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2018/19 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE1110 Sustainable Development: Concepts and Case Studies

20 creditsClass Size: 170

Module manager: Damian Howells

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 (Sep to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2018/19

Module replaces


This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

- Where have our current concerns about the environment come from? - How and why do they differ between and within different groups (eg scientists, the public, politicians, NGOs, indigenous communities)?- What are the links between the environment and the political arena? - How are scientists and scientific research viewed by policy makers and the public at large? - How are people both causing and addressing environmental problems across the globe? - Is environmental sustainability compatible with globalisation and economic development? This module looks at questions such as these, drawing on both theoretical and applied debates. Case studies used to illustrate these concepts include small-scale mining in Africa and the sustainability implications of mine closures in the UK, human health and its links to changing environmental management in central Asia, desertification and its control in southern Africa, water resource management in China and adaptive ecosystem management in the Glen Canyon, USA.We draw on staff research and environmental policy approaches to provide a rounded analysis of contemporary sustainability debates at local, national and international levels. The module is designed for students with either a social science or natural science background. It will help them to consider the links between environment, economy and society, an important requirement for achieving greater interdisciplinarity in addressing today's sustainable development challenges. The module has proved popular with students from a diverse set of host departments, enabling their consideration of the sustainable development issues affecting a variety of contemporary academic, policy and public debates. This module is taught in semesters 1 & 2 and is assessed by one examination and one coursework essay.


On completion of this module students should be able to:
1. understand and critique debates around the 'three pillars of sustainable development': economic development, social development and environmental protection.
2. be aware of the need for, and barriers to, interdisciplinary study of environmental problems to account for their social and economic dimensions.
3. be able to apply general theories to a range of international social, cultural, economic and environmental contexts and research case studies.
4. have an improved ability to synthesise different views on environmental issues in a written form.

NB: In order for you to pass this module YOU MUST BOTH SUBMIT THE COURSEWORK ESSAY AND TAKE THE EXAM. Failure to complete each component will result in failure of the module.

Skills outcomes
The module places considerable emphasis on:
recognising and using subject-specific theories, paradigms, concepts and principles;
analysing, synthesising and summarising information critically, including prior research;
applying knowledge and understanding to address familiar and unfamiliar problems;
receiving and responding to a variety of information sources (eg textual numerical, verbal, graphical).

The module places moderate emphasis on:
collecting and integrating several lines of evidence to formulate and test hypotheses;
recognising the moral and ethical issues of investigations and appreciating the need for professional codes of conduct;
planning, conducting and reporting on investigations, including the use of secondary data;
communicating appropriately to a variety of audiences in written, verbal and graphical form;
using the Internet critically as a means of communication and a source of information;

The module places some emphasis on:
developing the skills necessary for self-managed and lifelong learning (eg working independently, time management and organisation skills);
developing an adaptable and flexible approach to study and work.


1. Sustainability science approaches 're-thinking science'
2. Different stakeholder perspectives on environmental issues and their management
3. Participatory approaches in sustainable development research
4. Interdisciplinary approaches to social and environmental analysis
5. Economic dimensions of sustainable development - 'Sustainable Livelihoods' approaches, evolving development relations, introduction to 'Resource Curse' theories
6. Global policy frameworks - World Summit on Sustainable Development outputs, Millennium Development Goals and UN Conventions on Climate Change, Desertification and Biodiversity.
7. Scientific controversy and uncertainty.
8. Research case studies and perspectives from across the globe, including UK, E. Europe, Africa, China, Central Asia and the USA.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours160.00
Total Contact hours40.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

40 hours - background reading,
80 hours - reading and writing for essays,
40 hours - exam revision

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Regular interactions with lecturer and/or tutor during group workshops, feedback on assignments, weekly office hours.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 word essay50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Standard exam (closed essays, MCQs etc)1 hr 30 mins50.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)50.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 17/04/2015


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