MSc Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy – Cardiff University

by Megan Booth


Summary of the course:

This course can be taken full-time (1 year) or part-time (2 years). It is divided into two parts:

–   Part one (120 credits) includes the teaching part of the course occurring over two semesters.

–   Part two (60 credits) includes an individual dissertation which is completed over the summer. Students are given the freedom to choose their own topic, but it must address the core themes of the programme.

The Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy course only requires one core module per semester. The core module of the Autumn semester, Principles and Practices of Environmental Governance, explores how the environment has been managed in policy, by looking at both conceptual and empirical material and applying this to case studies. The core module of the Spring semester, Research Methods, gives students knowledge regarding how research is framed in planning and geographical studies, to set them up for writing their dissertation.

Undertaking this course, students will learn about the key issues and ideas that characterize sustainability challenges, and how these can be addressed through planning and policy. To gain a deeper understanding of these issues, students will unpack how sustainability is related to economic, political, and social sectors, by looking at both UK-based and international studies.

The programme offers a wide range of optional modules, meaning that students can tailor their studies towards their personal interests. These modules include:

–   Environmental Management;

–   Environmental Policy and Climate Change;

–   Planning for Sustainability;

–   Urban and Regional Development in Practice;

–   Sustainable Transport Policies;

–   Renewable Energy Development and Planning.

Each of these modules is worth 20 credits. Students must take 80 credits worth of optional modules, so four optional modules in total. Most students will choose to take two optional modules a semester, however, students can pick and choose how many optional modules to take each semester. Students will learn about issues specific to each optional module, yet through studying this course, all students will address key issues relating to sustainability, environmental policy, and planning.

What do you like most about the course?

My favourite part of this MSc is that the lecturers are all so passionate about what they are teaching. The teaching material is often very related to their own interests, which allows students to gain a deeper understanding of environmental issues, whilst making the content so much more interesting to learn.

Another good thing about the course is that a majority of the modules undertaken by students are optional, with only one compulsory module a semester. This means that students can shape the programme towards their interests.

What did you do before this course? Are there any specific requirements for being able to apply to and take this course?

Before this course, I studied Human Geography at Cardiff University. This was a great course for learning about a wide range of geographical topics and was ultimately how I began to discover my interest in climate-related issues and sustainability challenges.

What sort of work are you doing (e.g. more group work/ individual, project-based, essay writing).

A majority of the work is individual, although I think this may be because group work is challenging when all material is delivered online due to Covid 19. There is a wide range of assessment types in this MSc which I think is great, as essays can be very repetitive and do not allow for much creativity. Some of the assignments allow you to take on the role of someone else, such as a Local Authority or NGO, which is excellent practice for thinking about how our academic knowledge can be utilised in the real-world setting.

Is there anything you would change about the course?

My one issue is something out of the university’s control, which is that a majority of the course has been taught via online teaching. This is something unique to this year due to Covid restrictions, and has caused some unfortunate consequences for students. Apart from the technical difficulties of online learning, face-to-face teaching would make this course better as we have some really interesting discussions during seminars that could be enhanced if they were able to take place in-person.

Why did you choose this course over other courses you may have been considering?

Compared to other courses, this MSc offers more opportunities for choosing optional modules, giving students the freedom to specialise and focus on issues that they are interested in.

Also, Master’s courses vary in terms of price. It was a lot cheaper to take this course than similar ones I was looking at London-based universities.

What is life at this university like?

The student experience at Cardiff University has been greatly shaped by Covid restrictions this year. For my course, almost all university buildings are closed for students, apart from libraries. I have had all my teaching online and have not been able to meet up with any sports teams or societies which I think has heavily dampened my student experience. That being said, I think that the Geography and Planning department has been successful in adapting to online teaching, and there has been constant support from staff members for students at this time.

Also, as I completed my undergraduate degree at Cardiff pre-Covid, I can answer this question beyond considering the covid restrictions that have shaped my university life. I had a great experience as an undergraduate in Cardiff. Cardiff University is a great place to study for students who are outgoing, sociable and like to keep busy as there is always something going on. There are many societies and extra-curricular activities organised by the university which make it a great university for people who like to get involved. In the city and around Cardiff, there are so many things to do, and generally life is quite cheap here. This means your money can go a lot further than if you were living somewhere more expensive like London, Brighton, or Bristol.

What are you planning on doing after you’ve graduated?

I was hoping I would be able to travel this winter after submitting my dissertation, however, in the current climate, this is looking unlikely. Therefore, I am hoping to secure a graduate job in sustainability consultancy or transport planning, as these are both careers that relate to the modules I have found most interesting studying this MSc.

What are typical jobs graduates do after completing the course?

In recent years the demand for sustainability-concerned employees has increased as the significance of the climate crisis has become more apparent to businesses, the government, and society. As such, typically graduates will look for sustainability or environmental consultancy roles. Planning is also a popular route for graduates, including transport, town, or urban planner roles.   


Megan is an MSc postgraduate student at Cardiff University, studying Sustainability Planning and Environmental Policy. She completed a BSc in Human Geography at Cardiff University in Summer 2020. Megan has a personal interest in sustainable food systems and shares her consumption habits on Instagram to promote the appeal of low-carbon, plant-based lifestyles (@veganhousemates on Instagram).

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