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MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment

In brief

Start date1 October 2024
Duration12 months
Time commitmentFull time


  • Applications for 2024/25 intake are now closed


Dr Laurence Wainwright:


Our MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment (MSEE) aims to address two fundamental challenges of our time: making the transition to a zero-carbon and environmentally sustainable economic model, and simultaneously enabling sustainable development for everyone, poor and rich alike.

The course views these challenges through the lenses of finance, economics and enterprise – the Smith School’s core strengths. This full time 12-month course is designed for current and future decision-makers who wish to:

  • Deepen their expertise in economics, finance and business
  • Broaden their understanding of the scientific, technological and cultural aspects of climate change and sustainable development
  • Learn how to lead impactful change within enterprise.

Our course is aimed at both recently completed undergraduates and graduates as well as early- to mid-career professionals.

MSc in Enterprise and the Environment

Video transcript

We are pushing too hard against the boundaries of this planet and we're doing so at our own peril. We have to fundamentally shift the way that we think about the interaction between economies, human society and nature. You don't have to start soon, we've got to start now in terms of addressing these challenges, and I think industry is crying out for professionals with training in in these fields, in climate science. You know they want someone who can walk into a room and confidently speak about the physics of climate change, just in the ways they want someone who can understand ESG metrics and be able to interpret those properly. So there's a great need for formal qualifications in these fields and we're really giving that in this programme.

Should I compensate the next generation that I've used up that non-renewable natural capital and the next generation doesn't have it.

We're looking for a range of different applicants – we might have people coming straight from a bachelor's degree coming into the Master’s programme, we may have people with five, seven, ten years of work experience, mid to early career professionals. We're looking for people who are genuinely passionate about all things sustainability and have a real desire to get a rigorous understanding of the natural and social sciences, and to actually use that after they finish the course and go out into the world and lead impactful change towards net-zero sustainable development. We're talking in excess of 500 people interested in the programme, we're taking around 20 places, so it's phenomenally competitive.

Prices are being driven up which is good for a sustainable economy, what about the people who are being subjected to that?

We're looking at these problems through the lens of a finance economics business, we're saying, for better or for worse, the mess that we find ourselves in is a large result of human nature for starters, but also business and markets but paradoxically these mediums and these entities are also the way the way out of this problem. Oxford is a really special place, you can kind of sense it in the air, there's something magical about this place. There's a plethora of activities that go on outside of the classroom here at Oxford whether it be the colleges and the rich experience that college life brings which is the defining part of your experience at the university of Oxford, whether it be a range of leadership activities and opportunities to take on, whether you're captain of a sports team, whether you're in the Oxford Union and you're debating. There's a magical feeling when you step into the library and you think about all those who have been here before, and the remarkable things that they've done, and you almost feel a sense of obligation to manifest your potential in the world to, fulfill the ideas of what this university is about. I’ve worked and studied now at five different universities around the world and I have to say that this is by far the most impressive place that I've seen in terms of the opportunities that are that are available to students. It's an incredibly diverse cohort in the class, we have something like 14 or 15 nationalities represented in the 24 students which is quite phenomenal when you think about it. The diversity of age is very useful, some of the younger ones are able to learn from those who have worked for a couple of years, in some cases many years, and vice versa as well, there's a really rich interchange and you know. I say to the students they'll learn as much from the person sitting next to them as they will from us at the front of the room.

In my lifetime the world population has gone from 3.5 billion to 7.5 billion you can see the environmental consequences of that and the unsustainable conditions that go with it.

We're really passionate in this course to equip students with the leadership skills that they need to go out into the world and lead impactful change towards net-zero sustainable development. Let's actually supplement your in-class experiences of leadership with a whole range of other activities at the University, so when you go out into the world you actually can become a leader, and we take that incredibly seriously. This course is grounded in reality, it's realistic rather than idealistic about the world and I think that appealed to many applicants. It's a really exciting time to be doing this course and you're doing it at the top School of Geography in the world, at one of the world's best universities overall. It's a brand new course. it's exciting, it's innovative, the teaching team is really star-studded. These are the best of the best, we're just hugely excited about this programme and we really do welcome your applications.

Course design

In the post-Covid-19 world, leaders of enterprise will need to be increasingly resilient and able to cope with previously unseen levels of complexity and uncertainty. They will also need to lead with empathy and emotional intelligence, and foster diversity and inclusion through deeper levels of socio-cultural awareness.

The MSEE will provide you with both the academic knowledge and practical skills needed to thrive in the post-pandemic landscape and play a leading role in reorienting the relationship between enterprise, society and the natural environment.

This course has three overarching aims, to:

  • Develop a critical understanding of the nature, drivers and trajectories of climate change and economic development
  • Examine the role of enterprise and its relationship to environmental and development challenges across a range of risks, technological innovations, investment opportunities and policy responses
  • Enable students to integrate and apply their interdisciplinary knowledge, advanced methodological skills and science-policy-enterprise network to foster innovation and scalable progress toward net zero and sustainable development (NZSD).
Field trips

The MSEE comprises:

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

Our approach combines directed teaching, self-regulated learning, structured engagement with enterprise and formal assessment.

Combined programmes

The MSEE can be coupled with an MBA as part of the Oxford 1+1 MBA programme.

Field trips will explore the role of enterprise in tackling the NZSD challenges.

  • Induction field trip the week before the start of the course
  • Two one-day trips in each of Michaelmas and Hilary Terms
  • A week-long field trip at the end of Hilary Term.

During the week-long trip, you will visit a selected region to connect with individual companies and their supply chains in order to bring to life critical concepts and apply your learning.

Field trip costs are included in the course fee, and any specific accessibility issues will be taken into account when planning the visits.

Our course is taught through lectures, seminars and workshops, together with field trips, which provide in-depth exploration of key issues. The elective modules are tutorial-style with discussion, in smaller groups.

Teaching is delivered by academic staff from the Smith School and School of Geography and the Environment as well as other departments across the University. In addition, guest lectures from enterprise, such as the Smith School’s Business Fellows, add to the breadth of teaching expertise.

The course is structured across three terms, progressing from broad-based concepts and skills to increased application and engagement:

  • Michaelmas Term: Nature and sources of climate emergency and development challenges, including scientific underpinnings and conceptual building blocks aimed at framing and understanding the problems and trade-offs posed by NZSD
  • Hilary Term: Integrated assessment of potential solutions and pathways, offering applications and solutions
  • Trinity Term: Implementation of knowledge and solutions through the enterprise forum and dissertation preparation.
MScSee brochure cover
MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise & the Environment (pdf)
(20 pages, 4.2 MB)

Enterprise forum

The forum consists of weekly sessions, led by expert practitioners discussing different topics directly related to achieving the NZSD goals. The model is:

  • Purpose and impact driven, guided by clearly defined challenges associated with NZSD
  • Demand-driven, based on co-production, sustained and strategic dialogue with enterprise partners about their needs and the challenges they face, and the demand for innovation, knowledge, and skills
  • Practical and realistic in terms of small, targeted actions and inputs – by both students and enterprise partners – that can produce outputs.

The Forum allows you to put your academic knowledge and skills into context and practice, and includes development of leadership skills, mentorship with business fellows, case-based learning, guest lectures and seminars on personal effectiveness. It provides an opportunity to create genuine working partnerships that are valuable for both enterprise and students.


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Graduate stories

My goal has always been to create a better world for future generations. I decided to do this by working in corporate sustainability and helping companies embed the UN Sustainable Development Goals into their core operations

Claudia Herbert Colfer, Linbury Scholar
My aspiration is to be a pioneering environmentalist who consults with enterprise, governments and local communities to drive real, immediate change and long-lasting impact, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The programme as well as the networks and connections I will make through it will help spearhead my career in this direction.

Katherine Polkinghorne, Weidenfeld-Hoffman Scholar

Disclaimer: The information appearing on this website / in this document is to be used as a guide only. The final and binding details pertaining to cost, selection criteria and required documents for application are those appearing on the central University of Oxford graduate admissions website. The final and binding details pertaining to course structure and content will be those given in the MSc SEE course handbook in September 2022. Covid-19-related restrictions may mean that some minor to moderate changes have to be made to the inaugural cohort of the course – for example, some components being taught online, and field trips being local rather than regional/international. Meeting selection criteria does not assure selection. It is likely that the course will be oversubscribed, meaning many qualified candidates may miss out on a place. The teaching staff list is subject to change.


Hot and bothered

Dr Laurence Wainwright discussed how heatwaves can worsen certain mental health conditions on ABC Radio, through lack of sleep and dehydration and by worsening side effects and efficacy of certain medications. 

In brief

Start date1 October 2024
Duration12 months
Time commitmentFull time


  • Applications for 2024/25 intake are now closed


Dr Laurence Wainwright: