Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Course structure

The ECM programme is a 12 months taught masters which runs from October each year. The teaching component of the course is spread across three 8-week terms (starting October, January and April). The teaching comprises seven core modules, electives courses, fieldtrips and hands-on workshops which provide specialist training. The assessment process is by termly essays, three examination papers in the 3rd term linked to the core modules and a summer dissertation project.

Course structure

Course Structure

October to January

Group Projects | Essay: Understanding environmental change

January to April

Essay | Group Projects: Responding to environmental change

April to October

Exams | Disseration: Methods and techniques for environmental management

Reading Groups

  • Environmental Law
  • Adaptation policy
  • Marine fisheries
  • Ecological seminars

Field Courses

  • Climate change and land use
  • Marine science and policy
  • Alternative energy
  • EU environment policy
  • National Parks and cultural landscapes

Core Modules

  • The earth system
  • Ecosystems
  • Economics of the environment
  • Climate mitigation and energy
  • Human systems and environmental change
  • Responding to environmental change
  • Governing the Anthropocene

Specialist Training

  • Research methods
  • Effective communication
  • Cost-benefit, risk and life-cycle analysis
  • Environmental modelling and GIS
  • Environmental monitoring and data analysis

Elective Seminars

  • Climate models
  • Energy policy
  • Ecosystem valuation
  • Indigenous people and the environment
  • Sustainable behaviour change
  • GIS
  • Species modelling

Course aims

The programme has three overarching aims:

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?

Examine 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.

Core Modules

Overture: Welcome to the Anthropocene

Global change and the biosphere
The Earth system
Economics of the environment
Human systems and environmental change
Energy systems and mitigating climate change
Sustainable responses to environmental change
Governing the anthropocene

Specialist Training, Methods and Skills

Research methods in the social and natural science
Effective communication
Cost-benefit, risk & life cycle analyses
Environmental monitoring and data analysis
Environmental modelling & GIS
Human dimensions and valuation of ecosystems & biodiversity
Other professional transferable skills

Field Trips & Site Visits

Renewable energy technologies
EU Parliament & Ministries
Natural resource management centres
Coastal & marine environmental change sites
Conservation in protected & industrial areas
Climate & local ecosystem interactions


15,000 words, 1-to-1 supervision, 3+month exercise, often undertaken in conjunction with businesses, environmental organisations, and governments

Elective Seminars (24+)

ASEAN Environments
Behavioural Economics and Field Experiments
Climate Change: Solutions and Society
Environmental Accountability
Corporate Social & Environmental Accountability
Ecosystem Services for Development
Energy and the Environment
Environment and Development Challenges: Learning from the African drylands
Environmental Governance and Development
Environmental Participation: Involving lay publics in environmental science and policy
Flood Risk Management: Water Security in theory and practice
Gender, Geography and the Environments
Indigenous Peoples and Environments
International Environmental Law
Strategic Environmental Management
Urban Water and Wastewater
Advanced environmental economics: theories of growth, distribution and welfare
Analytical Skills in GIS
Cities, Mobility and Climate Change
Climate Change, Communication and the Media
Development, Environment and Health
The Geopolitics of Local Environmental Governance: What, Where and Who is the ‘Neighbourhood'?
Global Environmental Change and Food Systems
Governance, Land Use and Development
Modelling Hydrological and Water Resource Systems
Museums in the modern age: dead animals to decision-upport data
Rewilding and Its Place in Future Conservation Strategies
Supply Chain Governance
The Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity
Techniques for monitoring and modelling ecological responses of terrestrial ecosystems to global change
Transformation to Sustainability (T2S): Sharing Economy as the Lens

Teaching methods and contact hours

The teaching is concentrated in the first two terms. The course is taught through a combination of lectures for core modules, small group teaching for elective courses (maximum class size 10), practical sessions, fieldtrips and study days. In each week, there are approximately 12-14 hours of formal contact time. For core modules, there are normally 8-10 hours of lectures per week, delivered through two-hour lecture sessions. Electives are normally delivered in 4-6 sessions across the term, each lasting 90 minutes to 2 hours. Individual extended reading is an important part of the course programme and up to 3 hours of reading may be set in preparation for each two-hour class. In weeks with fieldtrips or study days, the number of contact hours will be greater.