MSc in Science for Sustainable Development, 120 credits

Four happy students

MSc Science for Sustainable Development is a two-year, full-time study programme that provides a strong basis for a career related to sustainable development and environmental change.

Science for Sustainable Development, master's programme

Autumn 2019, Full-time, Linköping

Science for Sustainable Development, master's programme - Second admission round (open only for Swedish/EU students)

Autumn 2020, Full-time, Linköping

Science for Sustainable Development, master's programme - First and main admission round

Autumn 2020, Full-time, Linköping

The programme focuses on critical analysis of environmental challenges and applying science to solve real‑world problems. It consists of core and specialisation courses followed by thesis work. Upon completion of the programme, students acquire a Master’s degree in Science with a major in Environmental Science. 

Core courses

In the core courses, students gain knowledge of theories, approaches, techniques, and methods from various scientific disciplines (such as critical analysis of sustainability perspectives, commodity chain analysis, indicators, resource management, and GIS). They also learn to develop general analytical skills that will enable them to interpret, design, communicate, and implement sustainability and environmental issues. They develop problem-solving abilities and adaptability skills, which will be indispensable to professional success.                

"The courses cover a broad range of topics -  – from climate change and biodiversity loss to feminism and colonisation. Also, the students are from all over the world -  – it’s not only fun to be exposed to such a huge diversity of cultures, but in the class, it actually feels like a global cooperation in tackling these issues!" Karolina Gurjazkaite, Student


In the third term, students begin to specialise. Elective courses are offered that train their research skills and provide the opportunity for internships at businesses, organisations or research institutes in Sweden or abroad.

The students on our programme have the opportunity to design their own profile. To support this process, students are offered a series of workshops as mentoring sessions with key staff members throughout their education. These workshops guide the students’ specialisation pathways.

Unique learning portfolio

A unique aspect of the programme is the learning portfolio exercises that each student prepares to suit their particular academic needs and interests (under faculty guidance). The learning portfolio consists of several steps during the programme, ranging from reflection on students’ competence and skills, individual goal setting, and progression in their skills in academic writing. The students gain a more accurate focus on their specific skills, and the portfolio promotes both critical thinking and greater self-knowledge, both of which will be important for the students’ professional life.

MSc Thesis

In the final term, the students work individually on a project under the guidance of staff. The master’s thesis can either have a research focus or be undertaken in collaboration with external organizations, businesses, etc. Previous theses have addressed a wide range of environmental topics, demonstrating students’ innovation and creativity, and highlighting socially important issues.

Top quality and satisfaction

The Science in Sustainable Development programme is the only one in its category to be awarded the highest quality ranking in Sweden by the Swedish Higher Education Authority. In 2015, our students ranked their satisfaction with our programme at 4.6 of a possible 5.0, which placed us fourth of all programmes at Linköping University. The university is located on a green campus only a short bike ride to the city centre, and close to forests and parks.

Cutting-edge with a holistic perspective

Our multidisciplinary perspective is firmly anchored in our research environment, with teachers from academic backgrounds that range from the humanities to social and natural sciences. The programme will give you a holistic perspective, with opportunities to refine your knowledge of complex issues of sustainability.

Syllabus and course details
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The programme runs over two years and encompasses 120 credits, including a thesis.

Semester 1

The focus of this semester is on environmental challenges and how sustainability science can address them. Students undertake case-work on sustainability work in theory and practice and assessing and analysing environmental issues, role-play exercises of international climate negotiations and practical skill training (GIS, modelling, environmental monitoring, etc).

Critical perspectives on sustainable development (7.5 credits)

The course presents an analytical and critical foundation from which one can approach sustainable development. Drawing on examples from past and present developments, the course exemplifies how any chosen event or situation is dependent on the interplay between natural and social processes. Case work in the course focuses on analysing sustainability issues in a low-income rural context and helps students test their theoretical understanding.

Environmental and resource use challenges (7.5 credits)

The course focuses on current and emerging global challenges such as food, water and energy security and how these are linked to changes in resource use and consumption patterns. A sustainable development perspective brings forth the complexity inherent in the challenges that encompass multiple perspectives, goals and priorities.

Climate science and policy (15 credits)

The course is organised around two interlinked themes: climate change and biogeochemical processes and climate change policy and governance. Key course components address soil carbon storage, data analysis and climate change modelling as well as the political interpretation of and response to climate change at international and transnational levels.

Semester 2

This semester focuses on common theories and analytical approaches to environmental issues as well as applications for sustainable resource management.

Analytical frameworks in sustainability studies (15 credits) 

The course is based on contemporary ideas of the roles of science, technology, politics and economics in the production of knowledge and practices for sustainable development. Students analyse how different scientific methods are designed, developed, presented and implemented in different kinds of research and practice traditions.

Sustainable resource management
 (15 credits)

Sustainability aspects of resource management in the areas of food, land, energy and water security are presented and critiqued. Hands-on decision-making tools and role-play exercises highlight the trade-offs and complexity of various management decisions of real-world situations.

Semester 3

This semester starts with focus on the design of environmental studies to lay the foundation for the students’ theses as well as for their future professional work. The remaining time is devoted to specialisation courses, where we offer a range of options to deepen the students’ knowledge and skills in, for example, climate change visualisation, urban sustainability and water management. We also have unique courses where students work closely with senior teaching staff to train specific research skills. 

Students can also perform an internship either in Sweden or abroad where they carry out a specific task which links to the activities of the chosen organisation and the students’ future professional interests. Besides these courses there are also possibilities for studies at other universities in Sweden or abroad.

Designing environmental studies in sustainable development 
(7.5 credits)

This course covers research design with a specific focus on the planning process of a Master’s thesis in Environmental Science. It includes methods for sampling and collection of data, analysis and presentation of results. Students exhibit their proposals in a public space through a poster event or oral presentation to elicit discussions with other students and teaching staff.

Specialisation courses (covering 22.5 credits):

  • Visualizing Climate Change, 7,5 credits
  • Sustainability in the urban realm: city/neighbourhood/home, 7,5 credits
  • Research skills in environmental science I, 7,5 credits
  • Research skills in environmental science II, 7,5 credits
  • Internship in Environmental Science, 7,5 credits

Semester 4

In the final semester students write their Master’s thesis. They select their thesis topic, research methods and forms of analysis in consultation with a thesis supervisor and the MSc programme coordinator.

Master's thesis 30 credits

Further information

A detailed syllabus, curriculum, and information on the courses you may take can be found in our study information database via the link below. Entry requirements and tuition fees can be found by selecting the show more function at the top of the page. 

Career opportunities
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A career in sustainable development will probably bridge academic disciplines and require expertise in many areas. Few universities offer such a broad perspective across disciplines in environmental science as LiU does.

The programme aims to prepare students to work with issues relating to sustainable development and environmental issues in international and national agencies, universities, municipalities, non-governmental organisations and international corporations. The programme also prepares those students who want to pursue doctoral studies (PhD) in related fields.

Alumni insights
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Zhong Li – China – Start-Up Creator

International alumni for Science for Sustainable Development master's programme.

''My study experience at LiU has dramatically influenced my values, my career and my life. All the jobs and projects I have been doing since then are somehow related to environment and sustainability issues.


I think it is very challenging especially in China, a country currently facing serious environmental problems. It is huge self-satisfaction when you see that you have influenced some people and made a little positive change.''



Learning environment
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Our programme contains the following characteristics:

  • Unique environment: We are one of few universities to offer such broad cross-disciplinary perspectives on Environmental Science ranging from humanities to social- and natural sciences. Courses are also designed in close dialogue with potential employers as well as students to ensure that the contents address both current environmental problems and also future challenges.
  • Strong research links: The connection between the programme and research is strong, as all teachers also engage in environmental research. This ensures up-to-date theoretical and methodological knowledge and the latest research results.
  • High-quality teaching: The teachers continuously work on improving the quality of their courses with close feedback and work with student representatives in a Programme Council.
  • High teacher-student ratio: This high ration ensures rapid and personal feedback from teachers, close interaction between teachers and students in small-groups, student-active learning.
  • Strong professional links: Through casework and activities that foster meetings and links to individuals in close-lying environmental authorities and research institutes, students can concretely face and relate to real-world problems and societally relevant issues.
  • Problem-based activities: Students work a lot with a problem-based approach and acquire a broad set of competencies. They can also specialise towards social sciences, natural sciences or humanities. A vast majority of our students have an environment-relevant job within a year of graduation or continue within academia.
  • Student-centred/active learning: Educational student-learning activities include exercises in the Norrköping Decision Arena that use visualisation as a strong tool for interaction and decision-making role-play where students represent organisations with different perspectives and interests in actual issues, various types of communication techniques.

Student projects
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News about the programme
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The Master’s degree Science for Sustainable Development provides candidates with the opportunity to broaden their academic and research experience through research collaborations at Linköping University.

The Department of Thematic Studies - Environmental Change is also known as conducts research, doctoral studies and undergraduate education on current environmental challenges and the changing nature of the environmental condition. Research and education focuses on the impact that society and the individual have on nature.

Tema M builds on the strong tradition of interdisciplinary environmental studies that have permeated the division of Water and Environmental Studies (Tema V) since 1980 and the Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research (CSPR) since 2004. Tema M further develop and profile these studies in relation to contemporary environmental science and environmental policy development. Current research is conducted within and between these interdisciplinary long-term focus areas.

Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research (CSPR) has rapidly established itself as a prominent reference point for studies related to climate science and policy research. The research is interdisciplinary and puts problems related to climate change in context with other measures for sustainable development, such as limiting environmental impact and responsible management of natural resources.

Application & admission
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