BSc Biomedical Sciences / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Interdisciplinary Sustainable Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MCEL30022
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The world’s population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The standard of living around the world has been rising, but socio-economic disparities remain. Individuals, communities, companies and nations all have a role to play in tackling inter-connected global challenges, in order to provide every person in every country with water, food, energy and a home, in an environmentally and economically sustainable way.

Sustainable development is increasingly becoming a goal to which numerous countries and organisations throughout the world aspire. There is a growing recognition and acceptance that society needs to develop new pathways to achieve a more sustainable future.  This is driving elements of government policy, business strategy and technical innovation, recognising that the past and present strategies of industrial societies have led to unacceptable damage of the physical environment and inequalities both within “developed” communities and with the rest of the non-industrialised world.  Sustainable development demands synergy, collaboration and integration across disciplines and stakeholders in order to generate solutions, foster change and contribute to delivering national and international environmental, social and economic development agendas. The goal is to achieve economic progress, ecological protection and social justice. Achieving a balance between all three elements is a challenging task.

University graduates from any discipline have a special place in leading change towards sustainable development by being able to develop solutions and tools such as new products, new technologies, new business practices, new policies, etc. to address global issues.  The challenge for many organisations across the globe is finding graduates equipped to work in ‘the real world’ and robust ways of implementing sustainable development at a practical level (addressing global challenges whilst remaining competitive on a global stage).

This unit provides students student with an awareness of current unsustainable practices across a wide range of disciplines, key global challenges, an understanding and application of basic concepts and principles for sustainable development and, an understanding of the place that their chosen degree specialism has in addressing global challenges. The unit has a much emphasis in knowledge and understanding of principles for sustainable development as it does in the development of skills and competences to influence change towards sustainable development. Both, the result and the process are equally important.

Interactive lectures are used to introduce basic concepts. However, this is a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) unit in which students learn a practical, holistic, approach to tackling real-life problems that applies the fundamental principles of sustainable development; requires both the development of close team collaboration, research skills and critical analysis of information; and precludes the common pitfalls of discipline-centrism, ethnocentrism and short-termism. Facilitated weekly group activities (setting ground rules, identifying team roles, reviewing team performance) are used to foster an effective group work environment and explore the relationship between multidisciplinary and multicultural  teams and  sustainable development.


Note: this unit is an open elective unit which aims to provide an introduction to sustainable development. 


The aim of the unit is to develop intellectual skills and deeper understanding in students of relevant concepts of, and barriers to, creating change towards sustainable development in a complex world.

Students will gain understanding of the complex issues surrounding sustainable development towards social responsibility and environmental sustainability, with focus on challenges and opportunities to enable change from an enterprise perspective (for profit and not-for-profit organisations).

Students will work as teams of ‘sustainability consultants’ and develop innovative strategies that balance conflicting needs and consequences, recognising wider considerations (beyond own discipline), and using creativity to overcome barriers to change. Students learn a practical, holistic, approach to tackling problems that applies the fundamental principles of sustainable development and the circular economy; requires both the development of close team collaboration, research skills and critical analysis of information.


·     Introduction to sustainable development from an organisation perspective

·     Introduction to a Circular Economy

·     Introduction to basic tools for environmental, social and economic sustainability assessment

·     Tensions and trade-offs in sustainable development

·      Introduction to barriers and pathways for sustainable development

·      Developing creativity and innovative ‘solutions’ for sustainable development

Teaching and learning methods

This is a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and most of the learning will be student-led. Therefore, much of the student learning will occur through student involvement in short research-based projects. In this unit, students work in active, collaborative teams on short structured projects, acting as a professional sustainable-development consultancy company.

Projects familiarise students with different aspects (beyond own discipline) of the challenges of enabling change towards sustainable development and social responsibility in a professional context. In addition to the scheduled weekly contact time in class, a significant amount of the weekly allocated ‘private study time’ is required to work on team projects/challenges.

There is a strong emphasis on participants developing effective co-operative team-working and practical project management practices, through developing innovative strategies that balance conflicting needs and consequences, recognising wider considerations and using creativity to overcome barriers to change.

Projects encompass the social, economic and environmental aspects of specific scenarios and are not simply about devising solutions to environmental problems. The scenarios may tackle any theme (discipline) related to sustainable development. Group discussions are used to help students analyse their learning from each project. Students should reflect on the development of their team-working practices and how their individual learning about sustainable development and the management of change has developed through studying the different projects.

The unit is fully supported via Blackboard and copies of all lecture material and additional supporting information is available within this virtual learning environment. 

Knowledge and understanding

Students should be able to:

A1 Demonstrate critical understanding of the challenges associated with implementing changes for sustainable development:

A2 Demonstrate knowledge of the role of different mechanisms for change and means of overcoming barriers to change. 

Intellectual skills

Students should be able to:

B1     Apply a holistic and systemic approach to investigating complex, “messy” open-ended problems.

B2     Work across traditional disciplinary boundaries in order to develop innovative strategies and proposals.

B3      Apply a framework to employ problem solving skills in examining complex, multi-criteria, issues that        

          incorporate uncertainty and conflicts of interest.

Practical skills

Students should be able to:

C1 Apply and develop information literacy skills

C2 Apply problem solving skills within the context of a team activity/project

C3 Research and critically analyse information from published literature and internet sources to produce written reports

C4 Create and deliver a team presentation

C5 Reflecting and analysing what has been learned through the experience 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

Students should be able to:

D1 Apply reflective practice to engage in continuing self-improvement in a professional context.

D2 Work collaboratively as a member of a diverse team, contributing to the development of effective team dynamics and project management processes.

D3 Develop strategies to work more effectively with those from different disciplinary, national or cultural backgrounds.

D4 Demonstrate skills in debating, structuring and communicating ideas and proposals in writing, verbally in meetings, and also in presentation format.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
development a rigorous approach to researching, critically analysis and referencing academic and business information. developing innovative and creative solutions to a problem which require handling complexity and uncertainty
Group/team working
working in a collaborative team to tackle a `real world¿ problem from any sort of discipline
The unit aims to enable students to be more effective in their future career. Problem-based learning, real-life challenges and team work are key to this unit in order to equip students with competencies to enhance student employability such as: development of an awareness of challenges and opportunities that recent changes in consumer behaviour, regulations, political uncertainty present to a wide range of organisation.
Written communication
consultancy like (not essay) report writing.

Assessment methods

Formative assignments:

- Blackboard (BB) Quiz: Sustainable Development: the basics: 10-15 minutes.

Summative assignments:

Team Project: - 10 minute Presentation, 40%

Individual Project: - 1500 word written report, 60%

Feedback methods

1. You will receive immediate feedback regarding your understanding of basic principles of sustainable development upon completing a blackboard multiple choice quiz. The quiz can be taken unlimited number of times.
2. Your lecturer is available to give feedback to the whole team or individuals during scheduled contact time. 
3. Your lecturer may provide brief replies to your e-mailed enquiry within their scheduled working hours if time permits, or may arrange to meet immediately before, following or during a scheduled class session.
4. Your lecturer may feedback messages to the whole class via Blackboard if the point that you have raised could be of benefit to the whole class. It is your responsibility to check blackboard regularly.
5. After each project, your lecturer will provide written feedback.

Recommended reading

Laasch, O. (2021). Principles of Management: Practicing Ethics, Responsibility, Sustainability. 2nd Edition. London: Sage.

Kopnina, H. and Blewitt, J. (2018). Sustainable business: Key issues. 2nd Edition. Routledge.

Rogers P.P., Jalal K.F., Boyd J.A. (2012) An Introduction to Sustainable Development Routledge (ASIN: B0081YWAQ4)

Young T. S., K. K. Dhanda (2013). Sustainability for Business, Sage

Stark, R., Seliger, G. and Bonvoisin, J. (2017). Sustainable Manufacturing: Challenges, Solutions and Implementation Perspectives. Springer.

Aagaard, A. (Ed.). (2018). Sustainable Business Models: Innovation, Implementation and Success. Springer.

Allenby B.R.  (2012). The Theory and Practice of Sustainable Engineering Pearson (Prentice Hall) (ISBN10: 0 273 75216 2)

Azapagic A., Perdan S.  (2011).  Sustainable Development in Practice: Case Studies for Engineers and Scientists 2nd Edition  Wiley (ASIN: B005FMLIMM)

Mulder, K. ed. (2006). Sustainable Development for Engineers: A Handbook and Resource Guide Greenleaf Publishing (ISBN-10: 1874719195)

Nicholas Ashford and Ralph Hall (2011).   Technology, Globalization, and Sustainable Development: Transforming the Industrial State,  Yale University Press  (ISBN-10: 0300169728)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 24
Independent study hours
Independent study 76

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Fatemeh Salehi Yazdi Unit coordinator

Additional notes

For Academic Year 2024/25

Updated: March 2024

Approved by:  UG Committee

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