MSc/MPhil in Climate Change and Development

The ACDI offers a Masters in Climate Change and Development, running from January to January each year. In addition to this course there are other courses offered by affiliated departments and research centres at  the University of Cape Town. There is often funding for Masters, Doctoral and Post Doctoral Research positions at the ACDI, that will be advertised accordingly.

The call for applications for 2018 will open in August 2017.  Please contact the course convenor, Marieke Norton (, for more details on the application process.

Global climate change presents daunting and exciting challenges, especially for the developing world, where traditional routes to development are at odds with the need for a low carbon economy. At the same time, building resilience to climate change and variability is fundamental to sustainable development and prosperity. A transdisciplinary approach that integrates the biophysical, technological, socio-economic sciences and the humanities is required to successfully engage with the challenges of climate change. South Africa is well positioned to engage with these issues because of its status as a developing country with good technology and infrastructure, juxtaposed with less developed communities, and an economy in transition. This provides a microcosm of the developing world’s social, environmental, and economic development issues.

This full-time one-year taught Master’s course provides interdisciplinary training in climate change and sustainable development, with a focus on the issues of relevance to African development. It is convened by UCT’s African Climate and Development Initiative, a UCT Signature Theme comprising academics and research units from across the University with a shared interest in interdisciplinary research and solutions to the climate change problem.

To learn about past ACDI MSc and MPhil research topics and supervisors, explore past classes: 

Course content

  • Two compulsory core modules: 1) Introduction to Climate Change and Sustainable Development­ – providing broad, integrated knowledge on key issues in the climate change and sustainable development field.  The module covers topics such as sustainable development; the climate system, anthropogenic forcing and climate system response; African climate variability and change; international climate change legal frameworks; the economics of climate change and climate change financing; and climate-compatible development; and 2) Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation – providing in-depth coverage of adaption and mitigation from both theoretical and applied  points of view. 
  • Two elective modules, chosen from a range of topics such international climate law, sustainable urban systems, climate variability & prediction, and climate change & biodiversity, offering the opportunity to explore new areas or to look at climate and development through existing disciplinary backgrounds.
  • A 90-credit dissertation 

Course timing

The course begins in late January and finishes in January of the following year.

Who should attend?

Honours or four-year Bachelor graduates from across the spectrum of disciplines, who want to gain a broad understanding of the issues involved in climate change and sustainable development from an African and developing world perspective, and those wanting a comprehensive introduction to climate change issues before embarking on a PhD. The course will equip its graduates for employment in government, local authorities, businesses with a sustainability agenda, consultancies, NGOs and international development organisations. It is aimed at both recent graduates and those with several years’ experience who wish to engage with these pressing issues within the context of their vocations.

Application deadline: Applications for 2017 are now closed - you can sign up for our newsletter to be informed of when applications are open again)

Application requirements and information

Acceptance to a postgraduate degree in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science Department is highly competitive. To be eligible to apply for the Masters in Climate Change and Development, a candidate must have the equivalent to a UCT Honours degree. This is a minimum of a four year degree, with a significant research component in the fourth year. If you are uncertain as to your eligibility, you would be advised to approach the South African Qualifications Association (SAQA) to review your transcripts. A SAQA score of 8 would be considered equivalent to Honours, in which case you would be eligible to apply to our Masters programmes. Please note that eligibility to apply does not however constitute acceptance to the programme. 

The application process has two components.

Applicants should submit:

 A UCT application Form (please read the relevant information if you are a foreign applicant) which is available from Online applications are encouraged, but paper applications are also possible.

  1. A Departmental Application Form, along with the following: 
  2. A 1000 word statement of interest in the Masters programme. This should include a motivation for attending the course, and a short statement on the area or area(s) you are considering for your research dissertation.
  3. A writing sample, preferably your Honours project/paper or a paper of equivalent academic depth.
  4. Letters on the departmental reference form, from two academic references that are able to speak to your academic abilities and suitability for chosen programme.
  5. All university-level transcripts (official or certified copies)

Funding Opportunities:

We are aware that many students struggle to cover the fees as bursaries are limited, thus you are strongly encouraged to look and apply for scholarships before being accepted in our programme. UCT offers a limited number of scholarships for International and South African students, and application forms must be submitted early (sometimes as early as July of the year preceding the start of the programme).

Regarding housing: If you wish to join one of UCT’s student accommodations, you are strongly encouraged to apply early. For all information regarding student accommodation, please contact the accommodation office that the course convener will not be able to assist you regarding fee, funding or housing issues.