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Sustainability and Policy: Research, Engage, Change - ESA00004H

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  • Department: Environmental Sustainability Academy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Eleni Michalopoulou
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The module will focus on presenting critical aspects of a series of environmental and social challenges with a focus on policy engagement in its different forms. It will aim to provide students with the skills to critically engage with these challenges and explore how change can be achieved.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

Module aims :

This course aims to provide students with:

· An understanding of the current state of sustainable development challenges

· An understanding of the need to critically assess evidence and how to perform systematic reviews and compile systematic maps.

· An understanding of the interdisciplinary challenges related to transforming research into policy, including the different types of policies, the major challenges with achieving change.

· An understanding of complex systems (e.g., governance structures) and the impact the different levels of complexity can have on implementing solutions and achieving change.

· Knowledge of how to engage with the different types of stakeholders and an understanding of the different approaches that need to be used to convey key messages and evidence in order to meaningfully engage with the different types of audience.

· The development of key transferable skills, such as presenting complex ideas, problem solving, forward thinking, critical evaluation and synthesis of information, understanding of the concept of scenarios and pathways for change.

· Case studies that will demonstrate best, and worst-case examples on how change was achieved, presented by SEI experts. This aspect will also consider how to approach interdisciplinary barriers and knowledge exchange and engagement within controversial topics.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

  1. Work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams on pressing local and global challenges

  2. Understand and analyse key concepts and frameworks in the study of evidence, environmental science and policy interface.

  3. Understand the role of different stakeholders in designing and implementing policies for different contemporary environmental challenges at various levels (e.g., local, regional, global)

  4. Critically evaluate the links between science, national governments, the private sector and citizens and the role they play in addressing key environmental challenges

  5. Critically evaluate and synthesise academic arguments about the advantages and disadvantages of different policy and governance frameworks.

Module content

Our planet is facing a plethora of urgent, planetary and life-threatening challenges: climate change and extreme weather events, wildfires, droughts and floods, air, water and land pollution, extended biodiversity loss. Dealing with these challenges has become even more difficult due to a series of events including extended periods of financial hardship, a global pandemic, and war. The science-policy interface has always been the space where theory turns into action. This space is now more important than ever as time is running out for humanity to solve those critical challenges that are affecting both environmental and human health.

The module will focus on presenting critical aspects of a series of environmental and social challenges with a focus on policy engagement in its different forms. It will explore how best to engage with different types of stakeholders, from local communities to national governments and international organisations and how to best achieve change both in developed but also developing economies. It will explore how evidence should be assessed to inform both research and policy and how evidence, research and science can be communicated in the most appropriate way for different audiences in order to achieve the biggest possible and most effective impact.

This module will take a blended learning approach and it will be delivered via a series of offline lectures and in person workshops, and materials delivered both in text and video formats.


Task Length % of module mark
Group work : Group project
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Working in interdisciplinary groups of (approx) 5, the students will choose one of the case studies that will be made available to them. Each group will conduct a guided research project based on their chosen case study and will produce a report that is targeted at a specific identified audience (e.g., national/local government, NGO).


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Written feedback

Indicative reading

Allen, C., Metternicht, G. & Wiedmann, T. Initial progress in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): a review of evidence from countries. Sustain Sci 13, 1453–1467 (2018).

Palmer, J. (2018) ‘Environmental Policy’, in Castree, N., Hulme, M. and Proctor, J. (eds.) Routledge Companion to Environmental Studies. Routledge, Oxford, 665–669

Steffen, W. et al. (2015) ‘Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet.’ Science 347(6223)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.