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Contemporary Debates in Sustainable Futures

Module titleContemporary Debates in Sustainable Futures
Module codeGEOM023
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Sarah Crowley (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

The module provides a systemic picture on contemporary issues in sustainable futures research. In taking this module, you will attend a series of seminars delivered by leading scholars. You will be able to define and identify cutting edge research topics in sustainable futures.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to critically assess contemporary theoretical and empirical debates in sustainable futures.  The module considers the ways in which theoretical approaches and appropriate research methods can be understood and integrated in relation to sustainable futures around energy, environment and resilience.  The module aims in particular to develop an appreciation of the importance of pertinent interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary thinking.

Access to lectures and seminars will introduce you to relevant academic and professional skills which can be utilised in relevant professions and occupations. Your own independent learning will be supported by a minimum of two tutorials with the module convenor (one each term), and a day of cross-institutional teaching and peer-to-peer learning in term 2. Skills developed will include:

  • problem solving abilities such as linking theories and ideas to practice;
  • developing your own ideas with confidence;
  • setting clearly defined goals and clear objectives;
  • time management skills and personal efficacy;
  • working effectively individually and within a group setting;
  • presenting ideas and responding positively and effectively to questions and challenges in the subject area of the module.

The module is research led, and interdisciplinary-based and introduces you to real world and relevant issues around sustainability, energy, the environment and resilience. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe contemporary issues in sustainable futures
  • 2. Explain the inherent and necessary interdisciplinarity of studying contemporary issues in environment, energy and resilience
  • 3. Identify key research areas in sustainable futures

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Evaluate evidence critically
  • 5. Address interdisciplinary problems from a range of social science perspectives
  • 6. Examine the ethical issues associated with interdisciplinary research
  • 7. Synthesise material from a broad range of relevant areas and address specific questions about energy, environment, and resilience

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Manage your time effectively, setting priorities and meeting deadlines for the completion of work
  • 9. Plan, implement and complete an applied research project
  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written and visual means
  • 11. Identify and solve problems using lateral, critical and analytical reasoning
  • 12. Work as part of a team and independently
  • 13. Communicate complex scientific results clearly and concisely to an interdisciplinary audience

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

In consultation with the module convenor you will identify a minimum of five face-to-face or online seminars that are pertinent to your research interests and the challenges of conducting interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research in Sustainable Futures. These seminars can bridge across term 1 and 2. Module delivery will include both leading academic researchers and policy makers.

At the cross-institutional teaching and learning day in term 2 (which may take place online) you will be required to prepare a 10 minute presentation for your peers that critically analyses the seminars you have attended and outlines key contemporary debates, concepts and methods as relevant to your research interests. This will form part 1 of the summative assessment for this module.

Part II of the summative assessment will involve one 3000 word essay applying contemporary debates to your research interests and dissertation plans. 

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 Teaching10Seminars (5-10 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Tutorials (4 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching5Cross-institutional teaching and peer-to-peer learning
Guided Independent Study131Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
5 minute Presentation on your selected seminars in the first term 2 tutorial5 minutesAllOral

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
Presentation1510 minutesAllIndividual oral and written
Essay853000 words1-11Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PresentationPresentationAllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssay1-11August Ref/Def

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 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 50%) you will be required to resubmit the relevant assessment. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the mark and will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Clark WC (2003). Sustainability science: the emerging research program. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 100 (14); 8059-8061
  • Helm, D. 2003. Energy, the State and the Market – British Energy Policy since 1979, Oxford University Press.
  • Mitchell, C. 2009. The Political Economy of Sustainable Energy. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Nelson, D.R., Adger, W.N., Brown, K. 2007. Adaption to Environmental Change: Contributions of a Resilience Framework. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 32: 395-419.
  • Brown, V., Harris, J. and Russell, J. (2010) Tackling Wicked Problems through the Transdisciplinary Imagination.  London: Earthscan
  • Hay, C. (2002) Political Analysis: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave: MacMillan
  • Hirch-Hadorn, G. and Biber-Klemm, S. (2009) Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research. Springer Press
  • John, P. (2012) Analysing Public Policy. London: Routledge
  • Kates RW (2011). What kind of science is sustainability science? Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 108 (49): 19449-19450. Plus other papers in the special issue.
  • Leavy, P. (2011) Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research: Using Problem-Centred Methodologies (Qualitative Essentials). London: Routledge
  • Lyall, C. and Bruce, A. (2015) Interdisciplinary Research Journeys: Practical Strategies for Capturing Creativity. Bloomsbury Press: London

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Sustainable futures, contemporary debates, energy, environment, resilience

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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