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Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development (Full-Time, 2017 Entry)

What is Global Sustainable Development?

The United Nations defines Global Sustainable Development as

Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

It identifies three 'pillars' of sustainable development:

  • Economic development - development which aims to ensure that countries produce operational profits allowing them to continue to function
  • Social development - development which aims to ensure that people experience good social well-being - i.e. they are content
  • Environmental development - development which aims to ensure that the world is living within the means of its natural resources i.e. that resources are used at a rate which does not irrevocably diminish them but at a pace that fosters their continual supply

By achieving a balance between the three pillars, a state of sustainability will result.

Check out our FAQs for more information on sustainability and sustainable development.

Why Study Global Sustainable Development?

If you are interested in the world's problems, want to learn more about them and have a social conscience, then you should study Global Sustainable Development. If you are flexible and adaptable and able to consider global issues from different perspectives, understand their complexity, can think creatively about potential solutions and want to be equipped to make a real difference to the world, then you should study Global Sustainable Development at Warwick.

Why Study Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development at Warwick?

The BASc in Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development is unique to Warwick University. It is a joint course that allows you to combine study of the topical subject of Global Sustainable Development (GSD), in depth at undergraduate level, with a study of a subject that you are passionate about, Life Sciences.

On this course you will learn how to use your passion for Life Sciences and apply it to answering the Big Questions of our time. You will benefit from learning at an institution which has a world-wide reputation for its expertise in Life Sciences and a unique cross-institutional approach to examining issues of global sustainable development; evidenced by the University's ten interdisciplinary Global Research Priorities which are all related to different aspects of GSD.

Our course has been designed to align closely with the United Nations' Global Development Priorities and we encourage you to engage critically and creatively with the UN's policies, its global initiatives and local interventions. To this end, the course is specifically constructed around the UN's definition of Global Sustainable Development and the three pillars of sustainable development identified by the 2005 UN World Summit. This means that it relates directly to current thinking about the Big Questions of sustainability on the global agenda. This too is a unique feature of the Warwick course.

On this course, you examine Big Questions from the economic, social and environmental perspectives and you learn the methods and techniques employed by expert researchers in those fields. You learn how to evaluate evidence, draw conclusions from it, make critical judgements and develop solutions. Alongside this, you take Life Sciences modules and learn how the life sciences approach these questions and problems. You develop knowledge and expertise in the subject of Life Sciences which you will use to enrich your understanding of global sustainable development debates.

We ask challenging questions such as,

  • Is Social Justice achievable?
  • Is there enough food to sustain humanity?
  • How can we manage energy production and use fairly across the globe?
  • What economic and social factors influence work patterns and shape the labour force?
  • What role can business leaders and economists play in ensuring a sustainable future?
  • What is the real state of the planet and what would a sustainable future look like?
  • What role does the UN play in shaping our thinking and influencing global reactions towards global crisis?
  • How can we build a framework for a sustainable future?

Through this course we aim to produce critical and creative future thinkers who are global citizens and who think about issues in imaginative, socially responsible ways. This is a key strand in our Strategy.

You will have the opportunity to obtain practical experience of sustainable development through projects designed to make our campus more sustainable.

The course is designed to prepare you for careers in a variety of professions and sectors where you can make an impact upon how the world's most challenging issues are tackled. We are one of the most sought-after Universities amongst employers in the UK and internationally.

You will have the chance to experience a different culture by spending time studying abroad and to experience the working world through a work placement.

By studying this course you will be equipped with the knowledge and professional skills that you need to work and live in a way that safeguards environmental, social and economic well-being, both in the present and for future generations.

Why study at Warwick

A view from our academics

As this is a new course which began in October 2016, the information to inform an accurate KIS widget for Biology (Life Sciences) and Global Sustainable Development is not available. Please visit the Unistats website for more information.

What will I learn?

Each year of the course is divided equally between compulsory modules on Global Sustainable Development and modules in Life Sciences (Biology).

In the first year, in your GSD modules you will consider the different perspectives which might be taken on global issues and gain an appreciation of the complexity of the problems. You will be introduced to some sustainable development issues and investigate these with your fellow students through a project. In Life Sciences, you take foundational modules which aim to provide you with basic subject knowledge to underpin your future study of biology. You will undertake take a field trip.

In your second year you have a choice of GSD modules. You can take 'Bodies, Ageing and Health’, which will introduce you to the key debates surrounding health and the representation of bodies in contemporary culture, and ‘Food Security’, which will examine the relationship between food and sustainability using theories and methods from the sciences, social sciences and humanities. If you wish, in place of one of these modules you can choose a module from a range of options available across the University which has a focus on sustainability.

In your Life Sciences modules, you continue to learn about theories relevant for the study of Global Sustainable Development issues through modules which provide an overview of the ecological principles and processes which underpin our understanding of the natural world. You will be introduced to modern evolutionary theory, population and evolutionary genetics and gain knowledge of the fundamental processes and genetic make-up of populations.

Alternatively, you can spend the first term at Warwick studying either 'Bodies, Ageing and Health' or ‘Food Security’, and other relevant options from across the University. Then, for the remainder of the year, you may choose to travel to one of the University's partners abroad to study. There you will continue studying Global Sustainable Development and Life Sciences by taking relevant courses offered by the partner institution.

In the third year, you examine the sustainability issues surrounding Work and Energy and complete your exploration of sustainability in relation to Life Sciences. You will bring together your knowledge, ideas and conclusions in a Dissertation focussing on an issue or question which is of particular concern or interest to you from a Global Sustainable Development point of view.If you have been abroad in your second year, you will return to Warwick to complete the third and final year of the course.

How will I learn?

You attend lectures and take part in seminars, workshops and tutorials. You work with your fellow students in teams on controversial, topical problems that pose significant sustainable development questions. You undertake fieldwork, archival research, interviews with members of the local area and engage in peer discussion to propose alternative solutions. You also engage in peer review.

You will be taught by a range of academics, from different disciplines, who will communicate their expertise on a specific issue and describe their methodology for addressing it. Your role is to bring together these various approaches and to develop your own informed stance on each issue.

How will I be assessed?

We have devised an assessment strategy that allows you to develop your expertise in addressing problems using a variety of perspectives from the Arts, Sciences and Social Sciences. We will teach you to use quantitative and qualitative methods of research, and this will equip you with a solid foundation from which you can approach contemporary problems critically and creatively.

During the course you will produce essays, research papers and portfolios and make oral presentations. You will be expected to present your work in a public forum such as the British Conference for Undergraduate Research or the International Conference of Undergraduate Research. You will contribute to group projects and deliver extended pieces of writing (for the final year Dissertation) as well as sit mid and end of year short tests and traditional end of year written examinations.

What opportunities are there to study abroad?

In the second year of the course, you can choose to go abroad after the first term and spend the remainder of the academic year studying at one of our partner institutions in Europe, Australia or the USA. The Study Abroad Team based in the Office for Global Engagement offers support for these activities.

Entry Requirements

A level AAB, including Biology plus B in English and B in Mathematics at GCSE
You must also achieve a pass in the science practical if your science A level includes a separate practical assessment.

International Baccalaureate 36 including 6 at Higher Level in Biology

We welcome applications from students with other internationally recognised qualifications. For more information please visit the international entry requirements page.

Access Courses Access to HE Diploma (QAA recognised) including appropriate subjects with distinction grades in level 3 units. Candidates must meet essential subject requirements.

Warwick International Foundation Programme (IFP) All students who successfully complete the Warwick IFP and apply to Warwick through UCAS will receive a guaranteed conditional offer for a related undergraduate programme (selected courses only). For full details of standard offers and conditions visit the IFP page.

General Studies/Critical Thinking Offers normally exclude General Studies and Critical Thinking.

Further Information

Gap Year Applications for deferred entry are welcomed.

Interviews We do not typically interview applicants. Offers are made based on your predicted and actual grades, along with your personal statement. Occasionally, some applicants may be interviewed, for example candidates returning to study or those with non-standard qualifications.

Open Days We invite all offer holders to Departmental Open Days in the spring term. For details of our main University Open Days and other opportunities to see campus head to our Visit Us pages.

Overview of First Year Core Modules

Economic Principles of Global Sustainable Development

This module introduces you to the micro and macro-economic principles, concepts and theories which Economists use to interpret problems of global sustainable development. You will analyse case studies in workshops with your fellow students and learn how economic analysis is used to make decisions regarding the deployment of globally scarce resources.

Sociological Principles of Global Sustainable Development

This module focuses on UNESCO's top 5 most serious concerns related to sustainable development, including the persistence of widespread poverty, the growing pressures on the natural environment and the denial of democracy and human rights. You will engage in practical simulations to help you to understand the impact of these concerns.

Environmental Principles of Global Sustainable Development

The module is structured around three case studies which are used to examine the current state of health of the planet today: populations and communities, wild species and biodiversity, the value, use and restoration of ecosystems.

Mini Project

In this module you apply the theories that you have learned so far on the course to a real life Case Study of significance to the local area. You work in groups with your fellow students to focus on one aspect of the problem and undertake field research including archival searches and conducting interviews and focus groups with affected parties. You present your findings and recommendations about how to address the issues in a public forum.

Molecules, Cells and Organisms

This module adopts a systems biology approach to understanding life; examining the identities, quantities and interactions of its component parts in order to predict the behaviour of the system and thereby open doors to the design of new solutions to problems in the medical world and the environment, such as the over production of crops in unstable contexts.

Agents of Infectious Diseases

You will be introduced to aspects of microbiology and virology using infectious diseases as a common link. You learn about the role of various structures associated with the bacterial cell in causing disease and the way that diseases spread.

Animal and Plant Biology

The module draws on the fields of zoology and botany to bring together current understanding of animal and plant evolution, diversity and physiological activities.

Overview of Second Year Core Modules


This module introduces you to the key debates surrounding health and the representation of bodies in contemporary culture. More information about this module will be available on the course’s website soon.


This module is taught in collaboration with active researchers from across various disciplines at Warwick University, especially those involved in the university's Global Research Priority on Food. The module aims to examine the relationship between Food and Sustainability using theories and methods from the sciences, social sciences and humanities. The module engages with and reflects on the UN's Goal 5 of the post-15 Agenda which aims to provide 'Good nutrition for all through sustainable food and agricultural systems'.

Specifically, the module examines Food Security, The Human Impact on the Environment, Food Aid, Social Justice, Capitalism and Food Resourcing and The Relationship between Food and Religion.

Genetics and Genomics

This module introduces concepts and techniques in genetics and genomics that are used to understand and manipulate complex traits. Includes hands-on workshops.

Ecology and its Applications

Students are provided with the opportunity to gain a scientific and interdisciplinary perspective of the earth and its processes, including measuring using remote sensing, changes to climate and environment and responses by habitats and species to disturbance.

Science Communication

The module considers how science is communicated to different audiences and in different media. It draws out issues around science in society, for example the roles and responsibilities of scientists and journalists in communicating scientific research, public understanding of science and how science is communicated in museums, on TV and on the Internet.

Overview of Third Year Core Modules


This module examines aspects of the labour force, different systems for organising work and the implications for the creation of sustainable societies in which individuals are able to maintain good standards of living and undertake productive and satisfying work that contributes to and enhances their individual well-being. The module considers the following areas of enquiry: Labour Supply and Demand, Education and Work, Work and the Law, Technology and Work, Spaces of Work, Global Labour Markets, Social Justice and Sustainability of Different Forms of Labour.


Growing energy demands, dwindling fossil fuel sources, and the increasing negative effects of climate change have put pressure on scientists, social scientists, politicians and business leaders to invest in the necessary shift towards renewable energy sources. The UN has mandated private businesses to develop new and innovative solutions to climate and energy challenges, which often require an investment of time and capital'. This module is taught in collaboration with a group of active researchers who are involved in Warwick University's Global Research Priority on Energy and who are formulating solutions to the most pressing local and international problems. This module allows you to understand the challenges that belie the UN’s goal of providing 'Sustainable Energy for All'. It is constructed around the following questions:

  • How can we ensure universal access to modern energy services?
  • What current strategies are employed to improve access to reliable, affordable, economically viable, socially acceptable and environmentally sound energy services?
  • What is the relationship between energy services and efforts to eradicate poverty and improve standards of living?
  • What role can we play as citizens and stewards of the environment to enable local, national and global efforts to manage energy production and consumption?


You will formulate a thesis and conduct in-depth research into an issue of global sustainable development which is of most concern to you as an individual. You will produce a substantial piece of research that contributes to scholarship and demonstrates the skills, knowledge and understanding that you have acquired throughout the course. You will benefit from close supervision by an expert in your chosen area.

During the final year of the Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development course, you will be able to select optional modules from a wide range offered by The School of Biology. In this way you are able to tailor the year to suit your own particular interests and choose modules which focus on those aspects which you find most stimulating.

*The modules mentioned above may be subject to change. Please read our terms and conditions for more detailed information.

Where can a degree in Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development take me?

This degree will set you up to compete for some of the most competitive jobs, in a variety of public and private sectors. Our graduates are targeted by employers who value their creativity, the depth of their knowledge and their ability to adapt to the professional demands of the work environment.

Our Global Sustainable Development courses will equip you with a range of transferrable and practical skills that are valued by employers including those of analysis and problem solving, critical thinking, communication, organisation and team working.

These and other skills you will attain, evidenced by professional certificates, are highly valued by public and private sector employers in the UK and globally. You will have the opportunity to experience the working world through a work placement. At the end of the degree, you will be uniquely prepared to explore careers in a variety of professions and we will support you as you decide what you want to do next.

You will be qualified to compete for careers in project management, corporate governance, resource management, environmental planning; and consultancy in a wide range of industries including construction, transport, energy, engineering, communications; and for a wide range of organisations including local authorities, charitable trusts, the Environment Agency and national government departments such as DEFRA as well as overseas governments.

In recent years, the demand for graduates with expertise in Sustainable Development has increased dramatically, to the extent that specialist recruitment agencies have been set up seeking graduates who can take on jobs in sectors such as: Transport, Environment, Corporate Sustainability, Charities etc. In fact, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment maintains that:

Even industries that were not previously aligned with environmental principles are now required to employ environmentally knowledgeable professionals and therefore the profession is on the move, making its way to the centre of organisations' business plans. That means, more jobs being created, opening up opportunities for those with an interest in the environment.

Internships and Career Opportunities

Here is a sample of current opportunities for internships and graduate jobs that you would be qualified to compete for with a degree in Global Sustainable Development:

  • United Nations Economic Commission for Europe - Sustainable Development Internship: these internships are open to students who have specialised in a field related to UNECE programmes of work, for example: sustainable energy, economic cooperation and integration, gender etc.
  • The Foundation for Sustainable Development works with more than 250 partner organisations to create incremental, lasting change in communities around the world. They offer an Intern Abroad Program which allows you to gain valuable hands-on experience of the challenges faced by communities in one of six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, India, Kenya, Nicaragua and Uganda. The focus areas of the Foundation coincide with the areas of study that you will have explored on the degree: Gender Equity, Equal Rights, Youth Development, Economic Development, Community Development, Health, Environmental Sustainability.
  • The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) offers internships on Conservation and Sustainability
  • The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) provides work experience in sustainable development and an opportunity to become familiar with the type of work and activities associated with an international career in this field, such as influencing policy, action-research, networking and advocacy.
  • Corporate Citizenship is a global corporate social responsibility consultancy which offers 3 internship programmes
  • Fulbright Commission: Environmental Stewardship

Your Employability Profile

As a graduate of Life Sciences and Global Sustainable Development you will be equipped with advanced knowledge and highly developed communication and professional skills which will be valued by prospective employers, specifically:


  • In-depth knowledge of the economic, social and environmental factors that shape our understanding of issues related to Global Sustainable Development
  • A developed understanding of the scientific, social and economic policies that govern legislation on Global Sustainable Development
  • A critical understanding of the role that the United Nations plays on the local, national and international levels;
  • A theoretical and empirical understanding of the concept environmental stewardship and its applications to the specific discipline in which you have specialised
  • A developed understanding of the concept of global citizenship and of the moral and ethical issues that it forces us to grapple with in various contexts
  • A sound, critical and highly developed understanding of the concept of social justice and the ensuing considerations around ethics and wellbeing
  • A developed future-facing outlook with a keen sense of the possible solutions to problems of Global Sustainable Development

Professional skills

  • Ability to address issues and problem by drawing on tools from the Sciences, Social Science and Humanities
  • Expertise in integrating, analysing and synthesising information from a broad range of sources with seemingly incompatible data
  • Highly developed understanding of leadership practice and of working in teams to tackle problems and generate solutions
  • Highly developed skills of working in various professional environment (which are gained through placement learning opportunities)
  • Advanced skills of communicating with different audiences
  • Advanced skills of critical analysis of qualitative and quantitative data
  • Advanced skills of identifying a significant problem, devising appropriate critical questions to study it, conducting relevant research, generating and interpreting data, and formulating a plan of action to tackle it

Essential Information

Entry Requirements
A level:
AAB, to include A level in Biology and a pass in the science practical assessment (if applicable). Grade B in English and Mathematics at GCSE or equivalent.

IB: 36 points, to include Biology at Higher Level 6
Grade B in English and Mathematics at GCSE or equivalent.


Degree of Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc)

3 years full time (30 weeks per academic year)

Department website

Global Sustainable Development

School of life Sciences

Student blogs

Emily Morris - Life Sciences

Meredith Whiting - Global Sustainable Development

Location of study
University of Warwick, Coventry

Tuition fees
Find out more about fees and funding

Other course costs
There may be costs associated with other items or services such as academic texts, course notes, and trips associated with your course. For further information on the typical additional costs you should contact the department administering the course.

This information is applicable for 2017 entry.