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PGCert Sustainable Development

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1 year

Start date


Key information

Qualification type

Postgraduate Certificate

Subject areas


Course type


Course Summary


The global community faces problems of poverty and profound environmental change that are interconnected in complex and dynamic ways. As the Sustainable Development Goals acknowledge, in an increasingly integrated world, any development agenda must be a global one with shared responsibilities for all countries. However, the idea of sustainable development, that underpins the post-2015 development agenda, is also a controversial concept that requires critical examination.

The rationale for this innovative programme of study lies in the global environmental and development challenges that have been articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals. It is clear that solutions to the challenge of sustainable development require holistic, integrated and co-ordinated actions across a very wide range of sectors, and will increasingly require a multidisciplinary approach. This programme aims to provide students with a broad grounding in the main concepts associated with sustainable development, but also provides the opportunity to specialise in one area in greater depth.

This programme provides a theoretical basis for understanding the evolution, meanings and use of the concept of sustainable development and it will help you to gain practical research experience. You will also acquire the skills needed to understand current environmental, development and sustainability issues and debates.

The aims of the programme are:

  • to provide students with the skills necessary to analyse and interpret current issues and debates related to sustainable development
  • to enhance knowledge and understanding for decision- and policy-making on sustainable development issues
  • to enhance students' critical, analytical, and integrative skills for responding to sustainable development challenges
  • to provide research training and experience in relation to sustainable development.

Who is this programme for?:

This programme is designed to assist both existing professionals working within environment and development spheres, and people moving into international and national-level organisations and agencies promoting sustainable development.

For existing professionals, the programme provides the opportunity to upgrade and update their expertise, and to reflect systematically and in depth on their accumulated experience in the light of up-to-date theory and literature.

Graduates of this programme will have a wide range of backgrounds and will typically find work in:

  • government ministries and other public sector organisations concerned with policy analysis in the fields of sustainable development and environmental planning
  • international organisations, such as UN agencies, concerned with the sustainability of economic change
  • Non-governmental organisations NGOs
  • private sector organisations concerned about the social and environmental impact of their operations
  • consultancy organisations providing advice on issues of sustainability
  • applied research and teaching in institutions of research and higher education.

The programme also prepares students to apply for further academic research in this field (for instance, a PhD).


Sustainable development has become the main guiding principle in international development but where did it come from, and what does it really mean? The idea of sustainable development emerged during the late twentieth century in response to growing concerns about the apparent failure of conventional, state-led 'development' initiatives and about the extent and pace of environmental degradation, especially at the global scale. 'Sustainable development' has rapidly become a popular term - yet one that is also ambiguous and fiercely contested. As Jonathon Porritt, former Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission acknowledged, sustainable development is a notoriously slippery term that can mean 'practically nothing to people, or practically everything'. Indeed, some versions of sustainable development demand radical social re-organisation - including new forms of government and governance - in order to promote more just relations between societies and environments, whilst other versions of sustainable development amount to little more than 'business as usual'. Therefore, it is important to understand the concept of sustainable development and the various ways in which it is used. In its most authoritative form, sustainable development is associated with some important, core principles that deserve critical examination.

Tuition fees

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Entry requirements

A good first degree in an appropriate subject area, as accepted by the University of London, and a high level of English language ability in reading and writing and in study skills.

University information

At SOAS University of London, students are encouraged to challenge conventional views and to think globally. SOAS is the leading higher education institution in Europe specialising in the study of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East, offering over a hundred postgraduate programmes, all taught by world-class specialists. The central London campus is home to a large postgraduate community, with 45% of students studying towards a...more