Mode of Attendance: Full-time or part-time
This programme takes a critical political ecology frame and examines environmental policy and its intersections with development from a social justice angle. It is taught and convened by leading political ecologists and offers a critical analysis of key issues including water, forestry, climate, fisheries, agricultural production, biodiversity, conflicts and energy supply.
The masters asks important questions including:
- How does the environment intersect with global poverty, wealth and questions of inequality?
- Can Carbon trading offer a solution to managing climate change?
- How does access to water intersect with the dynamics of wealth and poverty?
- Is wildlife conservation implicated in social injustices?
- What role can and do environmental movements play in development?
- Is there a link between environmental change and violent conflict?
- What is the political ecology of forests?
The MSc programme’s emphasis on transferable analytical skills has been of great benefit to the many graduates who have returned to or taken up, professional careers in development in international organisations, government agencies and non-government organisations. Students also benefit from the wide range of modules on offer, both within the Department and across the School, allowing them to create individualised interdisciplinary programmes.
Students can take this programme part-time for over 2 or 3 years. Students usually complete their core modules in Year 1 and their option modules and dissertation in subsequent years.
Who is this programme for?
The programme attracts applications from students with a variety of academic and experiential backgrounds. We welcome applications from those who have worked in a broad field of development, but also from students without relevant work experience who can demonstrate a strong interest in, and understanding of, environment-development issues. A good first degree in social science is preferred.
An MSc Environment, Politics & Development from SOAS provides graduates with a portfolio of widely transferable skills sought by employers, including analytical skills, the ability to think laterally and employ critical reasoning, and knowing how to present materials and ideas effectively both orally and in writing. Equally, graduates are able to continue in the field of research, continuing their studies either at SOAS or other institutions. An MSc in Environment, Politics & Development is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.
At the same time, the MSc provides the opportunity to take a step back and engage in critical reflection on working in the environment and development sector. Interventions led by even the most well-meaning government, civil society or private sector actors can have (well-documented) unintended, sometimes adverse, consequences for the very people they are intended to benefit. Understanding how this might happen is key to learning how interventions might avoid these problems, and what kinds of intervention you would (not) wish to be part of in a professional capacity. Organisations working in this sector, moreover, might in some cases support underlying visions of development – establishing conditions for free markets, including the construction of private property regimes and regulation intended to facilitate market exchange – which, in the view of some commentators, are actually drivers of environmental degradation, poverty and inequality. Knowing where you stand on such questions is necessary for deciding what kinds of change you want to contribute to (or resist), and how best to strategise for such change.
Former graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations, including Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), DFID, Aga Khan Foundation, The Energy Institute, Green Peace, Deloitte and Mind, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mauritius, Liberty.
Alumni have taken up various kinds of roles, such as Campaigns assistant, Diplomat, Policy and Political Advisor, Programme Manager, Technical Officer, Urban Development Consultant.
Students must take 180 credits per year comprised of 120 taught credits (including core, compulsory and optional modules) and a 60 credit dissertation.
- Dissertation in Development Studies
A core module is required for the degree programme, so must always be taken and passed before you move on to the next year of your programme.
- Political Ecology of Development
Plus choose one of the below core modules:
- Theory, policy and practice of development
- Political Economy of Development
- Political economy of violence, conflict and development
- Law and Natural Resources
A compulsory module is required for the degree programme, so must always be taken, and if necessary can be passed by re-taking it alongside the next year of your programme.
- Choose modules to the value of 30 credits from the Development Studies modules list below.
These are designed to help students design their own intellectual journey while maintaining a strong grasp of the fundamentals.
Choose module(s) to the total value of 30 credits from:
- Module(s) from the Development Studies list below to the value of 30 credits.
- Open option modules to the value of 30 credits from another department.
- Module from the Development Studies the list below to the value of 15 credits.
- Open option modules to the value of 15 credits from another department.
All MSc students in Development Studies are eligible to attend the one-term, non-assessed module Economics for Beginners, which introduces students to basic concepts in microeconomics, macroeconomics, development economics, and statistics and econometrics.
List of Development Studies modules (subject to availability)
- Agrarian Development, Food Policy and Rural Poverty
- Aid and Development
- Battlefields of Method: Approaches to International Development Research
- Borders and Development
- Cities and Development
- Civil society, social movements and the development process
- Development Practice
- Environment, Governance and Development
- Energy Transition, Nature, and Development in a Time of Climate Change
- Famine and food security
- Fundamentals of research methods for Development Studies
- Gender and Development
- Global Commodity Chains, Production Networks and Informal Work
- Global Health and Development
- Issues in Forced Migration
- Marxist Political Economy and Global Development
- Migration and Policy
- Natural resources, development and change: putting critical analysis into practice
- Neoliberalism, Democracy and Global Development
- Problems of Development in the Middle East and North Africa
- The Working Poor and Development
- Migrant Labour in the Global Economy
- Water and Development: Conflict and Governance
- Water Resources: Justice and Governance
The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session.
Admissions and Applications
You can apply for this course via the online application form.
We aim to assess a complete application and provide a decision within a 5-week time frame. Overseas students who require a Tier 4 visa and wish to join SOAS should bear in mind visa applications can take several weeks, so you should apply as soon as possible.
Consideration of Application
The whole application, including transcript and references, is considered before a decision is reached. You are therefore advised to submit a complete application including references and transcript (where required). An incomplete application will add considerable delays to the decision-making process.
Students will receive an acknowledgement of their application. Each application is carefully considered and although we try and respond as quickly as possible, we do ask that students should expect to receive a response within five weeks of receipt.
Candidates who are available in the United Kingdom may be called for an interview. The absence of academic members of staff (or instance on study leave) may affect the timing of decisions.
Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent). Relevant work experience may also be considered.
English Language Entry Requirements
You must be able to show that your English is of a high enough standard to successfully engage with and complete your course at SOAS. Please note that we take our English language requirements seriously and failure to meet them exactly may well result in your application to SOAS being rejected. It is not possible to negotiate if your scores are below our required levels, with the expectation that because they are 'close enough' they will be accepted. It is important that you plan appropriately, well in advance, so that your English language test comes in good time and so that you have time to retake the test if necessary. We do not accept reasons of inconvenience or financial hardship for not submitting or retaking an English test.
For EU and International students who need a visa, if unconditional entry scores are achieved we accept qualifications from several countries, as well as a range of international qualifications and tests.
If a Tier 4 entry visa is required then a SELT, such as UKVI IELTS may be needed. For this reason, we recommend all Tier 4 visa students to choose the UKVI IELTS Academic test as the test of first resort.