Innovative sustainable development course launched

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Windmills in the middle of farmland in Spain, outside a place called Zahara de los Atunes. Credit: Nick Barter

Academics at the University of St Andrews hope to increase understanding of the importance of sustainable development, by launching a groundbreaking course on the subject.

The new course in sustainable development will provide an inside view on the enormous environmental and developmental challenges that humanity faces in the 21st century.

The postgraduate programme developed by world-class researchers will be run by lecturers and visiting speakers who have practical experience of advising government and business on aspects of sustainable development as well as being leaders in their academic fields.

Coupled with the leading role the University plays in implementing sustainable development initiatives in its own estate, students will get the benefit of access to current practice as well as theory.

Director of the programme, Professor Jan Bebbington is a leading authority at the St Andrews Sustainable Institute.  In addition to her academic research at St Andrews she also holds a policy role as the Vice-Chair (Scotland) of the Sustainable Development Commission.  In this position as the Government’s formal advisor for sustainable development she tries to ensure that the Government can play its part in creating a sustainable world.

She said, “The University of St Andrews is leading the way by offering a masters course in Sustainable Development.

“We are living in a time of tremendous opportunity, as people are working together across the globe to address the serious challenges facing humankind. We must learn to live within environmental limits and embrace sustainability as the key concept that will allow us to develop in the 21st century and beyond.

“Our postgraduate programmes in Sustainable Development  will enable students to benefit from enhancing their understanding of sustainable development and also increase their abilities to tackle these issues.”

The new course is authored by leading experts at St Andrews and supported by some of the best minds from disciplines across the University. This interdisciplinary teaching provides multiple perspectives, enabling student to take a holistic approach towards the subject.

“Sustainable development problems don’t fit into neat boxes,” explained Professor Bebbington.  “We will develop the students’ ability to understand the complex nature of these problems and how to create strategies that will allow them to overcome such issues, both now and in the future.”

Field trips will help to bring the subject alive as students will have the change to venture out of the classroom to explore practical applications of sustainable development in real world contexts.

Possible career paths are numerous as sustainable development issues begin to impact every area and role within society, specifically roles could include working in industry as a sustainability researcher or advisor or helping others directly through development or aid work.

An undergraduate degree in Sustainable Development, the first of its kind in the UK, was introduced by the University in 2004, with the first cohort of students graduating in the summer of 2008.

The University of St Andrews places sustainable development at the heart of its operations along four integrated fronts: governance, teaching, research and sustainable Estates Management.

The initiatives undertaken by the University across the board (and in partnership with the Student’s Association) resulted in St Andrews University being awarded the first ever award for Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development in the Times Higher Awards 2006.

The MSc in Sustainable Development will be available from September 2009.



Professor Jan Bebbington is available for interview on Telephone: 01334 4870295 or Email: [email protected]

Nick Barter is available for interview on Telephone: 01334 461963 or Mobile: 07793208375 or Email: [email protected]

Further information on the postgraduate programmes in sustainable development can be found at

St Andrews University retained its First Class University in People and Planet’s Green University League (2008), and is now the top University in Scotland.  This award recognises the University’s achievements in putting sustainability in practice across the board, including such diverse criteria as percentages recycled and Fairtrade University status.

The University of St Andrews is working with a range of key stakeholders to promote Sustainable Development across the Higher Education sector. As a member of the Environmental Association for University and Colleges (EAUC) the University shares learning across the Higher Education and Further Education sector. The University is part of the newly formed Campus Sustainability Programme.



Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 467227, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email: [email protected]
Ref:  SD 120509
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