Sustainable Development | University of Surrey - PEP - Promoting Economic Pluralism
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Sustainable Development | University of Surrey

This MSc in Sustainable Development examines the societal transformations required to tackle the climate emergency, protect the environment, and shift towards sustainable consumption and production. Students are challenged to think systematically and creatively, and act pragmatically.

How does the programme provide content to ensure students achieve an understanding of a reasonably diverse set of perspectives on understanding economies?

Students on this MSc are required to take a module in Ecological Economics, run by Professor Tim Jackson - author of Prosperity without growth. This module introduces ecological economics – that is an economics grounded in ecological realities.

The module:

  • introduces the core insights of ecological economics and explores the issues raised by an ecological approach to economics.
  • situates ecological economic ideas in a historical context and familiarises students with key economic debates. 
  • developes in-depth understanding of contemporary debates related to the ‘dilemma of growth' 
  • familiarises students with the degrowth movement, the management of common pool resources, and the role of intra- and inter-generational equity in economics 
  • provides a basic introduction to microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts.

How does the programme ensure students understand the interaction between economic and ecological systems?

In addition to the Ecological Economics module, students on this programme are required to take a variety of environment and sustainability modules, including a selection from:

  • Environmental science and society
  • Foundations of sustainable development
  • Sustainable development applications
  • Life cycle thinking and the circular economy
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Environmental auditing and management systems
  • Corporate social and environmental responsibility
  • Environmental law
  • Transitions to a low carbon economy
Modules analyse the relationship between environmental issues and human society. Students evaluate political, socio-economic, ethical, cultural and regulatory frameworks, and acquire an understanding of the theory and application of sustainable development.

How does the programme ensure students understand how to critically explore real-world evidence, both qualitative and quantitative?

High-profile guest lecturers assist with the teaching of some of the modules on this MSc programme. The modules make maximum use of guest lecturers, drawing on the practical skills and experience of important experts from government and industry to complement the theoretical components of the modules offered.

Some full-time students complete an industrial placement as one of their elective modules. This enables students to spend six to 12 weeks working for a company or a non-governmental organisation gaining valuable work experience prior to graduation.

Students are provided with research methods training, including both qualitative and quantitative social research methods. Students apply these research methods when completing their dissertation under the direction of an academic supervisor.  Dissertation topics are chosen by the student.

What pedagogical approaches does the programme use to ensure that students examine the historical context, assumptions and values in all economic thinking?

The modules on this programme make use of a range of learning formats: lectures, seminars, discussion, group work, class debates and field trips. Each module is taught on an intensive modular basis. There is pre-reading to do before each module and on occasion a pre-module assessment. This is followed by an intensive taught week where classes run from approximately 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday for one week. Following the intensive teaching week, post-module coursework is to be completed over the four-week period. Modules examine the relationship between environmental issues and human society. As part of this approach, you’ll evaluate political, socio-economic, ethical, cultural and regulatory frameworks, and acquire an understanding of the theory and application of sustainable development. 

How does the department ensure that the teaching culture and capacity to deliver economic pluralism are continually improving?

The University of Surrey Centre for Environment and Sustainability takes inter-disciplinary approaches to the analysis of complex systems, integrating the engineering and science-based disciplines with insights from the economic and social sciences, and from this develop action-oriented, policy relevant responses to long-term environmental and social issues. Research activities in the Centre inform teaching on the MSc in Sustainable Development. 

In addition to the inter-disciplinary staff teaching on the MSc , most modules on the programme make extensive use of external speakers drawn from industry, government and civil society who bring a diverse range of perspectives and ideas to class. 

Other information:

The intensive modular teaching format on this MSc programme means that it is ideal for students who are working full time and would like to study part-time.

Part-time students must complete 8 taught modules plus a dissertation over a two to five year period. Each module is taught over a single week of intensive classes, preceded by pre-readings and followed by a post-module assessment. Students who are working full time take a week of study leave or annual leave for each module, doing the pre-readings and coursework in their spare time. 

Modules on the programme can be taken as stand along Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses. 


United Kingdom


University of Surrey

Course name:

Sustainable Development


Centre for Environment and Sustainability

Course level:

Taught Masters

Course language:



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Sustainable Development | University of Surrey

Sustainable Development

Centre for Environment and Sustainability