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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

SOEE5094M Introduction to Ecological Economics

15 creditsClass Size: 110

Module manager: Dr Daniel O'Neill

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Since the 1970s, researchers from various economic, social, and natural science domains have sought to formulate new approaches to questions of economic development in response to environmental challenges, increasingly framed as the problems of sustainable development. This new perspective has become known as 'ecological economics'. Ecological economics differs from conventional economics by assuming that the economic system is embedded in a social system, which is in turn embedded in a finite global ecosystem. Ecological economics seeks to advance an understanding of the relationships among these three systems for the mutual well-being of people and nature. This module provides an introduction to the main concepts and ideas of ecological economics. These include the three goals of efficient allocation, fair distribution, and sustainable scale, as well as human well-being, alternatives to economic growth, and heterodox approaches. Previous training in economics is not required to take this module.


The main objective of the module is to give students a good understanding of the basic concepts and terminology of ecological economics, and to inspire students to think differently about the relationship between economic activity and the environment. It provides a sound foundation in ecological economics that students can apply in their research or use as a base for more advanced study. The module is designed around principles of active learning; a high level of student preparation and engagement is expected.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module students will:
- Have a grounding in basic economic concepts as they relate to the environment
- Understand the fundamental vision of ecological economics
- Appreciate the relationship between economic activity and environmental impacts
- Have become critical consumers of current economic theories and pathways
- Be able to propose approaches to achieve sustainable scale, fair distribution, and efficient allocation
- Have explored alternative pathways such as degrowth and steady-state economics
- Apply a whole systems approach to problem solving
- Have improved written composition skills

Skills outcomes
The module places considerable emphasis on analysing, synthesising, and summarising information critically.


1 What is ecological economics?
2 Key concepts in economics
3 The market and efficient allocation
4 Inequality and fair distribution
5 Social metabolism and sustainable scale
6 Human well-being
7 Resource use and economic growth
8 Degrowth and steady-state economics
9 Money and finance
10 Heterodox economics

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours125.00
Total Contact hours25.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)150.00

Private study

The module is organised into 10 sets of short pre-recorded video lectures, and 10 interactive seminars. The lectures provide an introduction from the instructor on that week's topic, which is explored in greater depth during the seminar through a discussion of readings.

Students are required to read 3-4 assigned texts each week, and discuss a set of questions about these texts during the seminar (5 hours private study per week; total of 50 hours of private study).

The module is assessed with a 48-hour open-book final exam.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Feedback on student progress is provided via a Discussion Board and weekly seminars.

Methods of assessment

Exam typeExam duration% of formal assessment
Online Time-Limited assessment48 hr 100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Exams)100.00

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: 30/06/2021 16:25:49


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