MSc/MPhil in Climate Change and Development

The ACDI Masters specialising in Climate Change and Development is a full-time, 180 NQF credit coursework masters that is 50% course-based and 50% dissertation-based.  It runs from February to February each year.  In addition to this course there are other courses offered by affiliated departments and research centres at the University of Cape Town.

The call for applications for 2019 will close 31 OCTOBER 2018 - please read further for full application details. 

PLEASE NOTE: There is a dual application process – applicants must apply to the programme convenor as well as complete a General Admission application process for acceptance to postgraduate study in the Faculty of Science.


Master's card scholarships: please note that The Master Card Scholarship closes 30th August. To apply you must have UCT general admission acceptance (a UCT student number is needed to apply). Acceptance into the ACDI master's programme is not necessary to apply for this scholarship, but UCT admission is.  Should you be eligible for applying to this scholarship, please contact Marieke Norton by the 31st July to talk about what support we can offer your application.

Please contact the course convenor, Marieke Norton, for more details on the application process.

About the programme

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, and an African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence. 

The ACDI Masters course is one of several development studies programmes at UCT. For more information about other development studies programmes at UCT, please visit the UCT Studying Development website.

To learn more about student experiences of studying with the ACDI, please watch our video:  What's it like to study climate change at the University of Cape Town?

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 based on a self-developed research question on the issue of claimte change, in the discipline of the student’s choosing.

Course timing

The course begins in early February (two week before the start of the undergraduate year) and finishes in February the following year.

Who should attend?

Honours or four-year Bachelor graduates from across the spectrum of disciplines, who have completed a research-based project or dissertation in their final year.  We seek applicants 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 who want 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 for 2019: 31 October 2018 – late applications will not be considered, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Please sign up for our newsletter to be informed of when applications are open again and for funding opportunities.

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: A UCT application and a departmental/ACDI application.

With your applications you should submit:

UCT component:

A UCT application can be done online through the UCT application site. Foreign applicants can find out more about their applications here. Click here for a comprehensive guide on how to apply as a postgraduate student at UCT.

Departmental/ACDI Application Component:

  1. An EGS Department Application Form (this will download as a word document)
  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. Please send as a PDF.
  4. Letters on the departmental reference form (this will download as a word document), from two academic references that are able to speak to your academic abilities and suitability for chosen programme. Please have your references sent directly to Tanya Basadien in EGS (email noted below).
  5. All university-level transcripts (official or certified copies) (High School certificates or certificates noting attendance of non-credit bearing courses or diplomas are not necessary; these achievements can be noted on the CV).

Submitting your application

  • All EGS department applications (items 1-5 above) should be sent to Tanya Basadien:
  • For queries regarding the Masters programme only, please contact the course convener:
  • Regarding fees: please contact the Fees Office (+27 (0) 21 650 1704) or see the Fees Handbook.
  • General information and a variety of funding options for postgraduate students can be found on UCT's website. Neither Tanya Basadien nor Marieke Norton give fees advice.

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 live in UCT’s student accommodation, you are strongly encouraged to apply early. For all information regarding student accommodation, please contact the accommodation office Note that the course convener will not be able to assist you regarding fee, funding or housing issues.