Sustainable Development BA (Hons)

Course 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. 

Please see our FAQ sheet for further information on this course.

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: 

Semester 1

  • Understanding sustainable development
  • Introduction to land reform and community land ownership

Semester 2

  • 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: 

Semester 1

  • Approaches to economic development
  • Empowering communities

Semester 2

  • 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*: 

Semester 1

  • Globalisation and sustainable development
  • Advanced social research methods
  • Climate change

Semester 2

  • Sustainable tourism and the environment
  • 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*: 

Semester 1

  • Social enterprise and the social economy
  • Geo-political development issues

Semester 2

  • 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?

  • 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
  • North, West and Hebrides
  • This fully online course can be studied from anywhere in the world
  • Students based near to one of the listed campuses should apply to, and be enrolled and supported by, their local campus
  • All other students should apply to, and will be enrolled and supported by, UHI North, West and Hebrides

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.
  2023-24 2024-25
Full-time (120 credit modules) per year £1,820 £1,820
Part-time (structured) (3 x 20 credit modules) per year £915 £915
Part-time (unstructured per module) (per 20 credit module) £305 £305

Rest of the UK students

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

  2023-24 2024-25
Full-time online per year (120 credit modules) £6,120 £6,120
Part-time online (per 20 credit module) £1,020 £1,020

International students

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

This includes EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled status in the UK and EEA and Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

  2023-24 2024-25
Full-time online per year (120 credit modules) £6,540 £6,960
Part-time online (per 20 credit module) £1,090 £1,160

A no fee increase guarantee is available for self-funding full-time and structured part-time rest of the UK and international undergraduate students for continuous study for the same award, up to the permitted standard time limit for the relevant award.


UHI has a number of scholarships, bursaries, awards, and discretionary fund opportunities available to new and current students. Please use the A-Z of funds or use the filter to see which ones may be relevant to you. All students are welcome to apply.

Further information on funding your studies is also available, please see the attached link or contact the relevant UHI partner.

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 

If you are considering studying at UHI, I would say don’t hesitate! The course is interesting and well-structured, the support from lecturers is excellent and there are many varied opportunities to work with other students while studying online. The best part about being in the Highlands is that it is a fantastic place to live – either in the city or rurally. It really does have the best of both worlds!

Louise studied the BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development at UHI North, West and Hebrides.

Sustainable Development was obvious choice, I loved anything to do with sustainability and I wanted to eventually help create a brighter future through the power of sustainable development. I chose UHI because it was local, I knew the faces who were supporting me at the learning centre from growing up and working there, making it an easy transition.

I work as a Junior Environmental Consultant for a company based within UHI North, West and Hebrides. This was all thanks to the BA Sustainable Development course which had advertised the position and I was enjoying the course so much that I decided to apply! The job is now improving my academic work as I have learnt skills in GIS (Mapping software) and in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) which are modules within this course. Both the job and the course go hand in hand and I am excited about my learning as a result. If you are considering studying with UHI I would highly recommend it! It has transformed my life, opened my eyes to real world issues that needs to be addressed and that we are the only ones who can do that!

Kayley is studying the BA (Hons) Sustainable Development at UHI North, West and Hebrides. 

Apply for Sustainable Development BA (Hons)

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2024 or Jan/Feb 2025

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.