Module code: ENGM309

Module Overview

This module explores the role of food systems in delivering the objectives of sustainable development. Through the prism of food, the module addresses key critical questions on resource shortfalls, environmental pressures and social development. Drawing on the perspectives of different actors ¿producers, consumers, policy-makers and campaigners, the module explores the scope for (and the limits to) the development of food systems that promote sustainability outcomes. The module has a theoretical and empirical focus on food systems thinking and on the different sustainability dimensions and discourses (including competing quality attributes and the role of different policy actors in food system governance).

Module provider

Centre for Environment & Sustainability

Module Leader

SONNINO Roberta (Sust & CEE)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

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

Overall student workload

Workshop Hours: 10

Independent Learning Hours: 95

Lecture Hours: 018

Seminar Hours: 02

Guided Learning: 3

Captured Content: 22

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:
¿ Sustainability in the Food System: Key Issues and Debates
¿ The Global Food Regime: History and Current Dynamics
¿ Sustainability in Food Production
¿ Alternative Food Networks
¿ Sustainable Urban Foodscapes: Governance and Policies
¿ Sustainability in the Context of Food Security
¿ Place-Based Strategies for Sustainable Food Systems

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework Pre-module assignment linked to pre-reading 20
Coursework Group Project 20
Coursework Post-module Individual Essay 60

Alternative Assessment

If a student fails the group project they will be assigned an equivalent individual project.

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate:

  • Basic knowledge of the topic, developed through pre-module readings

  • In-depth knowledge and understanding of how food-related issues are portrayed in the media by the end of the module, developed through the groupwork

  • Ability to analyse, synthesise and critique academic literature to produce recommendations, by the end of the module.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • Pre-module short answer assignment linked to pre-reading, max 1000 words. Submitted by 9am on the first day of the module. The assignment ensures that students join the intensive week with a broad initial understanding of key issues and can maximize the benefit they gain from the course.

  • Group project work undertaken during module week: a research poster (paper size: A1) which will be presented in class and then submitted. The groupwork allows students to develop and show their understanding of how food-related issues are portrayed in the media, focusing on several interacting factors that shape their narratives (including the author, publication type, use of supporting visual imagery etc.).  

  • 2500 word post-module individual report/essay. The assignment allows the students to demonstrate their abilities to gather information from a variety of sources, analyse, critique and synthesise them to deliver recommendations.

Assignments are graded against specific criteria which are consistent with the University’s standard grade descriptors.

Formative assessment and feedback

Students will receive:

  • Feedback on the group presentation made on the final day

  • Feedback available throughout the week through class discussions and through interactions during the workshops each day

  • The module leader is available to be consulted throughout the week or post-module on any questions arising from the module or assignments assignment

Module aims

  • Develop specialist knowledge of the food system field within a more general sustainability framework
  • Provide students from natural science, social science and other backgrounds with a broad understanding of the role of food and of the range of socio-economic, human and environmental issues associated with the food system
  • Appreciate and systematically understand the different adjustments food system actors are making in order to align their role and actions to the issues, policies and practices surrounding sustainable development.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Develop the ability to explain the range of issues relevant to food system transformation KPT
002 Acknowledge sustainability issues related with food systems and appreciate the ecological value of food KPT
003 Be able to engage in debates about policy and strategic management in a broad range of areas affecting the food system CKPT
004 Be able to reflect systematically on sustainable food systems theory and be able to apply it to case studies CKP
005 Demonstrate the ability to write clear, critical and authoritative arguments that engage with scientific debates about the food system as well as with policy issues concerning food PT

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:
¿ Motivate students to engage with the breadth of this subject and to learn to take a transdisciplinary perspective
¿ Provide students with a thorough knowledge of a variety of approaches to analysing and developing transformative strategies towards sustainability
The learning and teaching methods include:
¿ Lectures, workshops and seminars, including opportunities for questions and discussion
¿ Class discussions and debates, with which students are expected to engage actively
¿ Week-long group work
¿ Independent study

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: ENGM309

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: Employability ¿ the group project develops important team working skills: respect and listening skills within the team; adaptability to feedback given each day; public speaking and presentation skills from the final class presentation. The preparation and presentation of a research poster is also useful and transferrable knowledge for anyone wishing to work with or within the food sector. Sustainability ¿ the module emphasises the need to take a trans-disciplinary perspective. In particular, students will gain the experience of utilising systems thinking, which will provide insights into the interconnections within the food system and between food and other complex systems. Systemic thinking is the heart of the challenge and opportunity in the search for sustainable development. Resourcefulness and resilience ¿ the group work helps students develop their resourcefulness and resilience through peer-to-peer learning and the need to work effectively and efficiently in small groups to produce a series of assessed outputs within limited blocks of time. The teaching team is on hand throughout the exercise to facilitate the groups and help students resolve any difficulties and to create a mutually supportive learning environment. Digital capabilities ¿ Students will learn to draft a research poster. Students will therefore develop the ability to access and evaluate different types of relevant digital information (e.g. academic, commercial, policy) and combine them in a visually engaging way. Global and Cultural Capabilities ¿ this module specifically addresses differences in conditions and values in different communities and how those are impacting upon access to food.

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 2025/6 academic year.