Sustainable Rural Development MSc

What is special about this course?

If you want to progress into a managerial role in rural development, this postgraduate course in Sustainable Rural Development is for you. 

You will study social, environmental, economic and professional development, and community engagement issues in the context of managing rural development.

The MSc Sustainable Rural Development can be studied online from anywhere in the world.

Special features

  • Gain practical experience in understanding current rural development issues and working with communities
  • Develop key research and policy skills
  • Study individual modules for personal or professional development, or work towards the PgCert, PgDip or full masters degree
  • Study online, full time or part time when and where it suits you, within the UK and internationally

Entry requirements

  • Honours degree or ordinary degree in a relevant subject
  • Postgraduate diploma or professional qualification in a relevant subject
  • Other qualifications will be considered if accompanied by a minimum of three years' relevant professional experience
  • A bridging module is available to people with substantial professional experience, but no undergraduate degree


*Funding support notice*

A limited number of funded places are available for full-time, Scottish or EU fee status students.

Postgraduate Loans (SAAS) (Scottish domiciled and EU students)

Loans for tuition fees are available from SAAS for eligible Scotland domiciled and EU students, and loans for living costs for eligible Scottish students.

(see fees/funding tab for more information)

Access routes


Core modules are:

  • Local economic development
  • Developing communities
  • Communities and nature


Option modules, from which you must choose three, include:

  • Biodiversity management
  • Developing potential through placement
  • Environmental and Social issues in mountain areas
  • Policy analysis
  • Research methods and techniques (strongly recommended if you intend to continue to MSc)
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Sustainable land use and renewable energy in rural Scotland
  • Sustainable development
  • An elective may also be taken from any of the university's masters programmes, e.g. other research skills, modules such as qualitative inquiry or quantitative research and data management


To achieve the award of MSc Sustainable Rural Development you must complete a research dissertation.

How will I study my course?

Additional information for course delivery in 2021-22

As your course was designed to be fully online and has run successfully for the last few years in this way, we can confirm that there will be no change to how the course will be delivered next year. You will study through supported online learning using the university's virtual learning environment. You will also have an online induction at the start of the course. For those who live near a campus, it is our intention that physical campuses will be open to all students for access to study facilities, support services and social activities, subject to Scottish Government guidance.
  • You will study through supported online learning using the university's virtual learning environment (VLE)
  • Full-time
  • Part-time (structured)
  • Part-time (unstructured)
  • A fully online induction web resource is available to all new students and you are encouraged to refer to this during your first term in particular. An optional two-day induction is also available each September in Inverness, Scotland

How long will my course last?

  • Full-time: 2 years @ 40 hours per week
  • Part-time (structured): 3-4 years @ 12 hours per week per module
  • Part-time (unstructured): 6 years (maximum) @ 6 hours per week per module

The number of hours per week indicates the total number of hours you should dedicate to the course, which includes time spent in studying the learning resources provided and your own time spent on individual study and research.

Where can I study my course?

  • Lews Castle College UHI

Start date

  • September
  • January


For students normally domiciled in Scotland, with a term-time address in Scotland, the following fees apply:

This includes

  • EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status in the UK,
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with settled status in the UK
  • EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.
  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £560 £560
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,680 £1,680
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,360 £3,360
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation) £5,000 £5,000

Rest of UK students

For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland) or assessed as rest of the UK for fee status, the following fees apply:

  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £650 £650
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £1,950 £1,950
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits) £3,900 £3,900
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation, 180 credits) £5,850 £5,850

EU/EEA and Swiss nationals without settled or pre-settled status in the UK

Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the Scottish Government has confirmed that EU/EEA and Swiss nationals starting their study in Scotland from academic year 2021-22, who do not have settled or pre-settled status, will be considered as international for fee purposes. For 2021-22, students will get an automatic fee scholarship.

This includes EEA/Swiss nationals with pre-settled status who are not self-employed or migrant workers in the UK.

  2021-22 With scholarship
Per module (20 credits) £980 £730
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £2940 £2,190
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits, 180 credits) £5,880 £4,380
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation, 180 credits) £8,820 £6,570

International students

For students who do not normally reside in the UK or European Union, studying online from their home country, or assessed as international for fee status, the following fees apply:

  2020-21 2021-22
Per module (20 credits) £980 £980
Postgraduate certificate (3 modules, 60 credits) £2940 £2940
Postgraduate diploma (6 modules, 120 credits, 180 credits) £5,880 £5,880
Masters degree (6 modules + dissertation, 180 credits) £8,820 £8,820

This course is not available to international students requiring Student Route visa sponsorship to study in the UK.

A no fee increase guarantee is available for self-funding full-time and structured part-time rest of the UK, EU and international postgraduate students for continuous study for the same award, up to the permitted standard time limit for the relevant award.


The university is pleased to offer a limited numbers of places with full tuition fee support for Scottish/EU students, studying full time, on this course starting in September to help talented students join this key growth sector for the Scottish economy. Fees will be funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of Developing Scotland’s Workforce in the Scotland 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programmes. This funding was approved before Brexit and will continue to the end of the programme as planned, including funded places on this course for 2021-22.

To be eligible for this funding students must meet the criteria for Scottish or SCEU (European nationals with settled status in the UK) fee status and be resident in the Highlands and Islands (including Moray) or Perth and Kinross for the duration of their studies. In accordance with funding regulations, tuition fee support will only be available to students who meet the funding eligibility criteria and are self-funding i.e. who are not in receipt of funding for tuition fees from other sources, including employers. Funded places will be allocated and successful applicants notified from March onwards, available places will continue to be allocated throughout the recruitment cycle. There is no separate application process, applicants holding an offer will be considered against the eligibility rules.

EU, Scottish Gov and SFC funding logos

Applications are welcome from all suitably qualified applicants. Students who do not meet the eligibility for the tuition fee support, or are not successful in being allocated one of the limited places, will be responsible for paying their own fees. However there are other potential sources of funding support available.

From 2017, eligible Scotland domiciled students studying full time can access loans up to 10,000 from the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). This comprises a tuition fee loan up to £5,500 and a non-income assessed living cost loan of £4,500. EU students studying full time can apply for a tuition fee loan up to £5500.

Part-time students undertaking any taught postgraduate course over two years up to Masters level who meet the residency eligibility can apply for a for a tuition fee loan up to £2,750 per year.

Full details can be found on the SAAS website. Applications for loans open in April.

Students from the rest of the UK who meet the eligibility requirements may be able to apply for a loan from the Student Loan Company

What can I do on completion of my course?

On successful completion of the course, you will be equipped to take up management positions, both at home and abroad, in:

  • The public sector (e.g. local authorities, public utilities etc)
  • Non-governmental development organisations
  • International development agencies
  • Community trusts and community development organisations
  • Conservation agencies
  • Environmental consultants
  • Tourism heritage attractions
  • National parks and countryside parks
  • Secondary school teaching on completion of a PGDE
  • Research and development

Is there more information available online?

QR Code - scan to visit course page

You can use the above QR code to connect directly to the course details.

What our students, graduates and staff say

I looked at several courses before deciding to undertake the MSc with the university. The course content has greatly increased my knowledge of sustainable economic development in rural areas. I was partly sponsored by my employer, HIE, and this allowed me to study and continue working at the same time. Gaining the MSc was a huge personal achievement and the structure of the course made it possible. It was hard work but a lot of fun!

Rona Campbell graduated from the MSc Sustainable Rural Development and is now one of our alumni ambassadors

For the last 25 years I have been involved with the development of rural communities from the agency and community perspective. Maintaining my involvement with the rural sector means I bring significant real-life experience and knowledge to the course.

Dr Michael Smith SFHEA, FRGS, MSc Sustainable Rural Development course leader

It’s incredible to think that I could access a world class masters programme from my own home, in a rural community, in another country! It really shows the potential that new technologies offer rural dwellers and communities if we are brave enough to utilise them.

The programme brought the practical application of rural development theory to life and I learned a huge amount about the design and implementation of rural development strategies, which I have already put to use within my working environment.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the programme was the opportunity to discuss and debate issues with students from all over the world and to learn about rural development from their country’s perspectives.
Seamus Doran, from County Wexford, Ireland, graduated from the MSc Sustainable Rural Development.

Apply for Sustainable Rural Development MSc

I want to start in Aug/Sep 2021 or Jan/Feb 2022

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. We operate a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of gender, age, disability, ethnicity and socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.