One of the critical questions in modern society is how to manage processes of economic and social development so that we can make sustainable improvements in human welfare without destroying the environmental resource base on which all life depends.

Current patterns of population growth, industrial development, urbanisation, and the use and consumption of resources are resulting in environmental changes on all scales, from the local to the global. Major issues include pollution, soil erosion and desertification, loss of biodiversity, ozone depletion and climate change. Although such environmental changes manifest themselves as physical problems, the processes which drive the changes are economic, social and political. Therefore, any attempts to manage the use of environmental resources to achieve more sustainable forms of development have to begin with a clear understanding of the socio-economic processes involved.

The BSc Environment and Development and BSc Environmental Policy with Economics degree programmes offer an interdisciplinary social science approach to environmental matters. It is increasingly recognised that environmental problems cannot be divorced from challenges to human well-being and development. Understanding and addressing issues such as human-induced climate change and global biodiversity depletion must take into account the uneven production of ecological and social harm. Indeed, social science scholars have usefully questioned how environmental problems are defined and analysed. Who benefits and who loses from environmental projects and practices? Similarly, the negative outcomes of some environmental projects have led many to question how such projects are economically justified and implemented. These two environmental degrees enable students to benefit from the excellent reputation of the School within both the fields of environmental and, respectively, development studies and economics, challenging students to interrogate pressing real-world problems and proposed solutions. Exposed to state-of-the-art knowledge through research-informed teaching, students learn both about conceptual and applied aspects of environmental problems. Such teaching is designed to develop graduates with analytical and critical competencies for employment or graduate study in environmental policy and studies. Above all, the degrees equip students to critically analyse environmental policies on the basis of rigorous social science. 

Features of LSE courses

The BSc degrees in Environment and Development and in Environmental Policy with Economics differ from most university environment programmes as they focus on the subject from a social science rather than a natural science perspective. This focus reflects the strengths of LSE research in understanding the social causes of problems and making evidence-based recommendations to address them.

Our teaching emphasises the fact that the majority of environmental problems arise from human actions and decisions, and that all environmental management schemes seek to achieve objectives defined by humans within constraints imposed by political and economic systems.

You will be taught by a team of very experienced researchers with acknowledged expertise in environmental and ecological economics, environmental policy and planning, business and the environment, development studies, environmental geography, environmental hazards, risk management, and natural resources management. You will also have the opportunity to take courses outside the Department and participate in the lively academic culture of the School through the public lecture series. In this way, students gain exposure to leading scholars and practitioners across the social sciences, as well as prominent public figures.  

Degree structure

Students taking either the BSc Environment and Development or the BSc Environmental Policy with Economics take 12 courses over three years, plus LSE100. The degrees are designed to develop core knowledge and skills, while also allowing students to follow particular interests in environmental and development studies or economics. They include some exposure to natural science concepts in the course Environmental Change: Past, Present and Future. The other environment-related courses build upon this understanding of the natural world but adopt a social science perspective. These environment-related courses include some economic analysis, particularly in the course Applied Environmental Economics. For the BSc Environmental Policy with Economics programme, there are also a range of economics courses which are taken in each of the three years. 

What the selectors are looking for in an application

The selectors are looking for academic students with a genuine interest in and enthusiasm for the social sciences and human behaviour. There is no one ideal subject combination; however many applicants have studied one or more social science subjects in the sixth form, with Geography and Economics being the most common.

If you are applying for the Environmental Policy with Economics degree programme you must have studied, or be studying, Mathematics as one of your A level (or equivalent) subjects.

For the Environmental Policy/Development programmes we are looking for students who can contribute to the environmental debate and who desire to understand the significance and impact of policy at all levels in dealing with environmental challenges both now and in the future.

For the combined degree an equal interest in both subjects is essential, and you should demonstrate this through your personal statement.

You should also mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how they relate to your current academic programme and what additional reading or experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You could also include information on any relevant work experience and extra-curricular activities.

Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of the environment (as a single or combined programme) include the abilities to evaluate and challenge conventional views; read widely; think independently; show initiative; follow complex lines of reasoning and analyse data. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work. 

Please visit lse.ac.uk/ug/apply/env for further information about admissions criteria.

Teaching and assessment

For each course you will have a combination of lectures, seminars and classes totalling 12 to 15 hours per week. Courses which focus on spatial analysis and research techniques have practical work. You will also be involved in field visits, usually in your first year. You will have an academic adviser to help you gain the most from your studies.

You will usually have examinations for each course you have taken at the end of the academic year. Environmental courses typically have a three hour examination plus an extended essay (or practical work for methods courses). There are clear guidelines and advice for all assessment assignments. 

Preliminary reading

If you wish to gain further insight into the subject we suggest that you look at one or more of the following books:

  • N Castree Making Sense of Nature (Routledge, 2013).
  • S Chant and C McIlwaine Geographies of Development in the 21st Century: an introduction to the Global South (Edward Elgar, 2009)
  • J Elliot An Introduction to Sustainable Development (4th edition, Routledge, 2012)
  • J P Evans Environmental Governance (Routledge, 2012)
  • A S Goudie The Human Impact on the Natural World: past, present and future (7th edition, Wiley-Blackwell, 2013) 
  • N Klein This Changes Everything: capitalism vs. the climate (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
  • D Pearce and B Barbier Blueprint for a Sustainable Economy (Earthscan, 2000)
  • D Simpson, M Toman and R U Ayres Scarcity and Growth Revisited (Resources for the Future, 2005)
  • M Whitehead Environmental Transformations: a geography of the anthropocene (Routledge, 2014)

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates have gone on to work in all areas of environmental policy and economics at the local, national and international level, whether in the public sector for government departments and agencies, in the private sector for industry and environmental/management consultancies, or in the NGO sector for pressure groups and think tanks. A number of recent graduates have also gone on to further study at graduate level.