MSc/MPhil specialising in Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Application deadline: 30 September of the year preceding intended year of study


  • The Nature of the Discipline
  • Course content
  • Who Should Attend?
  • Application Requirements and Information
  • Core Modules
  • Elective Modules
  • Funding
  • Additional Information

The Nature of the Discipline

Global climate change presents daunting and exciting challenges, especially for the developing world, where traditional routes to development are at odds with the need for a low carbon economy. At the same time, building resilience to climate change and variability is fundamental to sustainable development and prosperity. A transdisciplinary approach that integrates the biophysical, technological, socio-economic sciences and the humanities is required to successfully engage with the challenges of climate change. South Africa is well positioned to engage with these issues because of its status as a developing country with good technology and infrastructure, juxtaposed with less developed communities, and an economy in transition. This provides a microcosm of the developing world's social, environmental, and economic development issues.

This full time one-year taught Master's course provides interdisciplinary training in climate change and sustainable development, with a focus on the issues of relevance to African development. It is convened by UCT's African Climate and Development Initiative, a UCT Signature Theme comprising academics and research units from across the University with a shared interest in interdisciplinary research and solutions to the climate change problem.

The course is administered by the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science, to whom applications should be addressed.

Course Content

  • Two compulsory core modules:
  • Introduction to Climate Change and Sustainable Development - providing broad, integrated knowledge on key issues in the climate change and sustainable development field. The module covers topics such as sustainable development; the climate system, anthropogenic forcing and climate system response; African climate variability and change; international climate change legal frameworks; the economics of climate change and climate change financing; and climate-compatible development.
  • Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation - providing in-depth coverage of adaption and mitigation from both theoretical and applied points of view.
  • Two elective modules, chosen from a range of topics such international climate law, sustainable urban systems, climate variability & prediction, and climate change & biodiversity, offering the opportunity to explore new areas or to look at climate and development through existing disciplinary backgrounds.
  • A 90-credit dissertation to be submitted by the end of January, with possible extension to June.

Course timing

The course begins in late January , and finishes with a dissertation hand-in deadline of end January the following year

For more information on the modules, please see sections: Core Modules, Elective Modules, Additional Information

Who Should Attend?

Honours or four-year Bachelor graduates from across the spectrum of disciplines, who want to gain a broad understanding of the issues involved in climate change and sustainable development from an African and developing world perspective, and those wanting a comprehensive introduction to climate change issues before embarking on a PhD. The course will equip its graduates for employment in government, local authorities, businesses with a sustainability agenda, consultancies, NGOs and international development organisations. It is aimed at both recent graduates and those with several years' experience who wish to engage with these pressing issues within the context of their vocations.

Application Requirements and Information

The closing date for applications is: 31st August of the year preceding intended year of study

Acceptance to a postgraduate degree in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science Department is highly competitive. To be eligible to apply for the Masters in Climate Change and Development, a candidate must have the equivalent to a UCT Honours degree. This is a minimum of a four year degree, with a significant research component in the fourth year. If you are uncertain as to your eligibility, you would be advised to approach the South African Qualifications Association (SAQA) to review your transcripts. A SAQA score of 7 would be considered equivalent to Honours, in which case you would be eligible to apply to our Masters programmes. Please note that eligibility to apply does not constitute acceptance to the programme however.

The application process can be found here

International students

International students applying to do the MSc in Climate Change and Sustainable Development should look carefully at section 5 of the Fees handbook. International students from the South African Development Community region (SADC) pay the South African fee, while others are required to pay an annual additional International Term Fee.
International students needing more information should contact the:

International Academic Programmes Office (IAPO),
Tel: +27 21 650 2822 / 3740
Fax: +27 21 650 5667
IAPO Website.


Self-catering accommodation suitable for senior students is available in some University residences. Fees for University residences, houses and flats are determined in December every year. Approximately 60% of the total fee must be paid to the University in the first week of February each year. The balance must be paid by 30 June of that year. Applicants wishing to be accommodated in student housing should note that the application for student housing is included in the general application form sent to prospective students by the Admissions Office or downloaded from the website. Further information is contained in the Fees handbook, which is produced annually in December or January.


If you have additional queries about the application process, please contact the Postgraduate Administrator:
EGS Secretary (

If you have additional queries about the course itself, please contact the course convenor:
Dr Marieke Norton (