MSc Environmental Sciences

Key facts

(2014 Research Excellence Framework)


A project involving scientists from the UK and India to predict monsoon rainfall by studying ocean processes in the Bay of Bengal launches today.

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A student investigating volcanic regions; an example of field work and data collection for dissertation project.


UEA scientists are part of a community of researchers that are strengthening the UK’s commitment to science on greenhouse gases.

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This prestigious Masters programme gives you a deep understanding of the interactions between human society and the various environments we inhabit.

You’ll have the choice of a huge range of modules thanks to our diverse expertise, with a particularly strong current in climate change and sustainability. In fact, you can choose to adopt one of our Sustainability Pathways which exploit our research strengths in the field to provide a more focused degree. Whatever mix of modules you choose, your course will culminate in a Masters-level dissertation that allows you to explore a specific topic in greater depth.

We conduct some of the most important climate research in the world, alongside pioneering work in meteorology, oceanography, volcanology and a whole range of interdisciplinary topics (we’re ranked 1st in the UK for the impact of our research (REF 2014)), so you’ll be working with truly world-class experts on cutting-edge topics.


MSc Environmental Sciences including Pathways in Sustainability

In addition to our core MSc Environmental Sciences course, we also offer two Environmental Sciences Pathways that place particular focus on the issue of sustainability:

The School of Environmental Sciences boasts leading researchers in the field of environment and sustainability. Their research is interdisciplinary, drawing on expertise in conservation, economics, human geography and political science.

Each Environmental Sciences Pathway incorporates a distinct set of modules that exploits our research strengths and is designed to equip students to deal with the various challenges that sustainability issues present.

View the Pathways profiles using the links above, or read on to find more out about the core MSc.

MSc Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences is the interdisciplinary study of atmospheric, oceanic, freshwater and terrestrial environments coupled with an understanding of the interactions with human society.

It is the link between the study of natural processes, the effects of climate change and pollution, mismanagement and overexploitation of resources and other anthropogenic processes, and the desire to find ways to solve environmental problems that makes environmental sciences a particularly challenging and rewarding subject in the new millennium.

Training in environmental sciences equips you with useful transferable skills. The ability to collect, analyse, interpret and present often diverse datasets and to use analytical tools such as numerical models and geographic information systems (GIS) provides you with a number of technical and presentational skills that are valuable in the job market. Environmental management decisions are often complex involving an assessment of risk associated with different options and learning how to participate in such decision-making is also a valuable skill.

The MSc in Environmental Sciences will offer you a range of subjects to choose from and a wide array of career options, both in postgraduate research and vocational employment. Our flexible course structure suits both students seeking to gain additional training in environmental sciences and non-environmental science graduates from related areas seeking to widen their environmental knowledge and skills.

A modular structure allows these divergent aims to be met within the same programme. You can choose from several areas of expertise in the School including earth sciences, atmospheric sciences, oceanography, ecology, soil sciences and environmental economics and can integrate your knowledge with practical methods of environmental impact assessment and management.

The course last 46 weeks, beginning at the start of the academic year in mid-September and finishing in mid-August. Approximately two-thirds of the time is devoted to taught courses and the remainder to an original research project. All courses are taught by faculty and research staff in the internationally renowned School of Environmental Sciences and its associated centres, which gives you the opportunity to learn from scientists actively involved in furthering knowledge in environmental sciences.

Recent Dissertation Titles:

  • Potential impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on recharge and saline intrusion in northeast Norfolk
  • Application of traditional user’s knowledge to the management of tropical marine fisheries
  • Economics of forest protected area management in Latin America.

“My year as an Environmental Science student was a very positive experience. Teaching within the school at MSc level was consistent, supportive, fair and flexible to individual needs, as was the feedback and communication from both my advisor and project supervisor.”

Jackie Barrow Former student.

Course Modules

Students must study the following modules for 80 credits:

Name Code Credits


The dissertation is an individual research project under the guidance of an academic supervisor within one of the research groups in the School. In addition, for project placement opportunities with outside organisations there may also be guidance from an outside collaborator. Research undertaken normally involves the analysis and interpretation of data collected in the field, from measurements of a sample in the laboratory or from data gathered from other sources including the media, questionnaire surveys, interviews, etc. This module is reserved for MSc students and all students must have taken ENV-7119Y.




Semester 1 teaching is compulsory for all MSc students, while semester 2 is for students to attend the classes they need. The primary purpose of this module is to provide support and training for the dissertation to ensure that the necessary research is well planned in advance. To get the best possible start for the dissertation, advice is given on how to make the best use of UEA library resources, and how to undertake a literature review and the ethics procedures. There is also a discussion about the assessment for this module, which is the dissertation proposal. A substantial part of semester 1 is devoted to how to use statistics for the analysis of different types of projects. For students who are undertaking social science dissertations, supporting lectures and practicals are provided in semester 2. These include: social science research design to ensure there is a sound understanding of the fundamental concept and requirements of good research; questionnaire survey design; interviewing techniques; focus groups methods; and techniques analysing qualitative data. This module must be taken before the ENV-MB4X Dissertation.



Students will select 100 credits from the following modules:

Students may also choose modules from other Schools, subject to their approval and timetable compatibility, with the agreement of the Course Director and of the School concerned.

Name Code Credits


Climate change and variability have played a major role in shaping human history, and the prospect of a warming world as a result of human activities (principally via changing atmospheric composition) presents society with an increasing challenge over the coming decades. This module covers the science of climate change and our current understanding of anthropogenic effects on climate. It provides details about the approaches, methods and techniques for understanding the history of climate change and for developing climate projections for the next 100 years, supporting further study of the scientific or policy aspects of the subject in either an academic or applied context. Starting with an introduction to the changing climate, techniques and approaches, and the main themes in current climate research, the module is structured around three topics: (1) fundamentals of the changing climate: techniques and approaches, including the Earth's energy balance, causes of climate change and the greenhouse effect; (2) research methods, consisting of empirical approaches to climate reconstruction (such as tree-ring research), assembly of observational data (focusing on the global temperature record) and data analysis (causes of recent climate change) and theoretical or model-based approaches (including an introduction to energy balance models and general circulation models); (3) the history of climate change and potential causal mechanisms, concentrating on the period from 1000 CE to the present and climate projections out to 2100 CE The module is lecture based but supplemented by compuyter modeling practical classes and student-led seminars.




This is a compulsory module of the MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation spanning the autumn semester and half of the spring semester. The module includes lectures, workshops, practical classes and field trips and covers the key considerations underpinning effective ecological survey design and implementation. Following initial lectures on research planning and study design, students will explore and gain first-hand experience in a variety of methods for surveying plants, animals and habitats, including the use of remote census techniques such as radio-tracking and trail cameras and approaches such as distance sampling and mark-release-recapture.




Climate change is an energy problem. The conversion and use of energy is responsible for the significant majority of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing emissions to mitigate climate change implies a transformation of the current global energy system. The required energy transition must include changes in technologies, behaviours, policies, infrastructures and whole systems. To avoid the impacts of climate change associated with a >2oC rise in mean global temperatures, future energy transitions must be deep, pervasive, long-term and sustained. This module examines energy transitions for climate change mitigation from a range of perspectives, focusing on the long-term. First, the implications for climate change of current energy resources, technologies and services will be evaluated. Second, evidence from history on the drivers and dynamics of energy transitions will be considered. Third, socioeconomic scenarios of future change over the 21st century will be used to explore the prospects and potentials for mitigating climate change by transforming the global energy system. Scenarios will be critically analysed from both technological and sociotechnical perspectives, supported by relevant concepts and theories. Particular emphasis will be placed on innovation challenges and needs. Fourth, the energy system and integrated assessment models used to quantitatively analyse climate change will be reviewed, and integrative energy system challenges considered.




BEFORE TAKING THIS MODULE YOU MUST HAVE TAKEN ENV-7020A Environmental Assessment is considered to be more effective when conducted at strategic levels of decision making, and is usually perceived to have a goal of achieving sustainable development. This module provides experience of conducting a particular form of strategic assessment, Sustainability Appraisal (SA), which incorporates environmental, social and economic considerations into plan making. Through practice of SA, a field course involving hands-on application of environmental assessment techniques, and consideration of effectiveness theory, this module will examine what makes assessment effective. Please note that there will be a charge for attending this field course. The overall field course charge is heavily subsidised by the School, but students enrolling must understand that they will commit to paying a sum (in the region of GBP300) to cover attendance. Further information is available from the module organiser.




This module aims to engage students in understanding complex interdisciplinary challenges associated with environmental pollution management via detailed studies of selected pollution issues. Students will develop skills in quantifying and analysing problems and developing and presenting effective policy responses.




The global biodiversity crisis and mass species loss has major implications for society - how can we solve these problems in a world challenged by climate change, population growth and the need for socio-economic development. This is an inter-disciplinary module focusing on the critical evaluation of scientific evidence as a basis for biodiversity conservation policy, strategy and instruments. It is of particular interest to Applied Ecology and Conservation MSc (AEC, BIO) students and is compulsory for MSc students of the International Master in Applied Ecology (IMAE, ENV) and for the MSc in Environmental Sciences Pathway in Ecology and Economics for Sustainability. Students attend an initial block of lectures critically reviewing the context for biodiversity conservation, socio-economic drivers of biodiversity loss and the importance of biodiversity to human society, challenging the assumption that ecosystem services are synonymous with conservation and exploring how differing perspectives influence conservation approaches. We examine conflicts between biodiversity conservation and livelihoods, and review approaches for resolving these (including market-based approaches, Payments for Environmental Services, and REDD+). The module is assessed by coursework designed to develop transferable skills of evidence-based scientific appraisal, including: identification of relevant evidence needs, evaluation of the quality of evidence, synthesis of policy and research implications. Assessments develop communication skills through succinct communication of scientific evidence and are supported by feed-forward formative exercises. CO-TAUGHT WITH ENV-6006A




This module will provide essential GIS tools and principles that will be applied to modelling ecological responses to environmental change, focusing on habitat and climate change. Core GIS skills will be delivered, these include field data collection and extraction of data from national and global ecological (e.g. land cover and land use) and climate databases (e.g. BADC, EU Ensembles). It will also include the manipulation of such vector and raster files using techniques such as buffers and overlays and more advanced context operators. Particular attention will be paid to understanding the uncertainties associated with such analyses. These skills are key in many areas of ecological research, but are particularly useful for the creation of variables needed for modelling environmental change. Skills will be continually assessed through online assessment. Understanding and modelling ecological responses to environmental change is essential to better manage natural resources, optimize ecosystem services and minimize biodiversity loss. Recent research shows climate can affect the functioning of communities and ecosystems through phenology mismatches and range shifts. This module will explore species and ecosystem responses to climate and habitat change, at various spatial scales from local to landscape change using GIS tools. There will be extensive emphasis on practical GIS skills which will be delivered using the open source QGIS software. Students will also be introduced to GIS with R.




The aim of the module is to show how environmental problems may be solved from the initial problem, to mathematical formulation and numerical solution. Problems will be described conceptually, then defined mathematically, then solved numerically via computer programming. The module consists of lectures on numerical methods and computing practicals (using Matlab); the practicals being designed to illustrate the solution of problems using the methods covered in lectures. The module will guide students through the solution of a model of an environmental process of their own choosing. The problem will be discussed and placed into context through a project proposal, instead of an essay, and then solved and written up in a project report. The skills developed in this module are highly valued by prospective employers of students wishing to carry on into further studies or in professional employment. MSci STUDENTS NOTE, TO TAKE THIS MODULE YOU CANNOT HAVE PREVIOUSLY TAKEN ENV-6004A OR EQUIVALENT




Have you ever wondered why human economic activity seems to be so bad for the environment? Does it have to be like that? Is it possible for human beings to enjoy high standards of living and a high quality environment? Through the study of the principles of Environmental Economics this course sets out to answer those questions. Addressing a wide-range of economy-environment problems including car pollution, over-fishing, climate change and declining oil stocks, the course shows that most environmental problems can be solved through the adoption of policies crafted with the careful application of economic reasoning. Co-taught with ENV-6012B. MSci STUDENTS NOTE, TO TAKE THIS MODULE YOU CANNOT HAVE PREVIOUSLY TAKEN ENV-6012B OR EQUIVALENT




This module will introduce you to the technology for 21st century ocean observing systems. It aims to give you hands-on and practical experience with the latest marine technology. The module will discuss cabled ocean observatories, floats and autonomous vehicles, exploring both how they work and how they can be applied to marine monitoring. Marine autonomy is a growing area, with applications in policy (for example marine monitoring for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive) and in industry (for example oil and gas, marine renewables) as well as scientific research. You will learn about the various sensors that are deployed in the ocean on these platforms, how they work, what they are used for, and how to calibrate and process the data. A key part of the module will be equipping you with skills in using ocean gliders.




The module allows engagement in Earth science research topics at an advanced level and involves advanced study skills. The module will be strongly research lead and based around student-centred learning. The module will involve a) engagement with appropriate research seminars in the School of Environmental Sciences and b) directed research based around key topics with discussions and student seminars. The topics included will vary from year to year, depending on current research programmes, but they are likely to include topics in sedimentary geology, sedimentology, palaeoclimate, geological resources, Earth history, the Earth system, nuclear waste repository sites, carbon dioxide sequestration. The module is designed to develop students' research and scientific communication skills in addition to imparting specialist knowledge. Students will be encouraged to read widely on Earth science topics, gaining skills in literature searches, scientific comprehension and synthesis. Students will gain skills in scientific discussion via small group tutorials with Earth scientists who have a variety of backgrounds. Students' participation in research seminars will strengthen specialist knowledge and critical skills. The module will involve a) engagement with appropriate research seminars in the School of Environmental Sciences and b) directed research based around key topics with discussions and student seminars. The topics included will vary from year to year, depending on current research programmes, but they are likely to include topics in sedimentary geology or sedimentology, palaeoclimate, Earth history, the Earth system, natural hazard.




Advances in science and technology have transformed the world we live in and have increasing potential to disrupt environment and society for good and bad. This situation is particularly problematic in addressing pressing sustainability challenges. Science remains one of the main means of understanding environmental problems and technology can offer important possible solutions to them. Yet, science and technology are also causes of these problems in the first place, with some unintended consequences and effects only just being realised. This, coupled with unacknowledged social and ethical implications, fuels problems of public trust, controversy and resistance to certain forms of science and technology. It is increasingly realised that these problematic relations between science, society and politics form one of the main barriers to action on environmental and sustainability issues from global to local scales. This module provides an essential grounding in understanding these relationships and ways to improve them, explored through grand challenges such as energy, climate change, and natural hazards. The module provides students with an advanced introduction to the field of science and technology studies and its links with geography and environmental science. It is taught through lectures, seminars, practical exercises and in class discussions and debates in three sections: Part 1: Science, politics and power; Part 2. Science, society and the public; and Part 3: Governing science and sustainability.




From supernovae and the early condensation of the solar system, through the climate history of the planet and on to modern stratospheric chemistry, studies using stable isotopes have made a significant contribution to our understanding of the processes that shape the Earth. In this module we look at the theory and practice of isotope geochemistry, covering analytical methods and mass spectrometry, fractionation processes, and isotope behaviour in chemical cycles in the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere. The course consists of lectures, practicals, including hands-on experience in the stable isotope laboratory, and student led seminars.




R is a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics that has rapidly gained popularity among scientists, and which is now the most commonly used software tool in several environmental sciences. R provides a wide variety of statistical techniques (including linear and nonlinear modelling, classical statistical tests, time-series analysis, classification, clustering, etc.). One of R's strengths is the capacity to produce publication-quality figures, including mathematical symbols and formulae. Using the R software as a platform will equip students with a flexible statistical and modelling tool, and the "R way of statistics" greatly facilitates the understanding of modelling and statistics. The insights gained and skills learned during this module will be used by students throughout their careers. This will significantly enhance students' employability and makes ENV-MA12 a flagship M-level module of the UEA.




This module investigates the impacts of consumption on social and environmental systems, and how these might be reduced. It presents the key theories and debates around sustainable consumption, and critically examines a range of strategies for achieving it, covering governmental, business, community and individual actors. A mainstream 'green growth' policy approach to sustainable consumption is contrasted with an alternative 'new economics' 'steady state economy' model, and we examine a range of perspectives on what drives consumption patterns. Workshop exercises to apply these theories to 'real world' examples will provide experiential learning opportunities. We then critically assess a selection of sustainable consumption initiatives in detail, for example local organic food, eco-housing, Transition Towns, local currencies and community-based behaviour-change campaigns. Students will be required to critically evaluate social science theories so some background in social science is stongly recommended (although not compulsory).




Environmental assessment is a term used to describe procedures for evaluating the potential environmental consequences of policies, programmes, plans and projects. It is a well established tool for environmental policy integration, being routinely employed in more than 100 nations and by many international aid and funding agencies. This multidisciplinary module focuses on the theory and methods of environmental assessment and the decision-making contexts in which they are employed. It explains the procedural stages of, and selected methodologies for, environmental assessment and provides practical experience in applying them. If not already compulsory, students are recommended to take ENV-7021K




Whilst the University will make every effort to offer the modules listed, changes may sometimes be made arising from the annual monitoring, review and update of modules and regular (five-yearly) review of course programmes. Where this activity leads to significant (but not minor) changes to programmes and their constituent modules, there will normally be prior consultation of students and others. It is also possible that the University may not be able to offer a module for reasons outside of its control, such as the illness of a member of staff or sabbatical leave. Where this is the case, the University will endeavour to inform students.

Entry Requirements

  • Degree Subject This programme is open to students with a first degree in geography, earth and environmental sciences or related disciplines. It is also suitable for graduates with single-discipline degrees in chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics, computing, engineering, economics and politics.
  • Degree Classification Good first degree (minimum 2.1 or equivalent)

Students for whom English is a Foreign language

We welcome applications from students whose first language is not English. To ensure such students benefit from postgraduate study, we require evidence of proficiency in English. Our usual entry requirements are as follows:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.0 in all components)
  • PTE (Pearson): 62 (minimum 55 in all components)

Test dates should be within two years of the course start date.

Other tests, including Cambridge English exams and the Trinity Integrated Skills in English are also accepted by the university. The full list of accepted tests can be found here: Accepted English Language Tests

INTO UEA also run pre-sessional courses which can be taken prior to the start of your course. For further information and to see if you qualify please contact

Fees and Funding

Tuition Fees for 2017/18:

  • Home/EU:

     Full-time £7,300, Part-time £3,650

     If you choose to study part-time, please assume a pro-rata fee for the credits you are taking, or 50% of the equivalent fee per year if you are taking a full-time course on a part-time basis.  

  • Overseas:

      Full-time £14,800

      If you are classed as an 'overseas' student and are coming to UEA on a student or visitor's visa, UK visa rules won't normally allow you to study on a part-time course. You should always check with the UKVI for the latest requirement.


50% Final Year Undergraduate Continuation Scholarship

Current final year UEA undergraduate students who gain a First class degree and progress onto a postgraduate course in September 2017 will receive a 50% fee reduction scholarship. Who do not gain a First class degree will be eligible for the 10% UEA Alumni Scholarship outlined below. Terms and conditions apply.

UEA Alumni 10% Scholarship

A scholarship of 10% fee reduction is available to UEA Alumni looking to return for postgraduate study at UEA in September 2017. Terms and conditions apply.

Simon Wharmby Scholarship

  • Value: £3,000
  • Eligibility: Home, EU and Overseas applicants who have applied for an MSc course in the School of Environmental Sciences and been offered a place to begin in September 2017
  • How to apply: Any student who has received an offer for the course will automatically be considered for the scholarship. Please refer to our postgraduate scholarship pages for further information. 
  • Application deadline: 15th May 2017.  Applicants wishing to be considered must have submitted a complete application by this date.

ScottishPower Foundation Scholarships

In collaboration with the various foundations of the Iberdrola Group, The ScottishPower Foundation has announced 28 new postgraduate energy and environment scholarship grants in the UK for the 2017/18 academic year, to be split amongst 7 of the UK’s most respected universities, including UEA.

ScottishPower Renewables has donated £100k to the ScottishPower Foundation to go towards funding these places. The programme aims to help train a generation of highly skilled professionals to face up to the challenges that lie ahead, including the development of a sustainable energy model. 

Eligibility: Scholarships are open to degree-holders and graduates, wishing to pursue a career in energy and environment related studies. Successful candidates will receive grants to cover full tuition fees as well as a generous living allowance.

Application deadline: 7 April 2017

How to apply: Details on how to apply for the scholarship programme can be found at or alternatively email or call 01603 591515.

How to Apply

Applications for Postgraduate Taught programmes at the University of East Anglia should be made directly to the University.

You can apply online, or by downloading the application form.

Further Information

To request further information & to be kept up to date with news & events please use our online enquiry form.

If you would like to discuss your individual circumstances prior to applying please do contact us:

Postgraduate Admissions Office
Tel: +44 (0)1603 591515

International candidates are also encouraged to access the International Students section of our website.

    Next Steps

    We can’t wait to hear from you. Just pop any questions about this course into the form below and our enquiries team will answer as soon as they can.

    Admissions enquiries: or
    telephone +44 (0)1603 591515