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The University of Edinburgh: Energy, Society and Sustainability

Institution The University of Edinburgh View institution profile
Department School of GeoSciences
Study type Taught


Energy - at the heart of sustainability Energy comes in many forms. First, its availability in the landscape, such as coal, wind or the sun, must be transformed into electricity. It is then carried in pipes and grids to where it is needed to power our everyday lives. All this takes materials and has an economic, environmental and human cost. Yet, energy is essential to everyday human life and at the heart of sustainability. The world needs a fast but fair transition to a low-carbon society to address global climate change.

How can this be achieved? Scotland and Edinburgh are prime contexts in which to investigate such dynamics. Scotland is a world leader in renewable electricity generation. It has a history of hydroelectricity, North Sea oil, and a future in tide and wave energy. However, it also suffers from high levels of energy poverty, a challenge many people face.

What will I learn? The MSc in Energy, Society and Sustainability equips you with an understanding of how different societies can address the challenge of balancing energy with sustainability. It brings together a social, political, economic, and environmental understanding of low-carbon technologies. You will explore the risks, costs, and benefits of transitioning to low-carbon energy in a globalised world. Our programme will equip you with a critical awareness of related local, regional and global debates and challenges, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the role of energy in development. You will benefit from our access to insightful case studies, as well as the organisations and communities our lecturers work closely with. These range from local Scottish islands to international corporations. The cases demonstrate global best practices and identify paths to sustainable energy management.

Reputation, relevance and employability You will be taught by experts and researchers, many of whom are leaders in their field. We are also committed to helping you benefit from our excellent relationships. We engage with government departments, energy-relevant NGOs, and key industry players, from community energy organisations to start-up renewable energy companies. These networks provide opportunities for you to meet potential employers and for dissertations conducted in partnership with external organisations, helping you gain valuable real-world experience.

Is the MSc for me? We welcome students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary shared learning. Students with a natural science background might seek to understand the social factors associated with a lower carbon economy. Social science students might expand their skills and knowledge for a career in low-carbon energy.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute The MSc Energy, Society and Sustainability is associated with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). ECCI brings together law, business, social science, technology, and policy experts to help develop a low-carbon society. Through ECCI, you will have the opportunity to work and network alongside professionals and potential employers within this high-demand field.

When to apply Please note: Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of early application deadlines. We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. You should also avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred. If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application. Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.


Edinburgh. Extraordinary futures await.

The University of Edinburgh is one of the world's top universities, consistently ranked in the world top 50, and placed 22nd in the 2024 QS World University Rankings.

Our position as one of Britain’s leading research universities was reaffirmed by the results of the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF). The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, ranked 4th in the UK for research power (Times Higher Education, Overall Ranking of Institutions), with 90% of our research activity classified as world leading or internationally excellent in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

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