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Durham University

Department of Anthropology

MSc Sustainability, Energy and Development

About the Programme

This programme is a merger of the Masters in Sustainability, Culture and Development with the Masters in Energy and Society. It offers an integrated, inter-disciplinary education in emerging topical issues in sustainability, energy and development. It operates in the cross-over spaces of sustainability thinking between social and natural sciences and provides opportunities for students to work across multiple disciplines or to specialise.

Who Should Apply?

The course is designed for those with an undergraduate degree in anthropology, geography, sociology, development studies, engineering, environmental sciences and with a curiosity for interdisciplinary innovation.

Programme Aims

The course covers advanced subject coverage and research training in critical development anthropology, participatory methods and indigenous or local knowledge systems, and in the social and cultural contexts of energy, current developments in energy systems, the impact of changing energy technologies, engineering and sustainability concerns in historical perspective, and the role of energy and conservation in international development.
The core modules address history, theories and practices of development and post-development, resilience and environment, and the socio-politics of energy today. They explore the role of energy as a geopolitical tool, current developments in new energy technologies, and the challenges to energy programmes designed for poverty alleviation in the Global South. Students without a specialised social science background will be introduced to analytical approaches, including the notion of cross-cultural comparison, field research methods and multi-layered holistic case studies.

Transferable Skills and Employability

The course encourages critical, analytical, interpretative, integrative and presentational skills, and through the dissertation enables students to pursue and report original research under expert supervision. The programme also aims to prepare students for doctoral research in relevant fields and/or a career in applied and international development contexts.

Students will have the opportunity to follow specialised routes through the programme by choosing from a wide array of elective modules that draw on options from across the university’s four faculties. This allows students from different backgrounds to specialise further in their area (e.g. engineering, or anthropology, law or politics). Given the inclusion of students from diverse backgrounds, a careful induction and support programme will ensure that they have access to skills learning and support to help them work across interdisciplinary boundaries.

The programme timetable includes two additional elements that are designed to ensure that students are aware of current developments in both research and practice. Students will be expected to attend regular seminars offered by Durham Energy Institute and the Centres for Doctoral Training in Energy and/or in Global Challenges with special reference to Sustainable Development Goals.

L6K907 Sustainability, Energy and Development MSc Postgraduate Taught  2021



Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

Degree MSc
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Duration 1 year (full-time) 2 years (part-time)
Location Durham City
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Course Summary

Course Summary


This course enables you to learn how anthropological ideas and approaches are vital for understanding the environmental, social and economic crises of the contemporary world. It teaches how to engage with local knowledge and community-based approaches, rather than rely on global blueprints for sustainable development.

The course is taught by an active, interdisciplinary team involved in world-class research on development issues. We offer comparative knowledge about achieving environmental and social sustainability through participatory approaches and active collaborations with projects for empowerment in the Global South. Geographical areas of expertise include Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, South Asia, South-East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Melanesia. Staff also help students connect with Durham’s excellent research communities such as the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, and the Durham Energy Institute.

The MSc is based around core modules focusing on the challenges of pro-poor transitions to sustainability, aided by culturally informed perspectives on new themes in development such as resilience, and energy justice. Options allow you to pursue subject interests with specialist guidance. The dissertation enables you to conduct independent research under the supervision of an expert, and become a master of your chosen topic.

Learning and Teaching

Course Learning and Teaching

The MSc in Sustainability, Culture and Development (full-time) consists of two terms of teaching, during which you are introduced to the range of research questions and methods, and a dissertation, involving the design, development and implementation of an independent research project. You will work closely with academic staff and have the opportunity to become involved in active research networks and projects.

The course is delivered through a mixture of interactive lectures, seminars, film showings and discussion, workshops, and optional field trips, in addition to one-to-one dissertation supervision. Typically, lecture formats deliver key concepts and case study comparisons on progressively more advanced themes and topics. Seminars provide an opportunity to reflect in more depth upon material delivered in modules and gathered from independent study outside the course's formal contact hours. They give you an opportunity to engage with academic issues at the cutting-edge of research in Anthropology, in a learning environment focused on discussion and debate of current issues.

Full-time students will have on average 6-8 hours of formal teaching and learning contact per week, and you are also expected to attend weekly departmental research seminars, often given by prominent visiting speakers, as well as relevant seminars at the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience and the Durham Energy Institute. You also have the opportunity to present your work at the Department’s annual postgraduate conference. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are expected to devote significant amounts of time to reading, discussing and preparing for classes, assignments and project work. Throughout the course, you will meet fortnightly with the degree tutor, who provides academic support and guidance. Furthermore, all members of teaching staff have weekly office hours when they are available to meet on a ‘drop-in’ basis, or can be e-mailed to arrange a mutually agreeable time. You will work closely with leading academics to develop an original piece of research for your dissertation, and guidance on your dissertation is also provided by the dissertation leader.  Before the academic year starts, we make contact with you via the postgraduate office. On arrival, we have induction sessions and social events, headed by the Director of Postgraduate Studies and attended by both academic and administrative staff. The course tutor will also lead local excursions, to orient you with important, beautiful, interesting and fun places around Durham. You can also attend an 'Introduction to Research Groups in Anthropology'.


Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

A minimum 2:1 Honours degree from a UK institution (or the overseas equivalent) in a relevant subject. References play an important part in the admissions process.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Fees and Funding

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £22,900.00 per year
Home Student £10,600.00 per year
Island Student £10,600.00 per year
International non-EU Student £22,900.00 per year

Part Time Fees

EU Student £5,500.00 per year
Home Student £5,500.00 per year
Island Student £5,500.00 per year
International non-EU Student £11,600.00 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding

Open Days and Visits

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Overseas Visit Schedule

Postgraduate Visits