Sustainability Transitions, MSc

Sustainability Transitions, MSc


This programme is designed to train the future generation of innovators and thinkers who have the passion and ambition to deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and become true sustainability leaders which the world needs.

This course has January and September 2024 start dates. Apply Now.

Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more.

Study Information

Study Options

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
September or January
Location of Study

While societies and economies are embarking on complex transitions to more sustainable practices in order to mitigate climate change and address contemporary environmental challenges, there is a shortage of leaders with appropriate skills and knowledge to take this agenda forward and help make the world a more sustainable place.

Sustainable development – the balancing of environmental, economic and social goals – is the greatest challenge facing the planet today. The transitions to more sustainable forms of production and consumption which organisations, firms, and institutions, as well as entire communities, societies and economies need to undergo to mitigate climate change are, however, far from simple.

Apart from the shift from carbon-intensive systems to less environmentally destructive arrangements based on renewable sources of energy and greener practices, such transitions require corresponding changes in governance structures, institutional frameworks, legal regulations, public perception and consumption patterns.

Moreover, each industry and each community, region, and country faces challenges of a different kind, with the need to reconcile numerous conflicting objectives often remaining the most serious one. Never before has the world needed qualified professionals to lead transitions to sustainability more than now!

To provide students with a comprehensive understanding of what sustainability transitions entail, the programme covers a wide array of topics, addresses challenges faced by different sectors and utilises case studies drawn from different parts of the world – both more and less developed states.

Students are taught not only by academics, but also by experts in a range of fields, including energy transitions, coastal management, land management, tourism, and transport.

The programme includes multiple field trips and visits to organisations that champion sustainable practices, which helps students to engage with government, industry and business.

Available Programmes of Study

The information listed below is the structure followed for September starts. Those that commence the degree in January will study the same courses but in a slightly different order. When a student commences in January, they will undertake the semester 2 courses at the same time as the September cohort of students. The January start students will then study the Semester 1 courses, followed by the summer project.


Sustainability Transitions

Qualification Duration Learning Mode Study Mode Start Month Location  
MSc 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time January Aberdeen More

Programme Fees

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £22,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home / RUK £10,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

The Leadership Challenge (BU5584)

15 Credit Points

This course provides an opportunity to explore and develop an understanding of your own leadership behaviour. Through workshops, group activities and discussions we investigate how personality, past experience, current situations and culture shape the way each of us behave in a leadership role. Using this information as a starting point we then explore how different leadership theories and approaches can be used as frameworks for developing a deeper understanding of leadership behaviour. You will also have an opportunity to try out a range of practical tools and techniques to assist you in the development of your own approach to leadership.

Governance and Political Economy of Sustainability (GG5557)

15 Credit Points

This course will provide students with knowledge of theories of governance in the context of sustainable development. It will focus on the political economy of sustainable development and the political and economic tensions between different institutions, levels of administration and sectors of economy. Students will learn about theories of governance pertaining to the natural environment and sustainable development. They will explore the different institutional scales (e.g. local, national, global) of environmental governance and the processes of decision making for environmental governance. The course will also investigate the tensions between social, economic and environmental objectives for sustainable development.

Research Methods (GG5516)

15 Credit Points

Students are introduced to relevant research methods for the analysis of rural, land, property, and environmental resources. The course is the fundamental building block for the substantive dissertation or partnership project that students undertake over the summer. Topics studied in detail include strategy formulation for effective literature review, various methodological approaches, the selection of appropriate methods for carrying out specified research exercises and the production of feasible research proposals and programmes of work.

Partnerships for Sustainability (GG5571)

15 Credit Points

Partnerships for Sustainability provides an overview understanding and analysis of the role of partnerships as a means of delivering and governing the Sustainable Development Goals.

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Sustainability Project (GG5913)

60 Credit Points

The aim of the Sustainability Project is to enable students to produce an independent and original piece of work that demonstrates advanced knowledge in a chosen aspect of sustainability transitions. Students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their ability to identify, define and develop appropriate research questions, and collect and analyse qualitative and quantitative data to address specific research aims using a range of standard and specialised techniques of enquiry.

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Contemporary Environmental Challenges (GG5056)

15 Credit Points

This course will introduce students to contemporary environmental issues at various temporal and spatial scales, and will explore associated environmental management challenges. Students will learn about different conceptual and theoretical approaches to the study of environmental challenges and they will explore the key drivers of environmental challenges from local to global scales. Lecturers will draw on their own research experience and use case studies to illustrate many of these issues.

Rural and Environmental Policy and Law (GG5071)

15 Credit Points

The course provides an understanding of the role of policy and the law in regulating the use, management, development, planning, acquisition and transfer of land and natural resources. It covers legislation for environmental protection, conservation and designations, at Scottish, UK and international levels. The course also examines access legislation, community right to buy and community-based planning, agricultural holdings, rent reviews and powers regarding compulsory purchase of land. Part of the course is dedicated to a teamwork module to build student skills in communication and engagement, planning and managing work in terms.

Sustainability Transitions - Challenges and Opportunities (GG5072)

15 Credit Points

This course will discuss the theoretical (and historical) evolution of the notion of sustainability, discuss various related concepts such as green growth and the green economy, introduce the topic of sustainability transitions as an interdisciplinary issue, explore the theory of sustainability transitions and discuss various technological, political, economic and socio-cultural challenges which transitions to sustainable forms of production and consumption must overcome to be successful.

Introduction to Energy Transition: Demand, Technologies and Economics (EG504H)

15 Credit Points

This course gives students an introduction and overview of energy transition, by focussing on the three key areas of demand, technology and economics. It begins with an introduction to the current energy system and the motivation for an energy transition. There follows a characterisation of the key drivers that underpin our social and economic reliance on energy. Subsequently, behavioural measures and technologies to enable the energy transition are examined and assessed according to diverse technical, economic and environmental criteria.

MSc 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time September Aberdeen More

Fees for individual programmes can be viewed in the Programme(s) above.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Fee Information

Additional Fee Information

  • Fees for individual programmes can be viewed in the Programmes section above.
  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC) offers funding for students interested in the sustainability of Scottish aquaculture who:

  • Meet SFC (Scottish Funding Council) Scottish domicile requirements (i.e. who have been living in Scotland for the last three years for reasons other than education), and
  • Wish to dedicate their final research projects to an issue relevant to Scottish aquaculture (subject to SAIC’s approval).

Please contact Dr Piotr Niewiadomski.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

How You'll Study

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

By coursework, by written examination, or by a combination of these, as prescribed for each course. Please see individual course entries in the Postgraduate Catalogue of Courses, or departmental documentation, for further details.

Why Study Sustainability Transitions?

  • This MSc is designed to train future sustainability leaders who will have the skills, knowledge and passion to make the world a more sustainable place. Anyone with background knowledge of sustainable development and with a strong motivation to help the planet become more sustainable is welcome to apply.
  • The nature and composition of teaching on the programme ensures that the skills students learn can be applied globally, across government, industry and business.
  • The programme has been designed in close consultation with a range of relevant organisations, agencies and institutions promoting sustainability transitions.
  • The programme combines theoretical knowledge on environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainable development and sustainability transitions with important practical employment-ready skills such as grant preparation, policy development, and project leadership.
  • The programme attracts graduates from a wide range of social and physical science disciplines, including existing managers in the industry, which provides an important platform for knowledge exchange and significantly enhances the learning experience which the programme offers.
  • Students are taught by academics from different schools and disciplines, as well as experts in a range of fields, which provides students with access to different pools of academic and professional expertise. Some of our closest external partners include Marine Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, SEPA, UK Government Defra, Zero Waste Scotland, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Council, the Cairngorms National Park and a number of local environmental partnerships.
  • As part of the programme, students undertake a ‘sustainability project’ - an independent and original piece of research that demonstrates advanced specialist knowledge of a chosen aspect of sustainability. The project is carried out in collaboration with one of our partner organisations.
  • With Scotland being an unquestionable leader in the field of sustainability, and Aberdeen being ‘the energy capital of Europe’, there is no better place to learn about sustainability transitions than the North-East of Scotland. The advantage of being based here also derives from the proximity to some of the most important and geographically varied landscapes in the whole UK.

What Our Students Say

Deborah Oduro

Deborah Oduro

Deborah Oduro

The programme explores challenges and opportunities in sustainability transitions from different dimensions which makes it unique among other schools and masters programmes.

Adam Kench

Adam Kench

Adam Kench

Personally, I feel the degree allows me to have the freedom to explore the areas that I am interested in within the framework of academia. I have an interest in decarbonizing transport and I was lucky enough to get a final project in this area.

Parul Baghel

Parul Baghel

Parul Baghel

There is an amazing support system in place for the students. We are also given the opportunity to work with our partner organisations for a sustainability project, which helps us get the real world understanding of sustainable development.

Entry Requirements

Motivation and understanding of this degree is an important factor in securing admission. Your personal statement/statement of purpose should focus on covering the following points:

  • Clear understanding of the degree and its underlying principles;
  • Previous relevant experience in relation to sustainability;
  • Information on how the degree will help with future career development.


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

2:2 (Honours) degree (or equivalent) in Agriculture, Business, Ecology, Environmental Science, Environmental Management, Environmental Economics, Environmental Engineering, Forestry, Geography, Geology, Law, Marine Science, Planning, Politics, Sociology, Soil Science, Zoology.

Candidates with degrees in other subject areas will be considered if they can demonstrate interest, aptitude and experience in a field relevant to the application of environmental studies and management.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme


Graduates of this programme will possess analytical, interdisciplinary and problem-solving skills that are in high demand from all employers, from the largest global corporations, supranational NGOs and national, regional and local governments, to small community-based organisations and sustainable businesses.

Consultants from businesses, government development agencies and NGOs who were engaged in drawing up the programme said:

“I am very impressed by the breadth of topics and skills, and the fact that they are so clearly interlinked.”

“...the new MSc looks really interesting and very pertinent in all sorts of ways.”

“I like the way in which the MSc complements technical environmental knowledge by providing participants with the skills they need to engage with the wider world and ... to function as a manager”

Image for useful fact about this Subject

Green Gown Awards UK & Ireland Finalist

MSc in Sustainability Transitions has been shortlisted in an internationally recognised awards scheme celebrating sustainability excellence.

What our Alumni Say

Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson

Job Details
Graduate Sustainability Consultant, HDR
Graduated 2023

The program cultivates a holistic understanding of sustainable development, which is key for roles in policymaking, research, and implementation of sustainable practices...I would recommend this MSc programme to others because I feel it developed my knowledge and skill set for the working world, as well as the opportunity to meet fellow students from across the world and share our cultures and experiences.

Find out more

Theresa Schwarz

Theresa Schwarz

Theresa Schwarz

Job Details
UNV / UN-REDD Communications Specialist - United Nations Development Programme
Graduated 2016

The course equipped me with valuable knowledge which I could use for my dissertation project with the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

Job Details
Assistant Manager on the Renewable Heat Incentive
Graduated 2016

The MSc developed my understanding on sustainable development, far beyond what I had thought previously possible, and gave me the knowledge to take into the working world the ability to practically apply it. I would advise prospective students to take full advantage of the chances they are given to engage with the variety of organisations on the MSc. It not only helped me develop professionally and personally, but my time on the EPM course gave me key contacts that have helped my career.

Louise Robertson

Louise Robertson

Louise Robertson

Graduated 2016

I gained practical project management skills from the partnership project and in-depth knowledge of sustainable development. Coming from a business background, EPM gave me the essential environmental knowledge to pursue a career in sustainability and the desire to make the world a better place.

Our Experts

Programme Coordinator
Dr Piotr Niewiadomski

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


Image for Numerous Field trips
Numerous Field trips

Numerous Field trips

Recent trips have included visiting community forestry and local economic development initiatives, decision making in local government and coastal management sites.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX