BSc Global Development

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Sustainable Global Development

Course unit fact file
Unit code MGDI20061
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course unit is divided into three parts. Part 1 provides the historical and conceptual grounding needed for the rest of the unit. 

Part 2 will focus on target-setting and monitoring in global sustainable development, taking the example of the Sustainable Development Goals: 

Part 3 will focus on different visions of and pathways towards global sustainable development, providing students with the knowledge and skills to understand the origins of different perspectives on these debates and to draw their own informed conclusions. This part of the course unit will be updated annually to reflect the most important current debates. 

The final week of the course unit will focus on revising the content and synthesising overarching themes, including by providing space for student reflections on the main things they have learned from the course unit.


  • Introduce the history and key concepts of the sustainable development paradigm
  • Enable students to analyse the values and limitations of different sustainable development conceptualisations, targets, and monitoring strategies
  • Equip students to understand the conflicting perspectives on different visions of sustainable global development and to take informed, well-considered positions within these debates
  • Develop transferable skills in academic writing and communicating ideas to non-academic audiences

Teaching and learning methods

Each week of the course will involve 2 x 1hr lecture sessions and 1 x 1hr tutorial. Lecture sessions will be in-person except if there are cases where a lecture is being contributed by a visiting speaker who can only participate remotely. Lecture sessions with the whole cohort will cover the core content, including through interactive activities, while smaller-group tutorial sessions will encourage students to apply the knowledge they have gained through discussions, debates, or working together to create outputs like posters.

Students will be asked to complete a 10-question open book online quiz each week. This quiz will be designed to take no more than 10-15 minutes per week and will provide an ongoing gauge of engagement and understanding. The quiz will also offer a box at the end for students to ask questions about the week’s content, which will be compiled by the course coordinator and addressed in the first lecture session the following week. Questions asked over the course unit (with answers from the lecturer that week) will also be made available to all students in an appropriate online space like Blackboard or a weekly Padlet.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Describe the history of sustainable development and how the idea became dominant in global environmental policy
  • Analyse the purposes, potentials and limitations of sustainable development targets and associated monitoring strategies
  • Understand different perspectives on key debates in sustainable global development and adopt a well-justified position in these debates.

Intellectual skills

  • Appraise the evidence for different perspectives and draw well-argued conclusions
  • Engage with and interpret literature from a wide range of academic disciplines

Practical skills

  • Synthesise evidence and identify the most important key messages
  • Present material in a format accessible to a non-academic audience

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Communicate knowledge of sustainable development to non-academic audiences 
  • Manage time effectively to complete the work required for the course unit
  • Reflect on their own learning and recognise how their own positionality might shape their perspectives on key issues.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Oral assessment/presentation 40%
Set exercise 10%

Feedback methods

Verbal feedback on contributions to tutorial activities will act as formative assessment to prepare students for this summative assessment.

Written comments on Blackboard with summative assessment. The content and timing of feedback will be consistent with University policy.

Weekly quizzes will be scored immediately.

Recommended reading

History and Conceptualisations of Sustainable Development (Week 1)

Hopwood et al. (2005) Sustainable development: mapping different approaches. Sustainable Development 13: 38-52

Robertson (2014) Sustainability: Principles and Practice. Routledge. Section 1.2 A brief history of sustainability.

Steffen et al. (2015) Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347: 1259855

Sustainable Development Critiques and Environmental Justice (Week 2)

Okereke (2007) Global justice and neoliberal environmental governance. Routledge. Most likely Chapter 8 (Ethics of global sustainability and neoliberal ideas of justice) and Chapter 9 (Global justice and neoliberal environmental governance)

Schlosberg & Collins (2014) From environmental to climate justice: climate change and the discourse of environmental justice. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 5: 359-374

Goal-Setting and Monitoring (Weeks 3 and 4)

Biermann et al. (2022) Scientific evidence on the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Sustainability 5: 795-800

Fukuda-Parr & McNeill (2019) Knowledge and politics in setting and measuring the SDGs. Global Policy 10: 5-15 (and papers on specific goals from associated special issue) Stafford-Smith (2014) UN sustainable goals need quantified targets. Nature 513: 281

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rose Pritchard Unit coordinator

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