MSc/Diploma/Certificate Marine Planning for Sustainable Development

General information

Marine planning, including spatial planning, is a fast developing discipline of global interest with excellent employment prospects. Ambition to create jobs and growth in the ‘Blue Economy’ is made real by new technologies giving access to the wealth of resources in the oceans and seas. New approaches are needed to govern the interactions among marine industries while maintaining the aspiration for healthy seas and the conservation of ecosystems. Adaptation to the effects of climate change adds to the importance of marine planning as an essential tool in marine management.

Orkney is a global centre for marine energy research and development. A unique concentration of marine expertise and activity provides students with unparalleled access to key participants in the sustainable development and planning of marine industries.

Read more in this guide to Studying in Orkney.


Course content

The MSc involves studying eight taught courses. If you can demonstrate that you have already mastered the subject, you may apply for an exemption from one of the taught courses and undertake a Design Project instead. The MSc programme is completed with a research dissertation equivalent to 4 taught courses.

Semester 1 (4 courses)

  • A11MP Introduction to Marine Planning (Core)- Introduces students to the emerging policy and practice of Marine Planning (global, national and regional). Examines the competing objectives for ecology, economy and social cohesion and the political process designed to balance them.
  • A11OC Oceanography (Core)- Designed to give an understanding of the science of waves and tides and how this affects efforts to exploit energy from these resources and to develop maritime industries.
  • A11ER Economics of Renewable Energy (Option)- The economics of the energy sector are studied in the context of marine and terrestrial sectors with a focus on wave and tidal projects under way close to the campus.
  • A11EN Environmental Processes (Option)- A study of marine ecosystems and the challenges of the impacts of human activities such as associated engineering works.
  • D11CA Climate Change (Option)- Exploration of the causes of climate change and the international approached to mitigation of the effects.

Semester 2 (4 courses)

  • A11DM Marine Resource in the Blue Economy (Core)- Explores the traditional and  emerging Blue Economy and the challenges to policy ambitions for Blue Growth in designated sectors.
  • A11DA Development Appraisal (Core)- Examining the opportunities and constraints to development  - policy, market, regulation, financial, EIA and other statutory assessments.
  • A11GI GIS for marine Scientists (Core)- Practical use and application of software for this key decision making tool in marine and terrestrial planning.
  • A11DT Development Project (Option)- A group exercise over one week to design, finance and gain regulatory consent for a significant development usually associate with terrestrial and marine sources of renewable energy.
  • A11VY Practical Marine Survey (Option)- A practical field study course covering the methods and techniques of marine survey (including an opportunity for dive survey for appropriately dive qualified students).
  • A11CR Tropical Marine Reefs (Option - additional cost)- A practical field study course on tropical reefs with our partner institutions in Malaysia.  Involves additional cost for flights and accommodation. A two week course held each April.

Semester 3

  • A11RP Research Dissertation (Core)- Supervised research programme designed collaboratively between the student and the supervisors.

For a detailed course guide, click here.

Additional information

This MSc is based at our Orkney Campus. By studying in Orkney you will benefit from a number of activities including field trips, guest lectures and practical activities, which help to develop your skills and knowledge in your field of study, and offer opportunities to meet developers and others involved in the renewable energy industry.

Learning outcome:

Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills


  • Critical understanding of the theory spatial planning;
  • An understanding of the multiple users and uses of the marine environment;
  • An understanding of the legislative regime in the marine environment;
  • An understanding of how to approach and plan research, keep accurate records and present the results.


  • A detailed knowledge of marine resources and their sustainable exploitation;
  • How to use this theoretical knowledge in practical applications;
  • Knowledge of Strategic Environmental Assessment;
  • Knowledge and understanding of policy, legal, ethical and health and safety issues of concern in the marine environment.

Cognitive Skills

  • Develop critical skills in research planning;
  • Develop and demonstrate critical knowledge in the application of spatial planning techniques;
  • Develop critical skills in research data evaluation;
  • Develop critical skills in research data presentation.

Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

  • Develop critical skills in research data evaluation.
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of a range of research skills and methods for investigating problems in biotechnology, culminating in an ability to conduct independent research and improving the ability to solve these problems.

Personal Abilities

Industrial, Commercial and Professional Practice

  • Adopt a mature, ethical and professional attitude to research and working practices.
  • Display and deploy professional attributes in situations that require decision making and data evaluation.
  • Display and deploy professional attributes in data presentation and discussions with peers.
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of marine issues associated with the techniques learned.
  • Be able to make informed judgements with incomplete or inconsistent data.
  • Transfer problem-solving skills to a variety of contexts.
  • The graduates will be in a position to work in both the public sector and an industrial setting.

Autonomy, Accountability and Working With Others

  • Be able to work autonomously or within teams, where appropriate, demonstrating capability for both taking and critically reflecting on roles and responsibilities.
  • Develop self-management skills, in particular through the effective management of self-study.

Communication, Numeracy & Information and Communications Technology

  • Select appropriate methods to statistically evaluate research data.
  • Communicate effectively at all levels and using a range of media.
  • Produce scholarly scientific reports and conference and journal papers
Contact Person: Kate Johnson (


The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0312 - Policy and governance", "0532 - Physical and chemical oceanography", "0731 - Marine spatial planning


Venue: Heriot-Watt University
Edinburgh, United Kingdom




Status* Full-time
Scotland / Non-UK EU £7,168
England / Northern Ireland / Wales £7,168
Overseas £14,960

* If you are unsure which category you fall in to, you should complete a fee status enquiry form, which allows us to assess your fees.

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate taught scholarships.


Entry requirements

Masters (MSc) level entry applicants must have one of the following:

  • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in a related subject area
  • For postgraduate conversion courses, non-related degrees will be considered
  • Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered

PG Diploma level entry applicants must have an ordinary degree in a related subject area and relevant post qualification industry experience.

Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and possibly interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Recruitment.

Recognition of Prior Learning

Heriot-Watt University is committed to providing opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). Prior learning at postgraduate level is normally recognised to gain exemption from individual courses within a programme based on an existing academic qualification. Note that the prior learning must have been rated at the level of the courses for which RPL is sought, yet credits from an award already held by an applicant can only contribute to a higher award in the same discipline, e.g. from PG Diploma to MSc. If you believe that you qualify for RPL, please contact the Learning & Teaching Support Team via, who will guide you through the RPL application procedure.

The school will only consider students' requests for RPL at the time of application for their programme of study.

English language requirements

If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above. Please refer to English language requirements for further details.

Some applicants may be asked for alternative evidence in line with UKVI recognised English speaking countries. Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

All evidence of English language needs to be dated within two years of the commencement of study.

We also offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your master’s programme:

  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5)
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills)
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading and writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking and listening)

Application Procedure:

Application form

You can apply for all postgraduate programmes using our online application form.  You must create an account to use the online application form. You don't have to complete the application in one session; you can save what you have done so far and return to complete it at a later date.

Supporting documents

In order for us to assess your suitability for the programme you have applied for, you need to submit various supporting documents. You can view the documents you are required to submit and upload them by logging into your application account.

You may delay an offer being made to you if you do not submit your supporting documents as soon as you can.

When to apply

There is no official deadline for postgraduate applications; we accept them right up until the beginning of term. However, if you are applying for a popular programme, it is in your best interest to submit your application as soon as you can so that you have the best chance of getting a place.

You should also bear in mind that in order to secure accommodation on campus you must have received and accepted your offer and submitted your accommodation requirements by the deadline (usually mid-August).

How we process your application

All applications will be carefully considered by appropriate staff in the relevant school and you will receive a response as soon as possible.  For some programmes, where the volume of applications is very high, this may be several weeks but for most programmes, you should hear from us within 2 weeks.

The response that you receive from the School will be either:

  • an unconditional offer
  • a conditional offer (further supporting documentation will be required, such as a copy of your degree certificate if you had not completed your degree when you first submitted your application)
  • regretfully, a decision to reject your application

Responding to an offer

You will be able to view our decision by logging into your application account.  If you receive an offer, please respond to it as soon as possible.

Once you have accepted your place you will be sent a confirmation letter, which you may use to help you obtain an entry visa to the UK (if you need one) or to obtain funding for your studies.

Information about how to register in September will be available during the summer.

Overseas offer holders

We operate a tuition fee advance instalment payment, which means that you can secure your place at Heriot-Watt University by paying the first instalment of your first year's tuition fees. This payment will mainly apply to overseas or self-financing postgraduate students.

If you wish to study for a postgraduate award and are able to demonstrate that your tuition fees will be paid for by a third party (a sponsoring company or government agency, for example), you can be exempted from paying the advance instalment at the discretion of your School.

Grant Opportunities:

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.
There are a number of Heriot-Watt Bursaries available to eligible students. For all Heriot-Watt Scholarships and bursaries please click here.


Academic level: Master


The assessment policy for the programme incorporates a range of assessment types. There is a strong emphasis on formative assessment to provide feedback on student performance and is used to inform further development. Continuous assessment during courses and summative assessment at the conclusion of the theory courses both contribute to the overall assessment and are used to measure formal achievement in specified learning outcomes. Understanding, knowledge and subject-specific skills are assessed by a variety of means such as coursework assignments, group and individual project work and presentations. Personal abilities are reviewed by interviews based on individual personal development portfolios, selfassessment, performance review sessions and appraisal interviews which provide feedback on performance and assessment.

Qualification: Master of Science
Occupations (not validated):
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