Global Sustainable Development BA

2024-25 entry
School of Geography and Planning

Take an interdisciplinary focus on global and international development, examining worldwide issues through the lens of social justice and environmental sustainability.

Key details

Explore this course:

    Course description

    A group of stduents on a field class

    Learn to see emerging global issues through the lens of social justice and environmental sustainability – and apply strategies to make real change happen.

    In global sustainable development, we show you how to become a globally competent citizen who can make a positive difference to the world around you.

    Your tutors are experts in international development and the social sciences who bring an interdisciplinary perspective to their teaching. Together, you’ll add to our understanding of the world’s most complex and challenging problems – from climate change to poverty, from inequalities to security.

    Our approach to learning and skills development means you'll be fully prepared for employment in the public, private or third sector.

    Why study this course?

    • Practice-oriented learning - hands-on and problem-based learning, through team projects, policy analysis, professional skills building and fieldwork experiences.
    • We cover field trip costs - to ensure everyone has the chance to carry out fieldwork, all costs for the core residential field classes are met by the department. This includes the costs of travel, accommodation and food during your residential stay.
    • Student life - get involved in GeogSoc and become part of one of the biggest societies at the University of Sheffield. Over 400 members enjoy socials, spending time in the Peak District, career and academic support, volunteering, sports and more.
    Dr Stephanie Butcher, Lecturer in Global Sustainable Development, introduces the Department of Geography's new interdisciplinary undergraduate degree.


    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder - including details of the optional modules available in your second and final year.

    In your first year, you'll learn the history and key debates of global development, and how challenges of environment, inequality and sustainability are addressed through local and global policy.

    You'll develop your research skills and learn about critical perspectives on global sustainable development in your second year. You'll also have the opportunity to tailor your degree to your interests by taking a range of relevant interdisciplinary modules spanning economics, geography, politics and sociology.

    In your final year, you'll learn more about global sustainable development on the ground and in practice. You'll develop your professional skills and also undertake independent research for a dissertation on a specialist topic of your choice, and further tailor your degree through a range of relevant optional modules.

    Title: Global Sustainable Development course structure
    UCAS code: L800
    Years: 2024, 2025
    First year

    In your first year, you'll learn the history and key debates of global development, and how challenges of environment, inequality and sustainability are addressed through local and global policy.

    Core modules:

    Sustainability in Practice

    This module provides you with an opportunity to build on and apply learning from other taught modules by undertaking a group-based project focussed on issues of global sustainable development. Working in small interdisciplinary teams, you will identify a topic of interest and learn how to focus on a specific issue related to sustainable development. You will learn how to engage with key stakeholders to develop a thorough understanding of the current situation, their aspirations for a more sustainable solution and how to develop a plan of action to achieve change. You will identify appropriate measures of success and change.  This module aims to: A1: Develop your knowledge and understanding of how to conduct group-based research on 'real world' sustainability topics; A2: Build your capacity to evaluate a contemporary practice with respect to specific sustainable development priorities and propose relevant responses; A3: Enable you to investigate stakeholder perspectives on sustainability issues and to understand diverse perspectives;  A4: Provide you with experience of both conducting a small-scale sustainability quality improvement study including using research methods, analysis, and reporting; A5: Build your capabilities to work as part of a team, sharing and planning responsibilities equitably, communicating effectively and working to deadlines.

    10 credits
    Climate, Environment and Sustainability

    This module provides you with a foundation to develop your understanding of both the contexts for and key issues around climate, environment and sustainability policy developments. You will be introduced to a range of global and societal challenges, from both physical science and social science perspectives. Examples in the Global North and Global South will include action on biodiversity loss, climate change adaptation and mitigation, water and land-use management and food. You will explore the drivers and existing conditions of environmental issues, their impacts and responses to these, and learn how to question assumptions about environmental processes.

    This module aims to support you in developing your understanding of interconnected global and societal challenges, at a range of scales and levels, including learning about key environmental and climate issues and trends, equip you with methodological and analytical tools, to both (a) understand historical and contemporary 'solutions' to challenges; and (b) creatively identify contextually appropriate responses, engage you in reflective- and practice-based learning, including chances to conduct research and  develop professional skills in exploring interconnected environmental, political, economic and societal aspects of sustainability, and actors involved therein and contribute to your self-reflexivity regarding your principles, assumptions, positionalities and aspirations relating to global sustainable development.

    20 credits
    Understanding Inequalities: Policy Responses From Local to Global

    Through this module you will explore the extent, causes, and consequences of social and economic inequalities and how public policy may help to prevent or reduce them. The module adopts a comparative approach focusing on examples in the Global North and the Global South, beginning with a discussion of key concepts and metrics that are used to discuss and measure inequality. We then follow a life-course perspective to trace out the institutions through which inequality is structured, reproduced, and experienced such as the family, the neighbourhood, the educational system, labour markets, and the criminal justice system, attending to the roles of race, class, and gender as axes of stratification in these domains. For each institution and social stratification axis we will be looking at public policy alternatives to tackle and reduce inequalities across them using examples from the Global North and the Global South. The module will also look at the role of international institutions at shaping public policy responses to tackle inequalities worldwide.

    This module aims to, provide you with an understanding of the various dimensions of inequality worldwide, enable you to critically assess the role of public policy in tackling social and economic inequalities in a comparative perspective and help you develop good presentation, report writing and critical analytical skills.

    20 credits
    Analysing Global Challenges

    This module introduces you to core theories and concepts in global politics and global political economy, and, in turn, their application to key issues relating to global development and sustainability. By examining the complex relationships between politics and economics, and contested explanations of them, it familiarizes you with key actors and institutions in the global system working to engender sustainable development, and the real-world battles and conflicts that occur in these arenas. By surveying both classical and critical theories, it demonstrates how different theoretical and conceptual frameworks deepen our understanding of these processes in various domains, including agriculture, energy transitions, and global climate governance. In the process, you will learn about patriarchy, imperialism, Eurocentrism and slavery as well as the class-based, race-based and gender-based nature of trade, production and finance and their ecological implications.

    The module aims to provide you with basic knowledge of the main theories and concepts used in the fields of Global Politics and Global Political Economy; enable you to apply these concepts and theories to analyse real-life Global Sustainable Development issues; equip you with presentation, writing and analytical skills.

    20 credits
    Global Development: History and key debates

    This module provides you with a core grounding in the key historical and contemporary debates encompassing both classical and alternative approaches to international/global development. During this module you will develop an understanding of key theories and ideas which have shaped the evolution of global development as a field of scholarship and practice. Through this understanding you will learn to critically debate different schools of development thinking and the evolving history of the field, from colonialism through to efforts to 'decolonise' the field. You will consider a range of policy approaches and how these have evolved in relation to changing global priorities and debates, including the shift from a discourse of 'international' to 'global' development and its implications.

    This module aims to:

    Introduce you to the concept of development and key debates over its definition and scope, build your understanding of the historical evolution of the idea of development and of associated spheres of policy and practice. Develop your capacities to critically engage with academic literature on development from a range of different perspectives and disciplines and foster your  abilities to draw links between development debates and the questions of sustainability and global political economy raised in other L1 core modules.

    20 credits
    Knowledges, Power and Interdisciplinarity

    Through this module, you will develop an understanding of the complexities and intersectionalities at play within global sustainable development as a field of study and practice, alongside a range of key transferable, academic and research skills. These skills underpin the ability to think and work in interdisciplinary ways, to question the power behind knowledge(s) and develop critical reasoning skills. Through lectures, workshops and small group tutorials, run by academic staff, you will develop skills in finding, presenting, analysing and critically evaluating complex information, key qualitative and quantitative research methods. 

    This module aims to:1.    Introduce you to a range of core skills and methods used in global sustainable development research and practice2.    Provide key training in finding, evaluating, analysing and presenting data and information 3.    Support you in putting foundational research methods skills into practice4.    Develop your skills in self-reflection and an awareness of positionality, ethics, power and social relations inherent to global sustainable development 5.    Develop your skills and understanding of the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to framing and tackling key global sustainable development issues

    30 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Learning and assessment


    You'll learn through a combination of lectures, seminars, practice-based and fieldwork activities.

    Practice-based and fieldwork activities

    This course contains a mixture of practice-based and fieldwork activities, which are designed to support engagement between theoretical and conceptual ideas, complex global and local sustainable development challenges, and interdisciplinary strategies in policy, programming, planning, and practice.

    Each year contains a dedicated module which engages with research and practice:

    • year one: engaging with questions of ‘Sustainability in Practice’, you'll design and conduct a project in your local environment (the University of Sheffield and/or city)
    • year two: undertaking a ‘Live Policy Analysis’, you'll be supported to engage with current global policy challenges, responses, and outcomes
    • year three: as part of the ‘Global Sustainable Development on the Ground’ residential fieldwork experience you'll collaborate with external partners to support ongoing project activities linked with key issues in global sustainable development.

    You'll also build skills in research methods, ethics and interdisciplinary teamwork through additional modules.

    We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

    Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

    Learning support facilities and library opening hours


    You will be assessed through a combination of exams, coursework and practical assessment. The proportions of these will vary depending on the modules you choose.

    Programme specification

    This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

    Find programme specification for this course

    Entry requirements

    With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible.

    Standard offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    ABB + B in the EPQ; ABB + B in Core Maths
    International Baccalaureate
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDD in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + A at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AA
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in a Social Science or Arts and Humanities subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 36 at Distinction and 9 at Merit
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    Access Sheffield offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    ABB + B in the EPQ; ABB + B in Core Maths
    International Baccalaureate
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDD in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + B at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AB
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in a Social Science or Arts and Humanities subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at Distinction and 15 at Merit
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    English language requirements

    You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for an International Foundation Year in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.

    Graduate careers

    Our courses will develop your ability to analyse global problems from a range of perspectives and at different scales.

    As you learn you’ll have the opportunity to develop the Sheffield Graduate Attributes and Geography Graduate Attributes. These are the academic skills, personal skills and approaches to wellbeing which will help you on your course, aid your personal development and enhance your future employability.

    Our graduates progress to careers in a variety of sectors. These include public sector roles in local government and the civil service, roles as surveyors and environmental consultants in private sector companies, research and teaching roles in the education sector and management roles in NGOs and international development organisations.

    School of Geography and Planning

    Top 10 in the UK for geography

    The Guardian University Guide 2024

    Geography and Planning building
    Geography and Planning building

    The School of Geography and Planning at the University of Sheffield is a world leader in teaching and research. We're ranked within the top 100 universities in the world for geography, according to the QS Rankings 2024 and top 10 in the UK for geography by the Guardian University Guide 2024.

    We are experts in the fields of social justice and environmental change. We explore our dynamic, diverse world to address humanity’s greatest problems, from food waste to melting ice sheets. Our innovative research and practice-based learning will equip you with distinct, relevant professional skills.

    Our high staff-to-student ratio ensures that you receive excellent quality teaching and a high level of pastoral support throughout your studies.

    Our BA Global Sustainable Development is a truly interdisciplinary course. It is led by the School of Geography and Planning but incorporates modules and expertise from the Departments of:

    The School of Geography and Planning is housed in an award-winning, purpose-built building on the edge of the beautiful Weston Park, close to the Students' Union and central libraries and lecture theatres.


    We have a well-equipped computer teaching laboratory, postgraduate and undergraduate physical geography laboratories, and image processing facilities which provide an important component for teaching and research in remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS).

    Our facilities

    School of Geography and Planning

    University rankings

      Number one in the Russell Group
    National Student Survey 2024 (based on aggregate responses)

      University of the Year and best for Student Life 
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024

      92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
    Research Excellence Framework 2021

      Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023

      Number one Students' Union in the UK
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024, 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      Number one for teaching quality, Students' Union and clubs/societies
    StudentCrowd 2023 University Awards

      A top 20 university targeted by employers
    The Graduate Market in 2023, High Fliers report

    Student profiles

    Eva Stanislawski profile photo

    Studying Geography at Sheffield cemented my interest in international development

    Eve Stanislawski BA Geography

    Eve got her job in the international development sector after studying BA Geography and volunteering for a development charity.

    Fees and funding


    Additional costs

    The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

    Examples of what’s included and excluded

    Funding your study

    Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

    Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

    Placements and study abroad


    You may have the opportunity to add an optional placement year as part of your course, converting the three year course to a four-year Degree with Placement Year. 

    A placement year will help you to:

    • gain an insight into possible careers
    • develop a range of transferable skills
    • build a professional network
    • get a feel for what you do and don’t like doing
    • add valuable work experience to your CV
    • gain experience of applying for jobs and interview practice
    • apply elements of academic learning in the workplace

    Study abroad

    Spending time abroad during your degree is a great way to explore different cultures, gain a new perspective and experience a life-changing opportunity that you will never forget. 

    You can apply to extend this course with a year abroad, usually between the second and third year. We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. 

    Find out more on the Global Opportunities website.


    University open days

    We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

    Open days: book your place

    Subject tasters

    If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.

    Upcoming taster sessions

    Offer holder days

    If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open days have a strong school focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

    Campus tours

    Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.

    Campus tour: book your place


    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer


    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    Take an interdisciplinary focus on global and international development, examining worldwide issues through the lens of social justice and environmental sustainability.

    No No