Module code: ENGM064

Module Overview

This module provides a comprehensive and challenging exploration of the core concepts, policy challenges and ethical issues in Sustainable Development. It is aimed at a wide range of students and takes a trans-disciplinary approach to exploring the frontier of sustainable development. The module provides a grounding in sustainability ideas and issues that is self-contained, but it also prepares students to get the best from the complementary module on Sustainable Development Applications (ENGM067). The module is suitable as a foundation for students who have not previously studied sustainability and provides an update on some of the frontiers of sustainability for those who have.

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader


Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 112

Lecture Hours: 17

Tutorial Hours: 3

Guided Learning: 15

Captured Content: 3

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • the nature of development – multiple perspectives on what it is and what it should be, and on the need for a radical new perspective, the ‘Overview Effect’

  • the idea of the Anthropocene

  • a brief history of sustainable development ideas and how they arose

  • the Brundtland Report and its implications

  • the Sustainability Equation and its implications

  • an overview and critical approach to the Planetary Boundaries framework for SD

  • values and the ethical dimensions of sustainable development

  • social dimensions of SD and environmentalism

  • sustainable consumption challenges

  • SD and biodiversity

  • contested issues in defining and decision-making for SD

  • means of assessing sustainable development (e.g. indicators and indices)

  • participatory approaches to sustainable development

  • case studies in ethical and political controversies raised by SD

  • political economy of SD

  • critiques of SD

  • analysis of key texts and discussion of films offering case studies


Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment

For failed submissions, repeat of assignment using different subject selected from supplied list

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate analytical, critical thinking and writing skills and subject knowledge and interest. The assignments offer opportunities to write in different formats and lengths.

The pre- and post-module assignments are designed to build upon the topics covered in the module and give the students a chance to explore them in a context that they are especially interested in.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Pre-module individual critical review in blog format (maximum 1000 words) on a topic of their choice arising from pre-module readings (25%)

  • Post-module individual written assignment (maximum 3000 words) from a supplied list of essay topics (75%) – with scope for tailoring of topic by student in agreement with module leader


Sessions at the start and end of the module will cover – in part – the module assignment. Students will submit their work via Surrey Learn.

Formative assessment

The module includes several sessions of guided group work (which does not count towards formal marked assessment) but students do receive feedback on their presentation of ideas and findings.


Detailed feedback is given in the marking process, including suggestions on improvements in grammar, style and structure. 
Feedback from the pre-module assignment will help students with their post-module assignment.

Module aims

  • This module explores foundational concepts of Sustainable Development and issues at the frontiers of policy and practice for sustainability. The aim is to provide a rich trans-disciplinary understanding of the history, politics, ethics and scientific foundations and cutting-edge issues of SD that will inspire interest in deeper study. We also aim to equip students to discuss and research complex conceptual and practical challenges in the integration of SD ideas in organisations, policies and projects.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
1 Understand the basic principles of sustainable development KC
2 Make sense of current arguments and debates on sustainable development KC
3 Understand the fundamental ethical and political issues raised by sustainable development challenges and concepts KCP
4 Understand and discuss major criticisms levelled at the idea of SD KCP
5 Engage in debates about the definition, analysis and prospects for realisation of sustainable development KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The module is designed to provide both an introduction to sustainable development, including an awareness of fundamental issues arising in the evolution of the concept, along with an exploration of some of the current frontiers in sustainable development. The module spans the scientific and ethical dimensions, plus the political economy of SD, critiques of sustainability and international and national policies. The module is geared towards core ideas, the history and current frontiers of SD, and fundamental challenges that need to be understood and faced in applications of SD in practice. Guest speakers from the public, private and ‘Third’ sectors have been engaged to talk about some of the basic ethical, political and conceptual issues that they have dealt with in grappling with sustainability a reality in their organisations and projects.

The module takes the students through a learning process that starts in space – in Earth and moon orbit – and ends in the depths of the Earth and in ‘deep time’. The module offers multiple perspectives on the introductory idea of the ‘Overview Effect’, which is used as a guiding metaphor for aiding students in conceptualising and acting on sustainable development ideas.

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Surrey Learn-based pre-readings

  • Lectures from module team and various guest lecturers from the public, private and civil society sectors.

  • Films and follow-up discussions

  • Discussion group tasks based on particular challenges and dilemmas

  • Post-module study linked to main assessment


38 hours contact time in the module week (Monday to Friday)

Pre-module work (assignment and optional pre-recording views) = 27 hours

Post-module work (assignment and optional Panopto captured content views) = 85 hours


Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: ENGM064

Other information

See CES website for further information. 

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Corporate Environmental Management MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Environmental Strategy MSc 1 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Sustainable Development MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2022/3 academic year.