The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


MSc Environment and Sustainable Development

Equipping participants with capacities for effective action to enhance socio-environmental justice in the urban Global South.

View our 'Study at the DPU' page for information, guidance and resources for prospective applicants and offer-holders studying at the DPU in 2021/22.

Programme highlights

  • An international comparative perspective, exploring different contexts of environmental transformation with particular focus on urban settings in the Global South;
  • A critical, analytical and action-oriented approach to planning and policy-making to address urban environmental problems;
  • An opportunity to acquire both an understanding of the processes generating change and the collective capacities for sustainability and socio-environmental justice;
  • An emphasis on transdisciplinarity through grounded partnerships and learning alongside academic staff involved in research, consultancy and development practice;
  • A means to develop ethical and impactful professionals with transferable skills to address fast changing and complex global challenges.

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Programme overview

Faced with unprecedented rates of environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation and the production and reproduction of inequalities, the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development examines the critical relations between development planning and socio-environmental challenges in urban areas of the Global South. It challenges mainstream approaches to development, focusing on strategic pathways to address socio-environmental injustices and enhancing collective capacities to act. Adopting an action-oriented perspective, the programme explores the capacity for planning and policy making to address urban environmental challenges in the Global South. It displays a commitment to situated action and institutional development as key strategies to achieve just sustainable development.

The programme provides opportunities to interact with leading thinkers in development planning and for participants to join a community of practice with an international network of researchers and practitioners. Participants are equipped with interdisciplinary and transferable skills to address complex global challenges in urban regions while being sensitive to local contexts and remaining flexible in fast changing realities.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this MSc programme, participants will able to:

  • Identify the critical relations between development planning and socio-environmental challenges across time and space in a rapidly urbanising Global South;
  • Advance a progressive environmental agenda through an understanding of the processes that generate environmental degradation and inequality and identify strategic pathways to address socio-environmental injustices and enhance collective capacities to act;
  • Build a community of practice with a shared mission and vision for socio-environmental justice through long term partnerships with fellow participants, alumni, instructors and partners across the world;
  • Develop as reflexive and ethical professionals with enhanced capacities as critical thinkers, team players, motivated individuals, effective managers and impactful communicators.
Programme structure

The programme comprises 180 credits. 120 of these are achieved through taught components, which are undertaken over three terms during full-time study. The final 60 credits are attained through the dissertation report, which is completed over the summer term.

Of the taught credits, 75% are devoted to the core subjects of planning, sustainability, environmental justice, urbanisation and development and 25% to additional optional modules.

The core modules provide the theoretical and methodological components of the programme while the optional modules allow participants to further explore specific interests. Core modules include: ‘The Political Ecology of Environmental Change’, ‘Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice’ and ‘Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development’ (30 credits each).

The programme is delivered through diverse teaching and learning activities to foster individual and collective learning which include: lectures, seminars, workshops, coursework and action research in collaboration with grounded partners. An overseas practice engagement allows learners to acquire first-hand experience examining the causes and impacts of socio-environmental injustice and how these can be tackled under real circumstances through strategic interventions. Participants engage with an interdisciplinary body of knowledge and experiences that inform the practice of planning and can extend and consolidate their own ideas and experiences.


Your options for study on the MSc Environment & Sustainable Development

For a full description of our modules, please visit the postgraduate modules page

Core modules

DEVP0020 The Political Ecology of Environmental Change focuses on the political dimensions of environmental change by analysing the complex relationships between societies, economies and ecosystems. In term 1, the module adopts the perspective of general systems theory to explore the multi-dimensional nature of human-ecosystem interactions. The second part of the module (term 2) provides a comprehensive review of contemporary debates in political ecology and environmental sustainability.

DEVP0021 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development provides a detailed understanding of the relationship between environmental change, development and urbanisation, particularly looking at who is affected by this relationship and how to act upon it in a strategic way with a focus on the urban context in the Global South.

DEVP0022 Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice offers participants a unique opportunity to be actively engaged in an action-learning platform, where knowledge and action are co-produced in collaboration with institutional partners and ordinary men and women in an urban region of the Global South. This platform enables participants to articulate and apply the knowledge and skills developed throughout the rest of the programme and to develop the professional capacity and skills that self-reflective and foreword looking practitioners require when working towards environmentally just transformations in challenging and complex contexts.

Optional modules offered by ESD

DEVP0023 Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South aims to provide participants with an understanding of the ways in which climate change will affect urban areas in low- and middle-income countries. 

DEVP0024 Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Development examines the different ways in which urbanisation is unfolding across the global South, with specific attention to the creation of infrastructures and the delivery of essential services. It explores the underlying causes of urban fragmentation, social exclusion and unsustainability. 

DEVP0025 Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politics focuses on the challenges of and opportunities for the adequate provision of urban water supply and sanitation. It examines innovative 'policy-driven' and 'needs-driven' approaches to the provision of the services, for and with the urban and peri-urban poor. 

DEVP0026 Food and the City looks at urban food security with long-term sustainability and resilience in face of crisis and extreme weather.

DEVP0027 Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South provides a critical examination of the historical evolution and the negative impact of industrial agriculture and its consequences for small holder urban and peri-urban food production and knowledge systems in the Global South.

DEVP0027 Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South provides a critical examination of the historical evolution and the negative impact of industrial agriculture and its consequences for small holder urban and peri-urban food production and knowledge systems in the Global South.

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

DEVP0006 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives will suit participants of diverse academic backgrounds and levels of professional experience. This studio-based module promotes the merits of existing project scenarios and a critical understanding of case-study analysis and research in design processes.

It focuses on how informal urban territories are constituted and imagined, and engages with a vast variety of urban materiality as a way to learn from existing experiences and reflect on design strategies that are able to deal with the complexities of the urban project.

DEVP0007 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces is the second Critical Urbanism Studio module. It builds upon the accumulated knowledge and conceptual framework of case study analysis (BENVGBU8) while focusing on a more profoundly phenomenological investigation into the multiplicity of contested developing arenas.

The module evolves around a real-life contemporary urban case study developed in collaboration with a partner in the Global South. It offers the platform to reason on a new aesthetics of informality and experiment with design research and strategies that reflect on the design process as act of critique, resistance, balance, while putting the poor at the centre of it. 

DEVP0005 Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities provides a detailed examination and structured understanding of Disaster Studies and Disaster Risk Reduction, with specific reference to urban areas. It engages with extreme condition of disasters and their social, physical and political implications on urban areas, the built environment and planning disciplines.

Drawing from current research on the urban turn in Disaster Studies and the entanglements between Disaster Risk Reduction, Development processes and Urban Poverty, the module offers an introduction to the debate on urban resilience and its policy implications.

DEVP0031 Gender in Policy and Planning is an 18-session module over two terms examining gender relations in the socio-economic, political and environmental processes in the development of human settlements.

DEVP0002 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development provides a structured understanding of the forces that form and transform cities – particularly in countries of the global south – as well as the intellectual and theoretical bases for a recalibration of urban design praxis.

Participants have also the occasion to touch ground through a London-based urban design exercise, in partnership with a relevant stakeholder. The module engages with critical transformative literature and specifically with alternative design approaches connected with literature of renewed philosophical and critical studies.

DEVP0028 The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning explores the economic, social and physical change of cities in the wider context of development and globalisation. 

DEVP0029 Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management: Strategic Action in Theory and Practice explores strategic action in urban development policy, planning and management which recognises social justice in cities.

DEVP0032 Transport Equity and Urban Mobility focuses on the relationships between social identity, transport and planning in the context of urban development in the Global South. It critiques and explores the implications for transport planning and its interaction with other kinds of planning, and the relationships between the state, civil society and private sector in the provision of transport for more socially just cities.

DEVP0018 Managing the City Economy enables participants to develop a critical understanding of the key components and operating dynamics of the city economy, and the factors that underlie urban productivity.

DEVP0033 Social Policy and Citizenship looks at socially sensitive development, which has its roots in the social sector and social welfare models that were developed during the last century. 

DEVP0034 Social Diversity, Inequality and Poverty argues that social development is no longer confined to the 'social sector', but is increasingly defined more broadly as an approach that attempts to put 'people' and social equity at the centre of development initiatives across all sectors.


The MSc ESD is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows held in high esteem among their international peers for their contribution to academic thinking and development practice.
Every year the course is evolving, as new ideas are discussed and established conventions challenged. Please follow the links below to learn more about our staff and associates.


Programme Leaders

Dr. Pascale Hofmann
View Pascale Hofmann's profile

Dr. Rita Lambert 
View Rita Lambert's profile 

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Aishath Green
Send Aishath Green an email

Staff currently teaching on the programme:

Prof Adriana Allen
View Adriana Allen's profile

Dr Robert Biel
View Robert Biel's profile

Dr Donald Brown
View Donald Browns's profile

Dr Emmanuel Osuteye
View Emmanuel Osuteye's profile

Prof David Satterthwaite
View David Satterthwaite's profile

Careers and employability

For more information view our DPU Careers page

The programme attracts participants from a wide variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, economists, geographers and scientists, as well as planners, archi­tects and engineers.

Since its inception in 1997, over 500 students have successfully completed the ESD course. Many are engaged in professional activities, from local and national government, consultancy firms and national and international NGOs, to United Nations programmes and international aid agencies the world over.

ESD graduates work in a wide variety of sectors both in the UK and overseas, with many alumni returning to work in their home countries. Examples include:

  • Public sector: National Ministries, such as DEFRA and DfID (UK), Ministry of Environment of Sri Lanka, Brazil’s Ministerio das Cidades and many other national and local government organisations
  • Private companies, such as: Happold Consulting, EcoSecurities, British Petroleum, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Dialogue By Design and BioRegional Quintain.
  • Think Tanks, academic and research organisations such as: IIED, UCL, University of Sao Paulo, Fabian Society, Stockholm Environment Institute, Resources for Development Center, WaterWise and The Arab Academy for Science, Technology & Maritime Transport.
  • International Agencies and NGOs: UNEP, UNDP, UN-Habitat, JICA, GIZ (former GTZ), InsightShare, Save the Children, WWF, the Gold Standard Foundation

Who should apply?

This programme is suitable for graduates and professionals from diverse disciplinary, geographical and cultural backgrounds, who can connect both with the environment in which they operate and the concerns of a worldwide community of practitioners.

We aim to cultivate ethical and progressive practitioners and professionals who strive for environmentally and socially just outcomes and processes in development planning. The programme seeks to produce generalists, who can bridge disciplinary, geographical and cultural boundaries. 

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