Sustainability science

Bannière Master Transition
Program type Initial Training
Degree Master's
Domain(s) Humanities & social sciences, Fundamental Sciences
Discipline(s) Chemistry, Sustainable development, Ecology, Economics, Géographie politique, Géosciences, History, Digital Humanities, Mathematics, Physics, Cognitive science, Earth sciences, Life Sciences, Social Science
Teaching language(s) French, English
Place Paris

PSL host school

Other PSL school(s) contributing to the curriculum


A new interdisciplinary programme in Sustainability Science will be launched by PSL University in September 2024. It results from an unprecedented synergy between some of its founding schools, namely: Ecole normale supérieure - PSL (ENS-PSL), Dauphine - PSL, Chimie Paris - PSL and Ecole nationale des Chartes - PSL. This master's program in Sustainability Science aspires to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to apprehend the complexities of social and ecological transition challenges through a rigorous and interdisciplinary approach, in order to train them to draw from multiple fields and apply diverse knowledge to solve sustainability problems in the face of global change.

The Master's is organised over two years, each with complementary objectives. 

In the first year (M1), students in the Sustainability Sciences master's programme concentrate on a core discipline from a choice of twelve, being integrated into a PSL master, called partner master (corresponding to this discipline). These fields are: social sciences, digital humanities, history, geography and geopolitics, philosophy, quantitative economics, applied economics, cognitive sciences, biodiversity and life sciences, earth and climate sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics. In addition to studying their core discipline in depth, students follow some of the interdisciplinary courses and workshops offered by the CERES center of ENS-PSL dedicated to environmental and social issues (Centre de formation sur l’Environnement et la Société), while developing a interdisciplinary student group project. Their M1 internship or report will be centered on their core discipline with a subject oriented towards social or ecological transitions.

In the second year (M2), all students are grouped into a single curriculum hosted by CERES. Students follow theoretical and methodological courses on global change and different aspects of social and ecological transitions to be activated. Moreover, collaborative student group projects will encourage students 1) to explore intersections between their core discipline and other fields, contributing to a growing body of knowledge dedicated to the transition, and 2) to integrate this knowledge with the expertise of multiple stakeholders, co-constructing and implementing transition solutions in real-world settings. They will practice transdisciplinarity, i.e., the cross-talk between researchers and non-academic actors to address complex questions and co-construct solutions, including practical knowledge, field experiences and the diverse perspectives.

The program is so designed for students to deepen their knowledge in their core discipline, learn to apply it to interdisciplinary research and generate new research questions in relation to contemporary environmental crises that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

STrucure Master SD

Detailed presentation of the master's degree

Learning outcomes

The curriculum aims at providing a comprehensive understanding of global change, transition scenarios, and transition initiatives from a scientific perspective, while exploring alternative viewpoints (e.g., grassroots activists, advocacy groups, lobbies, farmers in the Global South…).
The overarching goal is to guide students in mobilizing their core discipline within interdisciplinary research focused on ecological and social transition. 
Through a problem-based learning approach, students engage with real-world challenges in the ecological and social transition, fostering critical thinking and collaborative research, as well as transdisciplinary interactions i.e., between scientific fields and with non-academic stakeholders involved in the transition.
Students also acquire practical skills, e.g., communicating science or conducting surveys.
This multifaceted educational approach aims that graduates not only possess a solid academic foundation but are also adept at effectively communicating complex ideas and engaging with diverse audiences.

Who should apply?

Our inclusive program welcomes students from virtually all possible backgrounds, spanning mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth and climate sciences, life sciences, biodiversity and life sciences, cognitive science, economics, philosophy, geography, history, social sciences and law. This diversity forms the foundation for a comprehensive understanding of sustainability issues. Students should share a keen interest in understanding the causes and consequences of the biodiversity and climate crises and in working collectively with students of other disciplines to tackle transitions in a systemic way. This collaborative and practical approach reflects the goal of training students who are not only well-versed in academic knowledge but are also adept at applying their skills to address real-world issues. 

| Application from January 11 to March 11, 2024. See the 'Admission tab' for details |


This master's program opens doors to a wide array of career opportunities, reflecting the growing need for young graduates trained in coping with the challenges posed by global change. 

  • Our graduates will be able to engage in PhD theses in interdisciplinary transition research, participating in dedicated programs focused on transition challenges (e.g., as embodied by various PEPR – “Programmes et Equipements Prioritaires de Recherche” exploratoires such as TRACCS, TRANSFORM, FairCarboN, BRIDGES, Maths VivES or OneWater) or in interdisciplinary research institutes like CIRED or LSCE.
  • In the private sector, graduates can contribute to the transition in dedicated roles within business firms with a social and environmental purpose, think tanks (e.g., IDDRI, Campus de la transition, Shift project…), as well as consulting firms (e.g., Ecoact, Sweep, Carbon 4…). The spectrum extends to research and development, corporate social responsibility, and environmental and social roles within companies.
  • Public sector avenues include roles in NGOs dedicated to sustainable and fair transition (Pollinis, Bloom, Greenpeace…), governmental institutions like the Ministry of Ecological Transition, France Stratégie, and environmental or social agencies like ADEME.
  • Students deepen their core discipline and learn how to mobilize it within interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research for the ecological and social transition.
  • By enrolling students from various academic backgrounds, our program fosters a rich and varied pool of expertise. This creates a dynamic learning environment where students benefit not only from their core discipline but also from the collective knowledge of their peers. 
  • Students work on real-world projects, collaborating with stakeholders actively involved in sustainability efforts. This hands-on experience not only prepares students for the complexities of their future roles but also emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration.
  • Throughout the program, students receive guidance and mentorship as they prepare for their master's thesis/internship project and explore potential topics for doctoral research. This support aims to ensure that students are well-prepared to make meaningful contributions to the field.

This two-year program (120 ECTS) is divided into an M1 year (60 ECTS) and an M2 year (60 ECTS) .

During the first year of the program (M1), students in the first semester take all or a significant portion of the courses from one of the following PSL master's programs, called “partner masters”*: 

*Please note: at the time of your application in Master's degree Year 1, you will need to indicate in the PSL portal ("Other information" tab), in order of priority, the track(s) within the master’s program that best matches your project (Maximum 2 choices). 


During the first year of the program (M1), students are embedded in the curriculum of one of the “partner masters”, so as to deepen their knowledge within their core discipline with lectures (S1) and a research project focused on environmental questions (S2). They simultaneously take courses of their choice at CERES (e.g., climate geopolitics, conservation ecology, agroecological transition...) and engage with an interdisciplinary student group project on some contemporary environmental and social challenge. These two activities take place at ENS-PSL, once a week for the former, once a month for the latter. 

In the second year of master (M2), all students come together in the same curriculum and develop their skills at facing complex, interdisciplinary issues. The overarching goal is to guide students in mobilizing their core discipline within interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research on ecological and social transition. 

  • First, students delve into the fundamental knowledge surrounding global change, transition scenarios, and transition initiatives from a scientific perspective (relying in particular on CERES activities).
  • Second, students participate/organize seminars with key stake-holders in the sustainability transition who bring practical insights and firsthand experiences that enrich the academic discourse.
  • Third, complementing the seminars, groups of students of different disciplines work together in transdisciplinary projects on a real-world transition issue. Students work alongside diverse stakeholders (NGOs, engineers, elected representatives, farmers…) representing diverse sectors (energy, agriculture, biodiversity management, law…).
  • Fourth, students engage a 5 or 6 month-training period to put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired during the first semester. By actively participating in crafting transition projects, students contribute to real-world solutions, bridging the gap between academy and practice.

Laboratories involved

Most professors involved in the master are members of one of following laboratories at PSL, which form an indicative, but not at all exhaustive, list of potential hosting labs for students’ projects, internships or PhDs.

  • CEREEP- Écotron IleDeFrance (ENS, CNRS)
  • CEREMADE (Centre de Recherche en Mathématiques de la Décision, Paris-Dauphine, CNRS)
  • CERES (Centre de formation sur l’environnement et la société, ENS)
  • CHArt (Cognitions Humaine et Artificielle, EPHE, Univ. Paris 8, Université Paris-Est Créteil)
  • CIRB (Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en biologie, Collège de France, CNRS, Inserm)
  • CMH (Centre Maurice Halbwachs, ENS, CNRS)
  • CR2D (Centre de Recherche Droit Dauphine, Paris-Dauphine)
  • DMA (Département de Mathématiques et Applications, ENS, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université Paris Cité)
  • DRM (Dauphine Research Management, CNRS)
  • IBENS (Institut de Biologie de l'École Normale Supérieure, CNRS, Inserm) 
  • IJN (Institut Jean Nicod, ENS, EHESS, CNRS)
  • IRISSO (Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences, Paris-Dauphine, CNRS, INRAE)
  • ISYEB (Institut de Systématique, Évolution, Biodiversité, EPHE, CNRS, MNHN, Sorbonne université, Université des Antilles)
  • LAMSADE (Laboratoire d’Analyse et de Modélisation de Systèmes pour l’Aide à la Décision, Paris-Dauphine, CNRS)
  • RDS (La République des Savoirs: Lettres, Sciences, Philosophie, ENS, Collège de France, CNRS)
  • LEDA (Dauphine Economics Laboratory, Paris-Dauphine, CNRS, IRD)
  • LG-ENS (Laboratoire de Géologie de l’ENS, CNRS) 
  • LMD (Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, ENS, École Polytechnique, CNRS, Sorbonne Université)
  • LPENS (Laboratoire de Physique de l’ENS, CNRS, Sorbonne Université, Université Paris Cité) 
  • METIS (Milieux environnementaux, transferts et interactions dans les hydrosystèmes et les sols, EPHE, CNRS, Sorbonne Université)
  • PJSE (Paris Jourdan Sciences Économiques, ENS, CNRS)

Prerequisites (M1)

  • B.Sc and excellent background in the core discipline targeted in Master Year 1 (mathematics, physics, chemistry, earth sciences, life sciences, biodiversity sciences, cognitive science, economics, philosophy, geography, history or social sciences).
    See the list of the "partner masters" in the Program tab.
  • A minimum level of English B2 and French C1* is required.​​

The main admission criteria are as follows: academic background, motivation, previous experience of inter- or trans-disciplinarity and taste for team work, high interest and comprehensive understanding of sustainability issues.

Please note: The Master's degree Year 2 (M2) will open in 2025. It will welcome students having validated Year 1, but potentially also a few external students having a substantial background on the topic of environmental change and/or transition. 

*M2 courses (second year) will be mostly taught in French.

Application procedure

  • Based on an application package (on PSL portal) and interview. Eligible candidates will be invited for an admission interview (remote). 
  • 2024/25 admissions calendar: 
    • Online applications from January 11 to March 11, 2024 (23:59 CET time) |  Apply here
    • Admissibility results April 9, 2024
    • Interviews from April 29 to May 14, 2024
    • Admission results: May 16, 2024
Admissions Transitions


Application package:

Only complete applications submitted within the deadlines will be considered by the committee. Applicants should submit the following documents in their preferred language, English or French: 

  • Academic CV / résumé (1 page) and description of internships (1 page)
  • Cover letter / essay (no more than 4 pages), answering the following questions:
    1. How did you train yourself in ecological and climate crises and/or transition issues, in your studies, your internships, through your readings, your commitment or any other activity?
    2. What concrete topic linked to social and environmental transitions would you like to work on and how do you envision to mobilize your core discipline on that topic?
    3. Which knowledge and/or skills would you like to learn during your training in the two years of your Master's degree in Sustainability Science?
    4. Where do you see yourself after the Master? And in 5 years' time?
    5. What would you like to do or learn if you did not take this Master's degree?
  • Transcripts and diplomas from each higher education institution / university attended (Bachelor and Master's if applicable). 
    One unique pdf for all your documents. You can use pdf-merge website for example.
  • Proof of English proficiency, level B2 (proof not compulsory but recommended)
    - If your first language is English or if you have earned a higher education diploma in an English-speaking university, you should include a statement to this effect.
    - If not, you should for example include the official results from a recent test of English, e.g. TOEFL or IELTS
  • Proof of French proficiency, level C1 (proof not compulsory but recommended) for students whose mother tongue is not French

*Please note: at the time of your application in Master's degree Year 1, you will need to indicate in the PSL portal ("Other information" tab), in order of priority, the track(s) within the master’s program that best matches your project (Maximum 2 choices). 

The application portal will provide a detailed list of attachments required, which can be uploaded directly. Applications are 100% paperless

- Tuition fees: Tuition fees are set by ministerial decree (env. €243). Please note that you will also need to provide proof of payment for the CVEC (Student Life and Campus Fee) of €100. More information.
- Institution for registration: ENS - PSL
- Diploma: Students will be awarded a Master's degree in "Sustainability Science". Diploma awarded by Université PSL and prepared at Ecole normale supérieure - PSL

Admissions | Quels sont les prérequis en langues ?

Anglais B2 & Français C1.
L'exigence de la maîtrise du français concerne notamment les cours de M2 mais aussi et surtout les échanges avec les acteurs non-académiques de la transition dans le cadre des projets transdisciplinaires. 
A noter : en M1, le français C1 est par ailleurs exigé par beaucoup de masters partenaires (enseignements de la discplines socle en français - voir modalités d'admission détaillées de chaque master). 

Admissions | Le recrutement en M2 est-il ouvert en 2024 ?

Non, le M2 ouvrira en Septembre 2025, avec une procédure dédiée de recrutement externe (très peu de places à la clé).

Admissions | Puis-je faire un choix unique de parcours en M1 ?

Tout à fait. Il est possible de faire 2 voeux maximum (hiérarchisés), mais vous pouvez ne postuler qu'à un seul parcours de master parmi la liste proposée. Pour mémoire :  

Admissions | Les résultats d'admissibilité seront-ils notifiés en même temps quel que soit le parcours de master choisi ?

Tout à fait. Voir calendrier dans l'onglet "Admissions".
Tous les candidats, refusés et admissibles, seront notifiés à la même date et ce quel que soit le parcours de master sélectionné.

Quel diplôme est délivré à l'issue des 2 ans de formation ?

A l'issue de la formation (2 ans), les étudiantes et les étudiants se verront délivrer un diplôme de master (mention "Science de la durabilité").
Diplôme délivré par l'Université PSL et préparé à l'Ecole normale supérieure - PSL

- Contact 
- Head of the master's program
Corinne Robert (Director), Amaury Lambert (Deputy director)

More information

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