When activist Greta Thunberg declared that young people were unstoppable in the fight to avert the climate crisis at the 2019 UN Youth Climate Summit, it seemed a generation stood up and listened. Indeed, many young people are passionate about tackling the climate crisis. And now they’re getting educated on the topic, too.

In recent years, a vast number of climate- and sustainability- focused postgraduate degrees have sprung up, from agroforestry to engineering, sustainable cities, to environmental economics. Given government plans to restart the economy post-pandemic with a self-styled green industrial revolution and 250,000 new green jobs, Thunberg may be right: a new climate-focused generation of postgraduates could help reshape the world.

“I think it’s probably the perfect time [to study an environmental master’s],” says Millie Baldwin, who is studying an MSc in environmental management for business at Cranfield University. “Sustainability is coming to the forefront of governments and businesses, but it feels like it’s very much at the start,” she says. “To be part of that big wave is really exciting.”

Interest has increased among arts and humanities graduates, too. Both Fox and Joanne Norris, postgraduate research coordinator for Bristol’s new MSc in global environmental challenges programme, say they have had students from a broader range of academic backgrounds come to the department. “It’s no longer thought of as a scientific career path only, which is really exciting and important,” says Norris.

Anisha Solanki is a case in point. She studied English literature and German for her undergraduate degree and is about to start an MSc in sustainable cities at the University of Leeds. “This is the direction the world is going in,” she says. “Courses like these will become increasingly important over the next few years.”

Even postgraduate courses that don’t primarily cover the climate crisis might cover more environmental topics. Last year, the University of Sheffield announced it will embed teaching about sustainability across all of its courses. “It’s just so fundamental to everything we do,” says Rachael Rothman, academic lead for sustainability at the University of Sheffield. “We’re not going to have a sustainable world unless the generations coming up are able to [learn about it]. So it’s critical from that point of view.”

Postgraduates with an expertise in sustainability can expect to be increasingly employable. The government’s new plan for a “green industrial revolution”, billed at £12bn, was announced in November. It includes a pledge to quadruple offshore wind power by 2030 and to boost hydrogen production alongside a range of other measures. Boris Johnson has said the deal will “make strides towards net zero by 2050” – although Ed Miliband, the shadow business secretary, has said it is “nowhere near the scale of what is required”.

Daniel Conley, programme lead for the MSc in marine renewable energy at the University of Plymouth, believes his students will soon be more in demand than ever. “Offshore wind is exploding,” he says. “The jobs market is just going to be soaring.”

Postgraduate students on climate-focused courses are excited by the prospect of a career in tackling the crisis. “Energy is going to be of worldwide concern for many years from now,” says Andreas Palaiochorinos, who is studying the renewable energy, enterprise and management MSc programme at Newcastle University.

“Being able to contribute to society on a small or large scale is important to me. I want to contribute something towards making people’s lives better, easier and safer,” he says.



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