School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MSc Sustainable Environmental Management

This IEMA accredited programme provides an outstanding foundation for a career in environmental management by providing diverse perspectives and practical training on the scientific, economic, ethical and political challenges of sustainability and environmental protection.

Classroom and field-based teaching and a short placement enables you to investigate your specific interests and to gain first-hand experience and skills in developing practical solutions to environmental management issues and 21st century global challenges.

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021*

The University of Plymouth has been ranked 23rd among institutions globally for its contribution to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals*. In the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Studies, sustainability is at the heart of our research and teaching. From sustainable cities, affordable and clean energy, to climate policy, biodiversity, and natural hazards, our academic staff work with partners locally and overseas to help understand, communicate and solve fundamental and pressing sustainability challenges.

Find out more in our press release

Careers in sustainable environmental management

MSc Sustainable Environmental Management is a springboard to a diverse range of careers in the environment and sustainability sector. Last year our graduates have secured professional positions with organisations including Natural England, Brittany Ferries, Environment Agency, Babcocks, RPS, and Adler and Allen/OHES Environmental. The work placement module regularly leads to offers of permanent positions in our placement partner organisations which include: The Environment Agency, local authorities,  Natural England, Aecom, RSPB, and many more.

Careers with this subject

MSc Sustainable Environmental Management has proved very attractive to employers because of the vocational relevance of the teaching programme and it tackling the environmental issues of the 21st century. You'll receive training and gain skills which are in demand in the environmental sector.

The vast majority of our graduates have secured employment within the growing environmental sector, working mainly working in environmental regulation and protection, the business community, charitable organisations, local councils or environmental consultancy (e.g. Environment Agency, Plymouth City Council, Westcountry Rivers Trust, Cornwall College).

Our work placements have proved very successful with up to 20% of graduates from our programme annually securing employment through their placement providers.

Key features

  • Gain broad-based, vocationally focused training led by expert academic staff with industry experience, in an enthusiastic and interactive learning environment that includes a residential field course.
  • Tailor your studies for the career you want – from environmental agencies and consultancies to local or central government and research – and take your place shaping the pioneering policy and projects of the future.
  • Focus on the aspects of sustainable environmental management that you feel most strongly about, with an individual research project and accompanying dissertation.
  • Work side by side with experts from across the Faculty of Science and Engineering and Plymouth Business School – which were rated as ‘internationally excellent’ in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014.
  • Benefit from our local, national and international sector connections as part of a respected and active research community that includes groups such as the Marine Institute – the first and largest of its kind in the UK. 
  • Add value to your qualification by studying on a programme accredited by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA)* – the benchmark for high-quality programmes recognised internationally by learners and employers.
  • Balance your work commitments and further education with the opportunity to study part time for a masters-level qualification.
  • By enrolling on our MSc you will become a student member of IEMA and on graduation you will be entitled to become a professional member using the suffix GRADIEMA.

Course details
  • Programme overview

  • Exploring topics that span the natural and social sciences, you’ll gain vital insight into the whole spectrum of environmental management issues – from law and ethics to impact assessments, freshwater environments and climate change to contaminated land, river basin plans to marine regulations. We've designed the programme flexibly to equip you with an in-depth understanding of the essential theories, as well as practical fieldwork and industry experience. 

    During the first two semesters of this one-year programme, you’ll study a range of core and optional taught modules – from international environmental policy making to options like climate change: science and policy or economics and the environment. These modules are designed specifically for this degree and you also undertake a placement, complemented by fieldbased experiential learning to provide an interdisciplinary foundation to environmental management. In the final semester you’ll complete an independent dissertation project. Throughout your studies, we’ll support you in gaining the research and professional skills to help you get the most from the programme – and launch a successful career.

    Core modules

    • Professional Practice in the Environmental Sector (GEES515)

      This module examines the place of sustainability and environmental management in modern business practice, and prepares students for professional work experience in semester 2. It also provides students with a critical understanding of the principles, ethics and methods of environmental law and regulation, and examines the role of economics in characterising and addressing human interaction with the environment

    • Science, Society and Environmental Governance (GEES516)

      This module provides students, firstly, with a critical understanding of key debates in the principles, ethics and methods of both scientific and societal understandings of environmental issues. Secondly, the module makes a critical examination of the systems of governance and policy-making that have been established to regulate resource management, environmental degradation and nature conservation.

    • Environmental Assessment (GEES517)

      This module examines current legislation and guidance on, and methods of, environmental assessment, focussing on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) and environmental impact assessment (EIA). Through critical investigation of case studies, students will learn how to use methodologies to evaluate impacts on environmental receptors and communicate outcomes, including impact statements, to professional standards.

    • Professional Experience in Environmental Management (GEES518)

      The work-based learning module provides you with the opportunity, via a placement with a relevant environmental organisation, to develop your skills, learn more about professional careers in the environmental sector, develop contacts with potential employers, and refine your career aspirations.

    • Environmental Knowledge: From Field to Stakeholder (GEES519)

      This module reviews qualitative and quantitative research methods relevant to professional and academic investigations in the field of policy-making, planning, management and consultancy in the built and natural environments. It encompasses the complete lifecycle of research (design, planning, data collection, knowledge dissemination and application), including stakeholder engagement across these stages.

    • MSc Dissertation (GEES520)

      The student will complete an independent research project that they have designed in semester 1 as part of their research skills development. The record of the research will communicate the project aims, research problem, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, discussion/synthesis and conclusions in the format specified and to a professional standard.

    Optional modules

    • Investigation and Assessment of Contaminated Environments (ENVS5002)

      Students are introduced to the scientific principles underpinning pollutant behaviour in the environment including the use of modelling and the process of site investigation and risk assessments. Students undertake a risk assessment of a contaminated site using literature and field investigation. Case study examples are used to highlight environmental consultancy approaches to site investigation and evaluation.

    • Climate Change: Science and Policy (GEES506)

      This module explores the science and policy of climatic change, including lessons from the past and the relevance of past climates to the global warming debate. We question climate change detection and attribution, feedbacks and uncertainty in climate change. We explore political actions through international political agreements and national policies and adaptation strategies and management of change in the UK

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:

MSc Sustainable Environmental Management programme specification 1905

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 honours degree or equivalent in a relevant discipline. Candidates with experience in a relevant area are also encouraged to apply. 

Applicants with overseas qualifications can check their comparability with Ecctis, who provide an advisory service.

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

New Student 2021-2022 2022-2023
Home £9,950 £9,950
International £16,200 £16,700
Part time (Home) £550 £550
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. For more information about fees and funding please visit

Alumnus loyalty reward for postgraduate study

The University applies a discretionary alumnus reward where alumni meet certain criteria on particular postgraduate taught courses.

  • A 20 per cent discount on home tuition fees.
  • Or a £2,000 discount on international tuition fees.
  • A 10 per cent alumni discount is available on the following programmes: MSc Advanced Psychology, MSc Clinical Psychology, MSc/PgDip Psychology and MSc Occupational Therapy.

For further details, programme exclusions and contact information, please see our alumnus discount policy.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

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

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

Studentship award

Delivered in collaboration with the JBA trust, the British Hydrological Society and the Environment Agency. 

Full details and how to apply 

Deadline for applications: 17 July 2020.

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 services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage 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 weeks of 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 by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Employment and work placement

MSc Sustainable Environmental Management has proved very attractive to employers because of the vocational relevance of the teaching programme in tackling the environmental issues of the 21st century.You will gain knowledge, training and skills, e.g. Environment Impact Assessment, which are in high demand in the environmental sector.

Our work placements have proved very successful with up to 20% of graduates from our programme annually securing employment through their placement providers.


£5000 of postgraduate student awards available

These new awards from London livery company the Worshipful Company of Water Conservators are for postgraduate study in environmental consultancy or sustainable environmental management

More information and how to apply

Two scholarships of £2000 from Ashfords Solicitors

Two scholarships to enable current final-year undergraduate students at the University of Plymouth to continue their education at the University via a marine related postgraduate masters level course and this includes the MSc/MRes Sustainable Environmental Management programme.

More information and how to apply

Staff profiles

Professor David Gilvear

David Gilvear is the Programme Director of the MSc in Sustainable Environmental Management. He brings 30 years of experience in postgraduate education focusing on environmental management related to the water environment. His research, consultancy and expert witness experience includes human impacts on rivers and wetlands, flood impacts and management, river restoration and catchment management. Research and policy advice have been provided to organisations such as the Environment Agency, DEFRA, Scottish Government, Murray-Darling Basin Commission, Irish EPA, Kier Mining, South West Water, and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Professor Ian Bailey 

Ian Bailey specialises in environmental politics and the social dimensions of sustainability issues. His research and teaching include the use of economic instruments for environmental protection, the green economy, public engagement with marine and onshore renewable energy, and smart eco-cities. His recent projects include analysis of the design of emissions trading schemes and the development of community-led energy projects. He is also an advisory member of the Net-Zero Task Force established by Devon County Council to help radically decarbonise the Devon economy.

Research community

As part of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, we contribute to a strong collective of research groups – so you’ll benefit from insights into work at the forefront of the sustainability sector.

Be inspired by people who are dedicated to forging new knowledge in your chosen field.

Find out more about the research groups

Academic staff

*MSc Sustainable Environmental Management has been accredited by IEMA since 2009.