Surrey University Stag


Module code: ENGM059

Module Overview

This course will introduce the basic insights of ecological economics – that is an economics grounded in ecological realities - and situate these in the context of historical and current debates about economics and prosperity on a finite planet. 

Module provider

Sustainability, Civil & Env Engineering

Module Leader

LIU Lirong (Sust & CEE)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: L100

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

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 6

Independent Learning Hours: 64

Lecture Hours: 20

Seminar Hours: 10

Tutorial Hours: 4

Practical/Performance Hours: 6

Guided Learning: 10

Captured Content: 30

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

The thematic areas that the module focuses on include:

  • The history of economic ideas and the role of ecological economics in those ideas;

  • An in-depth exploration of the ‘dilemma of growth’ and its relevance to the prospects for living well, within the limits of a finite planet;

  • An introduction to microeconomic appraisal: cost-benefit analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, internalisation of external costs

  • An introduction to macroeconomics principles of demand and supply, consumption, investment, labour and productivity in an ecological context

  • An exploration of the role of enterprise, work, investment, debt and money creation in the framing of sustainable prosperity

  • An introduction to heterodox concepts such as degrowth, the postgrowth economy, modern money theory and the role of the commons

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate both an in-depth understanding of the economic dimensions of sustainability issues, to develop analytic skills (such as discounted cash flow analysis and macroeconomic accounting) which are relevant to this goal and to test out their capabilities for economic debate in a safe environment and under the supervision of the module leader and contributing lecturers.

The summative assessment for this module consists of:


  • A pre-course reflection on the ‘dilemma of growth’ in a finite world (25% of module marks)

  • A post-module assignment of 3,000 words (75% of module mark) based on either a) a qualitative essay on concepts introduced in the course or b) a quantitative appraisal of an investment project. Students may choose between these options according to their own interest, skill set and learning preferences. This choice aims to ensure that those without strong mathematical skills and no prior economic knowledge can nonetheless flourish in applying economic concepts, whilst allowing those who do have analytic skills and preferences to develop these further.


Formative assessment and feedback consists of:

  • A group exercise, conducted during the intensive week of the module, designed to help students’ work collaboratively around a commonly defined problem, present their findings in a coherent and accessible way, and in doing so to develop their resourcefulness in research, flexibility in interacting with others and resilience in communication. Feedback is provided on a continuing basis during the group exercise, not only to provide help in developing content for the group exercise but to offer guidance on working in teams.

  • Following the intensive teaching week, for the post-module assignment students can prepare a draft essay plan or appraisal and then make an appointment with the module leader to discuss their essay plan and receive verbal feedback prior to submitting their coursework.


Module aims

  • To introduce the core insights of ecological economics and explore the issues raised by an ecological approach to economics
  • To situate ecological economic ideas in a historical context and familiarise students with key economic debates
  • To develop in-depth understanding of contemporary debates related to the ¿dilemma of growth'
  • To familiarise students with the postgrowth movement, the management of common pool resources, and the role of intra- and inter-generational equity in economics
  • To provide a basic introduction to microeconomic and macroeconomic concepts and familiarise participants with economic techniques relevant to real-world problems
  • To introduce students to key external speakers on crucial economic issues, such as sustainable finance, community investment and the role of money.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Engage critically with the claims made by those who invoke economic concepts and arguments in debates over ecological and social issues. KC
002 Achieve proficiency in the basic principles of cost-benefit analysis, investment appraisal, macro-economic theory, systems analysis and ecological economics KPT
003 Understand the dilemma of growth in advanced economies and engage constructively in debates about growth, prosperity, inequality and sustainability KC
004 Contribute actively to discussions relating to ecological economics in professional contexts CPT
005 Work together with others to solve complex problems requiring interdisciplinary knowledge CPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • develop students’ appreciation of economic ideas through lectures, reading and course assignments;

  • direct their reading of a complex literature base to relevant and succinct summaries of key ideas;

  • draw on their knowledge of diverse disciplines to critique the assumptions of conventional economics;

  • develop and practice their skills in argumentation, debate, and the analysis of economic ideas;

  • relate economic theory to real world affairs in business, civil society and policy; 

  • work constructively with others to formulate economic proposals for sustainable prosperity

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: ENGM059

Other information

The Centre for Environment and Sustainability is committed to developing graduates with strengths in Employability, Digital Capabilities, Global and Cultural Capabilities, Sustainability and Resourcefulness and Resilience, in line with the Surrey Curriculum Framework. This module is designed to allow students to develop knowledge, skills and capabilities in the following areas:

Sustainability: Sustainability is widely recognised as achieving a balance between economic, social and environmental factors. This module develops students’ knowledge of the economic aspects of sustainability.  It provides an overview of economic concepts and techniques, and unpacks critical questions about the limits to economic growth.

Employability: The ability to understand and engage in economic arguments - a core element in the learning from this module – is a highly transferable skill, much valued by employers in business, not-for-profit and government sectors

Resourcefulness and Resilience: Arguments around the relationship between economic and environmental sustainability stand amongst the most vital and contested debates of our time. The course enables students to make use of research and evidence, develop robust arguments, and engage in role-play exercises to hone their ability to participate robustly in these discussions.

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Corporate Environmental Management MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Environmental Strategy MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
Sustainable Development MSc 2 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 2024/5 academic year.