MSc Environmental Monitoring, Modelling and Reconstruction

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Issues in Environmental Policy

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG70912
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


What is ‘environmental policy’? What importance should it assume within the wider universe of policy types (economic, social, cultural …)? Who does and should formulate and enact environmental policy? What values should environmental policy embody? Whose interests should it serve? What should it aim to achieve, and over what spatial and temporal scales? How can it be made more people-inclusive? What unintended knock-on effects do otherwise well considered and well intended policies have? These questions speak to some of the major issues in defining, formulating and implementing environmental policy today. Environmental policy, in its various concrete forms, has fast risen-up local, national and international policy agendas since the late 1980s. Policy principles, goals and instruments must today be devised in a febrile context in which talk of ‘environmental crisis’, looming ‘resource scarcity’ and a transition to ‘sustainable living’ are commonplace.

This interdisciplinary unit offers participants a real world – rather than purely theoretical – perspective on the links between principles, practice and outcomes in the arena of environmental policy. It supplements the semester 1 core course unit for the MSc in Environmental Governance (‘GEOG 70921 ‘Key Debates in Environmental Governance’) and explores how different governance paradigms and instruments play-out on the ground in different places and in different environmental policy arenas. The unit is compulsory and core for EG students, but can be taken as an option by others up to a ceiling of 30 students overall.


• To provide participants with a detailed working knowledge of the principles, practices and outcomes of environmental policy today

• To explore some of the key challenges of enacting environmental policy, and how they might be overcome

• To give participants a detailed understanding of environmental policy as it operates in a range of environmental sectors and resource locations


Teaching and learning methods

Lectures and seminars that are based on weekly set readings

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the main tenets of the environmental policy process, including formation, implementation and evaluation
  • Critically situate environmental policy in its wider political, economic and cultural contexts
  • Comprehend the challenges facing different environmental sectors (e.g. energy, water)
  • Evaluate different theoretical approaches in relation to real world policy issues
  • Engage with key contemporary debates and challenges in environmental policy


Intellectual skills

  • Think critically and independently
  • Analyse and evaluate different kinds of argumentation
  • Make connections between theoretical arguments and real-world cases
  • Assess the merits of contrasting theories and their policy implications
  • Write and present clearly thought-out arguments based on academic literatures


Practical skills

  • Critical thinking and logical reasoning in written and oral contexts
  • Organisational skills and independent learning
  • Data collection skills


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Inter-personal communication
  • Motivated and self-directed learning
  • Critical thinking and argumentation


Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Term paper proposal and conceptual diagram 600 words / 2 A4 pages 15%

Final term paper proposal (excluding bibliography) 3000 words 85%


Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided within 15 working days of submission. Written feedback will be provided for both assignments, as well as verbal formative feedback during one-to-one individual consultations in week 8.

Recommended reading

Roberts, J. (2010) Environmental Policy (London: Routledge, 2nd edition). 
Adger, N. & Jordan A. (2009) (eds) Governing sustainability (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). 
Jordan, A. & Lenschow, A. (eds) (2008) Innovation in environmental policy? (Chetenham: Edward Elgar).
Vig, N. & Kraft, M. (2010) Environmental policy: new directions for the 21st Century, 7th Edition (CQ Press: Washington).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Saska Petrova Unit coordinator

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