The MSc in Sustainability & Environmental Studies Celebrates 25 years

In 2017, we welcomed our 25th cohort of postgraduate students to our pioneering MSc in Sustainability & Environmental studies programme. As part of the celebrations we have engaged with alumni from the programme, to find out how the programme has helped shape their careers.

The programme was launched in 1992 at the University of Strathclyde as Masters in Environmental Studies (MEnvS) under the leadership of the late Jean Forbes. It was created as a result of growing concern with global environmental issues in the wake of the RIO Earth Summit.   

The programme makes Strathclyde one of the pioneers in the UK in the offering of environmental studies at postgraduate level. Over the last 25 years, the programme has attracted well over 500 students from all over the world. Its success derives from its multi-disciplinary nature; its strong networks with industry and government bodies; its ability to keep its relevance over time to local, national and global issues; and its built-in flexibility that has enabled it to accept students from any degree background (from law, to sciences, to arts).

It has also has a high graduate employability rate, for both home and overseas, with graduates taking up positions including environmental consultants, policy analysts, academics and environmental protection officers.

To me, one of the huge things which you don’t appreciate until years later is the friends and networks you make on the course. I’m still in contact with colleagues from the course all over the world who are doing amazing things in the sector"

Geraldine Boylan
Director of Environment, Quality & Training, Mabbett Ltd
Masters in Environmental Studies graduate, 1998

The programme has catered for both full and part-time studies. The Open Access route has also enabled students to complete the degree programme on a modular basis, whilst working full-time. Over the past 25 years, the MSc programme has evolved as new issues have emerged. This is in part reflected by the change of title of the programme to MSc in Sustainability & Environmental studies.

Two alumni, from two different decades, are working together and we had a conversation with both of them. 

Geraldine Boylan, Director of Environment, Quality & Training, Mabbett Ltd – Environmental Engineering Consultancy - Masters in Environmental Studies (MEnvS) Graduate, 1998

Geraldine undertook the MEnvS within the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Strathclyde, when the environment & sustainability was an emerging subject. Having newly moved to Scotland in 1997, and being held on an interview waiting-list for a Meteorologist position, Geraldine made the decision that if the interview did not work out, she would apply to study for a Masters degree.

She was volunteering at the time, and the job centre brought to her attention a list of courses that were funded by the Glasgow Development Agency (now known as Scottish Enterprise) through their ‘Training through Work’ scheme. Geraldine was passionate to work in the environmental sector but had found it extremely challenging to enter the field, as there were very few positions around.

Supported by the GDA, she undertook the Masters in Environmental Studies programme with background in physics, and completely engaged with it from the start with diverse topics in her curriculum. She feels that working in the environmental sector, one would need to be a really good generalist, since it is essential to grasp new and diverse concepts very quickly and be able to discuss these with clients using a business case.


 SES 25th anniversary - alumni Geraldine Boylan and Caroline Brown

   Geraldine Boylan and Caroline Brown - two generations of Environmental Studies graduates


When she was completing the Masters programme, the GSES was approached by a US environmental consultancy Mabbett, who were seeking a graduate for an initial 6 week contract. The company was impressed by Geraldine as a high quality graduate, and were specifically looking for someone who had both an industrial and ecological knowledge and experience.

Having studied a wide range of subjects, from water and waste management, to biodiversity and international and environmental policy, she feels the interdisciplinary nature of the course gave her the competitive edge to secure the job.

She has been working with Mabbett for 18 years, and her current role is Director of Environment, Quality & Training. “To me, one of the huge things which you don’t appreciate until years later is the friends and networks you make on the course. I’m still in contact with colleagues from the course all over the world who are doing amazing things in the sector. 

There was a large quantity of international students when I did the course, this brought together a diverse mix of backgrounds and knowledge, and I learned so much from having those international contacts”.

Caroline Brown, Environmental Consultant, Mabbett Ltd -Environmental Engineering Consultancy - MSc Environmental Studies Graduate, 2009

Caroline graduated from the MSc programme in 2009. She did her undergraduate degree in Geography, and having enjoyed subjects such as conservation biology and ecology, she decided to go for a Masters degree in environmental studies with the intention to follow a career path as an environmental consultant.

She chose the MSc at Strathclyde; and included in her curriculum a selection of diverse modules such as Environmental Law and Business Strategy that she thought would serve her in her pursuit of a career as environmental consultant. It was only later in her working life that Caroline discovered these topics were very relevant to her job, as in the case of a PPC Permit for a Power Station that was covered in the Environmental Law module. 

I found studying at Strathclyde University such an engaging and applied place, I would definitely recommend it. I was given support when I needed it, but was also able to question the lecturers and share knowledge with colleagues."

Caroline Brown, Environmental Consultant, Mabbett Ltd  
MSc Environmental Studies Graduate, 2009

After graduating from the programme in 2009, and following a period of travel overseas, Caroline gained a role as a Graduate Environmental Consultant with Mabbett in Glasgow. She feels that what she learned on the MSc has been of great help to her on her job, which involves  project management responsibilities.

The main areas of her responsibility include the development and implementation of environmental management systems or energy and quality systems; environmental and legal compliance; and resource efficiency. 

With an ever-evolving sector, Caroline is keen to keep abreast of new topics. She recently returned to the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Strathclyde to undertake a CPD module on the Circular Economy, a current ‘hot topic’.

It was a different experience from first time round, having to balance her study and assignments around a full time job at peak periods, but she felt more confident at this point in her career, and found the module brought lots of interesting viewpoints and examples about what Scottish businesses are doing.She was also able to update her network of contacts.

Geraldine, who is Caroline’s Training Manager at Mabbett, is always favourable of employees who decide to undertake CPD studies and was delighted that Caroline successfully completed the ‘circular economy’ course and still met business targets, despite the challenge of balancing between study and work at a busy time of year for the company. 

“I found studying at Strathclyde University such an engaging and applied place, I would definitely recommend it. I was given support when I needed it, but was also able to question the lecturers and share knowledge with colleagues.”

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