Sustainable Development

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Julia Corwin S414


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Environment and Development and BSc in Environmental Policy with Economics. This course is available on the BA in Geography, BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in Accounting and Finance, BSc in Geography with Economics and BSc in Social Anthropology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

Studying sustainable development today means recognizing the urgency of social and environmental problems facing current and future generations across the world. Throughout the year, we explore the relationship between human lives and the environment, debate what human ‘development’ and ‘sustainability’ mean, and discuss how to understand these complex and flexible concepts together. The course begins with studying the origins of sustainable development discourse and programmes, and then explores the challenges of sustainable development by looking at major global environmental and social changes, including debates on resource and energy use, urban growth, technology, industrial agriculture, commodity use and disposal, and changes in the global economy. GY121 is split into two distinct terms with different disciplinary and methodological approaches: Michaelmas term is taught by a geographer and Lent term is taught by an environmental economist. Together, these two terms expose students to the diversity of ways that sustainable development is thought about and studied, in order to foster critical understanding about the connections between environmental and social problems.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures, in-person lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures across Michaelmas and Lent Term. 


This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and in Week 6 of Lent Term

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce a number of small assignments throughout both terms.

Indicative reading

There are a variety of texts available for this course. A detailed reading list will be given at the beginning of each term but an indicative list includes:

J Hickel (2017) The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions. Windmill Books; R Patel and J Moore (2018) A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things. Verso Books; G Atkinson, S Dietz, E Neumayer and M Agarwala, eds. (2014) Handbook of Sustainable Development, 2nd edition, Edward Elgar Publishing; WM Adams (2009) Green Development: Environment and Sustainability in the Developing World, 3rd Edition, Routledge; JA Elliott (2012) An Introduction to Sustainable Development, 4th edition;


Take-home assessment (40%) in the ST.
Take-home assessment (40%) in the period between MT and LT.
Class participation (20%) in the MT and LT.

The assessments are separated by terms; one take-home assessment covers MT content and the other covers LT content. The participation grade is based on student engagement with course material, and is assessed through a number of small assignments throughout both terms as well as participation in class discussions.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
First 33.1
2:1 50.4
2:2 11.3
Third 3.8
Fail 1.5

Key facts

Department: Geography and Environment

Total students 2021/22: 79

Average class size 2021/22: 16

Capped 2021/22: Yes (80)

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (MT & LT)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills