Sustainable Development BA (Hons)

UCAS code D448

What is special about this course?

The world is facing the prospect of a climate emergency, with decision-makers grappling with how to understand and respond to the pressures on our environment and society. Sustainable Development, from the local to the global, is essential if society is to tackle the challenges faced. The necessary changes will impact on every facet of society, culture and the economy; this is a critical moment to study sustainability. 

On this BA (Hons) Sustainable Development degree you will learn the facts about climate change, explore the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and consider potential and emerging solutions such as the Green New Deals, the concept of ‘degrowth’ and the transition to wellbeing economies, leaving you ideally placed to influence, or indeed become, one of the decision-makers. 

This degree also focuses on how communities can shape this more sustainable form of development, particularly rural communities. Most of our teaching team are located in the Western Isles, where 75% of people live on community-owned land, which sets the context for you to study community-based development, land reform, community empowerment and community energy projects, which can all contribute to a more sustainable future. 

To develop a critical understanding of the three pillars of sustainability (social, environmental, economic), you will study modules drawn from a range of social science disciplines, such as: geography; economics; politics; sociology; and environmental studies, as well as developing practical skills in research and working with communities. The course takes a critical approach to examining the historical context to development whilst looking firmly to the future, drawing examples of change in action from around the globe. 

You will benefit from collaborative discussions and activities with colleagues from a range of diverse backgrounds and experiences, facilitated by tutors with many years of experience in delivering online education. 

Special features

  • Delivered entirely online, by tutors with years of experience of teaching at a distance, and can be studied from anywhere in the world, full or part-time to suit your circumstances 
  • To ensure a high-quality student experience, numbers enrolled on the course are currently limited to a maximum of 25 students per year so you will receive a high level of support during your studies 
  • All assessment on core programme modules is in the form of coursework 
  • Recent graduates have careers in community economic development, managing rural development initiatives, working for UN agencies, and working on international renewable energy projects 
  • There is an optional residential weekend each year, usually taking place in the Highlands and Islands, which will give you the opportunity to meet practitioners, staff and other students in an informal setting 
  • You may choose to leave after 6/12 modules with a CertHE/DipHE, while individual modules and groups of modules are available to study as continuing professional development (CPD) awards

Entry requirements

  • 3 Scottish Highers at grades BBC or above OR
  • 2 A levels at grades BC or above
  • At least two of these must be from the list of relevant subjects
  • Applicants with other qualifications or experience will be considered on an individual basis
  • You must have regular and reliable access to the internet and a computer for any online degree at UHI in order to take advantage of our full range of online learning services, which include support from your tutors and fellow UHI students as well as access to UHI’s Virtual Learning Environment and vast online learning library. Click here for more information on the minimum requirements.

Advanced entry to year 2:

  • HNC Social Sciences (12 SCQF credits) with 3 additional SCQF credits at level 7 which is equivalent to 120 degree credit points, and at least grade C in the Graded Unit, will be considered for direct entry to year two

Year 1 - CertHE

You will study the following modules: 

  • Understanding sustainable development
  • Introduction to land reform and community land ownership
  • Exploring economics in a changing world
  • Climate, land and people

You will also choose two further option modules from other humanities subjects. 

Year 2 - DipHE

You will study the following modules: 

  • Approaches to economic development
  • Empowering communities
  • Community energy
  • Exploring the urban and rural: people, places and policies

You will also choose two further option modules from other humanities subjects. 

Year 3 - BA

You will study the following modules*: 

  • Globalisation and sustainable development
  • Advanced social research methods
  • Climate change
  • Working with communities
  • Community based economic development

You will also choose one further option module from other humanities subjects. 

*You may elect to choose one different module per academic year.

Year 4 - BA (Hons)

You will study the following modules*: 

  • Social enterprise and the social economy
  • Geo-political development issues
  • The consumerist society
  • Sustainable agriculture systems

You must also complete a sustainable development dissertation. 

*You may elect to choose one different module per academic year.

How will I study my course?

Additional information for course delivery in 2021-22

As your course was designed to be fully online and has run successfully for the last few years in this way, we can confirm that there will be no change to how the course will be delivered next year. You will study through supported online learning using the university's virtual learning environment. You will also have an online induction at the start of the course. For those who live near a campus, it is our intention that physical campuses will be open to all students for access to study facilities, support services and social activities, subject to Scottish Government guidance.
  • 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 learn through a combination of online video conference lectures and tutorials, and self-study via the university’s virtual learning environment (VLE), with support from your tutors. 
  • All online lectures and tutorials can be accessed in real-time or recordings.

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 4 years @ 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 8 years @ up to 26 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, tutorials and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Argyll College UHI
  • Lews Castle College UHI
  • West Highland College UHI

Students based near to one of the listed colleges may choose to apply to, and be enrolled and supported by, their local campus.
All other students should apply to, and will be enrolled and supported by, Lews Castle College UHI.

Start date

  • September
  • January


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £1,820
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £645
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £215

Rest of the UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland) or assessed as RUK for fee status, the following fees apply:

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

International students and EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status in the UK

For students who do not normally reside in the UK studying online from their home country, or assessed as international for fee status, the following fees apply:

Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £6,480
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £3,240
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £1,080

This course is not available to international students requiring Student Route visa sponsorship to study in the UK.

Further information on international course fees.


External scholarships and financial support may be available. Contact the relevant UHI partner college for more information.

Additional costs

If you wish to attend the residential weekend, or to join other field trips, contributions will be required towards the overall costs incurred. The cost will vary depending on the event, your location and the amount of other funding available towards the event (eg HISA contributions to the Residential weekend may reduce costs for individual students). Attendance at such face to face events is optional and not essential for completion of the course.  

What can I do on completion of my course?

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

  • Government departments and development agencies 
  • Economic development departments of local authorities 
  • Community enterprises and community energy groups 
  • Community land initiatives 
  • Natural and rural heritage organisations 
  • Voluntary sector development posts 
  • International non-governmental organisations 
  • Independent consultancy on sustainability 

Is there more information available online?

QR Code - scan to visit course page

You can use the above QR code to connect directly to the course details.

Apply for Sustainable Development BA (Hons)

I want to start in Jan/Feb 2022 or Aug/Sep 2022 or Jan/Feb 2023

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.