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Keeping the Phoenix Flying or Clipping its Wings?


Module Leader

Dr Alastair Smith
Option - Second year only
Term 1
Pre-requisite modules: GD104, GD105 and GD106
2 x 2 hour workshops weekly
10 expert discussion sessions

Not available to students outside GSD

In 1981, the highly political '2 Tone' group, The Specials, wrote 'Ghost Town', as a reflection of their home of Coventry. In this module we'll be evaluating if the "Government [is still] leaving the youth on the shelf" and if there's still anger that there's "no job to be found in this country"? (Full lyrics here).

Please note: The information on this page relates to the 2018-19 academic year.
This module is not running in the 2019-20 academic year.

Principal Aims

The Principal Aims of the module are that students:

  • Undertake research-based learning (where students are actively involved in directed research) focused on local sustainable development in Coventry.
  • Play an authentic role within Warwick University’s wider agenda, to critically and actively engage local and regional stakeholders, specifically in the creation of concrete ideas to promote sustainable development.
  • Develop knowledge around the role of local governance embedded in place-based analysis for sustainable development.
  • Produce work, which, over time, feeds into public facing resources about Coventry’s sustainable development histories, current status, limitations and concrete future opportunities.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, the student will be able to:

  • Recognise the value of, and apply, the concept of scale to the research, analysis and praxis of the Sustainable Development agenda.
  • Interpret academic discourses associated with ‘localised’ spatial geographies of sustainable development, including the interrelationship between more local, regional, national and global scales, and make quality contributions of their own.
  • Demonstrate critical knowledge of the key concepts of ‘space’ and ‘place’, and how they relate to the Global Sustainable Development agenda, particularly though that of ‘sustainable places’.
  • Research, analyse and critically evaluate existing processes of sustainable development at the ‘local’ scale using appropriate metrics.
  • Draw on place-based knowledge to make practical and policy recommendations that articulate with wider scales of Sustainable Development agendas.
  • Demonstrate a conceptually and theoretically rigorous understanding of Sustainable Development in Coventry, its current status, limitations and future opportunities.
  • Be familiar with the value and practice of academic engagement with local and regional stakeholders.


Students will be learning around the ILOs through active group research that will create a historically informed analysis of contemporary 'sustainable development' (SD) in the city of Coventry. Students will themselves define an appropriate interpretation of SD within which to work; make decisions about the themes of research and evaluation; and apply appropriate frameworks and 'measurement' for normative appraisal. This work provides great scope for students to bring their displinary expertise in any of the GSD joint degree programs and persue specific themes of personal interest. A group report constitutes part of the assessment, with wider reflections on individual learning through an individual reflective essay (see below).

Group research will be supported and structured by two, 2-hour workshops per week. These will be facilitated by the module leader and guest experts from within and outside the university. We will adopt different practices from student presentations based on research, to mini-lectures and informal discussions, depending on our needs. While some of the first weeks will be structured around key themes (place-based sustainability, local governance institutions, urban structural economic history, austerity etc), the latter weeks will be decided on the basis of student interest (for example, issues of physical planning or social diversity and social sustainability, the role of art and culture, urban ecology etc).

As group understanding of the current SD situation in Coventry is created, students will individually draw on this knowledge to create a third and final piece of assessment: a evidence-based policy or project proposal for furthering the SD agenda in the city.

Wider Strategic Connections

The module is designed to provide a counterpoise to the course level focus on Global Sustainable Development, looking at the local reality of this wider agenda in the City of Coventry. This is pertinent given the city's many many economic, social and environmental challenges (see here for headline data about the city, curated as part of the 2017 bid for UK City of Culture 2021). Moreover, it aspires to operationalise the Warwick in 2030, Warwick University Stratergy, by moving beyond research informed teaching and draw on research-based pedagogy, where students play a prominent role not only in creating new research knowledge but also taking responsibility for the direction of their curriculum. See here for an insight into how the Module Leader has done this before in a very different context. The focus on Coventry is grounded in place-based frameworks of education and research, which again reflect Warwick's committment to "lead and support regional economic development and place-making activities" (here).

Group and individual work will be made available to external stakeholders through our website, and students will be additionally invited to contribute to the creation of a long term strategy for this outreach.


GD104, GD105 & GD106.

A strong work ethic. This is not a come, sit, listen, regurgitate style module. Learning will be active and require serious dedication to knowledge creation, as well as a genuine desire to contribute fully to the advantages of group learning. Those not interested in developing a genuine emotional and intelectual interest in the place and people of Coventry surely need not apply. Academic research is afterall, always emotional work.