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MA Education for a Sustainable Environment

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Key Debates in Environmental Governance

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG70921
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This unit introduces students to the concept of environmental governance, and the main current debates around the environment. It will consider ‘governance’ in the broadest sense, including how the environment is controlled, manipulated, and regulated (and the contestation of these processes) by a range of actors and institutions, and the cognitive and normative ideas that underpin this process. The unit will explore a broad range of approaches that span the political spectrum from left to right, in addition to considering more contemporary debates within the field. Abstract theoretical and conceptual material is intended to complement case studies of real world issues and applied policy examples from other course units, and to prepare students intellectually for future research.

The course considers specific approaches to governing the relations between society and the environment.  Influential critiques are put into play against these dominant approaches in order to encourage students to critically reflect upon contemporary approaches to environmental governance.  The unit will equip students with the necessary grounding to appreciate how different political and philosophical systems can be used to organise environmental regulation. The over-riding rationale of the unit is to provide students with the ability to recognise and critique the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to environmental governance. The unit is delivered primarily through structured seminars, student presentations, and debates in order to facilitate student engagement with ideas and concepts.

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.


  • Understand the dominant approaches to environmental governance.
  • Interrogate and apply the main critiques of dominant approaches to environmental governance.
  • Link contemporary environmental debates to academic theories and frameworks.

Teaching and learning methods

The unit will be delivered through seminars and students’ readings of key debates. All material is available on Blackboard. Each week will involve students presenting and responding to questions, offering information or ideas emerging out of the set reading. The reading for each week is selected to be representative of the most important current environmental debates, and will raise key questions. The key reading will be supplemented by further readings which give a deeper insight into some of the key issues. Students will be expected to (i) show understanding of arguments, (ii) offer critical evaluations of the material and (iii) use readings to critique readings from other weeks. You will sometimes be set small tasks each week that challenge you to apply some of the ideas discussed in class and / or summarise and present key material.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand the main tenets of environmental governance
  • Be conversant with the major approaches to environmental governance in the modern world
  • Evaluate different approaches and critique them in relation to one another
  • Be aware of key contemporary debates and challenges
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of communicating academic ideas through a seminar or during a public debate


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
  • Read advanced academic literature
  • Write and present clearly and without bias for a public audience


Practical skills

  • Develop, articulate and sustain logical, structured and reasoned arguments in both written and oral contexts
  • Build skills in public presentations and public debating

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

Assessment methods

Seminar (Powerpoint) Presentation of case study (20 min presentation), 30%

Final Term Essay (3000 words exclusive of bibliography) 70%

Feedback methods

There is week-by-week detailed oral feedback on presentation skills, presentation content, and presentation style; written feedback on final essay submission; and verbal formative feedback on the ‘public’ debate performance.

Recommended reading

Bulkeley, H. and Newell, P. (2015) Governing Climate Change. Second Edition. Routledge, London.


Evans, J. P. (2011) Environmental Governance. Routledge, London


Kütting, G. and Lipschutz, R. (Eds.) (2009) Environmental Governance: Power and Knowledge in a Local-Global World. Routledge, London.

More detailed reading will be provided as part of the course unit handbook.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nate Millington Unit coordinator

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