The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


MSc Environment and Sustainable Development

Equipping students with a critical understanding of sustainable development theoretical debate and practice.

View our 'Study at the DPU' page for information, guidance and resources for prospective applicants and offer-holders studying at the DPU in 2020/21.

Programme highlights

  • An international comparative perspective, exploring different contexts of environmental transformation from all over the world
  • A critical, analytical and comparative approach to planning for sustainability action
  • A chance to develop both an understanding of the processes generating change and the skills and abilities to respond to it
  • Practice engagement experience and opportunities to work in live projects

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Programme overview

The MSc Environment and Sustainable Development investigates the potential for just transitions to sustainable societies in the context of global processes of urbanization and environmental transformation.

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.

By the end of this MSc, students will have:

  • An understanding of the role of development planning in delivering sustainable development and environmental justice
  • An analytical ability to understand the complex and multidimensional nature of environmental problems
  • Sufficient confidence to develop situated strategies to deliver sustainability in diverse contexts
  • Knowledge of global processes of environmental governance and how to influence them
  • Development planning experience beyond the classroom, doing practice engagements  with international partners
  • Capacity to grow professionally as a versatile practitioner through multi-scalar engagements with public and private organisations, community groups and activists.
Learning outcomes

By the end of this MSc programme, students will be enabled to:

- develop a progressive and ethical position on development planning, investigating the conditions for environmental justice in the rapidly urbanising Global South

- establish a direct relationship between development planning and the contemporary global and local environmental challenges which transcend north-south divides

- advance a transformative agenda that puts poor communities and marginalised social groups at the centre of development and emphasis bottom-up approaches to environmental and development planning

- establish the links between environmental justice and social justice agendas, through the understanding of urban vulnerability and the processes that generate exclusion and inequality

- acquire the necessary skills to respond to complex challenges in an overseas location under real life conditions, and work in multicultural and interdisciplinary teams

- build long-term partnerships with fellow students, alumni, instructors and partners in research locations in the Global South developing a collective commitment to knowledge co-production and action

- develop research and enquiry skills and be able to construct reasoned argument, synthesise information and exercise critical thinking

- communicate effectively and fluently

- work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management

- make use of constructive feedback and critically reflect on your own learning and personal development

Programme structure

The course is structured so that 75 per cent of taught components of the course (90 credits) is devoted to the core subject of sustainable development and 25 per cent (30 credits) to optional modules.

The core course modules provide the theoretical and methodological components of the course while the specialist module allows students to examine different approaches and problems in accordance with their own particular interests.

Core modules include: ‘The Political Ecology of Environmental Change’, ‘Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development’ and ‘Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice’ (30 credits each).

The course consists of reading, essay writing, and individual and group project work delivered through lectures, seminars, workshops, case study analysis, and practice engagements in the UK and abroad. Student performance is assessed through course work, examinations and a final dissertation report.


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 starts by providing a comprehensive review and critical analysis of the contemporary debate on development and environmental sustainability.

DEVP0021 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development surveys environmental problems in urban areas and their underlying causes and identifies who contributes most to such problems and who is most affected by them.

DEVP0022 Environment and Sustainable Development in Practice creates an opportunity for students to be exposed to a set of exciting real-life planned interventions in the field of urban and regional environmental planning and management (EPM).

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.

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

DEVP0006 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives will suit students 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.

Students 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's profile

Dr. Rita Lambert 
View Rita's profile 

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Kate Goh

Staff currently teaching on the programme:

Prof Adriana Allen
View Adriana's profile

Dr Robert Biel
View Robert's profile

Dr Donald Brown
View Donald's profile

Dr David Dodman
View David's profile

Prof David Satterthwaite
View David's profile

Careers and employability

For more information view our DPU Careers page


The course 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 350 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?

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. This course 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. 

More information

environment development sustainability sustainable environmental