Environmental Sustainability - PgCert / PgDip / MSc

Course Overview

The essential course information

How to apply
Download the course factsheet
PgCert / PgDip / MSc
  • Full Time (17 months)
  • Full Time (1 year)
Birmingham School of the Built Environment
City Centre

This is the course for people wishing to develop their skills and knowledge to become the environmental leaders of tomorrow. 'Sustainability' and 'sustainable development' are widely used terms with various interpretations and applications across different industrial, commercial, charitable and governmental organisations. Even at the simplest level, a balance between economic profit, social benefit and environmental protection can be difficult to achieve. There are often no easy answers to the problems faced and conflicts of interest between parties are common.

The environmental decision-makers, managers and consultants of today and the designers, technologists and policy makers of the future need to understand and assess the 'big picture' if they are to provide effective, holistic and sustainable solutions. The course is designed to support and stimulate the skills needed for inter-disciplinary working among graduates and professionals from a variety of backgrounds employed, or seeking employment, in the environmental sector.

The programme has two intakes, in September and January, and may be studied in full or part-time mode. The full time duration is 17 months for January starts.

Key Facts

  • This course is particularly suitable for qualified professionals. You may who need to add sustainability to your portfolio of skills or wish to move your careers into the environmental sector.
  • The course is suitable for graduates from a wide variety of subject disciplines and career pathways who wish to specialise in sustainable development and the environment.
  • The course examines the environment and sustainability from local and global perspectives with case study examples drawn from the UK, Europe and the rest of the world making it suitable for an international audience.
  • The course provides a genuine multi-disciplinary learning environment by taking an interactive, student-centred, problem-based approach to learning. Student-led workshops are backed up by tutorial support, with aspiring environmentalists working closely with construction / planning students studying MSc Construction Project Management or MA Environmental and Spatial Planning.
  • The final research project allows the flexibility of tailoring the course content to meet your own particular interests and develop specialisms of your choice.

Get more information about MSc Environmental Sustainability teaching staff

Download the Course Programme Specification

Entry Requirements

Candidates with a first degree will be accepted, subject to having achieved the standards laid out in the table below. Candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds will be considered but they must be numerate and IT literate. The range of suitable first degrees includes subjects such as planning, geography, construction, business, management, economics, engineering and the physical sciences. Candidates with other qualifications and suitable work-based experience will be considered on a case by case basis.

LevelExperienceAdmissions Policy
Graduates 1st class or 2.1 With or without relevant experience An interview may be required prior to interview
2.2 With or without relevant experience Must undertake a selection process
3rd class or Pass With or without relevant experience Only admitted in exceptional circumstances

Overseas candidates must have an equivalent qualification and have a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.0 or equivalent, with a minimum score of 5.5 in all four skills.

How to Apply

To apply, please complete the most appropriate online application form from the list below.

Online application for UK or EU students
Jan 2015 PgCert / PgDip / MSc Full Time (17 months)
Sep 2015 PgCert / PgDip / MSc Full Time (1 year)
Online application for non-EU students
Jan 2015 PgCert / PgDip / MSc Full Time (17 months)
Sep 2015 PgCert / PgDip / MSc Full Time (1 year)

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our pdf application form instead.

Fees and Finance

Fees for students from the UK or EU countries?
Start Mode Duration Award Fees
Jan 2015 FT 17 months PgCert / PgDip / MSc £7,750
Sep 2015 FT 1 year PgCert / PgDip / MSc £8,000
Fees for students from non-EU countries (International)?
Start Mode Duration Award Fees
Jan 2015 FT 17 months PgCert / PgDip / MSc TBC
Sep 2015 FT 1 year PgCert / PgDip / MSc £11,500 *

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

*The fee includes a £400 field trip fee.

The course fee includes a range of one-day and overnight study visits within the UK to examine areas of good practice relevant to specific modules.

Financial Support

Postgraduate students must find ways of funding their tuition fees and living costs rather than relying on government grants and loans. We offer further information on possible financial support.

International Students

International Students at BCU

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK. Our reputation for excellence is soaring globally, thanks to the superb links we forge with industry, our international alliances, and our focus on practical, vocational learning.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Postgraduate Open Event

Our next Postgraduate Open Day is on Wednesday 22 April 2015 (2-7pm). Registration is now open – you can sign up at the foot of this page.

PG Open Evening

Our postgraduate open event offers you the chance to:

  • Meet with lecturers and other prospective students to discuss study options
  • Meet and chat with our current students
  • Obtain advice on fees and funding opportunities.

93 per cent of our graduates find work or further study within six months (DLHE). Explore your potential at our open evening.

Who is it for?

Whether you are coming to the end of your undergraduate studies, or have been in your job for a while and want to progress in your career or change direction, a postgraduate qualification gives you the opportunity to stand out from the crowd in a competitive market.

Our graduates are already shaping the world in a variety of high-profile roles – and you could be next. Read some of our inspiring case studies.

For more information, visit our Open Days page or call our Course Enquiries Team on +44 (0)121 331 5595.

Postgraduate Open Day - 22 April 2015

University Approach to Employability

Birmingham City University is committed to preparing students for successful employability and professional careers. We have an innovative approach to employability that will help you obtain an interesting and well-paid graduate job.

Read our Employability Statement to find out more.

Employment Opportunities

There are a wide range of employment opportunities available within industrial, commercial, charitable and governmental organisations. Many of these now employ environmental or sustainability specialists to work as part of larger project teams engaged in core activities.

This course is aimed at professionals in the public or private sectors who wish to update and expand their knowledge of sustainable development, and also at graduates who are looking to develop their careers along these lines. Students will learn core legal, business, management and decision making skills together with the skills needed to formulate and enact policy decisions and to instigate, develop and undertake sustainable environmental solutions.

Knowledge of a broad range of issues and the ability to communicate with professionals in other specialisms, non-specialists and the general public are essential skills required by practitioners in this field.

Further Studies

The University has a range of research (MPhil and PhD) postgraduate programmes.

Course Structure

This course is designed to encourage and foster the skills needed for inter-disciplinary working among graduates and professionals from a variety of backgrounds employed within the environmental sector.

The theme currently offered is:

Course Modules

Semester 1 - Postgraduate Certificate - 60 Credits
Dynamic Natural Environments 15 Credits
Society, Economics and Environment 15 Credits
Policies and Plans 15 Credits
Green Design 15 Credits
Semester 2 - Postgraduate Diploma - 120 Credits
Law and Environmental Governance 15 Credits
Sustainable Development into Practice 15 Credits
Sustainable Futures 15 Credits
Energy Technologies 15 Credits
Semester 3 - MSc Award - 180 Credits
Master's Project 60 Credits

Module Descriptions

Semester 1

Dynamic Natural Environments
This module is based upon the belief that it is essential to understand the ‘big-scale’ picture of dynamic earth processes in order to know how to make a difference on the ‘small-scale’ of everyday environmental management and sustainable development. This module equips students with a broad foundation of knowledge and skills in environmental science and covers areas including the philosophy of science; the geological record of climate and environmental change and evidence of a dynamic planet as a context for understanding future scenarios; the nature of change, complexity and paradox; the meaning of statistics; population factors; and habitats and ecology.

Society, Economics and Environment
This module will give students an understanding of social and economic aspects of managing environments with sustainability in mind. It focuses on linking theory and practice in demonstrating how the built, natural and social environments are interlinked. Students will have the opportunity to critically review existing commonly used methods and tools, and familiarise themselves with ‘new’ approaches suitable for more holistic decision-making and project appraisal. Examples of topics to be covered include the DPSIR framework; Strategic Environmental Assessment; Sustainability Appraisal; Cost Benefit Analysis; and the Ecosystem Functions and Services concept.

Policies and Plans
This module adopts a ‘hands-on’ approach in terms of gaining an appreciation of what makes good plans and policies. Starting with students’ own ideas of plans, the module proceeds by developing a toolkit of approaches in order to understand how plans and policies are conceived and implemented in what is an increasingly complex governance environment. The module draws on cutting edge research at Birmingham City University linking the ecosystem approach, spatial planning, sustainability assessments and policy evaluation. It equips students with the skills to competently assess, critique and report on a contemporary policy which is undergoing consultation. The submitted report is then subjected to an oral cross examination.

Green Design
This module introduces students to a range of techniques and methodologies related to the design and maintenance of buildings. It emphasises the need for life-cycle thinking and stresses the fact that there is much more to ‘green’ buildings than the use of ‘bolt-on’ technologies. The module starts with a discussion of the general principles of green architecture and design methods along with an overview of the main standards and measures in use such as BREEAM, the Code for Sustainable Homes and Passivhaus. The main part of the module is concerned with specific design considerations including location and environment; types of building materials; thermal mass principles; the differing requirements of new build and refurbishment projects; insulation, glass and lighting; HVAC; and façade engineering.

Semester 2

Law and Environmental Governance
This module is centred on the detailed study and investigation of a controversial land use issue involving environmental sustainability. Role playing a named organisation with a remit for promoting sustainable development, students are required to construct a proof of evidence for use at a public inquiry which is done in Birmingham City University law court in front of a professional inspector. Working in both individual and team roles the case study approach allows students to appreciate the realities and complexities of contemporary land use issues.

Sustainable Development into Practice
The module is concerned with developing ideas about the direction of future change in a particular locality. It involves preparing a strategy to guide that change; identifying appropriate delivery mechanisms by which the strategy can be implemented; and addressing some of these mechanisms. It is concerned not just with physical change and improvement and the technical issues surrounding those changes, but also with the social and economic dimensions of the area chosen and the linkages and tensions between these multiple dimensions. The module adopts an inter-disciplinary problem-solving approach, which is intended to foster understanding of and respect for the views and perspectives of different professions and disciplines as well as a recognition that there is rarely one ‘best’ approach to any development task.

Sustainable Futures
This module considers the impact of sustainability and climate change on the future of planning and the environment. It explores possible adaptation and mitigation of the built, managed and natural environment and looks at the ways in which society might change in the future. Due to the changing nature and importance of issues over time, the content of this module is likely to alter on a regular basis. Examples of topics that might be covered include: future urban and rural forms; food production; transport issues; water management; and civic participation and inclusion.

Energy Technologies
Energy plays a key role in today’s society. Any discussion of sustainable development needs to consider how supply and demand will be managed in the future. This module starts by considering the fundamentals of energy and the problems associated with our current dependency on fossil fuels. It examines energy policy in terms of demand, security of supply and the potential of renewables; nuclear; clean coal; and carbon capture and sequestration. Renewable options discussed include solar energy; heat pumps; hydro-power; and wind energy. The module also emphasises the importance of energy efficiency and the possibilities offered by localised microgeneration.

Semester 3

Research Project
The Research Project is a major piece of individual work that allows students to build their understanding and expertise in a selected area of specialised study. It involves use of appropriate research approaches and skills, abilities to theorise and conceptualise, and encourages students to make connections between theory and practice in a selected specialist topic. It promotes independent and reflective learning in order to demonstrate ability to think and write at Master’s level.

Download the full module documents for this course

Assessment Methods

The course is delivered using a mix of learning and teaching styles that include lectures and small group seminars; workshops based on case studies; action learning sets based on student-centred research; and internet based forums. Much emphasis will be placed on current developments and this will be supported by extensive use of external speakers as appropriate.

A wide variety of assessment methods are employed to provide both a challenging and stimulating environment. For example:

  • Individual reports
  • Individual presentations
  • Time-constrained exercises
  • Role-playing exercises
  • Development of a research proposals
  • Literature reviews
  • Research papers
  • Design portfolios
  • Reflection on learning experiences
  • Group reports
  • Group presentations

Roger Wall

Senior Lecturer

Before joining the University in 2001, Roger worked for a water resource management consultancy specializing in IT solutions and GIS applications, and as a software engineer for a German consultancy firm.

He recently completed his involvement with the IEE IEC-SME project and was part of the team that wrote the final report and disseminated the findings in Brussels. He was worked on a joint ESRC-EDF bid with other members of the School and have taken part in an Erasmus exchange to EIGSI in La Rochelle. He is currently responsible for developing a new MSc course provisionally entitled, ‘Creating A Sustainable Environment’.

He has also previously worked on business engagement programmes designed to help SMEs develop and market environmental technologies (EnviroInnovate & EBOP).

Rogers current interests are linked to building design and renewable energy technologies. He is also interested in the complexities of sustainable systems and the need to balance many different and often conflicting factors.


Prospective students from the UK
  • Take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to a range of questions about our courses and studying here.
  • If you need further help, you can contact the Course Enquiries Team online by using the Course Enquiry Form.
  • Alternatively, call us on +44 (0)121 331 5595.
Prospective students from outside the UK


For an overview of our postgraduate courses and a range of other information please download our Postgraduate Prospectus (6Mb).

Further Information

Birmingham School of the Built Environment
Birmingham City University
Millennium Point
Curzon Street
B4 7XG

Tel: +44 (0)121 331 5400
Email: BSBE

If you haven't already, visit Birmingham School of the Built Environment website for more information.

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