School of Society and Culture

MA Environmental Humanities

What can the arts, humanities and social sciences do to cultivate a deeper understanding of relationships between society, culture and the environment?

Careers with this subject

The challenges of building a greener society have risen to the top of political, social and cultural agendas. This MA programme will enable students to gain interdisciplinary knowledge and skills crucial to this growth area. The MA in Environmental Humanities opens up a wide range career opportunities for graduates in areas such as 
  • social-environmental research and education
  • ‘green’ cultural and creative industries such as film, TV, art and creative writing and other media
  • environmental journalism and communication 
  • eco-tourism 
  • private companies with a sustainability agenda
  • conservation and environmental non-governmental organisations 
  • local, national and international governmental agencies concerned with conservation, climate change, and sustainable development.
To help you build your experience and skills portfolio, the MA also has the capacity to facilitate work-based projects and internships with partner organisations such as the National Trust.

Key features

  • Develop your environmental interests through humanities-based perspectives.
  • Design your own interdisciplinary pathway by choosing from a range of modules in English, History, Anthropology, Sociology and Education. 
  • Work with world-leading experts in a range of different disciplines.
  • Study at a university with strong environmental credentials; Plymouth is home to the Marine Institute and the Sustainable Earth Institute, which connect the environmental sciences to the arts and humanities through a range of exciting collaborations and events.
  • Benefit from University connections with a range of local and national organisations, such as the National Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, the Marine Biological Association, National Marine Aquarium and The Box.
  • Make the most of the local area for both curricular and extra-curricular activities, with easy access to Dartmoor, as well as miles of beautiful coastline, numerous Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty nearby and the UK’s first National Marine Park in Plymouth Sound.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • In your first semester you take our core module which hones your skills in postgraduate research and familiarises you with key debates in the environmental humanities. You will also choose a further module from our exciting range of optional modules which range across numerous disciplines. In your second semester, you’ll take two further optional modules. Over the summer period you research and write your dissertation on a subject of your choice, with one-to-one supervision and support. This is a chance to work independently on a sustained project that interests and excites you. The selection of elective modules may change from year to year, as we regularly rotate, refresh and add to our portfolio of modules. More information about these modules can be found in the Programme Specification document, below.

    Core modules

    • Research Methods & Debates in the Environmental Humanities (MAEH700)

      This module will develop both theoretical and practical research skills. It will explore current areas of debate within the field of the Environmental Humanities, including the nature of cross-disciplinary research. Practical research skills developed include library and digital research skills, the use of databases, and the structuring, managing, and presentation of a project.

    • Dissertation (MAEH701)

      The dissertation module provides the opportunity for students to undertake a supervised, self-directed, research project, independent of the modules they have studied. The project can be on any topic of their choice, relevant to the Environmental Humanities. It will make use of the IT, library, and other research and scholarly skills learnt the core Research Methods module and developed through subsequent modules.

    Optional modules

    • Digital Culture and Climate Change (DCS704)

      Social science approaches play a critical role in understanding how some of the most pressing issues of our time such as climate change are communicated and addressed. This module examines the role of digital media in communicating climate change and debates concerning impact and influence.

    • The Utopian Novel and Modernity (MAEL706)

      This module will explore the intersection of utopian thinking, theory and the novel over a period spanning the late nineteenth century to the present. It will explore how this intersection relates to relevant political and cultural issues and contexts such as globalism, politics, gender and the environment. The module will engage with prominent theorists of utopia such as Ernst Bloch and Fredric Jameson. It will also focus on the work of a range of authors, such as William Morris, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing and Kim Stanley Robinson.

    • Ocean Modernity: Literatures of the sea, 1850- the present (MAEL707)

      This module explores literary and cultural representations of the ocean from 1850 to the present. By engaging with a diverse array of literary and cultural texts, including fiction, poetry, non-fiction, theory and visual art, it will examine diverse and shifting cultural imaginaries of the sea. In so doing, it will also investigate wider relations between humanity and the non-human world in modernity.

    • Natural Knowledge and Narrative Knowing: Literatures of nature in North America (MAEL713)

      With a chronology from the colonial period to the twentieth century, this module examines the environmental literatures of North America, acknowledging the contexts and legacies of settler colonialism. By engaging with a diverse ranges of prose texts – eg. natural histories, the periodical press, novels, travel narratives – this module will analyse competing systems of knowledge production, western and indigenous, through a variety of literary forms.

    • Filth and the Victorians (MAHI726)

      In this module students study the Victorian era from the perspective of environment, public hygiene, cultural values of cleanliness and fear of physical, moral and other forms of contamination. Drawing on urban histories, histories of medicine and science, the module also uses a range of literary and artistic sources.

    • The Experience of Outdoor Learning (MASU753)

      This module discusses key concepts within outdoor learning as well as its connection with experiential learning and its value and potential from early years to adulthood. Consideration is given to the value that the natural environment has in education as well as to personal development and wellbeing. Participants are encouraged to deepen their own experience and critical thinking in relation to the subject as well as to the means by which they would like to develop their own practice.

    • Learning for Sustainability and Global Citizenship (MASU755)

      This innovative module uses an applied community engaged approach to look critically and creatively at notions of sustainability and global citizenship competencies, and the learning contexts and systems in which individuals, institutions and communities gain these competencies. This entails applying the UN Sustainable development Goals to real world projects that seek to address sustainability priorities in and around the city of Plymouth, enabling students to explore ideas of interdisciplinarity and interconnectedness, with a dynamic and experiential link between theory and practice. This inclusion of a service learning pedagogical approach enables consideration of the potential contribution of formal and non-formal education, whilst emphasising the links between our lives and those of people throughout the world. In so doing, it allows students to consider ways to actively contribute to a world in which power and resources for change leadership are more equitably shared.

    • Coastal Cultures: Marine Anthropology in the Age of Climate Change and Mass Extinction (MAEH703)

      Using a range of anthropological theoretical frameworks, this module analyses how coastal communities use the sea - not only as a source of livelihood, but as a key ingredient in the construction of their identity and place in world. Drawing on a range of ethnographic case study from around the world, we study how coastal communities are responding to climate change, climate change scepticism, sea level rise, pollution, and extinction. Through such debates, we examine how anthropology in general and marine ethnography specifically can contribute to the protection and management of endangered human and non-human life-worlds.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA Environmental Humanities programme specification_6923

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

A good degree (normally a 2.1 or above) in any discipline. Outstanding candidates without a degree but with relevant professional qualifications or experience are also welcome to apply. Other qualifications accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field may also be considered. Non-standard applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.
You will also need to meet the University’s language requirements. IELTS score of 6.5 with 5.5 in each element.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary. 

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,700
International £16,500 £17,600
Part time (Home) £510 £540
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students 
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance. 
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page). 
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Why study MA Environmental Humanities?

"It enables ways in which you can facilitate change, and to me that's the really exciting part." – Leia Booth, MA student
Are you interested in questions of cultural value, meaning, ethics and morality in relation to environmental issues? This programme brings together a range of different perspectives and disciplines to explore some of the most pressing environmental questions of our time. Choose from modules that reflect this variety to cover issues from climate change to declining biodiversity, sustainability and ocean and coastal ecologies.
Back to the future: what past marine climate can teach us about environments and ecosystems in an increasingly warmer world, Professor Anna Pienkowski, Norwegian Polar Institute

Insight: Digital Culture and Climate Change Module

Understanding and analysing the role of digital media in communicating climate change is critical.
In this module, students will gain a unique insight into the perspectives of journalists, NGOs, industry, and environmental activists in communicating the climate crisis.

"We can no longer assume that the oceans are timeless and eternal. Human activities have changed the sea and we need to find new ways of imagining, conceptualising and interacting with them."

Dr Mandy Bloomfield, Associate Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature, describes how her research explores environmental questions through literary study.

Researcher profile: Dr James Gregory

Historian Dr James Gregory is currently pursuing research in the environmental humanities through an evolving interest in 19th-century cultural and social histories of pollution, contamination, dirt and the responses they triggered, including campaigns for public hygiene. He began this research before the COVID-19 epidemic but it has taken on new resonance as he reads and responds to the Victorian press reports of responses to epidemics.
Selected essays and articles:
Dr James Gregory

MA Environmental Humanities team