Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • Provides students with a context and an overview of a range of contemporary environmental issues, governance of these issues and wider debates
  • To link an understanding of the physical processes at the Earth's surface with an appreciation of the multiple ways in which these are perceived and managed in order to increase students' understanding of complex and multi-faceted environmental problems
  • Use case studies and in-depth analysis of specific environmental issues, to enable students to assess the current state of the environment with respect to both its past history and potential future change


  • Through focusing on a range of contemporary environmental controversies this module will address the following topics
  • Multiple and competing perspectives of the environment and its governance
  • Connections between environmental controversies and debates on science, expertise and public understanding
  • Social responses to risk and vulnerability
  • Policy instruments and institutions for environmental governance
  • Case studies from a list that may include carbon, water and waste

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students are expected to have knowledge of:
  • A range of current and potential future environmental issues, as well as past and present environmental governance practices and operators
  • How environmental controversies arise and are managed
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
  • Describe a range of current environmental issues, recognise past and present governance practices and anticipate potential future issues
  • Analyse different perspectives around a range of current environmental issues
  • Compare and critically analyse different approaches to environmental governance in a variety of environments and settings
  • Demonstrate their understanding of both theoretical debates and empirical issues through case studies and grounded examples
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate expertise in the critical appraisal of multiple viewpoints and positions
  • Develop skills of written communication, including the synthesis of information and the development of a well argued and evidenced position
  • Develop a variety of oral communication and group work skills, including the ability to present information, argue a case and deliberate in a public inquiry format

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will be used to impart basic facts and information necessary to fulfill the aims of this module and to introduce areas of debate and controversy
  • Workshops will be used to deepen students’ understanding and their perspectives around environmental governance
  • Through tutorials, students will develop communication skills amongst their peers and with the module tutors
  • The formative essay, summative essay and summative presentation will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the module themes through detailed engagemnent with a specific contemporary environmental governance challenge.
  • A two hour unseen exam will allow students to demonstrate their critical understanding of major debates and challenges across the broad themes covered in the lectures, workshops and tutorials.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 11 varies 2 hours 22
Tutorials 2 termly 1 hour 2
Workshops 4 terms 1 and 2 2 hours 8
Mock Public Enquiry Seminar 1 Early in term 3 5 hours 5
Preparation and Reading 163
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
unseen exam 2 hours 100%
Component: Group presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group presentation and debate at public enquiry 15 minutes 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
essay 4 x sides A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment in the module is provided through several formats: workshops that target key concepts and problems; a formative essay that develops a bibliography of an environmental organisation or institution used later for the mock public enquiry; tutorials designed to build towards the summative essay and mock enquiry; and a dedicated final workshop that allows students to both apply knowledge gained throughout the module and to engage in a warm-up exercise to the mock enquiry.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University