Optional Units

Bristol Futures Optional Units are innovative, interdisciplinary units for undergraduates that can be taken through the open units scheme and include a range of new learning resources that complement the structured learning environment.

In 2019/20, the Bristol Futures Optional Units available are:

Science of Happiness

Learn about the science behind what makes people happy in a unique course that combines weekly lectures with weekly small group meetings mentored by senior students. The Science of Happiness course forms a key component of the University of Bristol’s integrated whole-institution approach to supporting student wellbeing. No background in science is required as the lectures are easily accessible, but students will be expected to fully engage with the unit in order to earn the 20 credit points, as there is no final examination other than a final piece of coursework.

You will:
Learn what happiness is and what is the scientific evidence that it can changed for the better
Understand how the brain distorts information that contributes to unhappiness
Discover what activities you can engage in that contribute to increasing happiness and mental well-being

How to be creative 

Explore the science, art and practice of creativity whilst developing your own creative capabilities. Responding to a series of creative challenges, you will work together in groups - large and small - to experience and experiment with a variety of creative techniques and approaches. 

Together we will explore, explain and experience theories and practices of creativity through consideration of: 

  1. Creative people
  2. Creative cultures
  3. Creativity in society 

You will: 

  • Explore, experience and experiment with a variety of methods and techniques rooted in creative practice and human-centred design 
  • Develop knowledge, techniques and skills for successful creative group work 
  • Develop skills in critical analysis and reflection of both individual and collaborative work 

Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date.

City Futures: migration, citizenship and planetary change 

Participate in exploring cities as sites of changing trends in how communities live and organise themselves, especially in contemporary moments of rapid geo-political and climate change. 

Looking at both specific instances of regional migrations to cities and at global trends in migration to urban spaces over the last two hundred years, the course will explore: 

  • How urban spaces shape our ideas of citizenship and belonging 
  • How a rapidly changing planet is shifting our conceptions of what constitutes a city 
  • How we construct cities, who lives in them, how we define their boundaries, as well how we imagine cities and our relationship as a species to them 


Sustainable Development 

Gain an insight into the concepts behind the challenges of Sustainable Development and learn how different disciplines and interdisciplinary approaches can be used to provide insight and ways forward.  

The challenges covered are presented under five broad headings: Science; Economics and Legal Institutions; Politics and Justice; Individual and Organisational Behaviour Change; Engineering and Innovation. 

You will: 

  • Develop a broad understanding of the challenges of sustainable development 
  • Gain a more in-depth insight of the challenges captured in the UN Sustainable Development Goals  
  • Learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team to analyse and critically evaluate challenges and potential ways forward  

Inequality, Crisis and Poverty: how to make sense of the global economy

This course will help students to understand, analyse, present and communicate data related to the following broad themes:

  • Sustainability and climate change and the problem of global cooperation 
  • Inequality, institutions and policy 
  • The causes and effects of innovation, such as growth and instability 

The course is based around practical work using global economic data and it introduces you to some basic economic ideas with an emphasis on models that are applied and policy-oriented. The course has been created specifically for students who are not economics specialists and it does not require any previous knowledge of data methods or economics.

Participating in this course will:

  • Help you to understand data and basic statistics so that you can make sense of current arguments related to economic and social policy
  • Develop confidence in the formulation of well-evidenced and articulate contributions to debates on the policy responses to the major challenges of inequality, innovation and sustainability 
  • Develop basic theoretical frameworks and tools that are used in modern economics to understand the economy, including game theory, asymmetric information and incomplete contracts

Open units

Units are the building blocks for all taught courses. If you are an Undergraduate and are interested in participating in a Bristol Futures Optional Unit, you can do so through the open units scheme.

Find out more about open units.

Edit this page