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MSc|Postgraduate Taught

Leadership for Sustainable Rural Development

Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full-time)
Places available
- (Full Time)

Rural areas are crucial to national productivity. Sustainable rural development is a strategy to promote vibrant, healthy rural communities by supporting regional economies, protecting natural resources, ensuring adequate rural services, and addressing food security.
Many rural communities depend on the viability of natural resource-based activities for their livelihoods, from farming, forestry and energy production to leisure, tourism, and artisan markets. Climate change and the increasing encroachment of urban spaces into rural areas present challenges as rural communities navigate the complex landscape of rural sustainability. Rural sustainability leaders are needed to challenge the disparities between rural and urban environments, and enable and strengthen sustainability through policy making, environmental protection and the empowerment of local communities.
This innovative Masters programme is open to applicants from all subject backgrounds, and is designed to create leaders and sustainability professionals in all fields and subjects. The course will require a high level of independence, adaptability, engagement with both the University and external organisations, and a willingness to be challenged.

Programme content is designed to be holistic, so students will study at intermediate level the broad-ranging fields of leadership and management, environmental and sustainability science, social studies, and economics, amongst others, to prepare them for life as change agents in sustainable development. The course embraces personal choice of study where possible to enhance the students’ existing knowledge, experiences, and interests.

A key principle of the programme is the importance of Education for Sustainable Development, and students will complete the course as fully developed individuals with competency in critical-thinking, systems-thinking, interpersonal working, and much more. Modules are taught through action-based, experiential learning methods such as practicals, site visits, work placements and community-based learning consultancy projects, in addition to lectures and tutorials.

Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 31st July for courses which commence in late September. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

Please note a deposit may be required to guarantee a place on the course. Due to high demand, applications may not be considered if the course has reached its maximum class size and will be placed on a waiting list. Please see deposit terms and conditions for more details.

The School was the first school of Biological Sciences in the UK to achieve a prestigious Athena SWAN Gold award in recognition of its outstanding progress in promoting gender equality and addressing the unequal representation of women in science.

Leadership for Sustainable Rural Development highlights

Student Experience

These aim of the course is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to become sustainable development 'champions' who can identify and address problems of rural sustainability in innovative ways and further mainstream sustainable rural development across all sectors and at all levels.

Internationally Renowned Experts

Sustainability does not have just one meaning, and sustainability and sustainable development may even be two separate things entirely! Students on this programme will be exposed to a range of academics, subject-matter experts and industry professionals working from multiple viewpoints and disciplinary origins to understand and critique the complex and dynamic nature of sustainable rural development.

Student Experience

Master skills in leadership and management such as people and performance management, change management, and project management, and apply them to a range of problems in sustainable rural development.

Industry Links

The programme includes a compulsory work placements that can be undertaken in any organisation with a suitable rural sustainability focus. Students will receive support in sourcing and securing placement from our dedicated School Careers & Placement team. Students will get to put their learning into action, and many of our students go onto employment with their host organisation after completing their Masters degree.

The year-long community-based learning group project requires students to work with an organisation in need of help to provide support and solutions to a real-life problem in sustainable development. Students will cement their leadership, project management of their choice to explore sustainable solutions to a specific problem.

Student Testimonials

Course Structure



Autumn Semester

Students will be introduced to leadership and sustainable development over three taught modules to help gain an overview of the principles and values of sustainable development, and why it is important.

Leadership & Management for Sustainable Development:
explore approaches to leading and managing people, projects, change, budgets and more, particularly in how these can be used as tools for creating action within the field of sustainable development.

Foundations for Sustainable Development:
consider the core themes, subject knowledge, history, policies and strategies underpinning sustainable development, focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Skills for Sustainable Development:
develop and understanding of the tools and methodologies needed by a sustainability professional such as behaviour change, environmental impact assessment and lifecycle analysis.

Effective Leadership (Group Project):
requires a small group of students to engage with a host organisation over the year in a real-world project to promote sustainable development through experiential learning and action research.

Spring Semester

Students will carry a compulsory work-based learning placement in the second semester, sixteen weeks' work from January to May. The placements provide experiences of sustainable rural development and leadership thereof in a wide range of organisations. Staff and students work together to identify suitable hosts.

Summer Semester

Students will work with an academic supervisor (and industry professional) to complete a piece of independent, original research of relevance to rural sustainability.

People teaching you

Senior Lecturer (Education)

School of Biological Sciences

Lecturer (Education)

School of Biological Sciences

Professor of Environmental & Energy Economics

School of Biological Sciences

Professor of Environmental & Health Economics

School of Biological Sciences

Learning and Teaching

Learning opportunities available with this course are outlined below:

  • _

    At Queen’s, we aim to deliver a high quality learning environment that embeds intellectual curiosity, innovation and best practice in learning, teaching and student support to enable student to achieve their full academic potential.

    On the MSc in Leadership for Sustainable Rural Development we do this by providing a range of learning experiences which enable our students to engage with subject experts, develop attributes and perspectives that will equip them for life and work in a global society and make use of innovative technologies and a world class library that enhances their development as independent, lifelong learners.

    Teaching is across a combination of morning and afternoon classes throughout the week.

    Examples of the opportunities provided for learning on this course include; lectures, practical experiences, research skills, digital learning technologies and self-directed study to enhance employability.


Assessments associated with the course are outlined below:

  • Students will be assessed through a variety of innovative and challenge methods throughout the course. This includes; quizzes, essays, reports, videos, podcasts, presentations, reflective self-assessment and more.




The information below is intended as an example only, featuring module details for the current year of study (2023/24). Modules are reviewed on an annual basis and may be subject to future changes – revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year.

  • Year 1

    Core Modules

Entrance requirements


Normally a 2.2 Honours degree or above or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University.

Applicants who do not meet the above academic requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Submission of a portfolio and/or interview may be required.

The University's Recognition of Prior Learning Policy provides guidance on the assessment of experiential learning (RPEL). Please visit for more information.

Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 31st July 2024 for courses which commence in late September. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

Please note: A deposit will be required to secure a place on this course

International Students

Our country/region pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country/region. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country/region.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.0, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

  • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
  • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.



Career Prospects


This MSc will equip you to work in a variety of roles in both the private and public sector, here in Northern Ireland, and internationally. Our recent graduates have gone onto a wide range of roles such as; Climate Programme Manager: Action Resilience Officer for Climate: Rural Development Specialist; Environmental Manager; Sustainability Consultant; Rural Community Development Officer; UFU: Recycling Education Promotions Officer; Rural Community Network Manager; Marine Community Support Officer; Rural Services Support: Waste and Recycling Manager: Parliamentary Assistant and Environmental Consultant.

Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award for extra-curricular skills

In addition to your degree programme, at Queen's you can have the opportunity to gain wider life, academic and employability skills. For example, placements, voluntary work, clubs, societies, sports and lots more. So not only do you graduate with a degree recognised from a world leading university, you'll have practical national and international experience plus a wider exposure to life overall. We call this Graduate Plus/Future Ready Award. It's what makes studying at Queen's University Belfast special.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £7,300
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £7,300
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £9,250
EU Other 3 £21,500
International £21,500

1EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Additional course costs

TTerms and Conditions for Postgraduate applications 

1.1  Due to high demand, there is a deadline for applications. 
1.2  You will be required to pay a deposit to secure your place on the course.
1.3  This condition of offer is in addition to any academic or English language requirements.

Read the full terms and conditions at the link below:

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

How do I fund my study?

The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £6,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £11,836 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

More information on funding options and financial assistance - please check this link regularly, even after you have submitted an application, as new scholarships may become available to you.

International Scholarships

Information on scholarships for international students, is available at



How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Apply now

When to Apply

The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

Terms and Conditions

The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

Download a prospectus