MA ESD Logo                                                                                                                                                                                             

Programme Overview

Combining Academic Excellence with Applied Critical Knowledge
Global issues of geopolitics, security, development and the environment have never been so important. An ongoing war on terror, growing structural economic inequalities and the threat of climate change have brought questions of Western interventionary practices, neoliberalism and environmental sustainability to the fore. The MA in Environment, Society and Development is designed to enable students to bring critical and applied thinking to these vital challenges. The programme engages students on global concerns that encompass a complex and dynamic mesh of environmental, social and economic processes. It centrally involves a critique of interventionism and the various practices of development and security that define our contemporary world, and practically how that critique can enable more informed and potentially more transformative interventionary practices. Since its inception, the programme has had a rich array of students from every continent, including Canada, China, Ethiopia, Germany, Italy, Liberia, Malawi, Norway, Russia, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK, USA and Vietnam. Many have gone on to work in NGOs and UN agencies and, in addition, to pursue PhD research in leading Geography Departments across the world.‌

Field-Based Learning and Civic Engagement
A core element of the MA programme involves students working on the ground in the challenging international development context of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Through partnering with a range of NGOs, including especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), students gain vital experience of civic engagement and of synthesizing both theoretical and practical concerns in bringing critical thinking to international development challenges. In a module entitled ‘Field-Based Learning’, which takes place each year in BiH, students follow a programme of participatory research with a variety of community partners and development practitioners such as the UNDP, and then present at an organised student symposium in Sarajevo, at which all the major development practitioners from the international community are present. This fulfils a vital element of research impact in terms of civic engagement and scaling upwards participatory local knowledges

Career Development
The programme prepares students for a range of workplaces including government departments, non-governmental organizations, planning and project management agencies and specialist research and policy institutes. There is a strong emphasis on transferable and problem-solving skills, reflected in the focus on field-based learning practices that are embedded in all modules, in addition to an engagement with the most cutting-edge theoretical work from various interdisciplinary fields, from development studies to critical geopolitics.‌‌

Herzegovinia Fieldtrip 2011, Class Photo
MA in ESD students on fieldwork in Mostar, Herzegovina

Student-Centred Teaching Excellence and International Reputation
Our students have consistently brought passion and new perspectives to urgent questions of environment, development and sustainability. They mirror a commitment on the programme to a postcolonial concern for the production of nuanced global knowledges that are crucial to envisioning and actioning a better world. Each year, students benefit especially from our reputation for providing one-to-one support. The programme director and teaching team have received a number of accolades for teaching excellence, including: a Learning and Teaching Innovation Award in 2010 to extend the civic engagement element of the MA from NUI Galway’s Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching; an NUI Galway President’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2011; and the National Academy for Integration in Research, Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2012. In terms of academic excellence, the best testament to the programme is having the late Neil Smith as the inaugural external examiner. Neil was one of the leading geographers in the world until his untimely death, and his involvement on the MA from the beginning was a major reason why it garnered the strong international recognition it has already established.

Visit the NUI Galway Courses page here for information on how to apply, entry requirements, necessary supporting documents and details on fees and funding. Find out about Programme Content and Module Descriptions.


Recent Students

Diego Andreucci
Andreucci student testimonials
"What I like the most about the MA in Environment, Society and Development is the fact that it is theoretically broad and academically stimulating whilst at the same time being ‌very much engaged in practical, political and ethical issues in a variety of geographical contexts on the ground."

Sinéad Burke 
sineadburke student testimonial
"I like the MA in Environment, Society and Development as it is an opportunity for academic growth and personal development which works by challenging a group of students to critically and creatively question wide-ranging theoretical concepts, whilst also providing practical research skills to assess the relationships between political, social and economic systems in geographically diverse spaces and places."‌

Elaine Williams
Elaine Williams student testimonial
"I thoroughly enjoyed the MA in Environment, Society and Development. Not only does it theoretically and thematically inform students on key geographical concerns of interventionism and development, but most importantly it gives them the tools to practically apply critique on the ground. Gaining friendship and confidence in a hugely supportive environment is all part of the process too."

Vittoria Semplici 
Vittoria Semplici
"The Masters in Environment, Society and Development addresses fundamental questions of international development. It offers students the opportunity to deepen and pursue research interests with creative license, and combines a vast amount of theoretical knowledge with a concrete and practical approach, improving both critical thinking and organizational working skills"

The Neil Smith Research Award

Launch of the Neil Smith Graduate Research Award

The Neil Smith Graduate Research Award was officially launched at the 45th Conference of Irish Geographers 2013 in support of the MA in ESD. The award was launched by the Programme Director, Dr John Morrissey, in conjunction with the Dean of Arts, Dr Edward Herring, and Distinguished Professor of Geography and Anthropology from City University of New York (CUNY), Prof. David Harvey. Prof. Harvey was a lifelong friend and intellectual confidante of Neil's and it was fitting that he was present to launch the award. Dr Morrissey, a former colleague of both Neil's and David's at CUNY, was delighted with the warm reception at the launch: "Neil was an inspirational colleague, and this award is a small gesture towards the continued relevancy of his life's work. It also supports one of Neil's greatest passions: critical graduate research in geography". The award is designed to celebrate Neil's legacy by encouraging graduate research in the areas of geopolitics, development and social and environmental justice. It will annually be given to the student achieving the best overall mark on the MA in ESD, and is supported by a National Academy for Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (NAIRTL) grant received by Dr Morrissey for developing the programme, and also by the Whitaker Institute for Innovation and Societal Change at NUI Galway.