MSc / MPhil in Environmental Change and Management

Course details

  • 12 months
  • Full time
  • Based in Oxford
  • Start date 01 October 2024

See the Graduate Admissions website to apply and for more information.


Our MSc / MPhil in Environmental Change and Management (ECM) seeks to create interdisciplinary leaders who are confident and practical decision-makers with an analytical approach to environmental issues.

The full time 12-month taught course provides a broad appreciation of the major processes of environmental change, and of the people and institutions involved in environmental management. 

The ECM comprises:

  • Eight core modules
  • Two electives
  • A 15,000 word dissertation

Our approach combines directed teaching, self-regulated learning, discussion, and formal assessment.


The course overarching aims are to:

  • Examine the nature, causes and impacts of major types of environmental change. How do these changes operate and interact on global, regional and local scales? How do they relate to critical social and ecological systems?
  • Explore the economic, legal, cultural, and ethical underpinnings of environmental responsibility and systemic solutions, including mitigation, adaptation, remediation, enhanced resource stewardship, and other sustainable responses to environmental change at different scales and within different organisational contexts
  • Empower environmental leaders to address the world’s most pressing environmental problems through an understanding of and training in the key analytical and practical skills, and in a broad appreciation of earth systems and societies in relation to environmental change.

Course structure

The objectives are assessed through three themes: 

  • Understanding environmental change
  • Responding to environmental change
  • Methods and techniques for environmental management

And delivered through eight modules: 

  • Welcome to the Anthropocene
  • The Earth system and its fundamental processes
  • Global change and the biosphere
  • Human systems and environmental change
  • Environmental economics and policy
  • Energy systems and climate mitigation
  • Sustainable responses to environmental change
  • Governing the Anthropocene.

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars, workshops and field courses which provide in-depth exploration of key issues. The elective modules offer a tutorial-style teaching and discussion environment within smaller groups, based on research themes that reflect the specific interests of core faculty, research staff, and visiting scholars. The aim is to foster knowledge, critical thinking, discussion and debate, and to identify and explore theory, methods and practice in a space that encourages collaboration and critical dialogue. 

You will have approximately ten hours of core module and elective teaching per week during term time, with additional supported learning on occasional field trips. You will also be expected to undertake self-directed learning to further your knowledge of the material introduced during class. 

During the first two terms, you will develop ideas for your dissertation and undertake the majority of the work in the final term and over the summer months. Your thesis project will be supported by a specialist supervisor. 

Fieldwork and external visits are an important part of the teaching programme and currently include coastal and marine environmental change sites, local woodlands, Lake District National Park, the Centre for Alternative Technology (renewable energy and sustainability technologies) and a visit to the European Parliament. Please note that all field trips are subject to change.


  • The core modules are assessed by written examination and a piece of submitted coursework.
  • Two electives, each assessed through a 4,000-word essay
  • A 15,000 word dissertation, often undertaken in conjunction with businesses, environmental organisations, and governments 

An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course. We offer a suite of training activities to enable you to execute high quality independent and original research, and introduce you to applied research methods used widely in academic and professional research.

Graduate destinations

ECM alumni pursue careers with a wide range of organisations. Examples include government departments (Japan's Ministry of the Environment, Ontario Ministry of Finance), non-governmental organisations (the Carbon Trust, World Wildlife Fund), business organisations (McKinsey and Company, Ericsson Enterprise) and international agencies (World Food Programme, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). Some students use the course as a starting point for pursuing PhD (DPhil) research.

The ECM alumni network has over 1000 alumni in 90 countries. The department's Alumni Office helps people to keep in touch and organises alumni events.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

The University of Oxford, School of Geography and the Environment, and Environmental Change Institute are committed to fostering an inclusive culture which promotes equality, values diversity and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected.

You can find out more about the University of Oxford’s stance and policies on equality, diversity and inclusion on the University’s website.

Oxford 1+1 MBA

The ECM can be combined with an MBA as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme.

The two-year 1+1 graduate programme combines the depth of a specialised, one-year master’s degree with the breadth of a top-ranking, one-year MBA.

How to apply

Applications should be made through the Graduate Admissions website