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MASc in Global Sustainable Development (2021 Entry)

  • Course Code
  • P-L801
  • Course Type
  • Postgraduate Taught
  • Qualification
  • MASc
  • Duration
  • Full-time: 1 year

Our new MASc in Global Sustainable Development (GSD) is a unique opportunity to join a community of transdisciplinary research and teaching experts. On this flexible course you’ll combine academic learning with practical application to tackle problems of global sustainable development.

In GSD at Warwick we take a critical approach to the dominant discourse of sustainable development. We’re passionate about understanding and challenging existing practice, and want you to join us in seeking innovative, transformative responses to complex global challenges. Based in the School for Cross-faculty Studies, our academic home is a natural place for future transdisciplinary leaders to flourish.

On this course you’ll work with Warwick’s GSD Department, the Institute for Global Sustainable Development (IGSD), and partner departments across the University. Our staff are at the forefront of their fields and share your passion for global sustainable development.

Our core modules will support your development as an intellectual leader of positive change. We'll offer you an understanding of the core global challenges we face, working on response development and advocacy. In parallel, you’ll develop your critical and reflective intellectual skills, as well as your technical and philosophical methodological skills. In your choices of optional modules, you’ll be able to tailor the course to your own areas of interest.

In Term 3 and the summer, you’ll have an exciting opportunity to ‘learn by doing’ as you undertake a transdisciplinary capstone project. We’ll offer you a choice of research, practice, and work-based experiences. Your chosen project will enable you to develop a skillset most suited to your future career goals.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped to play an authentic role in reflective global citizenship, as well as defining roles in positive change. This might be through a career in applied research, policy, business, or third sector activity.

Who is this programme for?

This programme is ideal for you if:

  • You have prior experience of GSD
  • You're new to this field of study with a first degree and a strong interest in GSD
  • You have work and life experience relating to GSD

Course structure

Term 1

Core modules (60 CATS)

  • Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene (20 CATS)
  • Creating Knowledge for Change: Transdisciplinary Approaches (20 CATS)
  • Global Challenges and Transdisciplinary Responses (20 CATS)

Term 2

Optional core modules (20-30 CATS)

  • Qualitative Approaches to Sustainable Development (10 CATS)
  • Quantitative Approaches to Sustainable Development (10 CATS)
  • Sustainable Development Policy (10 CATS)

Plus optional modules (30-40 CATS) offered by GSD/IGSD and partner departments.

Term 3 and summer

Capstone project (60 CATS)

One of the following:

  • Workplace Project (60 CATS)
  • Practice-based Project (60 CATS)
  • Research Project (60 CATS)

Core modules

The School for Cross-faculty Studies will deliver all core modules.

Global Challenges and Transdisciplinary Responses (20 CATS)
This module will deepen your understanding of the core global challenges facing our world today. You'll develop your transdisciplinary problem-based, response-focused process skills and subject knowledge. You’ll work through units on resource management, climate change and human inequalities.

Leading Transformation in the Anthropocene (20 CATS)
For the first time in history, humans are the primary agents of change on a planetary scale. This module will equip you to be an intellectual leader within this new and defining context.

Throughout this module you’ll explore often unexamined questions of intellectual leadership in change. You’ll consider how they might rigorously and reflectively conceive of socially positive change and transition from first principles of philosophical reflection. You’ll consider perspectives from historical interpretation, reflections on identity and power, as well as practical methods of change.

Creating Knowledge for Change: Transdisciplinary Approaches (20 CATS)
Transdisciplinarity is a way of creating new knowledge about the world we live in and how we bring about change. This approach sees beyond siloed disciplines and integrates academic and non-academic perspectives.

In this module you'll consolidate previous methods training through active consideration of transdisciplinary methodologies. We’ll encourage you to think about the underlying differences in the way different groups of people see the world, and therefore build knowledge and act in different ways. This module in particular will prepare you for your capstone summer project.

Optional core modules

You’ll be required to take a minimum of 20 CATS from the following list of optional core modules:

Qualitative Approaches to Sustainable Development (10 CATS)

Through the use of case studies and real-world examples, you’ll explore and evaluate the scope, value and limitations of different and, in some cases, combined qualitative approaches for knowledge generation.

You’ll gain practical skills in qualitative research and further develop your ability to critically engage with qualitative research methods, while understanding the challenges that both researchers and participants can face with data collection and analysis.

Quantitative Approaches to Sustainable Development (10 CATS)

With the use of case studies, real-world examples and data, you’ll learn to conduct advanced quantitative research, and to evaluate the scope, value and limitations of different quantitative approaches for knowledge generation.

Hands-on practice in computer-lab seminars will allow you to develop skills in statistical analysis relevant to trans- and cross-disciplinary research. You’ll critically engage with applied quantitative research, and gain a comprehensive understanding of the main issues arising from the use of quantitative methods.

Both of these methods modules will allow you to make informed and evidence-based decisions when designing research interventions that respond in nuanced, robust and imaginative ways to complex and systemic problems.

Sustainable Development Policy (10 CATS)

This module is practically-focused, allowing you to understand how sustainable development policy is created. You’ll be encouraged to reflect on the complexities of policy creation, and to consider how you might engage in the design of policy for the future.

Optional modules

The number of optional modules you take will vary depending on how many of the above optional core modules you select. Your optional modules will be offered by the GSD Department with IGSD, and partner departments. You’ll specialise in thematic learning, for example:

  • Socially Engaged Performance: Interventions and Provocations
  • Resource Fictions: Studies in World Literature
  • World Literature in the Anthropocene
  • Popular Movements and Sustainable Change
  • Sustainable Urbanisation: from Risk to Resilience
  • Urban Resilience, Disaster and Data
  • Habitability in the Universe
  • Climate Change
  • Education for Sustainable Development
  • Design Thinking for Social Impact

Other optional modules may be available across other departments.

Please note, optional modules are subject to availability and offerings may change each year to keep your learning experience current and up to date. You’ll also need to discuss your optional module choices with your personal tutor and receive approval from the Director of Graduate Studies in GSD.

Capstone summer project

Research Project (60 CATS)

You’ll have the opportunity to create a dissertation, policy briefing, or article output. You'll be guided by specialist academic supervision.

Workplace Project (60 CATS)

Using an agreed work placement with an outside organisation, you'll think through issues of personal and institutional change-making and transition. Our Department's Employability and Placement Manager will support you throughout this project in searching for, securing, and carrying out your placement.

Practice-based Project (60 CATS)

Engage across campus or beyond with Warwick’s pioneering sustainability agenda or other organisation’s sustainability aspirations and plans. Working closely with sustainability practitioners, you’ll act as a sustainability consultant within a defined organisational area, appraising, assessing and formulating proposals, which would lead sustainable transformations.

Teaching and learning

Transdisciplinary approach

We offer a transdisciplinary approach to learning about problems of global sustainable development. The global challenges we face today don’t fit neatly within disciplinary boundaries, instead, requiring integration of different disciplinary perspectives. This is reflected in our range of expert tutors, drawn from a variety of disciplines across the humanities, social sciences and scientific fields.

Transdisciplinarity also requires engagement with non-academic partners, breaking down boundaries between academic thinking and practical application. The capstone projects on this course bring this to the forefront. For instance, you may choose to work with an employer, unifying knowledge from academic and non-academic viewpoints.

Problem-based, response-focused learning

We pride ourselves on a pedagogy of problem-based, response-focused learning. You’ll be taught key course content via interactive lectures and task-guided reading. However, most of your learning will be through
the active, authentic and applied student-self-construction of knowledge. This pedagogy allows you to develop applied process skills and academic subject content at the same time.

The capstone summer modules offer structured and supported opportunities to ‘learn by doing’. This is learning not just by means of authentic tasks that mirror the ‘real-world’, but by offering learning as being a fundamental part of daily, collectively-lived reality.

The Institute for Global Sustainable Development

On this course you’ll benefit from expertise in Warwick’s Institute for Global Sustainable Development (IGSD). IGSD provides a focal point for Warwick’s sustainable development research, contributing towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but still challenging of them. Researchers in IGSD will contribute to the core module ‘Global Challenges and Transdisciplinary Responses’ in Term 1 and the capstone projects in Term 3 and the summer.

Contact hours

In the first term you’ll have 8-10 hours of contact time each week which will comprise lectures, seminars and practicals. In Term 2 your contact hours will vary depending on which options are selected. Each of the 10 CAT GSD optional core modules offer two contact hours per week in seminars and/or practicals. For the capstone modules you’ll benefit from one-to-one supervisions with academic specialists to support you with your project.

Class sizes

Class sizes will vary with around 10-15 students in core modules and fewer in optional core GSD modules. Class sizes for optional modules in GSD will be small, typically with a maximum of 10 students. In other departments, optional module class sizes will vary according to the size and nature of their postgraduate programmes.


The core modules on this course will be assessed in a variety of ways including essays, presentations, and research project plans. The assessments are designed to help you develop the skills for research, analysis, and communicating your work with others. For example, you’ll have opportunities to write professionally formatted policy briefings that’d be used to engage with policy makers or the corporate world.

All assessments in modules offered by the School for Cross-faculty Studies link to practical applications. In these modules, you’ll complete formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments will include discussion circles mirroring professional discussions in the working world. In your summative assessments, you’ll have the opportunity to show subject expertise, while continuing to develop process skills.

Skills from this degree

You’ll learn to:

  • Think systemically, recognising connections and interactions between factors, and understand that actions often have many consequences
  • Identify and analyse the risk that system complexity can lead to unexpected and novel outcomes, and contribute to the proactive management of this
  • Describe complex issues in clear terms and communicate about them effectively and succinctly, both orally and in writing
  • Work naturally and consciously, as part of a community of practice, by learning from others in a culture of respect, mutual understanding and empathy, and managing disagreement and conflict through socially non-violent means, even in the context of formal power hierarchies
  • Support and foster intellectual leadership by challenging assumptions, critically analysing information and negotiating alternatives to current practices
  • Create new and personal knowledge in GSD both through research and self-managed learning

Your career

Studying an MASc in Global Sustainable Development will open careers in the public, private and third sectors in a range of areas and functions including the following:

  • Governance – shaping policy and processes at local, national and international level
  • Research – academic via MRes or PhD research or for an organisation in the public, private or third sector including think-tanks
  • Teaching at all levels: primary, secondary, HE and tertiary
  • Project management in any industry – this could be a community or commercial project
  • Communications and media relations
  • Consultancy – e.g. in corporate social responsibility
  • Advocacy – e.g. on international relations, humanitarian work for organisations such as the UN
  • Data and intelligence analyst- e.g. security, geo- political risk

Professional development support

We have a dedicated Employability and Placement Manager in our Department who can offer you careers guidance and provide information about suitable capstone workplace project placements. Additionally, they will be able to provide you with ongoing support throughout the placement process, including advice on applications, interviews, as well as links to employers.

Employability skills

Our course has been designed to ensure you develop the skills, attributes and knowledge that are sought by employers.

These include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Research
  • Project management
  • Data analysis
  • Commercial acumen
  • Creative problem solving
  • Communication (verbal and written)
  • Independent and collaborative working

Minimum requirements

2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent).

We encourage applications from students with diverse backgrounds, from the sciences, social sciences and the humanities. We particularly welcome students with experience of interdisciplinary study.

In certain circumstances, we will consider applicants with a lower second-class honours degree, or a normal degree (and their equivalents). This is particularly the case for applicants with relevant professional experience which can be explicitly and directly related to our curriculum.

English Language requirements

  • Band B English Language.
  • IELTS overall score of 7.0, minimum component scores of two at 6.0/6.5 and the rest at 7.0 or above.

International students

We welcome applications from students with other internationally recognised qualifications. For more information please visit the international entry requirements page.

All applicants need to provide a Statement of Interest. This should be 1-2 pages long in content, with an extra page for cited references.

Your statement should include:

  • Your motivation for applying for this specific degree at Warwick;
  • How your educational background has prepared you for rigorous postgraduate study in this subject area;
  • How obtaining this degree will fit into your future plans;
  • What you hope to get from studying on this course and what are your expectations;
  • You may also wish to include details about your personal/work/voluntary experiences if they relate to the degree programme; and
  • Explicit discussion of knowledge, concepts, theories, frameworks, and general literature, with which you are familiar and believe can be applied to the subject area, referenced using appropriate tools of scholarship.

Cited references

You should provide a list of any cited references, appropriately formatted. These should be included on an extra page, following your statement.

MASc bursaries

The School for Cross-faculty Studies is pleased to announce its GSD bursaries for postgraduate taught students commencing MASc study in autumn 2021. Please visit GSD’s MASc bursaries web page.

For up-to-date information concerning fees, funding and scholarships for Home, EU and Overseas students please visit Warwick's Fees and Funding webpage.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme

Find out about paying for your course with a postgraduate loan.

10% alumni discount scheme

If you are a Graduate of the University of Warwick and are of home or overseas fee status, you will be able to access a 10% tuition fee discount on this course.

Additional course costs

There are no known required additional costs, though students may well incur additional costs, for example by choosing to travel for their summer project. However, this is not a requirement.

There are a number of different ways to visit the University of Warwick throughout the year. We host bespoke PG visits, where you can talk directly with your chosen department and explore our campus through a personalised tour. Some departments also host their own events and open days, where you can learn more about your department or course of study. To find out more about all of these opportunities, visit our Postgraduate Visits page.

Contacting us
You can contact the GSD Department by emailing to arrange a meeting in person (where possible) or via a video call.

If you would like to keep up to date with our postgraduate programmes and find out about related events, please register your details with us.