Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024


Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 28 Location Durham
Tied to L702
Tied to L704
Tied to L705
Tied to LA01
Tied to LA02
Tied to LMV0
Tied to LMV1
Tied to LMV2
Tied to LMVA
Tied to QRV0
Tied to QRVA
Tied to CFG0
Tied to FGC0
Tied to CFG1
Tied to CFG2


  • GEOG2472 Social Research in Geography


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • GEOG3501 Berlin: Culture, Politics and Contestation; GEOG3581 Territory and Geopolitics; GEOG3491 Alpine Landscapes and Processes; GEOG3691 Iceland: Field Research in Glacial Environments; GEOG3521 The Arctic; GEOG3731 Dynamic Mountain Environments; GEOG3701 Mountain Hazards; GEOG3551 Chicago: Sites of Global Change


  • To critically explore the geographies of energy transition through a combination of lectures and workshops in Durham and a week of field research in a Euorpean region.
  • To introduce students to different ways in which energy transition seeks to redefine societies’ relationships to energy, and how the issues and challenges of energy transition vary geographically
  • To develop and apply geographical and socio-technical perspectives to understand the multiple dimensions of energy transition across space and time, including issues of resource extraction and conflict, the development and replacement of energy infrastructures and access to energy services and their consumption.
  • To develop students’ ‘energy literacy’ (i.e. familiarity with terms, concepts, actors and issues) and encourage critical engagement with contemporary energy issues
  • To examine through field-based research the multi-scalar and geographically uneven character of energy transitions in a region of Europe (the Oresund Denmark/Sweden) or Rhine Estuary, Netherlands.


  • This module is structured around the theme of energy transition. Transition implying some form of change over time in the ways in which energy is captured, transformed, accessed, distributed and/or governed provides a framework for examining the range of challenges associated with contemporary energy use, the actors driving change and the structures and institutions that may resist it, and the potentially competing objectives of energy affordability, energy security and responses to climate change.
  • The module focuses on the geographical dimensions of energy transitions across space and time, exploring how the histories of energy production and consumption shape its present and possible futures as well as how energy transitions in one region (Europe) are tied into transitions in the extraction, production, consumption and wasting of energy materials and systems elsewhere. It will explore how new drivers for a ‘green transition’ in energy systems in Europe are changing how people live and work with energy, re-working socio-spatial and political ecological relations within cities and regions and generating new patterns of uneven development and scalar configurations at national and international levels.
  • Lectures and workshops introduce students to conceptual and case material, providing an empirical and theoretical toolkit for students to critically analyse energy transitions. Field research in Northern Europe will allow students to examine the multiple dimensions and geographies of energy transition in a diverse setting where histories and future promises of energy transition collide, and to understand first-hand the connections among transitions at different scales (national, urban, community/household).
  • The module draws on the research and teaching interests of human geography staff around energy, climate, finance and urban infrastructure and explores their intersection in the context of Europe as well as their connection to other regions globally. The module seeks to capitalise on these intersections and potential synergies through team-teaching in Durham (lectures may involve contributions by more than one member of staff) and co-investigation and shared learning among staff and students while in the field.
  • Lectures may cover the following exemplary themes:
  • 1. Energy landscapes through time: materialities, spaces, flows
  • 2. Political economies of Europe’s energy transitions
  • 3. Undoing high carbon energy cultural economies
  • 4. Configuring low carbon energy transitions
  • 5. Energy justice across sites and scales
  • Module workshops will introduce the theme and regional case, assemble research groups and brainstorm research ideas and help students develop research proposals.
  • The field course will consist of a week in the Rhine Estuary (centred on Rotterdam) or the Oresund region (centred on Copenhagen, Denmark and Malmö, Sweden).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate the concept of energy transition from geographical perspectives
  • Demonstrate an informed understanding, supplemented by the students’ own research, of the connections and potential tensions between energy affordability, security & climate change
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how energy transitions vary over time and space and the differential challenges of ‘undoing’ high carbon economies and configuring ‘low carbon’ transitions
  • Understand how energy underpins the geographies of daily life at a range of scales and develop the capacity to reflect on their meaning for our own contexts and decisions
  • Show an appreciation for the dynamic and uneven spatiality of energy transitions, and how these manifest in a European context
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Evaluation and critical application of geographical concepts and theories to understand contemporary issues related to energy transitions and their place in the global economy
  • Planning, executing and reporting geographical research
  • Collecting, interpreting & synthesising different types of quantitative & qualitative geographical data
Key Skills:
  • Problem formulation, research design and data generation
  • Critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
  • Ability to learn in familiar and unfamiliar settings
  • Capacity to evaluate academic performance of self and others
  • Effective written and verbal communication
  • Identification, retrieval, assessment and synthesis of information from a wide range of sources
  • Team working, involving recognition and respect for the viewpoints of others
  • Time management and effective organisational skills.

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

  • Lectures will introduce students to concepts, approaches and cases in pursuit of the module’s aims and objectives. Student-learning will be assisted by reading lists, links to external sources, and summary PowerPoint slides.
  • Workshops will facilitate the module’s aims and provide an important intermediary step between lectures (students as recipients of information) and field research (students as co-producers of knowledge). Workshops provide an opportunity to discuss and develop ideas covered in the lectures and to apply these in the design of a research problem.
  • A preparatory activity (for instance, a field trip to a former coal mining site in County Durham) will take place as part of one of the workshops/lectures to link energy transition in the case-study region to similar issues in Durham, helping students to identify global spaces and flows of energy transition as well as building understandings of (post)colonial contexts for contemporary energy politics and practices.
  • Field research in Europe will further student understanding of conceptual approaches to energy transition and explore how they can be applied to understand energy capture, transformation, distribution, access and governance at different scales and in different contexts. It will also provide experience in project design, research and analysis, while developing student individual and group working skills.
  • By way of formative assessment, the project outline, tutorial/check-in sessions and the oral presentation in the field will assess skills of research design and implementation along with the ability to communicate a research ‘problem’ and focus and to respond to questions. Feedback on formative assessment will thus assist students to apply the concepts learned in lectures to real world problems, to frame appropriate research questions and to select suitable research methods prior to implementation in the field.
  • For summative assessment, students will prepare a literature review, develop and deliver a group presentation, and write an individual report on their group project for summative assessment. The literature review and individual reports on the group projects will test students’ ability to interpret and apply theoretical concepts to empirical examples and their ability to explain things clearly and support their argument with appropriate reference to the literature. The individual report will also assess skills of data analysis and provide students with an opportunity to summarise and communicate their research findings. The summative group presentation will assess students’ ability to communicate emergent research findings, discuss analysis and respond to questions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 6 Approximately one every two weeks 2 hours 12
Project planning workshops 2 One in Term 1 and one in Term 2 2 hours 4
Project planning workshops 1 Proposal Preparation workshop in Term 2. This session will include the field Health & Safety briefing 2 hours 2
Durham preparatory activity 1 One session in Term 1 4 hours 4
Fieldwork 1 7 days in the field, at the end of Epiphany and before Easter 8 hours per day 56
Preparation and Reading 122
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Literature review Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Literature review max 4 pages A4 100%
Component: Group presentation Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group presentation 20 minutes per group 100%
Component: Individual report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual report Max 6 x sides A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be provided in the following ways: (1) an initial project outline/proposal prepared prior to departure; (2) during the field course via tutorial sessions and scheduled check-in opportunities; (3) following the oral group presentation in the field.

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