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Unit information: Sustainable Development in 2017/18

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Unit name Sustainable Development
Unit code UNIV10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Chris Preist
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description including Unit Aims

The unit will provide an introduction to the concept of sustainable development, the holistic nature of the challenges the planet and its people face, the concepts of resilience and future thinking - and the way in which different disciplines can contribute to addressing those challenges. After an introduction to the concept of sustainable development and its historical evolution, the unit explores how different disciplines see the challenges and opportunities faced and their contribution to creating a positive future. These will be selected to demonstrate the diversity of arenas of application of sustainable development (SD) and to invite comparisons and contrasts among them, not least those which students are able to draw for themselves of the experiences of SD in different sectoral, geographical and social contexts.


  • to develop an understanding of the challenges society faces and the holistic nature of planning for a sustainable future
  • to invite comparisons and contrasts of experience between disciplines in analysing and contributing to addressing these challenges
  • to identify problems and tensions in the application of SD ideas in practical circumstances
  • to introduce students who are otherwise directed towards discipline specific fields of study to the concepts and practices of interdisciplinary working
  • to introduce students to creating authoritative argument within an interdisciplinary group in a web environment through a wiki
  • to develop both the knowledge and skills needed for students to be able to contribute to a more sustainable future

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit:


Students will gain knowledge about sustainable development, future thinking and resilience. They will be able to describe the relationships between environmental, social and economic systems, including local and global examples; identity the risks and issues arising from system complexity, understand the causes of unsustainable development, the challenges of intergenerational equity as well as intra generational equity

They will explore the way in which different disciplines approach cognate problems, and the significance of holistic thinking and evidence driven decision making when addressing complex problems. They will work with students from other disciplines and be taught by staff from many disciplines and so will gain practical experience of interdisciplinary working.

The will learn to work in an interdisciplinary team, and to construct an authoritative wiki, gaining web authoring skills.

They will learn to reflect upon evidence from different disciplines and form judgements between differing arguments associated with sustainability. They will be able to describe how aspects of their own discipline and the disciplines studied in the unit contribute to sustainable development.


Students will be able to critically assess sustainability issues, in the context of two or more disciplines, be able to evaluate alternative models within those disciplines and engage in interdisciplinary discussion. They will be able to think systemically. They will be able to use historical knowledge but also engage with current problems.

The unit aims to equip students with the knowledge and skills identified in the QAA Guidance on Education for Sustainable Development and it is hoped students will develop the attributes identified in the Guidance.

The following transferable skills are developed:

  • written communication
  • web authoring
  • problem solving
  • efficient note-taking
  • cross-disciplinary interaction and thinking
  • critical reasoning and evidence-based argument
  • group project design, management and execution
  • library and database searches
  • positive engagement with seminar discussion
  • peer assessment

Teaching Information

Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Information

25% from a wiki, produced as an interdisciplinary group project on an energy topic chosen by the group, to demonstrate interdisciplinary working skills and ability to express argument authoritatively and succinctly.

75% from an examination, which tests student's overview of sustainable development as an holistic future thinking approach , and then enables students to demonstrate the application of this in two disciplines across the range of disciplines considered in the unit.

Students are required to achieve a pass separately on both elements as well as on the unit as a whole. Those failing to do so will be required to take and pass a supplementary examination in order to pass the unit overall. If a candidate fails to pass the wiki, a supplementary piece of work will be required.

Reading and References

Elliott, J.A. An Introduction to Sustainable Development, 4th Edition 2013. Routledge Perspectives on Development.

Other texts relevant to individual lectures will be available within the unit handbook.