MSc in Environmental Change and Management

This course has three overarching aims, to:

  • examine the nature, causes and impacts of major types of environmental change. How do these changes operate and interact on global, regional and local scales? How do they relate to critical social and ecological systems?
  • examine the economic, legal, cultural, and ethical underpinnings of environmental responsibility and systemic solutions, including mitigation, adaptation, remediation, enhanced resource stewardship and other sustainable responses to environmental change at different scales and within different organisational contexts
  • empower environmental leaders to address the world’s most pressing environmental problems through an understanding of and training in the key analytical and practical skills, and in a broad appreciation of earth systems and societies in relation to environmental change.

Course structure

The objectives are assessed through three themes: Methods and Techniques for Environmental Management; Understanding Environmental Change; Responding to Environmental Change, delivered through eight modules: The Earth System; Global Change and the Biosphere; Human Dimensions of Environmental Change; New Environmental Economic Thinking; Energy Systems and Mitigating Climate Change; Sustainable Responses to Environmental Change; Governing the Anthropocene; and Research Skills.

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars, workshops and field courses which provide in-depth exploration of key issues. The elective modules offer a tutorial-style teaching and discussion environment within smaller groups, based on a suite of contemporary research themes that reflect the specific interests of core faculty, research staff, and visiting scholars. The teaching aim is to foster knowledge, critical thinking, discussion and debate in an integrated setting, and to identify and explore theory, methods and practice in an academic space that encourages collaboration and critical dialogue. You will have approximately ten hours of core module and elective teaching per week during term time, with additional supported learning on occasional field trips. Additionally, you will be expected to undertake considerable self-directed learning to further and deepen your knowledge of the material introduced during class. You will also work on a thesis project with the support of a specialist supervisor. You will develop your ideas for dissertations during the first two terms and undertake the majority of the work in the final term and over the summer months.

Fieldwork and external visits are an important part of the teaching programme and, indicatively, these currently include coastal and marine environmental change sites, local woodlands, Lake District National Park, the Centre for Alternative Technology (renewable energy and sustainability technologies). All field trips are subject to change.


An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course. In order to equip you with the necessary skills to undertake high quality research, a suite of training activities are offered to develop key transferable skills in order for you to be able to execute high quality independent and original research, and expose you to applied research methods used widely in academic and professional research.


The course has an Academic Director and a Course Director who looks after the day to day running of the course. You will have a personal advisor who is a member of the School’s academic staff and who provides academic welfare support.

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Geography and the Environment and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the School of Geography and the Environment. Students should expect to meet with their supervisors for about eight hours.


The core modules are assessed by written examination and a piece of submitted coursework. You will also study two electives, which are each assessed through an essay. You will also write an individual dissertation of up to 15,000 words, which will be independently produced and contain your original work.

Graduate destinations

Environmental Change and Management (ECM) alumni are pursuing careers with a wide range of organisations. Examples include government departments (eg Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, Ontario Ministry of Finance), non-governmental organisations (eg the Carbon Trust, World Wildlife Fund), business organisations (eg McKinsey and Company, Ericsson Enterprise) and international agencies (World Food Programme, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Some students use the course as a starting point for pursuing PhD (DPhil) research.

There is an ECM alumni network with over 700 alumni in 70 countries. The department’s Alumni Office helps alumni keep in touch with each other and organises alumni events.