MSc in Sustainability

A two-year programme providing the knowledge and practical skills necessary to solve the challenges of sustainability.

Application Deadline
25 Feb 2024
Program Level
Programme Location
Tokyo, Japan
Program Start Date
September 2024
Program Brochure 

Applications for September 2024 entry are now closed. 

The Master of Science in Sustainability Programme is a two-year programme, which provides students with the knowledge and practical skills necessary to contribute to solving challenges of sustainability. Drawing on an innovative, interdisciplinary approach, the programme integrates methods and resources from the natural and social sciences, as well as the humanities. 

The programme is intended for recent graduates, professionals, and practitioners who seek to meaningfully contribute to the work of governments, civil society, the private sector, and/or the UN and other international organizations in the area of sustainability.

The programme builds on UNU’s strong record in research and capacity development, as well as the extensive network of scholars and academic institutions participating in UNU research. Practice-oriented, user-focused, and of the highest academic quality, it provides students with unique opportunities to interact with leading scholars and policymakers through lectures, international conferences and workshops.

Students can select courses from those offered by UNU-IAS, while also enjoying the opportunity to take courses at other leading universities in Japan such as the University of Tokyo, Sophia University, and International Christian University.

Programme Structure & Language

The programme is offered on a full-time basis only. The academic year starts in September. The standard period to complete the degree requirements is 24 months or four academic semesters, excluding time spent on study leave of absence from the university. The Master of Science in Sustainability degree is awarded upon satisfactory completion of 30 credits and a master’s thesis project. 

The language of instruction is English. [Top]

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the Master of Science in Sustainability are required to have met the following requirements by the application deadline in order to be considered. Those who wish to participate in the double degree programme of UNU-IAS and the University of Tokyo (Department of Urban Engineering in the Graduate School of Engineering) must be shortlisted by the University of Tokyo before submitting an application to UNU-IAS.

  1. A completed bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from a recognized university or institution of higher education in a field related to sustainability in accordance with the UNU-IAS thematic areas (those who expect to receive a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent conferred before the entrance period of September 2024 may also apply);
  2. A GPA of 2.8 or above on a 4.0 scale (equivalent to 70% on a 100 % scale) for the bachelor’s degree earned and;
  3. English language proficiency.* 
  • 600 on TOEFL – Paper-Based Testing (PBT) OR
  • 100 on TOEFL – Internet-Based Testing (IBT) OR
  • 7.0 on IELTS – Academic format

* Please note that TOEFL and ILTS test scores are valid for two years. Invalid test scores will not be accepted. 

UNU-IAS requires original TOEFL/IELTS score reports (no photocopies accepted).

  • TOEFL: Please order an official score report using the institution code 6991. For more information on TOEFL, please visit
  • IELTS: Please request that an official report be sent directly to UNU-IAS. For more information on IELTS, please visit [Top]

Applicants who have studied for at least two consecutive years in a degree-granting university programme taught entirely in English may submit a substitute document for the English language proficiency score.

How to Apply

Please refer to the MSc Application Guidelines for detailed instructions on how to apply. [Top]

Key Dates

  • 25 February 2024: Deadline for applications
  • Late March – early April 2024: Invitation to an interview and requests for submitting supporting documents by email (shortlisted applicants only)
  • Mid- to late April 2024: Interviews (shortlisted applicants only)
  • Mid-May 2024 onwards: Announcement of application results (successful applicants only)

Dates are subject to change

The UNU-IAS Academic Calendar 2024–2025 is available here. [Top]


Application Processing Fee: None

Tuition Fee: USD 12,000 per year*

To secure admission, successful applicants will be required to pay at least 50% of the tuition fee for the first academic year (USD 6,000, non-refundable) by the due date on the invoice issued after the result announcement and prior to enrolment. Students who choose to pay annually must make a full one-year tuition payment before the commencement of the academic year. Successful applicants are required to submit all documents and pay the tuition fee by the deadline.

The estimated total expenses for living and studying in Tokyo for two years are approximately USD 56,000, including tuition. Applicants must ensure adequate financial resources to meet the full costs of educational and living expenses. [Top]

* The fee is subject to change.

** UNU holidays are listed in the UNU-IAS Academic Calendar.


The curriculum is reviewed on a yearly basis and the course offerings may not be identical to the ones listed below. 

Overview Courses (Compulsory)

  • Trans-disciplinary Graduate Research Seminar I & II
  • Sustainability Science Research Seminar

Elective Courses

  • The United Nations System and Sustainable Development*
  • Global Change and Planetary Boundaries*
  • Principles of International Development Project*
  • Water Resources Systems
  • Education for Sustainable Development: From Global Agendas to Local Actions
  • Understanding the mechanism to implement the Paris Agreement to the UNFCCC
  • Frontier of Sustainability Science
  • Law and Practice of the United Nations
  • Climate Justice and the Right to Education
  • Remote Sensing, Geographical Information Systems and Analysis: Theory and Application
  • Environmental Statistics and Research Methods
  • Studies of Socio-Ecological Production Landscapes and Seascapes
  • From SDGs to Climate Change: Implementation Strategies for its Adaptation and Mitigation

Courses marked with * are held over a short period as part of the UNU Intensive Core (IC) Courses.

Other elective courses may also be offered. A wide range of elective courses offered by partner universities are also available to UNU-IAS students through credit exchange arrangements. [Top]

Diploma Programme for Specialization on the Paris Agreement (SPA)

UNU-IAS offers the SPA Diploma Programme focusing on the implementation of the Paris Agreement mechanisms, such as the enhanced transparency framework, nationally determined contributions, national adaptation planning process, global stocktake and market mechanisms. By strengthening national capacity in these areas, it aims to become an essential means of implementation of the agreement and develop future leaders who will be at the forefront of these vital efforts. The diploma will be granted upon satisfactory completion of the designated courses.  [Top]

Double Degree with the University of Tokyo

UNU-IAS and the Department of Urban Engineering in the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo offer a double master’s degree programme. Students first spend two years at the University of Tokyo, obtaining a Master of Engineering degree. After graduating from the University of Tokyo, students enroll at UNU-IAS for one year to obtain a Master of Science in Sustainability degree. The total amount of time required for this double degree programme is three years.

If you wish to enroll in this double degree programme, you must be accepted to both master’s degree programmes (the UNU-IAS MSc in Sustainability, and the Master of Engineering offered by the University of Tokyo). Information on the Master of Engineering degree is available on the University of Tokyo website. Please note that each university has different admission requirements and application deadlines. [Top]

Fast-track for a Second Master for Sophia University Graduates

UNU-IAS and Sophia University implemented a “Fast-Track for a Second Master at UNU-IAS” initiative. This track is available to applicants who hold a master’s degree from Sophia University and want to pursue a UNU-IAS MSc in Sustainability within three years of graduation. Using this track, the applicant can obtain a master’s degree from UNU-IAS in one year at the earliest. The applicant will be required to meet the regular UNU-IAS graduation requirements (30 credits worth of course work and a completed thesis). Applicants who would like to participate in this scheme must apply to the MSc in Sustainability Programme in accordance with the application guidelines and pass the selection process. Please note that this track is not applicable if three years have passed since graduation from the master’s programme at Sophia University. [Top]

Joint Diploma Programmes

Students of the UNU-IAS master’s degree programme are also encouraged to pursue one of two joint diplomas in sustainability science, which are offered in partnership with the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences (UT-GSFS), and with Sophia University. These diploma programmes require students to gain 34 credits, of which eight must be from courses specified by UNU-IAS and the partner university under the respective joint diploma programme. A joint diploma can only be awarded to students who successfully complete the two-year UNU-IAS master’s degree programme. [Top]


Before contacting the Admissions Office, please read through the Frequently Asked Questions to see if your question has been answered. For any unanswered questions, please use the Inquiry Form. [Top]