Global Policy Challenges

Module titleGlobal Policy Challenges
Module codePOCM001
Academic year2017/8
Module staff

Dr David Benson (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

Multiple transnational challenges face policy-makers in the 21st Century, raising questions over how they should be governed in practice. In this respect, the United Nations has set out a normative agenda for future global policy up to the year 2030 via its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agreed by national governments in 2012. These goals encompass the critical issues of our times, including reducing poverty, ensuring access to clean water, promoting clean energy, preserving oceans, reducing inequality and maintaining global security. Achieving them will require innovative critical thinking and novel, interdisciplinary policy solutions. In this module you will therefore seek to identify, discuss and evaluate emerging policy responses to these challenges at multiple institutional levels as basis for lesson-drawing. Drawing on theories of governance as an analytical lens you will: examine the context to the SDGs; provide an overview of the UN targets; introduce a range of governance theories (for example, multi-level governance, network governance, global governance, regulatory governance, collaborative governance, urban governance); and provide an empirical and theoretical analysis of critical policy challenges to attaining the SDGs. The module will be offered to both geography masters students and, potentially, history masters students as part of a new masters degree in heritage studies.

No prior knowledge skills or experience are required to take this module and it is suitable for specialist and non-specialist students, and is thus very suited to students on interdisciplinary pathways. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module’s objective is to examine critical policy challenges facing policy makers on a global scale, through achievement of four main aims. Firstly, to introduce key concepts such as sustainable development, governance and policy. Secondly, to introduce a selection of theories of governance, including multi-level governance, network governance and collaborative governance. Thirdly, to identify, discuss and theoretically analyse major global policy issues as a basis for learning and lesson-drawing. Finally, to develop a range of transferable research skills, including formulating research questions, data collection, critical analysis of different policy options, plus interdisciplinary and normative problem-solving: which are key skills required for future policy makers in a rapidly globalizing world.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of sustainable development, governance and policy – key concepts, theoretical arguments and major academic texts.
  • 2. Assimilate taught materials and utilise them to critically analyse crucial global policy issues.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Research, write and present analytical assignments on political issues.
  • 4. Formulate rigorous political arguments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 5. Communicate arguments effectively through coursework submissions and seminar contributions.
  • 6. Develop and present policy relevant recommendations based in analysis.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Global policy challenges
  • Governance theoretical frameworks
  • Sustainable development - conceptual and policy responses
  • An overview of the MDGs, SDGs and critical targets
  • Eradicating poverty and hunger
  • Improving health
  • Ensuring access to clean water
  • Promoting clean energy
  • Creating sustainable cities
  • Preserving the oceans
  • Climate action
  • Lesson-drawing on policy responses

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 Teaching Activity2211 x 2 hour seminars
Guided Independent Study60Directed reading for seminars
Guided Independent Study6To complete the formative research proposal
Guided Independent Study12To complete the poster
Guided Independent Study50To complete the consultancy report.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
UN consultancy report proposal300 words1-6Written

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
UN consultancy report704,500 words1-6Written
Research poster301 A3 research poster1-6Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
UN consultancy report4500 words1-6August/September re-assessment period
Research poster1 A3 research poster1-6August/September re-assessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Baker, S. (2015) Sustainable Development. London: Routledge;
  • Evans, J.P. (2011) Environmental Governance. London: Routledge.
  • Conca, K. (2015) An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Bevir, M. (2009) Key concepts in Governance. London: Sage.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Governance, global, policy, sustainable development goals

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date