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Sustainable Development Advocacy (Professional Practice) MA

This course is not currently running.

This course has been specifically designed for students looking to forge a career in the sustainability sector, whether starting from scratch or accelerating/re-directing an existing professional path.

Delivered by experienced sustainability professionals, the Master's Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy is a unique programme that trains graduates to influence organisations to work towards more sustainable practices by facilitating a fundamental shift in understanding and values. Whilst students enter the course from all disciplines and stages in their career, they graduate as critical thinkers, change-makers and future leaders, and can demonstrate this with a portfolio of placement project work.

The course attracts high calibre individuals with a desire to influence, innovate and succeed; our graduates are policy-makers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and grass-roots pioneers.

Delivered in partnership by the University of Worcester and independent sustainable development charity the Bulmer Foundation, the Master's Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy has been nominated for the Green Gown award and described as one of the most innovative Masters Degrees available in the UK.

Student views

“The M.A. course provided me with the platform and career change I wanted… “I was offered four jobs over the course of the degree!”
Kris McGowan, Senior Project Manager, Marches Energy Agency.

“The course was unique and excellent.”
Dr Rachael Durrant, award-winning research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit - Sussex Energy Centre, University of Sussex.

“The course helped provide me with vital practical work experience and contacts which have been indispensable in obtaining a career as a Project Manager in the sustainable food industry since graduating.”
Stephen Parrett, Business Analyst at Muddy Boots Software.


How to Apply

Please note that this course is currently not available to international applicants. Please make your application via our application form.  If you have any questions regarding the application process, please contact the Admissions Office on 01905 855111 or

When we receive your application form your details will be passed to the Programme Leader who will contact you to arrange an interview.  You can apply for taught postgraduate courses at any time, but preferably as early as possible before the start of the academic year, which begins in September.

Entry requirements

We believe that the challenge of sustainable development demands interdisciplinary solutions. We therefore welcome applications from people who have a good Bachelor's degree in the arts, sciences, humanities, social sciences and vocational subjects.

If you do not have a Bachelor's degree but have equivalent work experience, we would be happy to discuss your eligibility with you. All applicants should be able to demonstrate a personal commitment to working towards a more sustainable world.


See our figure out finances page for the latest information on fees and funding.

Bursaries that can contribute to your fees may be available and you can apply for a career development loan up to the value of £10,000. To find out more about bursaries, loans and payment options please contact the Programme Leader.


Study options

This is a professional practice programme and the learning and teaching comprises a blend of intensive, two-day study schools at the University of Worcester, supported by online tutorials, formative assessment and self-directed study. Students will therefore be required to attend a series of study schools on a limited number of Fridays and Saturdays throughout the duration of the course.

The Master's Degree can be studied full-time over one year, or part-time over a maximum of six years. The Postgraduate Diploma must be completed within four years and the Postgraduate Certificate within two years.

If you would like advice on how to negotiate study leave or sponsorship with your current employer, please contact the Programme Leader.

Get in touch

Christianne Wakeham
Programme Leader
01432 378409 / 07740 680568

Admissions Office
01905 855111



Our graduates are policy-makers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and grass-roots pioneers.

“I fully endorse the Master's Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy's approach and methodology and encourage other organisations to utilise the professional resources and expertise that are available.”
Will Lindsay, Chief Executive of HVOSS.

A Professional Practice course, the Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy equips graduates with the professional and critical evaluation skills needed to succeed in sustainability related careers Graduates from the course have an excellent employment record and some are offered paid positions even before completing the course.

All our students come to the course with a common passion for sustainability but each has a unique set of skills and specific interest areas. Students become sustainability experts in their chosen field, whilst gaining a comprehensive overview of sustainable development at both global and local levels.

Whether you are interested in sustainable land management, community development, supply chains, policy or automotive design, a look at where some of our graduates have progressed to demonstrates the flexibility of the course across interest areas and desired career paths:

  • Madeleine Lewis, Head of Global Content, Sustainable Business & Communications, Unilever
  • Rachael Durrant, Research Fellow (SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit, The Sussex Energy Group), University of Sussex
  • Rachel Harries, Development Coordinator at Soil Association, Land Trust and Organic Apprenticeship Scheme
  • Peng Li, Project Manager at SHEco Automotive Systems Ltd
  • Stephen Parrett, Business Analyst, Muddy Boots Agricultural Software
  • Gabe Cook, Cider Communications Manager, HEINEKEN UK
  • Tilly Jarvis, Vice Chair of Worcester Roots Foundation and Independent Sustainability Consultant
  • Jenny Bartlett, County Councillor and Green Group Leader, Herefordshire Council

Professional network development

“I am currently undertaking a PhD… During the two years between graduating and starting the PhD, I worked freelance as a research manager for a range of different clients, including Unilever, who hired me off the back of the work placement that I did during the course.” 
Rachael Durrant, MA SDA graduate

Through the team task and professional placements, students develop beneficial relationships with potential employers and have the opportunity to capitalise on the networks of those employers, which we strongly encourage. The Bulmer Foundation itself has an extensive, live network of employers which all students have the opportunity to interact with through a range of events, professional placements and project presentations.

Past and current placement host organisations include:

  • Heineken UK Ltd
  • National Association of Cider Makers
  • Unilever
  • Kingspan Insulation
  • Trade Aid New Zealand
  • Herefordshire Council
  • Worcestershire County Council
  • Torfaen Council
  • Sandwell Council
  • Concern Universal
  • The Pasture Fed Livestock Association
  • Herefordshire Nature Trust
  • Architype

Our reputation amongst our placement hosts is such that we have repeat offers of placement projects year after year. A selection of testimonials from these organisations can be seen on the ‘Testimonials’ tab, under the student ones.

Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate study will mark you out in today’s competitive job market, showing that you have enhanced knowledge in your subject area, as well as highlighting your ability to analyse, communicate and apply theory – all skills which are sought after by employers.

Course content


For the Master’s Degree, all modules are mandatory, but there is plenty of choice within the placement and project modules to allow you to focus on the sustainability themes you find most interesting and relevant to your career development.

It is possible to study for a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Development Advocacy*.

The Master’s Degree programme comprises the following modules:

SDAP 4011 Advocacy in Action (20 credits)
This module comprises an intensive programme of lectures, seminars and discussion groups to provide the core evidence base and cutting edge knowledge required to be an effective advocate for sustainable development.

SDAP 4012-15 Sector Placements (20 credits for each module)
You will choose three of the following four placement options with local, regional and/or National organisations. For each module, you should expect to lead a project on a four week, full time basis in the role of a professional consultant to your chosen organisation. Placement subject areas are:
SDAP 4012 Policy, standards and advice
SDAP 4013 Business
SDAP 4014 Media and campaigning
SDAP 4015 Community

SDAP 4016 Team Task (20 credits)
In this module you will work in a small team to undertake a real-world consultancy project on behalf of an external organisation. This is a challenging module that will develop your leadership, problem-solving and research skills.

SDAP 4017 Advocating Change (20 credits)
This module is designed to develop your communication and presentation skills, as well as your personal resilience. You will produce an academic poster or web page, work as part of a team to deliver an event or webinar and complete a reflective diary of your experiences and progress during the module.

SDAP4020 Sustainable Development Advocacy Project (60 credits)
This is the final module for the Master’s Degree. You will complete a detailed research project report (10,000 words) and literature review (5,000 words), relating to an area of sustainable development. The topic is chosen by you after consultation with your module supervisor.

*For the Postgraduate Certificate SDA, you would undertake SDAP 4011 (Advocacy in Action), one sector placement and either SDAP 4016, (the Team Task) or SDAP 4017, (Advocating Change).

For the Postgraduate Diploma SDA, you would undertake SDAP 4011 (Advocacy in Action), three sector placements, SDAP 4016 (Team Task) and SDAP 4017 (Advocating Change).

Elective modules



There are no examinations for this course, all assessment is by coursework. 

There will be a range of assessments to reflect the diverse nature and needs of being a successful, professional sustainable development advocate. These will include essays, reports, presentations and dissertation.

Teaching, learning and assessment

As a student on the Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy course you will gain valuable experience through professional placements, consultancy-style teamwork, presentations, and project research. Assessment is by coursework, which is varied and relevant to the development of professional skills. Throughout the course you will be supported by a small team of academic staff and the input of expert practitioners.

What to expect from the course:

  • Increased understanding of what constitutes best practice in sustainable development
  • Contact with experienced and effective sustainable development practitioners
  • Exciting and challenging professional placements with a diverse range of employers
  • The chance to make a real and lasting difference through placement and project tasks
  • The opportunity to gain a competitive edge and drive your career to a new level
Student views in detail

Dr David Higgins, Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust

“Having completed my degree at York I was faced with the situation of falling back into my old career in the care sector or pushing on and developing the new career I desired. I had seen the MA SDA course advertised on a number of occasions and was taken with the subject area and the student centred teaching style. I was put off from applying as I didn’t see myself as one of the ‘exceptional people’ the course was trying to attract.

“However, I eventually submitted an application and two weeks later found myself on the induction week at the course’s centre in Hereford. It was a great five days and set the tone for the next ten months. The teaching style allowed insights into team working and my own methods of work; some of which clearly needed revising. The placements offered outstanding opportunities to delve into a variety of work settings and gave a sound foundation into different approaches towards sustainability. Some were very much closer to my own thoughts than others. Importantly, I am now part of a network that has wide ranging and expert knowledge across a large area of sustainability and have discovered a new group of friends.

“The greatest achievement of the course was to develop confidence in my ability to present and deliver information to audiences interested in sustainability and ecology. Without this experience I would not have developed the career I now have. As a direct consequence of the MA SDA I found the perfect job. I work for the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust delivering river restoration projects that help farmers develop plans for buffering and improving river ecosystems. The approach is an interesting mix of science and negotiation and with Defra’s new funding streams to deliver Water Framework Directive priorities there is good opportunity to achieve long lasting improvements to the rural environment.

“I recently completed a PhD at Durham University in ecology and catchment science which explored how land use impacts on brown trout fry populations. Without completing the MA SDA I would not have been accepted on the PhD programme. The course was excellently run and has allowed me to fulfil a good number of ambitions.”

Peng Li, now Project Manager at SHEco Automotive Systems Ltd

“Prior to joining the Master’s Degree in Sustainable Development Advocacy (MA SDA), I had some understanding of sustainable development but it was mostly limited to environmental conservation. The primary reason for me joining the programme was mainly because of the opportunities to gain subject related professional experience, as being a foreign national in this country it was difficult to access such opportunities elsewhere.

“After joining the programme, I was privileged to not only receive support from the course and wider Bulmer Foundation staff but also work and study with students from a wide range of backgrounds to embrace the philosophy of sustainable development, which is to share, reflect and redevelop. The unique classroom dynamics and lively lecture style have truly widened my vision and my understanding of sustainable development across all aspects.

“My first professional placement was working with the University of Worcester’s sustainability department to evaluate the effectiveness of its existing communication strategy. This was my first time working in an office environment and my colleagues treated me as a professional, which I found both exciting and challenging. After four weeks of intense project work, I had gained valuable experiences in project management, reporting and presentation, as well as developing a strong interest in communication for sustainable development. My latter two placements with a local authority and a consultancy firm were focused on working and developing energy conservation and energy policy implementation. The overall experience has truly enhanced my professional skills across different types of organisations, but more importantly, it helped me to learn and develop personal interests that will potentially become my future career.

“I am currently working at University of Worcester Students’ Union. I am a project leader leading and delivering an energy conservation project, Energize Worcester. Energize Worcester aims to empower students who live in private homes with adequate knowledge and skills to achieve energy savings and in turn reduce their energy bills. I feel the skills I learnt from the MA SDA programme have helped me tremendously, particularly with advocacy and project management skills. When I struggle with my work, I always look back on my study notes to search for wisdom and solutions to help me proceed. Therefore, I always appreciate the experiences I had with MA SDA programme.”

Kris McGowan, Senior Project Manager, Marches Energy Agency

“I thought that the structure of the course was innovative and had a good practical element. I did not want an overly academic degree, but wanted to open doors into the environmental field, which it certainly did. The four work placements and practical nature of the project thesis worked really well for me. In fact, I was offered four jobs over the course of the degree!

“The course had a good mixture of personal development, exposure to practicing professionals, academic elements and environmental practice, both good and bad. The location at Holme Lacy was also brilliant and provided particular insight into some of the deeper problems that are experienced in rural areas.

“The M.A. course provided me with the platform and career change I wanted. Since graduating I have been working for Marches Energy Agency, who provided one of my placements, project support and masterclasses as well as coordinating the Live Issues Weeks. I am now a Senior Project Manager, designing and delivering climate change and energy training across the UK as well as coordinating energy consultancy and community engagement.”

Rachael Durrant, award-winning research fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit - Sussex Energy Centre, University of Sussex

“I chose to study for this particular M.A. because I was interested in the alternative learning framework provided by the Bulmer Foundation course.   Whereas in Cambridge (where I studied for my first degree) the dominant learning style is top down and didactic, the mode of learning on the Bulmer Foundation course is student-focused.  The course is based on principles of learning-by-doing, critical reflection, creativity and open minded debate amongst peers.  I personally found this approach to be a breakthrough in many ways and a great complement to the styles of learning that I had experienced at previous times.  On another note, my choice of this course was driven by a mixture of personal conviction and professional desire to work towards a more sustainable future.

“The course was unique and excellent.  The way that it was structured – with the master classes at the beginning, followed by the four placements, the team task, the final event and the dissertation – worked really well in terms of developing a range of different skills and abilities that gradually added together. Coupled with the focus on critical reflection in the way that the course was assessed, this really put me in a position at the end of the course of feeling confident, motivated and ready to pursue the next steps in my career.  Also, during the course I met some fantastic people, including students, teachers, work placement hosts and other professional connections, that I would not have met on any other master’s course.  I think that this owes to the special status of the Bulmer Foundation in Herefordshire and the real contribution that the course and students make to sustainable development in the region.

“Doing the course really helped me to shift gears in my professional and personal life. At the time of starting the course I had a strong desire to turn my own motivations and beliefs, which I felt were mostly latent, into actions.  Partly this was about working in an area that I cared about and partly this was about making a contribution in my own private life to a fairer, healthier, happier world.  Doing the course and achieving the MA helped me in both respects.  I continue to be more connected to my personal values in my professional work and to pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle than I was before.

“I am currently undertaking a PhD in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies at the University of Sussex and doing (a little) consultancy work on the side. During the two years between graduating in 2008 and starting the PhD in 2010 I worked freelance as a research manager for a range of different clients, including Unilever, who hired me off the back of the work placement that I did during the course.  My first clientele were private sector, but later I worked for public and voluntary sector clients too.  All the work that I did was related to sustainable food and agriculture. This led me on to being interested in civil society and sustainable food systems, which is the topic of my PhD.”

Stephen Parrett, Business Analyst, Muddy Boots Software

“The MASDA course helped provide me with vital practical work experience and contacts which have been indispensable in obtaining a career as a Project Manager in the Sustainable Food industry since graduating.

“The student-led nature of the course has provided a fantastic opportunity for me to focus on specific areas of interest within sustainable development. The sector placements have been an invaluable chance to experience working on real life sustainability projects and make a real difference to the host organisation.

“The greatest achievement of the course was to develop confidence in my ability to present and deliver information to audiences interested in sustainability and ecology. Without this experience I would not have developed the career I now have.”

Tilly Jarvis, Vice Chair of Worcester Roots Foundation, Independent Sustainability Consultant and Cricket Farmer

“The MASDA course has given me a solid platform from which I can more effectively communicate issues which I feel passionate about. Now I feel more able to positively engage with family, friends, colleagues and members of the public about the issues surrounding sustainable development. I can see things from their point of view as well as my own and put forward a case based on fact rather than a mixture of fact, fiction and media hype.

“It is refreshing to be able to analyse key issues in depth with people from a wide variety of backgrounds but with the same ultimate goal - a sustainable future. I can't emphasise the value of this course enough; particularly for anyone looking for a career in sustainable development as the opportunities for meeting potential employers are numerous.

“If you would like to be put in touch with a recent graduate to talk about their experience of the course in more detail, please contact the Programme Leader who will be happy to make the connection.”

Academic department

Institute of Science & the Environment

“The Institute’s acclaimed research has a common thread: our belief that science should be centred around its impact on people” 
Professor John Newbury, Head of Institute