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Rural Social Issues

Module titleRural Social Issues
Module codeGEO2445
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Michael Leyshon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

How is contemporary rural society organised and what is its future? Are there alternative ways of thinking about organising society that are less exploitative of the natural environment? During this module you will engage in an in-depth and practical exploration of the form and function of rural environments which will attempt to answer these questions. You will explore the immense economic and social transformation of the UK countryside since 1945. You will also examine the ways in which rural economy has changed from a productivist to post-productivist model, and how the purpose of the countryside has transformed who lives where, how they earn their living and what aspirations they have for where they live. You will also explore the effects on the countryside of the rise of environmentalism, the concern for social welfare, gender issues and emerging issues of sustainability. You will be encouraged to use the coursework to develop your own interest in rural affairs by considering real-world scenarios that will better equip you to apply theory to practical situations in the workplace.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module provides you with a hands-on, in-depth and practical exploration of the business of regenerating and conserving rural social environments. Situated in contemporary environmental and social policy initiatives in the countryside, the module places you in real-life situations in which you must design and cost plans to produce sustainable rural landscapes and communities. The module requires you to explore local and national issues to think through the practical problems of creating new rural ways of living.

This module has four distinct aims. The first is to examine the contemporary changes which are taking place in rural areas and to suggest multiple and complex understandings of such events. This involves not only an understanding of wider structural shifts in the economy, but also an appreciation of how those changes are experienced differentially by a wide variety of people. The second aim is to employ a number of theoretical perspectives – restructuring, functionalism, pragmatism and ecological interpretative geographies of community, culture and identity – to foster a wider understanding of rural society. The third aim is to present a close interconnection between research and teaching by consistent reference to contemporary research conducted by the module convenor, geographers and academics in other related disciplines – thus enabling a more joined up pedagogic approach to researching, writing, reading and understanding. The final aim is to give you an experience of working in professional practice through undertaking two major projects based on real world examples.

The module includes two observational and introductory field trips as the basis for the practical work. In this regard, the module also provides an innovative learning experience by demanding that you undertake guided independent learning. You are provided with an independent learning handbook that contains four activities that enhance and deepen the scholarship presented in the main lecture classes. These have been designed to enhance knowledge of the ways in which the rural is constructed and represented. You are required to work through each of the activities either on your own or if you prefer in a small study group – these are supported through workshops with the module leader.

On completion of this module you will have gained a number of key employability skills that are embedded in the course. These skills range from teamwork, to verbal and written communication, initiative and self-motivation, drive, planning and organisation, flexibility, and time-management. In particular, the module will:

  • improve your ability to work confidently within a group
  • help you to express your ideas clearly and assuredly in speech and text
  • teach you to gather information systematically to establish principles and lines of reason
  • encourage you to act on initiative, identify opportunities and proactively put ideas and solutions forward
  • encourage you to get things done and make things happen by asking you to look for better ways of working
  • support you to be proficient in planning activities and carrying them out effectively
  • help you to be adaptive to changing situations and environments
  • develop your proficiency in time-management, and prioritising tasks and your ability to work to deadlines

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Illustrate coherently and in detail the relationship between environment, social and economic sectors in rural contexts
  • 2. Examine historical and current policy developments shaping the relationship between environment, sustainability and sociality, to make a reasoned argument
  • 3. Make a judgement between, and sustain an argument on, different theories of environment-social relations
  • 4. With guidance, illustrate and discuss competently the contested and provisional nature of knowledge on rural economies and societies

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of human geography
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in human geography
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within human geography
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of human geography with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 15. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (ie communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Module Themes and Outline

The module is divided into four main sections. The themes in each section are indicative only.

A. Foundations: Rurality, Culture and Space

Week 1: Lecture: Course Outline and Positioning Rural Geography

Week 2: Lecture: The New Rural Economy: Ecosystems Approaches, Wellbeing and Participation

B. Project One: Building Sustainable Communities

Objective: to explore the relationship between economic regeneration and notions of building sustainable communities

Week 3: Lecture: Introduction to Project 1 – Building Sustainable Communities

Week 4: Lecture: Rural Social Change

Week 4: Fieldtrip

Week 5: Consultancy Pitch / Workshop

C. Project Two: Environmental Ethics and Stakeholder Management

Objective: to examine the implications of stakeholder management for the processes of economic development

Week 6: Lecture: Introduction to Project 2 – Environmental Ethics and Stakeholder Engagement

Week 7: Lecture: Valuing Nature

Week 8: Workshop

Week 8: Fieldtrip

Week 9: Lecture and Workshop: Rhizomic Politics and the Nature of the Rural

Week 10: Citizen’s Jury

D. Independent Study: Understanding the Rural

Objective: to provide guided independent learning on the foundational topics of this module.

Activity 1: Representing the Rural

Activity 2: Imagining the Rural

Activity 3: Writing the Rural

Activity 4: Visualising the Rural

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Lectures are designed to provide you with advanced level knowledge on sustainable rural communities, policy and practice.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Seminar/workshop – focused around projects designed to enable you to develop hands-on experience of real world situations.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Fieldtrip to local sites of relevance exploring key themes of sustainability and understanding society/nature relations.
Guided independent study125Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Project management (professional practice)SWOT analysis, risk register, Gantt chart8, 12-15Oral
Mid-term short test (self-administered)20 minutes1-5, 7-10, 12-14Oral
Practice consultancy pitch5 minutes1, 4-12, 15Written and oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Project group presentation3015 minutes1, 4-12, 15Written and oral
Project report301200 words1, 4-12, 15Written
Examination401 hour1-12Written


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project group presentationNot applicable Not applicableNot applicable
Project reportProject report1, 4-12, 15August assessment period
ExaminationExamination1-12August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The group presentation is non-deferrable because of its practical nature and the need to complete the assessment task within a group. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to sit a further examination. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Barnett A and Scruton R (eds) (1998) Town and Country, Jonathan Cape, London
  • Bryant L and Pini B (2011) Gender and Rurality  Routledge, London
  • Cloke P (ed) (2003) Country Visions Pearson, Harlow
  • Cloke P and Little J (eds) (1997) Contested Countryside Cultures, Routledge, London
  • Cloke P, Marsden T, and Mooney P. (eds) (2006) Handbook of Rural Studies Sage, London
  • Clout H (ed) (2007) Contemporary Rural Geographies, Routledge, London
  • Holloway L and Kneafsey M (eds) (2004) Geographies of Rural Cultures and Societies, Ashgate, Aldershot
  • Ilbery B (ed) (1998) The Geography of Rural Change, Longman, Harlow
  • Little J (2002) Gender and Rural Geography, Pearson, Harlow
  • Marsden T et al (1993) Constructing the Countryside, UCL Press, London
  • Murdoch J, Lowe P, Ward N and Marsden T (2003) The Differentiated Countryside Routledge, London
  • Neal S, and Agyeman J (eds) (2006) The New Countryside? Policy Press, Bristol
  • Silva L and Figueiredo E (eds) (2013) Shaping Rural Areas in Europe  Springer, New York / Heidelberg
  • Woods M. (2005) Rural Geography Sage, London
  • Woods M (2005) Contesting Rurality,  Ashgate, Aldershot
  • Woods M. (2011) Rural (Key Ideas In Geography) Routledge, London

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Rural society, rural environments, rural economy, environmentalism, social welfare, gender issues, sustainability, culture

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


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