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Achieving Sustainability: Potentials and Barriers



Module Co-ordinator

Option - Second and final year
Term 1
9 x 2 hour workshop

Available to students from all faculties, except for students from the School for Cross-faculty Studies.

This module is not currently open to students from the School for Cross-faculty Studies (Global Sustainable Development; Liberal Arts).

Principal Aims

Sustainability is the most significant societal challenge of our age and it is therefore imperative that we all engage with this critical topic that occupies such a central role in our lives. The aim of this module is to explore sustainability and sustainable development from a variety of cross-disciplinary perspectives, with a focus on the three main pillars of sustainable development (economic, environmental, social) as well as good governance as a necessary fourth pillar, and the interactions between them. In doing so, it will provide a variety of sources of knowledge that will allow students to make connections between their own experiences and the theme of sustainability, and also to gain a multifaceted understanding of the topic.

Other aims:

  • To make students aware of the urgent issues around sustainability, sustainable development and how they are relevant to their own study area;
  • To facilitate conversations between students and teachers in different subject areas, on the key topics of sustainable development.
  • To approach sustainability from a variety of perspectives, in order to encourage students to develop their own views
    and critique by examining how 'sustainability' is used in different ways in different disciplines and contexts.
  • To make students aware of work outside their own subjects that may be relevant to what they study in their own

Principal Learning Outcomes

Upon completing this module, students will demonstrate:

  • An advanced understanding of key concepts related to the theme of sustainability (sustainable development, unsustainable behaviours, pillars of sustainability)
  • Engagement with different interdisciplinary perspectives on sustainability
  • The ability to use evidence to evaluate different policies in terms of their sustainability implications
  • An advanced understanding of the interconnections between the different pillars of sustainable development
  • The ability to critically evaluate the main theoretical and empirical issues relating to what is sustainable and what is not
  • The ability to carry out independent research and develop reflective thinking.

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Analytical: Find, evaluate and use previous research; use appropriate analytical methods to analyse research data on sustainability; read academic papers from a variety of disciplines effectively
  • Reflective: Evaluate own practice and learning process through assessments involving a reflective write up or through other channels
  • Teamwork: Working effectively with others on group tasks to facilitate discussion and debates on different topics.
  • Time management: Planning, managing and prioritising work to meet multiple deadlines
  • Written communication: Writing critical well-structured essays involving analysing and evidencing ideas, viewpoints, and concepts.
  • Oral communication: Developed through weekly small-group discussions followed by plenary discussions
  • Subject-specific skills: develop a high-level understanding of, and a critical perspective on, the relevance of sustainability discourses for different disciplines; understand the four pillars of sustainable development and the interactions between them; engage with different outlooks on sustainability and use evidence to evaluate a variety of policies relating to the topic; articulate a detailed and evidenced-based account of unsustainable economic, environmental and social activities on societies, individuals and habitats.


The range and order of topics will be decided in collaboration with guest contributors and will vary from year to year. The module will introduce the UN Sustainable Development Goals and provide an overview of the four pillars of sustainability: economic, social, environmental and governance, plus the interactions between them. The module will also address the problem of defining what is actually meant by ‘sustainability’ and the challenges in achieving it, from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives. It will be taught so as to be accessible to undergraduates from all faculties. Students will not require detailed scientific, mathematical or social science skills or background.

Assessment: 15 CATS

Reflective Pieces: either 1500 words or 10 minute video (40%) and Forum post (500 words) 10%
Essay: 2500 word essay (50%)

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on this page.