If you’re looking to gain new skills and knowledge in sustainability, you may be considering a number of learning options. As well as on-campus courses, Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment currently offers four online short courses in this area:

Here we list the top five benefits of studying a sustainability course online with us.

1. Convenience 

Traditionally, when taking a course offered by a university – whether at undergraduate, master’s level or even a short course – you may be expected to attend a campus or classroom at a specific time for lectures, seminars or workshops. This creates a need to live close to the institution for the duration of the course or you must have the time and means to travel in. It also requires you to be available when your tutors are giving their classes.

With online study, none of those restrictions apply. On a Smith School short course you:

  • never need to come into campus – all your learning will be accessed remotely;
  • can study at any time of day – all resources are available online 24/7; and
  • you can learn from anywhere – wherever you live, you can study with the number one university in the world (Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 2022).

Online courses mean no commute, no issues with facilities, inconvenient locations or rigid class schedules. You can learn wherever and whenever suits you, at the click of a mouse.


2. Access to world-class teaching  

Everything you could ever want to know can be found on the internet, but it can be tricky to know whether this information is accurate and reliable. Our online courses are delivered to the highest quality, giving students access to master’s level content from the world’s top university from the comfort of home.

Our short courses are designed and taught by the same renowned academics that teach and research in person at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, housed in the Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment, ranked #1 globally in the QS World University subject rankings 2022. With our online courses, you can enjoy a premier learning experience, regardless of whether you live in South America, northern Australia, western Europe or East Anglia.

For example, Dr Laurence Wainwright is co-lead academic on the Future of Sustainable Business online short course. Laurence’s on-campus MSc in Sustainability, Enterprise and the Environment was the University’s most oversubscribed graduate course for the entry in Autumn 2022. With a decade of experience in lecturing, facilitation and supervision, Laurence has received several prizes and citations for his teaching. He has also appeared on lists recognising high scores in student feedback surveys. Our online course will give you the chance to benefit from his knowledge and experience, wherever you are in the world.

Alternatively, our online short course in Law and Sustainability offers the opportunity to learn from Dr Aisha Saad. Aisha is currently a Fellow at the Harvard Law School Program on Corporate Governance and an honorary research associate on the Oxford Sustainable Law Programme. Her work has been published in the Berkeley Business Law Journal, the Boston College Law Review, the New England Law Review and the Berkeley Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Law.

On the Sustainable Finance course, students benefit from the expertise of Dr Ben Caldecott, the founding Director of the Oxford Sustainable Finance Group at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. Ben is the inaugural Lombard Odier Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow of Sustainable Finance, the first-ever endowed professorship of sustainable finance, and a Supernumerary Fellow at Oriel College, Oxford. He is also the founding Director and Principal Investigator of the UK Centre for Greening Finance & Investment (CGFI). The CGFI was established by UK Research and Innovation in 2021 as the national centre to accelerate the international adoption and use of climate and environmental data and analytics by financial institutions.

And finally, Dr Radhika Khosla is the lead academic on our Sustainable Cooling short course. Radhika is also the Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development and her work examines the productive tensions between urban transitions, energy services consumption and climate change, with a focus on cities in developing countries. She is also the Co-Investigator of Oxford Net Zero, an interdisciplinary research programme aimed at informing effective, equitable, and ambitious climate action, and Co-Investigator of the ZERO Institute, which brings together Oxford research on zero-carbon energy systems.

3. International reach  

The internet has no borders and doesn’t require a passport or plane ticket. This gives online students the chance to learn alongside, and interact with, peers from across the globe.

Universities have always welcomed international students. However, those opportunities have often been available only to those who could afford to travel and pay higher out-of-country fees. With online short courses at the Smith School, those barriers are removed.

Our global online reach means students from all different nations, cultures and backgrounds can be part of the peer group you get to work and interact with.

In fact, since launching our online courses in sustainability, we’ve welcomed students based everywhere from the United Kingdom to Greece, China, the United States, India, Colombia and beyond.


4. Affordability 

Besides saving money on commuting, studying online (especially a short course) has a variety of cost-saving benefits as a way of gaining a qualification or learning new skills.

As discussed earlier, with an in-person programme, you may have to relocate and pay for accommodation or travel there and back every time you have a class or assessment. Our online courses let you study part-time (4-5 hours a week), when it suits you, which means there is no need to take time off work or pay for travel.

As well as all this, compared to a full bachelor’s or master’s programme, an online short course takes less time and so costs much less. With us, you can guarantee meaningful learning outcomes, without the financial commitment.

We also offer discounts to Oxford University alumni, those working in the public sector and individuals living in certain geographical regions.


5. Skills and career progression 

Our courses are designed for people looking to enhance their knowledge of sustainability and apply it to real-world contexts. Whether you need this for your current role, you’re looking to switch career or you just have a general interest in the subject, you’re sure to find our programmes worthwhile. They will quickly and easily help you to improve your understanding, enhance your CV and gain new practical skills – all of which will impress employers.

The Smith School online programmes take as little as eight weeks and are open to anybody, with no need for prior qualifications or application criteria. Plus, the range of courses available – and the fact they only require a few weeks’ commitment – means it’s possible to study more than one different specialism in a short space of time.

For example, on the Law and Sustainability course, you will develop an understanding of:

  • the key sustainability challenges domestically and globally;
  • legal principles and frameworks for environment and sustainability;
  • the key international treaties developed to address sustainability issues like climate change and the loss of biodiversity;
  • the relationships between science and the law;
  • systemic lawyering for sustainability;
  • the role of non-legal actors including NGOs, think tanks, and civil society; and
  • how corporate and securities law can address sustainability challenges.

Meanwhile, Future of Sustainable Business will help you to build stronger knowledge of:

  • the diversity of impacts from climate change and unsustainable development framed from different organisations and global perspectives;
  • the latest thinking about economic systems, technologies, finance, and policies to accelerate a sustainable transition;
  • the multiple often conflicting objectives sustainable business demands; and
  • how to understand, participate in, and create a future in which the businesses that contribute to sustainability thrive.

Sustainable Finance will give you the tools to:

  • understand the purpose of finance and the structure of the financial system;
  • navigate sustainable finance within a broad framework that considers the investment chain, asset classes and different finance professions;
  • analyse the role of public policy in motivating investment in sustainability, understand how sustainable finance is shaped by public policy and the motivations of policymakers internationally, and evaluate what has or has not worked to date;
  • assess how and why policies, regulations and supervisory expectations related to sustainable finance are evolving in different jurisdictions, and examine the opportunities this creates; and
  • analyse the challenges, risks and opportunities associated with seeking positive environmental and social impacts through finance and evaluate what kinds of impacts are likely or possible.

And finally, Sustainable Cooling students will complete the course with the skills and knowledge to:

  • interpret the macro trends, tensions and trade-offs involved in building resilience to extreme heat;
  • confidently communicate the urgency for implementing sustainable cooling solutions at individual, urban and societal levels;
  • distinguish between the socio-technical levers for change, including technology, infrastructure design, governance, business models and social interactions; and
  • develop a heat resilience plan to transition to sustainable cooling, combining evidence learned throughout the course with specific local requirements and knowledge.

As an efficient way to add professionally relevant knowledge to your skillset, and the reputation of Oxford University to your resume, an online programme from us could really boost your career.

Choose an online short course at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment 

See our courses page for more information about the online short courses we have to offer. Or get in touch if you have any questions or would like more information about learning online with us.