a school of fish in the sea

LLM Law of the Sea, Sustainable Development and International Law

Why this course?

The conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The world's oceans and seas are crucial to sustaining life on Earth. They can reduce poverty, ensure food security, and address equity issues. This means we must understand the relationship between the International Law of the Sea and other elements of international law concerning sustainable development. 

The International Law of the Sea is always developing. At the moment, negotiations are ongoing in New York, for instance, towards the development of a new legally-binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

This course focuses on the interface between the International Law of the Sea and other areas of international law. These areas include international biodiversity; human rights; trade; and investment law. It'll give you the knowledge and skills you need to understand ocean governance and all it contains. You'll receive advanced, specialised and comprehensive knowledge of the science, policy and international law of ocean governance. You'll also learn about other areas of international law related to sustainable development. You'll build upon your analytical skills to understand and contribute to the ongoing development and implementation of the International Law of the Sea. Upon graduating from this course, you'll be able to take part in international negotiations of the Law of the Sea and other related processes.

World-leading experts

You'll be taught by world-leading experts and practitioners. They'll draw upon cutting-edge academic research and their direct involvement in ocean law and governance processes. 

Flexible learning

We offer a flexible blended-learning programme. It's a great option if you're an early or mid-career professional who may not be able to take a whole year off to study. You'll study remotely aside from two one-week intensive residential sessions in Scotland. These sessions give you the opportunity to strengthen your expertise and skills and build upon your professional network.


To study this course, you should have relevant work experience in ocean governance or a background in ocean science and/or policy. You don't need a previous law degree.

What you'll study

We cover a wide range of area of expertise in ocean governance essential from a sustainable development perspective:

  • the protection of the marine environment
  • the management of marine and coastal biodiversity
  • the relationship between climate change and oceans
  • food security and fisheries sustainability
  • the opportunities and challenges of blue growth (tourism, hydrocarbon and mineral resources exploitation and exploration, shipping and commerce, marine renewables) 


Your international employability is at the heart of this course. The taught elements of the course will equip you with the skills and knowledge to pursue or advance careers in international organisations and national governments involved in international, regional, EU and/or transnational oceans law matters. You'll also be qualified to work within think tanks, consultancy firms, private companies and non-governmental organisations that operate at international, regional, national and sub-national level. The course directors will provide tailored advice on international careers.


Our library has a wide range of law reports, legislation, serials and monographs. It also has key law report series and houses extensive collections in government publications and other related areas. You'll have access to a wide range of electronic information, which you can access from home. This includes all major legal databases and course materials.

Guest lectures

Some of your classes will also include input from external experts and practitioners with whom SCELG has ongoing partnerships. This includes those from: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) Marine Scotland Global Oceans Biodiversity Initiative (GOBI).

Network with other professionals globally

Guest speakers from international organisations will not only be invited to share their experiences and in-depth knowledge, but also to build upon your professional network. LLM students will become part of a closed alumni group on LinkedIn, with a view to networking with other professionals in environmental law and governance and be updated on selected job and partnership opportunities. 

Global Practitioners among teaching staff

You'll be taught by one of the most wide-ranging groups of environmental law experts in the UK. Our staff have expertise including, but not limited to: biodiversityclimate changehuman rights and the environmentenvironmental justice and corporate accountability. They'll not only draw from their own cutting-edge academic research, but also their involvement in multilateral environmental negotiations, consultancies for the United Nations and regional organisations, legal advice to developing countries on reforms of natural resource laws, and collaborations with intergovernmental and non-government organisations and indigenous and local communities’ organisations.

The Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance

The Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law & Governance (SCELG) aims to identify and shape emerging areas of legal research in environmental governance. Our students are an integral part of the centre, together with academic staff, PhD students and visiting scholars. You'll have the chance to take part in the research and consultancy work carried out by the centre. You can put your new skills and knowledge into practice, strengthening your CV.

Course content

All classes are worth 20 credits. This course is available full-time and part-time, with three potential exit points. 

Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert)

You'll receive 60 by completing three classes

Who's it for?

Ideal for time-constrained professionals with some background in this area. If you're looking to further specialise while deepening your understanding of the interface with sustainable development, this is the option for you.

Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip)

You'll receive 120 credits by completing all six modules.

Who's it for?

This option may be more suited to time-constrained professionals with no background in International Law of the Sea.

Master’s degree (LLM)

You'll gain 80 credits by completing all six modules and preparing a dissertation.

Who's it for?

This is a good option if you're considering a research-oriented career. It could lead you to academia, think-tanks, governments or relevant international organisations.


Oceans Governance and other Areas of International Law

This class will contextualise the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) against the background of international sustainable development instruments. On the one hand, the course will focus on the relationship between UNCLOS and multilateral environmental agreements, including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). On the other hand, this course will focus on the interface between UNCLOS and other areas of international law, such as human rights, World Trade Organization (WTO) and foreign investment.

Developments and Challenges in the Law of the Sea

This class will focus on recent developments and current topics related to the Law of the Sea and oceans governance and associated challenges that the international community faces regarding the current legal framework fragmentation, implementation and regulatory gaps. The first part of the course will explore the role of science in policy and law-making, and in marine management. The interface between oceans law and climate change law will also be further explored in light of emerging climate change and ocean acidification effects on marine ecosystems. Subsequently, students will explore legal and scientific issues pertaining to the elements of a new legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. These elements include: marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, marine genetic resources, including access and benefit-sharing; and capacity building and technology transfer.

Fisheries Law and Sustainability

class will address coastal and deep-sea fisheries law within and beyond areas of national jurisdiction and recent developments in policy and law-making in this field from the viewpoint of different Sustainable Development Goals. It will enhance understanding of the increasing pressures on deeper waters and ecosystems and enable you to interpret different fishing instruments in a systemic manner with a view to contributing to increased food security and environmental sustainability. In addition, case studies will be presented based on current issues in regional and global contexts, such as the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the context of deep-sea fisheries.

Blue Growth and Maritime Law

This class will focus on the notion of sustainability as the central element for a Blue Economy, by exploring global and regional policies and regulations related to the sustainable use of marine resources and the environment, including clean technologies. It'll also increase your understanding of existing legal frameworks concerning marine and coastal tourism, bioprospecting, hydrocarbon and mineral resource (including deep-seabed mining) exploitation and exploration, shipping and commerce, marine renewables, marine scientific research and bioprospecting.

International Dispute Resolution and Oceans Governance

This class will provide students with the opportunity to analyse the highly specialised compulsory dispute settlement system that was established under Part XV of UNCLOS in detail. It'll also provide an opportunity to discuss a wide range of illustrative case law, including with reference to the prompt release of vessels, maritime delimitation, fisheries, pollution, and deep seabed mining. This class will further allow students to develop and enhance their critical thinking concerning the interpretation and enforcement of different sources of international law.


The Protection of the Marine Environment

This class will explore the role of international law in relation to the protection of the marine environment, focusing on pollution (including marine debris and hydrocarbons), habitats, ecosystems, marine species and genetic diversity. By integrating ecology, this class will focus on recent developments in international law related to marine habitats for biodiversity conservation, including the CBD ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs), and the FAO vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) as important components of integrated oceans management and marine spatial planning.

Learning & teaching

The blended-learning format of this course comprises two intensive residential sessions in Scotland and distance-learning sessions online.

The first residential session takes place during the second week of October (allowing you to conduct preparatory readings during the month of September), and the second residential in early January. During the residential sessions, teaching is conducted in a seminar style. Students will be provided with a reading list and a set of questions to prepare prior to each seminar. Guest speakers will act as facilitators of discussion among students. Seminars are complemented by individual and group presentations and exercises; “lounge sessions” to discuss informally with global experts current challenges in the field of oceans governance and sustainable development, and the status of ongoing international negotiations; and social and professional networking activities.

The distance-learning component of the programme will engage students in further readings to deepen students’ knowledge on specific areas addressed during the residential sessions, online discussion forums and a variety of skill-enhancing exercises, with the continuous support of the programme directors.


Assessment takes a variety of forms to hone different skills: coursework assignments, including essays, group discussions and presentations. Some of the assessments will be based on real-life assignments that the teaching staff have engaged within the context of their practical experience in international consultancies, with a view to developing and enhancing students’ skills of immediate relevance to global employers. Students seeking award of the Master’s Degree (LLM) will need to complete a dissertation, which will allow them to hone further their skills in legal research, analysis and reasoning.

Entry requirements

Normally a first-class or second-class honours degree, or equivalent, in law or environment-related discipline (some law content recommended). Entry may be possible with other qualifications, upon approval by the course director, if the applicant has accrued substantial professional experience.

For postgraduate studies, the University of Strathclyde requires a minimum overall score of IELTS 6.5 (no individual test score below 6.0) or equivalent. Tests are valid for two years.

Fees & funding


All fees quoted are for full-time courses and per academic year unless stated otherwise.


  • £11,400

Rest of UK

  • £11,400


  • £15,150

How can I fund my course?

International students

To recognise academic achievement, the Dean's International Excellence Award offers international students a merit-based scholarship of up to £4,000 towards the first year of tuition fees of a full-time Masters programme in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

International students

We have a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Strathclyde Alumni

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences Alumni Discount

10% tuition fee discount is offered to all Strathclyde alumni completing a full-time postgraduate taught course in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Please note

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.


This course has been designed to equip you with the knowledge, understanding and analytical skills necessary for pursuing or further consolidating your career as:

  • Legal advisors and legislative drafters for national and local governments
  • Legal advisors to local, national and international think tanks and non-profit organisations
  • Legal and policy officers for international organisations (United Nations, European Commission)
  • Legal and policy advisors to private companies interested in sustainable development-oriented commercial aspects of ocean governance and Blue Growth.
  • Associates in international and transnational environmental law firms
  • PhD researchers and university lecturers

Our course directors have a track record of successfully supporting students in obtaining highly competitive international internships and jobs with reputable research institutes, international organisations and NGOs. Supporting activities include:

  • review of applications
  • provision of targeted career advice
  • integration of new LLM students in a vibrant, cross-programme alumni community, fostering networking activities
  • collaborations on matters pertaining to environmental law after the completion of the LLM. 

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Law of the Sea, Sustainable Development and International Law

Qualification: LLM, Start date: Sep 2019, Mode of delivery: distance learning, full-time

Law of the Sea, Sustainable Development and International Law

Qualification: LLM, Start date: Sep 2019, Mode of delivery: distance learning, part-time

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