All Souls College and the Radcliffe Camera with some plants in the foreground
View through Exeter College grounds into Radcliffe Square
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MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment

The MSc Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment addresses two pervasive and unmet challenges of our time: making the transition to a zero-carbon and environmentally sustainable economic model, whilst simultaneously enabling sustainable development for everyone, poor and rich alike. The course views these challenges through the lenses of finance, economics and enterprise – both public and private – whilst also leveraging the environmental, systems, and data sciences. 

The MSc will equip current and future thought-leaders and decision-makers with the rigorous academic knowledge and applied skills needed to understand and accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon, environmentally sustainable economic model. 

The objectives of the MSc are three-fold:

  1. Develop a critical understanding of the nature, drivers and trajectories of climate change and economic development.
  2. Examine the role of enterprise and its relationship to environmental and development challenges across a range of risks, technological innovations, investment opportunities and policy responses.
  3. Enable students to integrate and apply their interdisciplinary knowledge, advanced methodological skills and science-policy-enterprise network to foster innovation and scalable progress toward net zero and sustainable development.

The Programme Learning Outcomes of the MSc will equip students with knowledge, skills and networks to understand:

  • the nature, science and trajectories of the net zero and sustainable development challenge (NZSD)
  • the scope and limits of innovation and the different roles of enterprise – public and private - in effective responses to NZSD
  • the data and methods required to measure progress to NZSD and attribute impact, and a critical appreciation of data
  • the economic frameworks, methods and tools to apply to measure the NZSD problem and accelerate progress towards it
  • the broad range of socio-technical drivers that can accelerate progress to NZSD
  • the theory and practice of sustainable finance and investment, and how to engage with sector stakeholders
  • the drivers reshaping economical social and environmental relationships
  • the scope for markets to spur conservation and investment.

In addition, the course aims to equip graduates with a range of person and professional skills; in particular, leadership competencies.

The course caters for – and intentionally designed for – a wide range of life and career stages: just-finished undergraduates, recent graduates and early- to mid-career professionals. It combines directed teaching, self-regulated learning, structured engagement, formal assessment, and regular interaction with practitioners.

Course structure

The course objectives are addressed through eight core modules, two electives and a dissertation. The core modules – and their learning objectives – are as follows: 

Module 1: Systems Change, Enterprise, and Innovation

  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the role of private enterprise (business) as a cause of – but also solution to – social and environmental wicked problems such as climate change.
  • Determine opportunities and challenges for new forms of collaboration and innovation between public, private and nongovernmental organisations.
  • Critically analyse the past, present and future of business models and value chains and the implications of models for getting to net-zero, sustainable development.
  • Account for the multiple oft-conflicting interests between private enterprise and their stakeholders; appreciate the role of incentive and disincentive structures as a medium for changing the behaviour of enterprise.
  • Critically situate the place of private enterprise within broader systems and explain the interdependencies between private enterprise, society and nature.

Module 2: Methods and Data

  • Critically analyse the role of the scientific method of inquiry in the production of knowledge and evaluate how and why scientific data is used by different actors within society.
  • Understand and apply qualitative and quantitative methods to measure progress and attribute impact pertaining to NZSD.
  • Comprehend the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of different methodological approaches and demonstrate sound judgement in selecting and applying the optimal approach to the given context.
  • Apply a critical lens to data and data-driven methods – including biases – and analyse how data is used in decision-making pertaining to NZSD.
  • Understand, and apply in the context of NZSD, advanced techniques in data science, complexity science and A.I.

Module 3: New Environmental Economic Thinking

  • Identify the limitations of conventional economic models for addressing NZSD.
  • Integrate new thinking “outside” of conventional economics (eg complexity theory, climate science) into economic and policy analysis.
  • Become comfortable using analytical frameworks that capture multiple equilibria, coordination, complementarities, lock-in, path dependence, and tipping points.
  • Draw insights from complex datasets such as patent, social, and export networks.
  • Acquire the ability to go from real-world problems with these features to possible solutions.

Module 4: Spaces, Infrastructure and Technology for Net Zero, Sustainable Development 

  • Understand and contextualise disruptive drivers that are re-shaping economic, social and environmental relationships.
  • Engage critically with these issues through the lens of infrastructure and technology and debate the implications of glocalization and urbanization for NZSD.
  • Develop an applied understanding of constructive responses to these disruptive drivers.

Module 5: Sustainable Finance

  • Develop sufficient understanding to navigate and critically analyse the key aspects and developments in sustainable finance and investment.
  • Engage critically with systems and theories in sustainable finance and investment.
  • Consider how to translate knowledge into strategies for effective engagement with the financial sector.

Module 6: Socio-technical Interventions and Sustainable Law

  • Compare and critique frameworks for contextualising, understanding and applying the dynamics of sociotechnical transitions and interventions that might drive and accelerate change towards net zero sustainable development.
  • Engage critically with this goal through the lens of understanding the speed of transition possible in each of the socio-technical frontiers of policymaking, finance, law, behaviours and norms, and technologies, and understand their potential for cascading interaction.
  • Identify and constructively stimulate interventions in each of these socio-technical frontiers to drive sustainable decarbonisation, and critically analyse the strengths, weaknesses and trade-offs of different approaches.
  • Engage in benchmarking and comparative exercises, through case studies, to critically analyse both successful and less successful transitions and interventions and derive takeaways from these examples.

Module 7: Natural Capital, Markets and Society

  • Identify the causes and consequences of institutional and market failures to value and manage natural capital.
  • Understand and compare different models of governing natural capital and identify strengths and weaknesses of different types across a range of contexts.
  • Learn and apply methods for designing and evaluating natural capital markets and institutions, whilst leveraging and integrating relevant natural science and technical knowledge.
  • Examine and debate case studies of valuing and managing natural capital across climate, energy, water, food and biodiversity.

Module 8: Water, Inequalities and Social Enterprise

  • Introduce social theory and methods related to social inequalities and water risks.
  • Examine and evaluate methods, concepts and frameworks in the context of water-related enterprise.
  • Explore processes shaping global and national discourse and debates related to sustainable development goals.
  • Apply methods, concepts and frameworks to case study material on how water inequalities interact with natural science perspectives and water management practices.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars, workshops and field trips, which provide in-depth exploration of key issues. The elective modules offer a tutorial-style teaching and discussion environment in smaller groups. Teaching is delivered by core faculty from the Smith School and School of Geography and the Environment - as well as from other departments across the University - and guest lecturers from enterprise, including some of the Smith School's Business Fellows.

The course is structured across three terms, following a progression from broad-based concepts and skills to increasing application and engagement.

  1. Nature and sources of climate emergency and development challenges, including scientific underpinnings and conceptual building blocks aimed at framing and understanding the problems and trade-offs posed by NZSD: Michaelmas term.
  2. Integrated assessment of potential solutions and pathways, offering applications and solutions: Hilary term.
  3. Implementation of knowledge and solutions through the enterprise forum and dissertation preparation: Trinity term.

Dissertation

An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course and enables students to translate their foundational and applied knowledge to a context/challenge related to enterprise and NZSD. Training in qualitative and quantitative methods, data and research design and research skills will help you to develop transferable skills, carry out independent and original research and master methods used widely in academic and professional research.

Integrating impact and enterprise

The course aims to equip students with knowledge, skills and networks to understand and accelerate NZSD. As such, the theme of achieving impact runs through all course modules, and is integrated in a number of specific ways:

  1. The enterprise forum will run in parallel with the core modules throughout course. It will form the focal point for engagement with enterprise, and will give students the chance to work with enterprise from the outset and put their learnings into practice, bringing to life the key concepts explored in the core modules. The enterprise forum will include leadership skills development, mentorship, and case-based learning, as well as being an incubator for dissertations. The enterprise forum will also be a standing feature of weekly course meetings, providing a roadmap for the field trips, group projects and dissertation research involving enterprise partners.
  2. Regular guest lectures from enterprise partners will complement the core modules, and enterprise partners will help to identify and possibly participate in dissertation projects.
  3. The course will involve practicums with partners in public and private enterprise, such as innovative workshops, hackathons and related activities.
  4. Field trips will explore the role of enterprise in tackling the NZSD challenges. Two one-day trips will take place in each of Michaelmas and Hilary Terms. An induction field trip will also take place in Michaelmas term introduction week. In addition, a field trip at the end of Hilary term will be a week-long capstone, where students will visit a selected region to connect individual companies and their supply chains in order to bring to life key concepts and enable students to apply their learning. 

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE) and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the School of Geography and the Environment.

Dissertation supervision will equate to approximately eight hours in total per student, in line with SoGE guidelines. As such, it is likely that a student will meet with their supervisor at a minimum once a fortnight or most likely once a week. The frequency of supervision meetings will likely change depending on the stage of the dissertation that the student is at and their unique needs. Supervision meetings will commence late in Hilary Term and conclude at the end of Trinity Term.

The Course Director will work closely with each student to try and match their theoretical and contextual interests with an appropriate supervisor. Regarding differences between part-time and full-time versions of the course and according adjustments to supervisor arrangements, this does not apply as the MSc is only offered on a full-time basis. For any students doing the MSc alongside an MBA as part of the 1+1 programme, any necessary adjustments to supervision will be made.

Assessment

Formal assessment is by examination (40%), two elective essays (20%) and a dissertation (40%). The core modules will be examined by three, three-hour unseen written examinations in Trinity term.  Electives take place in Michaelmas and Trinity terms, and essays are submitted on the first Monday of the following term after which the elective module was taken. The dissertation is submitted by the first week of September.

Graduate destinations

It is anticipated that this MSc will equip current and future decision-makers with the knowledge, skills and networks to lead change towards sustainability across the public and private sectors and, on a global stage. The course will enable students to either start or continue on and rapidly progress within a career trajectory, or to pivot and change sector and/or function. The department anticipate that majority of graduating students will pursue non-academic careers. However, some exceptional students are likely to pursue DPhil studies, and they will receive mentorship to support these ambitions.

Employability is embedded throughout the course in multiple ways:

  • By connecting science and enterprise for academic excellence: The MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment is at the intersection of research on economics, finance and governance, leveraging interdisciplinary science. The course will be anchored in theoretical and methodological innovations to understand and respond to challenges at an applied level.
  • Through direct practitioner knowledge within core teaching staff.
  • Focus on outcomes through the enterprise forum.

Changes to this course and your supervision

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Oxford 1+1 MBA programme

This course can be studied as a part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme. The Oxford 1+1 MBA programme is a unique, two-year graduate experience that combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

Entry requirements for entry in 2022-23

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours in any discipline.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Applicants should demonstrate an interest in sustainable development and net zero, and intersections with enterprise.  Evidence of relevant practice experience should be outlined, but is not required.  An assessment of quantitative skills and aptitudes will be incorporated.

Extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.  

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. The After you apply section of this website provides further information about the academic assessment of your application, including the potential outcomes. Please note that any offer of a place may be subject to academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions may vary depending upon your individual academic circumstances.

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer letter will give full details of your offer and any academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course.  In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Resources

The School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE) undertakes world-class interdisciplinary research, addresses societal and environmental problems, and advances knowledge within an intellectually vibrant, interdisciplinary research environment that combines natural and social sciences and has geography at its core. The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) sits within the SoGE. Founded in 2008, SSEE conducts teaching and research and engages with enterprise on climate change and long term environmental sustainability. It works with social enterprises, corporations and governments to encourage innovative solutions to the urgent challenges facing humanity. SSEE is an interdisciplinary research hub with expertise in economics, finance and business. It takes a solutions-based approach to these challenges, and this will be reflected in the approach to teaching the course.

The course has an Academic Director and a Course Director who looks after the day to day running of the course. You will have a personal advisor who is a member of the School’s academic staff and who provides academic welfare support.

The University of Oxford has an extensive library system and the Radcliffe Science Library is the main lending service within the University for the material required for the course. The Social Sciences Library also holds collections which are valuable for you if you are pursuing a geography programme. A tutorial on using the library and IT facilities will be provided at induction by the Geography Subject Librarian.

The department has a computer room available for all graduate students. There are dedicated IT times each day when you can seek help from IT staff. There is a dedicated social space for MSc students where you can meet and discuss your studies. Where appropriate, you will be able to use the departmental laboratories for your dissertation research.

Research skills’ training is provided in preparation for your dissertation. As well as developing an understanding of the research process, these sessions will cover such things as social surveys, data analysis and statistical techniques.

Throughout the course, field trips and visits to external organisations support the lectures and seminars and deliver valuable skills training.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2022-23. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the department's website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2022-23

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£19,970
Overseas£26,940

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our detailed fee status information and the Oxford and the EU webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Most costs associated with compulsory fieldwork are paid for by the department. This excludes the costs associated with obtaining the appropriate visa required to attend the non-UK based field trips. Non-EEA nationals might require a visa in order to travel to the country where the field trip is being held and any costs associated with obtaining the appropriate travel visa is the responsibility of the student. Students will also have to pay for some meals during the field course. Furthermore, as part of your course requirements you need to develop and research a dissertation topic. Depending on your choice of topic and the field work research required to complete it, you may incur additional costs (eg relating to travel, accommodation, field assistants, lab fees and/or research visas). You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants/bursaries from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2022-23 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,215 and £1,755 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2022-23, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment:

How to apply

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Personal statement:
A maximum of 1,000 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying to the course, your relevant experience and education, and a brief description of where your interest in sustainable development and net zero comes from. 

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying to this particular course
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your interest in sustainable development and net zero and intersections with enterprise
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained and intense work
  • your ability to think critically and creatively
  • your ability to absorb new ideas, often presented abstractly, at a rapid pace
  • intellectual curiosity and inquisitiveness.

Written work:
One sample of written work of a maximum of 2,000 words

An academic essay or other writing sample, written in English, is required. An extract of the requisite length from a longer work is also permissible.  

This work should demonstrate your ability to write a good academic document though it does not need to be related to the proposed area of study.

The word count should not include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

Your written work will be assessed for:

  • a comprehensive understanding of the subject area, including problems and developments in the subject
  • your ability to construct and defend an argument
  • your aptitude for analysis and expression
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English
  • your ability to write in a manner that demonstrates critical thinking and curiosity.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two should usually be academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

Your references will be assessed for:

  • your intellectual ability
  • your academic achievement
  • your motivation and interest in the course and subject area
  • your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently.

References are an important part of your application. They will support your application to the course by speaking to your intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation and suitability to the course, and ability to work effectively both independently and with others. Therefore, academic references are preferred - for at least two of your three references.

However, the department understands that in a few select cases it may difficult, and very occasionally, impossible, to get 1-2 letters from your former higher education institution, particularly if you have been out of university for ten or more years. In these instances, the department can accept a minimum of one academic reference, with the other two being either academic or professional, so long as they can speak closely and accurately to the above-mentioned points (ie intellectual ability; academic achievement; motivation and suitability to the course; ability to work effectively both independently and with others).

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and the deadline information in our Application Guide. Plan your time to submit your application well in advance - we recommend two or three weeks earlier.

Step 4: Check if you're eligible for an application fee waiver. Application fee waivers are available for:

Step 5: Start your application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, consult our Application Guide for advice at each stage. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application GuideApply

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