A degree at the forefront of environmental policy and practice
The world is changing at such a rapid pace that our understanding of environmental issues is evolving almost constantly. Against the backdrop of a global pandemic and political conflicts, how can pressing environmental problems be taken seriously? And with such a fast-moving global landscape, how can aspiring environment and sustainability practitioners ensure they are accessing the most up-to-date learning?
Dr Izabela Delabre explains how the University of London’s exciting postgraduate programmes offer you the chance not only to engage with the very latest policy, but also to help influence it.
Through studying real world practices, we can critically analyse them while also trying to think about better ways forward and how we can make recommendations to influence policy and practice.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, nations around the world are facing ever-increasing pressure to address contemporary environmental problems – from climate change to biodiversity loss and unsustainable energy use. But with a challenging political and economic landscape, the actions governments are willing to take continue to evolve.
Even since the agreements reached at COP26 in Glasgow last year there have been huge unforeseen changes. The conflict in Ukraine has led to global spikes in energy prices and many countries are now planning to develop their own fossil fuel production, rather than focussing investment into renewable energy, as many activists are calling for.
The University of London, in partnership with member institution Birkbeck, University of London, offers innovative postgraduate programmes in Global Environment and Sustainability. The programmes – from postgraduate certificate to a full master’s – aim to equip students with the necessary skills to deal with the complex environmental challenges facing society and to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Izabela Delabre, Lecturer in the Department of Geography at Birkbeck, is the Programme Director. She explained how this programme can enable students to implement their learning immediately so that they can start influencing environmental policy and practice at local, national or even international level.
Dr Delabre said: “We’re very aware of wanting to make real world change in environmental sustainability that is socially equitable. A really important element of our programme is using case studies and real world examples of industry practices and policies, and we also engage with key organisations working in this area. Through studying real world practices, we can critically analyse them while also trying to think about better ways forward and how we can make recommendations to influence policy and practice.
“Many of our students are practitioners in this space already. So the tasks we give them can help them implement their learning immediately in their careers and in that way we’re influencing policy and practice in real time.”
Working towards ‘sustainability’ requires plural perspectives so we’re really pleased to see such a wide spread of geographies represented in our programmes.
With such rapid changes happening globally, it is vital for programmes to remain up-to-date, as Dr Delabre explained.
“We review the programme regularly to make sure that all the most recent scientific data and policy documents are included. But we also encourage students to go out there and analyse developments that are happening in the sector in real time. So tasks might include students evaluating policy documents on sustainability. One of the biggest issues in the field of sustainability is around how it’s communicated so we might ask students to consider how the media – and different kinds of media – reports sustainability issues, and what impact this has on environmental action.”
Sustainability is so central to organisations we’re increasingly seeing it represented at board level, with roles like Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Environmental Manager.
The programmes, which are fully online, are available to study almost anywhere in the world. Dr Delabre believes the diversity of students’ backgrounds adds an additional element of learning.
“We’re welcoming students from many different countries and contexts,” she said. “Everyone brings a different perspective on the subject. Working towards ‘sustainability’ requires plural perspectives so we’re really pleased to see such a wide spread of geographies represented in our programmes.”
You have the option to study individual modules on a pay-as-you-go basis and you can choose to complete a postgraduate certificate or diploma or build up your qualifications to the full MSc. With such intense focus on sustainable business practices and pressure from increasingly well-informed consumers, there are exciting career opportunities open to graduates of the programmes.
Dr Delabre explained how organisations are taking sustainability seriously: “I think lots of people still think that sustainability is a secondary concern to organisations but it’s so central and we’re increasingly seeing sustainability represented at board level, with roles like Chief Sustainability Officer and Senior Environmental Manager. It should be at the heart of decision-making at all levels, not just an add-on or a tick box exercise. So the range of roles available to graduates of our programmes is excellent.”
Find out how you can start engaging with and influencing the very latest policy and practice with the University of London’s MSc Global Environment and Sustainability.