taught part of the course covering two or three years.

Academic support

Each course has a dedicated course leader. They will support you with any academic issues, and be your contact on any other University matters.

The social side of things

The postgraduate society at UWE Bristol actively promotes and supports a social network for postgraduate students, which shows them what Bristol and the surrounding areas have to offer.

All core modules are available as short courses.


This course is assessed via a combination of coursework and presentations. You'll take a project-based assessment that focuses on real-world challenges, which will help you build a valuable portfolio of work in pro-sustainability change.

See our full glossary of learning and teaching terms.


Professional accreditation

This course is accredited by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA).

Study facilities

As one of the UK's most advanced and responsive universities, we make sure you have the resources and support you need to help you gain your qualification.

For this programme, you will have access to:

  • the Bolland Library, 24 hours a day and all our other specialist libraries
  • an extensive range of computer suites, some open 24 hours a day
  • resources for photography, digital imaging, filming and sound recording
  • specialist computing workshops and labs
  • remote study options, online discussions and resources via Blackboard, our e-learning tool.

Learn more about UWE Bristol's facilities and resources.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Geography and Environmental Management facilities and see what's on offer here for you.


Postgraduate support

Our support includes access to fantastic facilities, study tools and career consultants, plus practical help to access everything from funding to childcare.


A stunning city for student living with all the qualities to make you want to stay.

Sports, societies and activities

There is more to your experience here than study. Choose to make the most of it and try new things.

Health and Wellbeing

We provide support in the way you need it.

Campus and facilities

Discover our campuses and the wealth of facilities provided for our students.


Careers / Further study

This course offers the blend of skills, knowledge and thinking to develop your career in a wide range of private and public sector businesses and organisations.

You might choose to lead change in multi-national corporations, international organisations, national, regional and local governments, or to plan and implement sustainable development with organisations in specialist sectors, such as business, environmental or project management, or in planning, transport, construction, waste or energy.

You could get involved in campaigning, development or aid work, or as an advisor in bodies such as the UN, EU or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Or you might want to help develop government policy, set up your own consultancy, go on to a PhD, or go into teaching.

"I find myself using the knowledge I acquired, on this course, around behaviour change theory, sustainability frameworks and communications evaluation in my day-to-day workings where the different elements cross over everything I do. The learning around visioning and innovation has changed the way I initiate and manage projects." Matt, Senior Fund Assembly Officer, Sustrans


Supplementary fee information

For information about funding for postgraduate courses see our funding pages.


Entry requirements

We normally require an honours degree of 2.2 or above.

If you do not meet the above grade requirements but have at least 12 months relevant professional experience and/ or equivalent qualifications, we will consider you on an individual basis.

Personal Statement

You are required to complete a personal statement for this course. Please read the personal statement guidance carefully and make sure that you answer the questions on the postgraduate application form within the personal statement tabs, keeping to the advised word count.

UWE Bristol's International College
International students who do not meet the academic or English language requirements to study this course can qualify by completing preparatory study at our International College.

English language support

If you meet the academic requirements but require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend one of our pre-sessional English courses. Students who successfully complete the pre-sessional course can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking an IELTS or equivalent.

Read more about our Pre-Sessional English Programme.

English Language Requirement

International and EU applicants are required to have a minimum overall IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 with 5.5 in each component (or approved equivalent*).

*The University accepts a large number of UK and international qualifications in place of IELTS. You can find details of acceptable tests and the required grades you will need in our English Language section.

How to apply

Read more about postgraduate applications.

Read more about international applications and key international deadline dates.

For further information