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MSc Marine Planning for Sustainable Development

Master (ISCED 2011 level 7)


Duration 3 semesters
Cost Tuition fees for 2020 entry (by residency status): Scotland / Non-UK EU £7,400; England / Northern Ireland / Wales £7,400; Overseas £15,400


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.

This MSc is based at our Orkney campus, a global centre for marine energy, research and development. Here, 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.

Through study in Orkney you will also 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.

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 associated 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.

Detailed course guide

Mode of study


Go Global

Some of our Postgraduate Taught Masters Programmes are eligible for Inter-Campus Transfer. Please contact for further information.

Structural components
International component
Practical/Field work
Language training
Research Project

Application procedure

You can apply for all postgraduate programmes (except Edinburgh Business School 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.

Grant opportunities

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 scholarships.

Learning outcomes


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;
  • 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.


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


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.

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)

ISCED Categories

Project management
Policy and governance
Physical and chemical oceanography
Offshore and renewable energy
Marine spatial planning