Sustainable development is at the top of the agenda for many businesses, as well as nonprofit and governmental organisations. Many universities also have sustainability as one of the key items on their institutional development plan and lots of exciting new programmes have been launched in recent years.
Many of these programmes allow students to combine traditional subjects – such as economics, business, politics, biology, environmental science, architecture, or engineering – with more newly designed classes in sustainability creating a course of interdisciplinary study and ensuring that graduates are well placed to tackle society’s big issues.
Below is just a small selection of the diverse range of programmes on offer internationally. You will find that many of the institutions featured also have other programmes in sustainability across their academic schools.
You can also check out the 2022 THE Impact Rankings to see which universities came out on top when assessed against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It makes for interesting reading.
AUSTRALIA: Australian National University
This three year programme at a leading G8 institution covers environmental science, policy and social sciences. Students learn how to address the complex challenges of sustainability through a broad environmental education.
Graduates are employed in policy making within government, water resources management, environmental management, urban planning and sustainability, international development and climate change adaptation consulting.
CANADA: McGill University
Students learn how to help businesses make positive contributions toward environmental, economic and social sustainability. Throughout the three year programme at this leading Canadian university in Montreal, students develop the tools needed to drive systemic change across every sector of society and advance efforts in combating climate change.
Possible employment areas include: being a consultant specialising in sustainability and corporate social responsibility; heading a department focused on green product development; or taking up a position in a startup that focuses on sustainability issues.
Check out the Spotlight on Studying in Canada guide to find out more about being an international student here.
CANADA: University of Waterloo
Internationally regarded as a leader in experiential learning, the University of Waterloo offers this programme that teaches students to use insights from the natural, physical, and social sciences to help solve some of the world’s biggest environmental challenges — from water scarcity to pollution to loss of biodiversity.
Teaching is in small classes and students can alternate academic learning periods with paid co-op work terms so they graduate with oodles of professional skills and experience.
Find out more about what it is like to be a student at Waterloo from Putri, a 2nd year student on this very course.
ENGLAND: University of Birmingham
By combining sociological, ethical, and economic dimensions with a sound scientific understanding of environmental change, this programme aims to produce environmentally aware graduates who are prepared to tackle today’s big global challenges.
Over 3 years, students can focus on developing expertise in Sustainable Earth, Sustainable Climate, Sustainable Ecosystems or Sustainable Society, or mix and match optional modules from across the University. The large number of optional modules available allows students to tailor their degree to their interests.
HONG KONG: Hong Kong Polytechnic University
This 4 year programme is the first of its kind offered by Hong Kong institutions, and has an emphasis on environmental engineering, including transportation engineering, and sustainable development.
In addition to knowledge of environmental and transportation engineering, and management, economics, sustainable urban development and public policy are adequately covered in this programme. Graduates of this programme will be able to devise practical solutions to environmental and transportation problems as well as to contribute to policy formulation which will lead to sustainable development.
Students have a wide range of core and elective classes, the option to spend one or two semesters studying abroad, and can take a summer placement in Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, or overseas between their 3rd and 4th year.
Check out the Hong Kong Polytechnic university profile to learn more about the institution and application requirements.
HONG KONG: Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Another unique programme designed to equip students with interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in both Business & Finance and Environment & Sustainability areas. The program is jointly offered by the School of Business and Management and the Division of Environment and Sustainability, and is for students who would like to pursue a career in the sustainable and green finance industry.
This programme admits its first cohort of 30 students in 2022 and will suit ambitious students keen to contribute to global sustainability and fill a talent gap in the finance sector.
Check out the HKUST university profile to learn more about the institution and application requirements.
IRELAND: University College Dublin
This 4 year programme has a particular emphasis on the societal and governance dimensions of sustainability. It has a great degree of flexibility to enable students to draw on a range of modules from the social sciences, humanities and law or choose to become more focused on particular aspects such as physical or human geography, global development or climate change and associated policy.
Students will complete a professional work placement and residential trip in their 3rd year and can also apply to study abroad as part of international internships, as well as Erasmus Study Abroad programmes and overseas field trips.
At UCD students can also combine Sustainability with Environmental Sciences or Business and Economics.
Check out the Spotlight on Studying in Ireland guide to find out more about being an international student in this beautiful country.
JAPAN: Hosei University
Offered in English through the Faculty of Sustainability Studies, SCOPE’s objectives are to develop graduates who can contribute to building a more sustainable society. The curriculum uses experiential learning, research, and service activities to implement practical solutions for a sustainable future. Each year 20 students are selected to participate.
Students develop in-depth knowledge on environmental studies and investigate case studies of Japanese society, in which various sustainability issues were confronted and overcome. The goal is to train students to become glocal (global + local) citizens, who can lead the creation of a sustainable society with both global and local perspectives. Basic and intermediate Japanese language classes are also offered for those who wish to acquire proficiency.
NETHERLANDS: TU Eindhoven
Through multidisciplinary teaching, this 3 year bachelor programme offers students a broad insight into sustainability issues. They study innovations that propel society towards sustainable production and consumption, from a technical, economic and societal perspective. Students learn to speak the language of technology and how economic and societal perspectives count in making decisions about sustainable innovations.
A topical and challenging degree, it offers a mix of theory and practice, thinking and doing through the economic, social science and technical disciplines – at least one third of the courses are technical and applicants need a strong high school foundation in maths and physics. The majority of graduates go on to pursue a master’s degree.
NETHERLANDS: Utrecht University
Students learn how to develop solutions to sustainability issues by studying the interaction between humans and nature at the local, regional and global level. The programme is designed to equip graduates to make a meaningful contribution to our planet.
Through a multidisciplinary approach, this programme gives students the tools they will need to examine sustainability from a number of different perspectives and to come up with solutions that can change the world. After the first year, they have the option of selecting one of four tracks, depending on the balance they would like to have between the natural and the social sciences. They can also choose other subjects, both within and outside this degree programme.
The programme also stresses team-work and communication. Students learn how to set up their own research, to work individually and in teams, and to advise organisations as a consultant.
JAPAN: Sofia University
A brand new programme admitting its first cohort in 2023. Taught in English, it will offer bachelor’s degrees in seven fields of study: journalism, education, sociology, economics, management, international relations, and area studies. Students will specify their desired field of study when applying and SPSF will offer discipline-based classes in which students can enhance their knowledge in their respective fields of study as well as interdisciplinary classes offered with the cooperation of the relevant departments.
The core theme is “sustainable futures,” and the program will enable students of different faculties to work together to identify issues relating to this common theme and formulate solutions to these issues over their four years of study. The program will also offer Japanese-language courses for students who wish to improve their Japanese-language proficiency.
Students will also have opportunities for internships, field research, and other initiatives that foster practical learning in Japan and overseas (mainly in Asia). They also plan to offer a variety of other opportunities, including study-abroad programs at affiliated universities, internships abroad, and international field studies.
Sophia already offers two other well established programmes in English through the Faculty of Science and Technology: Green Science and Green Engineering.
SCOTLAND: University of Dundee
A four year programme with economics at its core, but much broader in scope. It analyses the major external factors affecting global business, globalisation and applied policy. Through environmental sustainability courses, students will examine the interaction between people and their surroundings. They will learn about the use of natural resources and how we can attain more sustainable lifestyles.
Dundee offers an annual series of industry lectures that students are encouraged to attend and a wide range of business related careers will be open to them: in marketing, finance, administration, statistics, sales, logistics and human resources. The key focus for many graduates are organisations that operate globally. Many students progress on to do postgraduate degrees.
SWEDEN: Stockholm University
This English-taught programme combines business studies with practical philosophy and sustainability science preparing students for careers in business, public-sector organisations, and non-governmental organisations. It is a cooperation between Stockholm Business School, the Philosophy Department of Stockholm University, and Stockholm Resilience Centre.
In the first year, students will gain a broad overview over the main disciplines of business administration – Management, Finance, Accounting, and Marketing. The second year is divided between Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Philosophy Department of Stockholm University. Students will first explore the foundations of sustainability science, with a focus on the relationships between society, the natural environment, and the economy. Then they will explore the principles that govern people living in society and in a shared environment, and develop skills that can be used to explore solutions to the problems facing society.
In the final year, students can either go abroad or choose courses offered at Stockholm University. Students will write a bachelor’s thesis in Business Administration in their final semester.
SWITZERLAND: Franklin University
This major builds on Franklin’s commitment to fostering a more just and sustainable world. Self-designed, it aims to allow students to explore key topics, theories, skills and applications at the intersections of social justice and sustainability.
The SJS program has the goal of helping the next generation of leaders, public servants, and private citizens navigate the key issues facing our world today. It provides students with interdisciplinary and experiential learning opportunities linking theory with practical application.
This major helps students think across disciplines and to develop skills in conflict resolution, advocacy, policy design, analysis and implementation, sustainable business plans, and sustainability design, assessment, and communication. There are opportunities for fieldwork, service, internships, and academic travels.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Zayed University
This degree concentrates on topics involving environmental sustainability. Courses will discuss local and global environmental topics from a social, political, economic and ethical perspective, giving students the necessary comprehensive approach in dealing with the UAE’s complex environmental challenges.
Courses will impart knowledge and skills in all basic sciences, and research, as well as the analysis of environmental and sustainability problems, and the development of strategies to address these. Career paths are flexible and students can pursue environmental careers, or progress to graduate studies such as medicine, or any other discipline which requires solid scientific preparation.
USA: New York University
This major, delivered through the Tandon School of Engineering, prepares students to make cities more sustainable. Students gain an understanding of the social and technical issues in urban environmental problems, and an appreciation of the policy and planning approaches that are necessary to create more liveable, sustainable, and equitable cities.
Multidisciplinary courses emphasise project-based learning, using New York City as an urban laboratory, and also examining sustainable cities in a global context. Students must complete an internship and there are also opportunities for 4+1 masters programmes.
Graduates enter various environmental fields, including urban planning and design. They also partake in opportunities in social work, government, education, and museums.
USA: Northeastern University
This 4 year combined major focuses on the major environmental challenges facing our planet and provides broad training to understand how these challenges can be met through advances in computer science and artificial intelligence.
Northeastern is well known for its experiential learning programmes and global engagement – their Co-op programme gives students real work and international experiences throughout their degree enhancing networking opportunities and job prospects. Students on this programme will complete at least two co-op placements.
USA: University of Southern California
This unique major builds upon a USC liberal arts foundation and over 4 years students take interdisciplinary courses in geographic information science, landscape architecture, architecture, and urban planning and development. They will explore perspectives and approaches that transcend the boundaries of the United States to promote global environmental sustainability.
Students will also participate in two summer geo-design studio courses in international locations. During the summer studios, they will work on real-life and real-time consulting projects addressing complex societal challenges experienced in the built environment.