This program page was last updated on 10 April 2021. Some details may have changed since then. Please check the Lancaster Environment Centre website or the Lancaster Environment Centre page for current opportunities.

Political Ecology MA

Lancaster Environment Centre
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Master's programs

Course Overview

The Earth is facing up to unprecedented environmental challenges. Enormous problems ranging from biodiversity loss to climate change demand both critical thought and action in order to understand and live with a changing planet. Yet environmental issues are simultaneously political, technological and cultural, and produce profound inequalities in how wealth, power and justice are realised. This unique Masters programme in Political Ecology offers the conceptual tools and practical skills to ask the difficult questions of human-environment relations, to not accept the status quo uncritically, and to drive transformative action.

By taking the MA Political Ecology at Lancaster, the only such programme in the UK, you will be working with and learning from one of the largest political ecology research groups in the country. We draw upon political ecology’s multi-dimensionality and emphasise a generous range of interdisciplinary perspectives that seek to understand different ways of analysing the critique, debates and actions centred on diverse environment and development concerns from local to global scales. We focus on a range of themes including the politics of resource extraction, water, climate politics and the green economy. To do this, we believe passionately that learning isn’t just about lectures. We offer novel approaches to our teaching, engaging our students in creative classes that provide the necessary means to understand a complex planet and the challenges of our living with it.

Entry Requirements

We may also consider non-standard applicants, please contact us for information.

If you have studied outside of the UK, we would advise you to check our list of international qualifications before submitting your application.

English Language Requirements

We may ask you to provide a recognised English language qualification, dependent upon your nationality and where you have studied previously.

We normally require an IELTS (Academic) Test with an overall score of at least 6.5, and a minimum of 6.0 in each element of the test. We also consider other English language qualifications.

If your score is below our requirements, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English language programmes.

Contact: Admissions Team +44 (0) 1524 592032 or email

Course Structure

You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.


    • This module provides an introduction to cutting-edge theoretical approaches, geographies and themes of political ecology, addressing the most relevant and pressing questions facing our planet. Students will learn about complex environmental issues, critique the status quo, and drive transformative action through a political ecology lens.

      The topic will be explored through conceptual methods, using feminist, decolonial, and materialist approaches, and applied to a range of global geographies. This will enable students to consolidate their understanding of how the global environment operates across difference spaces and scales using political ecology theories, with an opportunity to apply conceptual tools through interactive workshops.

      On successful completion of this module, students will be able to apply critical thinking and theory to real-world problems using their knowledge of the key challenges facing environmental crises. Students will be able to analyse and solve complex environmental issues with novel, independent perspectives, and evaluate evidence to develop original arguments.

    • This module is taken by all Masters students. This is a piece of research carried out with one-to-one supervision from either a member of LEC staff or one of our research partner organisations or sometimes both. Students can choose their own project (subject to agreement), choose a project from a list published by the department, or can apply for a project in conjunction with an external company.

    • This module will give students the opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art in political ecology by engaging with political ecologists in weekly seminars involving the authors of key readings. Topically organised around environmental phenomenon, students will have the opportunity to communicate with authors of recent articles from LEC, the wider UK political ecology community, and around the world in a combination of in-person and virtual seminars. The module will internationalise the MA Political Ecology experience while fostering links with the wider department.

      Students will understand environmental and social problems across world regions, types of environments, and conflicts over nature. The module equips students with key methodologies that political ecologists use to analyse the causes and responses to environmental crises, allowing students to identify areas that require further study.

      On successful completion of this module, students will be able to demonstrate their understanding of contemporary political ecology using key critical analysis skills and gaining hands on experience working with academics in a professional setting.

    • The aim of this module is to provide students with a theoretical foundation for the study of development and the environment from a geographical perspective. Students will focus on understanding the ways in which scholars have brought together development theory alongside the analysis of nature-society relations in the developing world.

      This module provides students with a critical understanding of the evolution of contemporary development discourses and new ways of thinking about the relationship between environment and development. Key topics of discussion include theories of development, indigenous knowledge and development, biotechnology and food security, and the political economy of natural resources.

      Ultimately, this module will enhance student’s academic skills to develop reasoned arguments through the analysis, interpretation and critical appraisal of complex evidence, with a module designed to deepen student’s understanding between theory and practice.

    • The module aims to train students to masters level in guided, but self-determined research planning. For the the subject area of their research project, they will have: familiarity with the broader and specific literature;researched appropriate methodologies; developed a research plan; presented the findings in poster and written formats.

    • The aim of this module is to enhance the research training given to Masters students in order to improve the general quality of dissertations and research reports.

      Students will be provided with basic training in research approaches, methods and techniques so they are able to describe the research traditions associated with the geography discipline, and design and undertake geographical research using appropriate methods of data collection and analysis.

      In addition to this, students will undertake detailed literature reviews and formulate research questions, their answers of which will demonstrate an understanding of writing styles, structures, formats and other conventions which are common to academic research.


    • This module aims to explore and reconfigure the ways in which climate change is understood through a focus on the social, rather than the scientific-environmental discourses that have dominated the policy and politics of climate change. This module give you a wide-ranging and intensive introduction to the politics, cultures and theories of climate change research in the social sciences and humanities. You will be able to critically evaluate different theoretical perspectives on a range of climate change debates and present alternative arguments.

    • Current debates over issues such as genetically modified crops, nuclear power, shale gas, loss of biodiversity or climate justice – and the protest movements and campaigns that have arisen in response – provide tangible evidence that the relationship between society and the environment is a difficult and often controversial one.

      This module examines the role that sociology and social theory can play in helping us to understand that relationship better, and explores the range of approaches that have been developed in environmental sociology.

      Studying the environment sociologically opens up a host of interconnected social, cultural and political issues. Whose knowledge counts? How can we handle unquantifiable risk? What role should technology play? And what about democracy, freedom, diversity and justice?

      Using lectures and seminar discussion, the module will lead you through the resources of sociology and social theory to enable you to think through these questions in relation to some of the most urgent environmental issues facing societies today. For example, what might ‘liveable cities’ look like in the future? Do biotechnologies provide solutions to world hunger, or not? How can governments make democratic decisions about the disposal of nuclear waste?

    • Students will gain a critical understanding of key concepts, principles, tools and techniques for the management of natural resources and the environment. Particular attention is given to the challenges of dealing with complexity, change, uncertainty and conflict in the environment, and to the different management approaches which can be deployed in ‘turbulent’ conditions.

      Contemporary environmental problems will be examined and interpreted from both an academic and policy perspective. In order to do this effectively, students will learn to evaluate and critique arguments and evidence related to environmental problems, and will demonstrate advanced understanding of alternative management concepts through constructive debate.

    • This module will introduce students to the fundamental concepts and debates in environmental governance, including insights across economics, geography, conservation science and psychology. Students will explore a range of real-world policies that are used to protect biodiversity, such as multilateral agreements, payment for ecosystem services, advocacy, and national legislation. Students will design, evaluate, and justify their own policy choices, reflecting on the underlying assumptions about what it means to manage the environment.

      Students will look at the relationships between biodiversity, governance, and a range of institutional arrangements for governing biodiversity, drawing upon the underlying theories, design elements and policy choices that inform contemporary conservation initiatives. This will allow students to understand the different challenges associated with governing biodiversity, identify appropriate methods and frameworks for studying conservation policy choices, and look at the different institutional arrangements for conserving biodiversity to create their own proposals.

      On successful completion of this module, students will be able to understand key governance concepts, and identify and analyse real-world socio-ecological challenges. Students will understand the importance of environmental governance in supporting biodiversity conservation across scales and context with confidence to draw upon evidence, theory and examples from across diverse disciplines to support their conclusions.

    • This module critically examines environmental justice as an agenda and discourse in environmental politics, activism and policy. It considers how environment bads and goods and the practices of environmental management have equity and justice implications for different groups in society (as for example geographically, socioeconomically, racially, culturally, demographically defined) and examines the research, policy debates and political action that have focused on questions of distributive, procedural, recognition and epistemic justice. The module is international in scope, considering experience in various parts of the world and environmental issues that operate across local to global scales. For those concerned with environmental management and goverance this module addresses issues that are becoming increasingly important to how environmental policy and decision-making is carried out.

    • This module aims to introduce you to the historical and contemporary making of the 'Third World' (the global South) with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

      Typically the module is divided into two parts. The first half explores historical processes, beginning with the creation of an international capitalist economy and its incorporation of the global South from the sixteenth century onwards and ends with an examination of neo-liberalism and the post-Washington consensus with its emphasis on poverty reduction and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

      The second half explores key contemporary development policies, debates and actors such as foreign aid and international NGOs; diaspora politics and remittances; grassroots social movements; and the role of China in fostering a renewed focus on resource-based models of development including reformist, redistributive models as in Venezuela and Ecuador.

      The module objective is to enable you to critically appraise the complex interactions between Northern and Southern state and non-state actors in shaping current development policy and resistance to it.

    • Globalisation has become a buzzword in the social sciences and lay discourse. It is often related to the speeding up of global communication and travel, and the transnationalisation of economic, political, social and cultural institutions. The meaning and causes of globalisation are highly debatable. For the purposes of this module globalisation is defined as a complex, paradoxical set of processes, which are multi-scalar, multi-temporal, multi-centric, multi-form, and multi-causal. It produces fragmentation and integration, divergence and convergence as well as continuities and discontinuities. Their overall effect is to reconfigure asymmetries of power and knowledge and this, in turn, raises questions about governance, inequalities, and resistance in and across different parts of the world. Selected themes range from MacDonaldization through to Wal-Martization and the current financial crisis.

      The course is taught on the basis of ten weekly two-hour seminars with short lectures, a 15-20 min. student presentation, and a general discussion in which all are expected to participate. The topics include: the world market, finance and production, labour and migration, global cities, global media and global culture, sovereignty and nation-states, global governance, global cities as well as financial globalization and crisis.

      Select Bibliography:

    • Chossudovsky, M and Marshall, A. The Global Financial Crisis
    • Grant, R & Short, J., Globalization and the Margins
    • Holton, R. Globalization and the Nation-State (2nd edition)
    • Panitch, L. and Gindin, S. The Making of Global Capitalism
    • Perrons, D., Globalization and Social Change
    • Schirato, T & Webb, J., Understanding Globalization
    • Short, J., Global Dimensions
  • Our world is facing an ever-increasing number of global environmental challenges. This engaging module examines the international legal response to those challenges.

    We will delve into the socio-economic, political and scientific implications of environmental problems. As we do so, we will assess the impact of those implications on law and policy-making.

    The module focuses on a number of contemporary environmental problems: climate change, marine pollution, the protection of international watercourses, fisheries and biodiversity, and the relationship between trade and the environment. You will assess the strengths and inadequacies of the law in regulating each of these issues.

    We also typically cover topics such as:

  • fundamental concepts and principles of international environmental law
  • sustainable development and the precautionary principle
  • how international environmental law operates (law-making, environmental governance and institutional structure)
  • compliance with environmental rules and standards

You will be taught by academics in the field many of whom are active researchers. Typically, research within the teaching team informs this module.

Please note that only one of the two modules "Environmenal Law" and "International Environmental Law" may be taken as part of the LLM Environment and Law.

  • National and ethnic tensions lie at the heart of many contemporary international conflicts. But what are the rights of peoples, national minorities and indigenous peoples under international law?

    Our Rights of Peoples module takes an in-depth look at this key question and encourages you to critically explore the idea of a national identity and relations between groups within states.

    Typically, you will examine:

  • protection of the environment

A combination of independent reading and seminars with research-active lawyers and academics will provide you with the opportunity to gain a sound grasp of this legal area.

Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research. Not all optional modules are available every year.



The University will not increase the Tuition Fee you are charged during the course of an academic year.

If you are studying on a programme of more than one year's duration, the tuition fees for subsequent years of your programme are likely to increase each year. The way in which continuing students' fee rates are determined varies according to an individual's 'fee status' as set out on our fees webpages.

Fees for EU applicants

The UK government has announced that students who will begin their course in 2021 will no longer be eligible to receive the same fee status and financial support entitlement as UK students. This also applies to those who have deferred entry until 2021. Lancaster University has confirmed that students from EU Member States in 2021-22 and later, will now be charged the same tuition fees as other non-UK students.

What are tuition fees for?

Studying at a UK University means that you need to pay an annual fee for your tuition, which covers the costs associated with teaching, examinations, assessment and graduation.

The fee that you will be charged depends on whether you are considered to be a UK or international student. Visiting students will be charged a pro-rata fee for periods of study less than a year.

Our annual tuition fee is set for a 12 month session, which usually runs from October to September the following year.

How does Lancaster set overseas tuition fees?

Overseas fees, alongside all other sources of income, allow the University to maintain its abilities across the range of activities and services. Each year the University's Finance Committee consider recommendations for increases to fees proposed for all categories of student and this takes into account a range of factors including projected cost inflation for the University, comparisons against other high-quality institutions and external financial factors such as projected exchange rate movements.

What support is available towards tuition fees?

Lancaster University's priority is to support every student in making the most of their education. Many of our students each year will be entitled to bursaries or scholarships to help with the cost of fees and/or living expenses. You can find out more about financial support, studentships, and awards for postgraduate study on our website.

Studying a Masters degree at Lancaster

Micha Stuart and Prerana Dhakhwa talk about why they came to Lancaster to study a Masters degree. Micha is on the MSc Volcanology and Geological Hazards and Prerana is studying MSc Sustainable Water Management.

Scholarships and Funding

If you are considering applying for a place on a Masters programme at the Graduate School, you may be able to benefit from our range of scholarships and funding streams. 30% of our 2019 Masters students have been awarded scholarships worth between £1,500 and £5,000.


You will find yourself taking advantage of several laboratory facilities at Lancaster Environment Centre. There are our £4.4 million Teaching Labs, for example, as well as specialist facilities for Environmental Chemistry, Noble Gas, and Plant and Soil Ecology.

Research Facilities

There are no fewer than 15 purpose-built glasshouse modules, 16 controlled environment plant growth rooms, 4 solar domes based at the Hazelrigg Weather Station and a suite of ultraviolet radiation research facilities that can truly claim to be world-class.

Field Sites

You could find yourself working at a range of catchment science sites across England and Wales, including the local River Eden Valley, or they can travel much further afield to the tropical forests of the Amazon and Borneo.

Cutting-Edge Technologies

You can be trained to use a range of equipment, such as our Stable Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer Facility, X-ray CT Scanner, Magnetometer or the LI-COR Portable Photosynthesis System, which has the capacity to measure plant gas exchange with exceptional speed and precision.

Rich Data Resources

Dedicated support staff with expertise in GIS, statistics, modelling, information technology and programming are available to provide specialist training in all aspects of data acquisition, processing and analysis.

Postgraduate study is carried out in the Graduate School for the Environment. This is a collaboration between Lancaster University's Environment Centre, the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and Rothamsted Research.

More Information

Posted on:


Master's Programs


Lancaster , United Kingdom