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MSc Environment & Sustainable Development


The MSc Environment and Sustainable Development course at the Bartlett's Development Planning Unit (DPU) reflects the increasing recognition that environmental concerns are closely linked to the way development theory and practice are conceived and applied. In this context, the concept of sustainable development (SD) has rapidly emerged as an approach similarly advocated and criticised by local and international organisations, broadly described as an envisioning strategy to save the earth for future generations.

A central concern of the course is to equip participants with a critical understanding of the SD theoretical debate and practice, unveiling the political, social and economic forces underlying environmental conflicts and exploring concrete approaches to address their causes. The course adopts an international comparative perspective, exploring the specific conditions for intervention in different contexts from all over the world.

The programme looks at conventional approaches in development planning, and the environmental conflicts generated by them, with specific reference to developing countries. It contrasts these approaches with the need for long-term environmental sustainability and social justice and examines concrete attempts to incorporate a deeper awareness of these goals into development policy making, planning and management.

Programme objectives

By critically examining the theory and practice of environment and sustainable development at the international, national and urban levels in a variety of contexts, the programme seeks to provide participants with an understanding of the processes generating social and environmental change and with the skills and abilities to respond to such changes.

The course retains the DPU's long-standing preoccupation with planning for action. Its approach is critical, analytical and comparative so that it leads to discovery and exploration by participants.

Contact details

Programme Directors: Liza Griffin and Vanesa Castán Broto

Graduate Teaching Assistant: Diana Salazar


The course is structured so that 75 per cent of the taught components of the course (90 credits) is devoted to the core subjects of the environment and sustainable development and 25 per cent (30 credits) to an option from a range of modules on offer. The core course modules provide the theoretical and methodological components of the course while the specialist module allows students to examine different approaches and problems in accordance with their own particular interests.

The course consists of reading, essay writing, and individual and group project work delivered through lectures, seminars, workshops, case study analysis, and field trips in the UK and abroad. Student performance is assessed through course work, examinations and a final dissertation report.


Core modules

BENVGES1 The Political Ecology of Environmental Change starts by providing a comprehensive review and critical analysis of the contemporary debate on development and environmental sustainability.

BENVGES2 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development surveys environmental problems in urban areas and their underlying causes and identifies who contributes most to such problems and who is most affected by them.

BENVGES3 Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice creates an opportunity for students to be exposed to a set of exciting real-life planned interventions in the field of urban and regional environmental planning and management (EPM).

Optional modules offered by ESD

BENVGES4 Urban Agriculture looks at the way in which our rapidly changing world now presents us with immense challenges linked to peak oil and climate change.

BENVGES5 Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South aims to provide participants with an understanding of the ways in which climate change will affect urban areas in low- and middle-income countries.

BENVGES6 Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development examines the different ways in which urbanisation is unfolding across the global South, with specific attention to the creation of infrastructures and the delivery of essential services. It explores the underlying causes of urban fragmentation, social exclusion and unsustainability. [Not running in 2014/15]

BENVGES7 Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politics focuses on the challenges of and opportunities for the adequate provision of urban water supply and sanitation. It examines innovative 'policy-driven' and 'needs-driven' approaches to the provision of the services, for and with the urban and peri-urban poor.  [Not running in 2014/15]

Optional modules offered by other masters

BENVGBU8 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives targets individuals of diverse academic backgrounds and levels of professional experience. This studio-based module promotes the merits of existing project scenarios and a critical understanding of case-study analysis and research in design processes.

BENVGBU9 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces is the second Critical Urbanism Studio module. It builds upon the accumulated knowledge and conceptual framework of case study analysis (BENVGBU8) while focusing on a more profoundly phenomenological investigation into the multiplicity of contested developing arenas following a 'design as critique/resistance' attitude.

BENVGBU6 Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities provides a detailed examination and structured understanding of Disaster Studies and Disaster Risk Reduction, with specific reference to urban areas.

BENVGPU4 Gender in Policy and Planning is an 18-session module over two terms examining gender relations in the socio-economic, political and environmental processes in the development of human settlements.

BENVGBU1 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development provides a structured understanding of the forces that shape and develop cities, particularly in countries of the global south; as well as the intellectual and theoretical bases for a recalibration of urban design praxis.

BENVGBU4 Housing Policy, Programme and Project Alternatives looks at the substantial changes that have taken place in housing policy over the last few decades. The role of the state, its relation to the other agents and actors involved in housing production and provision, the levels and instruments of public intervention in housing - all have gone through considerable transformation.

BENVGPU1 The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning explores the economic, social and physical change of cities in the wider context of development and globalisation.

BENVGPU2 Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management: Strategic Action in Theory and Practice explores strategic action in urban development policy, planning and management that recognises social justice in cities.

BENVGUE2 Managing the City Economy comprises a series of lectures, seminars and workshops. It is designed to train the participants in the application of economic criteria to the management of the city economy in both developing and developed countries.

BENVGSD1 Social Policy and Citizenship looks at socially sensitive development, which has its roots in the social sector and social welfare models that were developed during the last century.

BENVGSD2 Social Diversity Inequality and Poverty explores the theoretical debates that link diverse social identities and power relations, and the competing models of equity that attempt to reconcile them.


The MSc ESD is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows held in high esteem among their international peers for their contribution to academic thinking and development practice. Every year the course is evolving, as new ideas are discussed and established conventions challenged. Please follow the links below to learn more about our staff and associates.

Programme Directors

Dr Vanesa Castan Broto
View Vanesa's profile

Dr Liza Griffin
View Liza's profile

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Diana Salazar
View Diana's profile

Staff currently teaching on the programme include:

Dr Adriana Allen
View Adriana's profile

Dr Robert Biel
View Robert's profile

Prof. Yves Cabannes
View Yves's profile

Dr David Dodman
View David's profile

Pascale Hofmann
View Pascale's profile

Rita Lambert
View Rita's profile

Prof. David Satterthwaite
View David's profile


Please click through to the UCL graduate prospectus page for this course, from where you can find information on application fees, eligibility, tuition fees, scholarships, and then complete the online application process. 

Please note the ETS TOEFL English language qualification has been removed from the UK Visas and Immigration Department's list of acceptable secure English language tests, and is not longer valid for UCL applications. Read more about the English Language Requirements and accepted tests on the UCL entry requirements website.

More information on scholarships and funding can also be accessed through the dedicated UCL website.

Applicants should also review the faculty specific admissions information and the FAQ on admissions

To Apply Now, and for other general information, please follow this link.


The course attracts participants from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, economists, geographers and natural scientists, as well as planners, archi­tects and engineers.

Since its inception in 1997, over 350 students have successfully completed the ESD course. Many are engaged in professional activities, from local and national government, consultancy firms and national and international NGOs, to United Nations programmes and international aid agencies the world over.

ESD graduates work in a wide variety of sectors both in the UK and overseas, with many alumni returning to work in their home countries. Examples include:

  • Public sector: National Ministries, such as DEFRA and DfID (UK), Ministry of Environment of Sri Lanka, Brazil’s Ministerio das Cidades and many other national and local government organisations
  • International Agencies and NGOs: UNEP, UNDP, UN-Habitat, JICA, GIZ (former GTZ), InsightShare, Save the Children, WWF, the Gold Standard Foundation
  • Think Tanks, academic and research organisations such as: IIED, UCL, University of Sao Paulo, Fabian Society, Stockholm Environment Institute, Resources for Development Center, WaterWise and The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport.
  • Private companies, such as: Happold Consulting, EcoSecurities, British Petroleum, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Dialogue By Design and BioRegional Quintain.