Sustainable Systems - UG M-level Unit

At global, national, corporate and individual levels, it is essential that we learn how to integrate complex socio-technical systems and measure their performance in a way that will achieve a substantial improvement in sustainability, whilst avoiding the unintended consequences that have frustrated much well meaning development; our national and global economic future depends upon it.

This taught Unit is developing a generic approach to the multidisciplinary integration of sustainable systems, which is taught to M Level Engineering undergraduates and Engineering Doctorate postgraduates. It is underpinned by the principle that we are all Learning Together. The course is providing the input for far wider dissemination of this principle through journal publications of pedagogic case histories and as Open Educational Resources (OER).

Sponsored by The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng), the project has brought together a world-class team of Visiting Professors (VPs), practitioners and academics with experience from a diverse set of backgrounds, including engineering, environmental science, architecture, urban planning, the oil and gas industry, ITC, aerospace, defence and Forum for the Future.

It uses Systems Thinking to develop and teach an integrated approach to designing sustainable systems, recognising the complex socio-technical nature of the issues. The course is designed to be an experience led, highly interactive week of learning for the students and teachers. Lectures are interspersed with debate, role-play, a sustainability game and coached formative exercises. It is followed up with an uncompromisingly challenging assignment to apply Systems Thinking to improve the sustainability of a major project or industry.

Overall student satisfaction levels have been exceedingly high and outstanding performance has been shown by some. The marking system is designed to not only reflect success in meeting the assignment objectives, but to also measure attainment of the learning outcomes, provide formative feedback to the students and enable year-on-year improvement of the course. External recognition is already being proven through our VP’s and partner’s international business contacts, who are reporting strong interest in the course from as far afield as Adelaide, Auckland, Singapore and Utrecht.