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Environment and Development (MSc)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

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Why study this course

This MSc in Environment and Development aims to investigate, question and explore alternatives to the prevailing tensions and interdependencies between development and socio-ecological systems.

This MSc in Environment and Development aims to investigate, question and explore alternatives to the prevailing tensions and interdependencies between development and socio-ecological systems. It will consider the lived experiences of development and socio-ecological change, paying attention to different periods and multiple outcomes.

You will study the many problems resulting from the narrow search for economic growth which ignores wider socio-ecological requirements and responsibilities. The focus will be on exploring the fundamental connections between socio-economic demands and mounting environmental impacts and risks in both the Global North and the Global South.

The programme provides an opportunity to review: tendencies to convert nature into resources and private property; the formulation and implementation of environmental regulation; the commitments and failures of the apparatus of the state; the interaction between socio-economic sectors, groups and communities; and the political reaction and alliances across different geographical scales, countries and locations.

You will consider how the development appeal continues to influence governments, social groups and international relations, but at the same time generates uneven, short-term gains and long-lasting impacts. You will also discuss the limitations of policies influenced by environmentalism and narrow sustainability agendas which commonly fail to address wider social, political and economic expectations.

Through coordinated activities and practical engagements you will learn about past legacies, socio-cultural influences, the evolution of techno-scientific approaches and policy-making, the allocation of resources, and the challenges to contain environmental degradation and foster environmental justice. The various modules and related training exercises will help you to develop your critical thinking skills and the ability to examine the justification, the trends and limitations of conventional responses and a range of possible alternatives.

Distinctive features

  • a consideration of the politicised interconnections between socio-economic demands and environmental change, treated as an intrinsically political and ecological activity that occurs at the interface between state, society and the rest of socio-nature.

  • the opportunity to learn from past and ongoing experiences, connecting and contrasting the examples of countries in the Global North and in the Global South.

  • the opportunity to cover a wide range of environment and development challenges or to focus on certain substantive fields (such as economic sectors, natural resources, public services, governance issues, environmental management or the study urban and rural regions).

  • staff who work closely with academics and environment and development professionals worldwide. These collaborations are embedded in the course teaching and materials.

  • encouragement to engage with a range of stakeholders, as well as collaboration with organisations, governments and socio-economic sectors in Wales, the UK and around the world.

Where you'll study

School of Geography and Planning

Join us as we explore and tackle the social, political, economic, development and environmental challenges which affect where and how we live.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 208 74022
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA

Admissions criteria

Applicants will normally hold a 2:2 Honours degree in a relevant subject area, or a University-recognised equivalent academic qualification, or have appropriate professional experience. Relevant subjects include Geography, Sociology, Politics or Economics, Environmental Engineering/Science/Design. 

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to obtain a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 5.5 in all other subskills, or an accepted equivalent. 

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

You will take taught modules to the value of 120 credits over two semesters between October and May, taking 60 credits each semester. You will complete a dissertation worth 60 credits between June and September. The classification of your degree is based on two-thirds of the average grade of the taught modules and one-third of the grade of your dissertation.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

You will take six taught modules worth 20 credits each. Four of these modules will be core modules. The remaining two will be optional modules from a choice of ten.

You will compete a dissertation based on original research. You will be able to specialise in different areas by choosing specific combinations of option modules and by your dissertation topic, if you wish. You will be advised at the start of the Programme on the different specialist areas.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and computer lab and studio work where relevant.

Lectures take a range of forms but generally provide a broad structure for each subject, introduce key concepts, and convey relevant up-to-date information.

In seminars you’ll have the opportunity to discuss particular themes or topics to consolidate and get feedback on your individual learning and to develop your oral presentation skills.

In computer lab and studio work you will have the opportunity to learn various research methods such as GIS and statistics depending on the modules you take.

You will practise and develop intellectual and presentational skills by participating in diverse learning activities, such as, small-group discussions, debates, oral presentations, independent research tasks and written assignments.  You will also enhance your team-working skills.

How will I be assessed?

You will undertake a variety of assessments during the programme, determined by the modules you select.

Each 20-credit module will be assessed by a 4000 word essay or equivalent. Most modules have at least two different modes of assessment with each weighted pro rata to an equivalent of a 4000-word essay overall. For instance, a 3000-word essay worth 75% and a 15 minute presentation worth 25%.

The different modes of assessment include written essays (including short essays and critical review essays), presentations (both individual and in groups), group work, report writing, poster presentations, reflective journals, consultancy reports, reports on statistical analysis and an individual dissertation. The dissertation is worth 60 credits and is 20,000 words maximum.

How will I be supported?

We want to make sure that you are able to achieve you academic and professional ambitions. As such we take pride in offering a supportive and collegiate learning and teaching environment.

Specifically, you will be allocated a personal tutor who will help you reflect on your performance on the course and advise you on study techniques, Module selection and career planning (in conjunction with the University’s Career Service). They will also provide a first point of contact if you experience any difficulties.

A range of other staff are available to provide further support, including a Course Director, Director of Postgraduate Studies, Postgraduate Administrator, specialist IT support and subject librarians. A member of academic staff acts as a designated Disability and Diversity Officer and ensures that reasonable adjustments are made for students with disabilities.

All Modules within the Programme make extensive use of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central, where you can access discussion forums and find course materials including links to teaching and related materials, reading lists and podcasts, and where you submit and access assessed work.

A programme of careers lectures and workshops is also delivered within the School which will help to show the range of professional options open to you after graduation and enable you to start building your professional network.

Formative Feedback

The goal of formative feedback, which does not contribute to progression or degree classification decisions, is to improve your understanding and learning before you complete your summative assessment. Formative feedback is embedded into all modules and will be provided continuously throughout the year. This type of feedback helps:

  •  improve your understanding of the taught material;
  • identify your strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work;
  • staff to support you and address the problems identified with targeted strategies for improvement.

Formative feedback may include verbal feedback on the presentation of ideas or research that will be assessed in a written piece of work; verbal feedback during computer lab work and in seminars and group discussion; written feedback on essay plans; verbal feedback on points raised during lectures; written feedback on workshop exercises; written and verbal feedback on draft chapters of your dissertation / research

Summative Feedback

Summative feedback is feedback that contributes to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of summative assessment is to indicate how well you have succeeded in meeting the intended learning outcomes of a Module or Programme and will enable you to identify any action required in order to improve. All feedback is directly linked to the Module grading / assessment criteria and is usually electronic and available on-line.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • a critical understanding of theoretical debates, ideological constructions and application of development models, taking into account key dynamics in environmental change, public policies and regulation and exploring alternatives and opportunities.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • independent and critical understanding of the multiple interactions between environment and development from a theoretical, methodological and practical point of view;
  • advanced skills in independent research and analysis (including formulating and carrying out a critical research agenda);
  • advanced knowledge of quantitative and qualitative methods and associated data management and analysis;
  • critical appreciation and interpretation of theoretical debates and empirical data.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • an ability to analyse the problems of the interface between development and environmental change and begin to identify potential responses and alternatives within policy and regulatory frameworks

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to demonstrate:

  • the ability to organise, analyse and critically present complex ideas and evidence orally and in written form;
  • the ability to work independently;
  • the ability to work collaboratively in groups and to plan and conduct empirical research

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

EU students entering in 2020/21 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

Some optional modules may have a field study visit that students may have to make financial contribution towards. If this is the case then students will pay a contribution towards the field study visit. This is typically one-third of the cost of the trip. In previous years, this has been around £500-700 depending upon the location of the trip. Students will be informed at the start of the academic year the cost of the trip to help them decide on module choices.

Careers and placements

After the completion of the programme, you will be able to work in a wide range of development and environmental management careers, including jobs in public, private and Third Sector organisations. This can involve policy-making (for instance, on natural resources, energy, transport, urban and rural planning, agri-food or environmental conservation), consultancy on local and international development, or environmental regulation, project management.

You will also be well-positioned to undertake further study towards an academic career in development and environmental studies.


During the programme, you will have the opportunity to base your dissertation research around workplace activities – for example, it could be developed in consultancy organisations, public authorities or international development agencies.

This is an optional element and the placement would need to be self-sourced (often an internship you have arranged).

Placements are sometimes advertised through the School and these would be open for application on a competitive basis. The placement itself will not be assessed although work deriving from the placement may be linked to coursework (e.g. the dissertation).


Master's Excellence Scholarship

This award worth £3000 is open to UK and EU students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate Master’s Finance

If you’re starting your master’s degree in September 2020 or later, you may be able to apply for postgraduate student finance to support your study at Cardiff University.

Next steps


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