Sustainable Development BSc (Hons)

UCAS code D453
Information line 01463 279190

What is special about this course?

This BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development is the ideal course for you if you are interested in helping communities to develop  in a way that is sustainable and highlights the importance of the relationship between the economic, social, political and environmental spheres.

The emphasis globally on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and more locally on community empowerment, resilience and community land ownership mean that graduates of this course are ideally situated to understand and respond to many of the key challenges in today's world.

The course takes an inter-disciplinary and forward-thinking approach, which combines the theoretical and the practical. It has a great success rate for graduate employment.  Graduates have gone on to careers in community economic development and managing rural development initiatives as well as working with key agencies.

You will have the opportunity to engage online with other students from around the world, and if you wish, to meet your fellow students, staff and practitioners face-to-face at a residential study weekend, which provide real added value to your overall study experience.

Special features

  • This is an entirely online internationally validated course that you can study from anywhere in the world.
  • The course offers the option of a dedicated rural pathway, leading to a BSc Sustainable Rural Development, which focuses particularly on working with rural communities
  • High employability of graduates
  • An optional residential weekend each year, usually in the Highlands and Islands, where you will have to opportunity to meet practitioners and other students
  • You can study full time or part time to suit your personal circumstances
  • Individual modules and groups of modules have been developed specifically for continuing professional development (CPD)

(You may also be interested in our BSc (Hons) Geography course)

Entry requirements

  • 3 Scottish highers at grade C or above OR
  • 2 A levels at grade C or above
  • Applicants with other qualifications or experience will be considered on an individual basis.

Please note:

  • This course is not open to international students wishing to come to the UK to study who require a Tier 4 visa.

Access routes

Students eligible to undertake Scottish Wider Access Programmes (SWAP) will be able to apply for entry to BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development with a grade profile of CCC in one of the below courses:

  • Access to: Biological Science (West Lothian College)
  • Access to: Health and Life Sciences (Fife College)
  • Access to: Life Sciences (Dundee & Angus College)
  • Access to: Life Sciences (Edinburgh College)
  • Access to: Medical and Life Sciences (North East College)
  • Access to: Physical Sciences (Dundee & Angus College)
  • Access to: Physical Sciences (Edinburgh College)

Year 1 - CertHE

Core modules may include:

  • Introduction to sustainable development
  • Collecting and analysing data
  • Introduction to global environmental issues
  • Economics and the state

Optional modules:

  • Climate, land and people
  • Introduction to social policy
  • The environment of mountain regions

Year 2 - DipHE

Core modules may include :

  • Economic development policy and theory
  • Empowering communities
  • Community-based economic development

Optional modules:

  • Environmental conservation
  • Residential field study
  • Urban-rural divide
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Community energy 
  • Introduction to GIS

Year 3 - BSc

Core modules may include :

  • Globalisation and sustainable development
  • Sustainable tourism and the environment (core for sustainable development)
  • Working with communities (core for rural pathway)
  • Literature review
  • Research skills and project

Optional modules:

  • Working with communities (optional for sustainable development)
  • Sustainable tourism and the environment (optional for rural pathway)
  • Sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry in the EU
  • Climate change

Year 4 - BSc (Hons)

Core modules may include :

  • Social enterprise and small business management (core for rural pathway, otherwise optional)
  • The Consumerist Society (core for sustainable development)
  • Planning beyond growth for community projects (core for rural pathway)

Optional modules:

  • Engaging with external agencies
  • Geo-political development issues
  • Social enterprise and small business management
  • Sustainable energy and waste minimisation
  • Planning for community projects
  • Urban and regional planning
  • Conservation of Biodiversity

You must also complete a dissertation.

How will I study my course?

  • You will study through supported online learning using the university's virtual learning environment (VLE)
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • You will have support from your tutors via email, Skype and online discussions
  •  You can study this fully online programme from anywhere in the world. You will be enrolled and supported by staff at Lews Castle College and taught by expert tutors from across the university
  • This course is not open to international students wishing to come to the UK to study who require a Tier 4 visa

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 4 years @ 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 8 years @ 20 hours per week
  • Part-time (unstructured): variable

Number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in lectures and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Lews Castle College UHI - You can study this fully online programme from anywhere in the world. You will be enrolled and supported by staff at Lews Castle College.

Start date

  • September
  • January


For students normally domiciled in Scotland or the European Union/EEA (outside of the UK) and with a term time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £1,820 £1,820
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £645 £645
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £215 £215

Rest of the UK and EU/EEA students without a term-time address in Scotland

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland) or the EU/EEA without a term-time address in Scotland, i.e. studying from their home country, the following fees apply: 

  2018-19 2019-20
Full-time online per year (120 credit modules) £6,120 £6,120
Part-time online (per 20 credit module)*** £1,020 £1,020

This fee also applies to Scottish students who do not have a term-time address in Scotland.

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK or European Union studying online from their home country, the following fees apply:

  2018-19 2019-20
Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £6,710 £7,040
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year*** £3,360 £3,510
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module)*** £1,120 £1,170

***This course is not available to international students requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Further information on international course fees.


External scholarships and financial support may be available. Contact your enrolling college for more information.

What can I do on completion of my course?

Once you have successfully completed your BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development course, you might like to consider careers in:

  • Government departments and agencies such as Scottish Natural Heritage, National Trust, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • European and Economic Development departments of local authorities
  • Community enterprises and community energy groups
  • Community land initiatives
  • Natural and rural heritage organisations
  • Voluntary sector development posts

Can I progress into further study?

You can progress from the BSc (Hons) Sustainable Rural Development to:

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

I really enjoyed my studies and found the degree programme very interesting due to the variety of topics covered. The best part was completing my dissertation on community energy projects in Scotland. During my graduation ceremony at Lews Castle College UHI I was head-hunted by a multi-national firm and have since been offered a job as an Energy and Environmental Manager. I cannot speak highly enough of the sustainable development team and all of the university staff who have helped me over the years; none of this would have been possible without the dedication and professionalism provided.’

Chris Miller, 2017 BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development graduate, who completed his studies online and part-time while serving abroad with the armed forces in Afghanistan and Cyprus

I chose to study online so that I could have the freedom to do it at my own pace whilst continuing to work full time. This course appealed to me because of the module content, which is a huge step ahead of the usual generic modules offered by many other universities. It has really prepared me in all aspects of sustainable development (economic/social/environmental) and each module was easily adaptable to my line of work. The team also really helped me to gain knowledge in so many areas, also including experience in research/statistics and literature reviews. The teaching staff are of absolute high quality, and have the ability to keep you focused and enthusiastic throughout every module. As an online student, I never felt alone thanks to the teaching staff’s constant availability and frequent collaborative discussions with other students. I would definitely recommend the university to anybody looking for top quality online study.

Kathy Zissimopoulos, BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development graduate, Italy, works full-time for a United Nations development agency

This is perfect for anyone hoping to work in development in the Highlands and Islands with varied modules giving a good grounding to move forward in the industry. The course results in a very good degree qualification, which I believe, is not offered by any other university in Scotland. Community Empowerment and Community Land Ownership are a hot topic these days in Scotland and so I would say that there will be plenty employment opportunities available to graduates.

Currently, I enjoy working at North Harris Trust as a Project Development Officer and would like to continue to work in, and for, my community. I have learned a lot in the last 5 years and look forward to taking on more roles and responsibilities in the future.

Karen MacRae, Graduate, Isle of Harris

Apply for Sustainable Development BSc (Hons)

I want to start in Jan/Feb 2020 or Aug/Sep 2020 or Jan/Feb 2021

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.