The rate and complexity of environmental change poses profound economic, social and political challenges for contemporary society. Developing ways to address these challenges demands intellectual rigour, innovation and flexibility, as well as the capacity to think across existing disciplinary boundaries.

This course is grounded in the conviction that responses to global challenges requires researchers and practitioners trained in the social sciences, with the ability to think flexibly across disciplinary and sectorial boundaries. It will enable you to develop a theoretically sophisticated and empirically grounded understanding of the dynamic relations between environment, society and policy. This course intensively engages with ongoing theoretical debates in human geography, political geography, political ecology and science and technology studies. Students should expect to engage with theoretical material and deconstruct some of the basic assumptions underpinning terms like 'society', 'governance', 'territory', 'politics' and 'nature' in order to develop conceptual tools to understand contemporary global change. This is not an 'environmental policy' programme - it is a programme that will prepare you to grapple with contemporary global challenges from the perspectives of critical social theory informed by a range of disciplines.

To this end, the course draws on the methods and approaches from across the social sciences, including fields such as human geography, anthropology, environmental economics, science and technology studies, and environmental management. It also facilitates dialogue between researchers and practitioners concerning contemporary issues of environmental policy and politics.

The specific objectives of the course are:

  • to provide broad and critical engagements with key debates in human geography, political ecology and the environmental social sciences, focussing on the relations between nature and society, science and politics, and urban natures
  • to foster an understanding of conceptual tools in human geography and how to apply them to the challenges of real-world environmental governance
  • to develop your conceptions of, and skills in, the research design and methods in the contemporary environmental social sciences, providing critical foundations for further study by research
  • to integrate you into world-leading research in the School of Geography and the Environment by providing core teaching and supervision by research-active staff
  • to enhance your personal and professional development.

Course structure

The objectives are assessed through three themes: Policy and Governance, Theory and Analysis, and Research Skills, delivered through core modules including: Governance, Politics & Policy; Science & Politics; Nature & Society; Business & Environment; Urban Natures; Environmental Justice; Research Design; Research Methods & Practice.

You will also study two elective courses and write an individual dissertation of 15,000 words.

Teaching takes place through lectures, seminars and workshops which provide in-depth exploration of key environmental issues. The MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Governance also includes two core modules on research design and research methods, which prepare students well for research careers and PhDs. Field trips and external visits are an important component of the teaching delivery and include an induction field course and a three-day residential field course.

Elective modules

These offer a teaching and discussion environment within smaller groups, based on a suite of contemporary research themes that reflect the specific interests of core faculty and visiting research associates. The teaching aim is to foster discussion and debate between academic staff and students to identify and explore theory, methods and practice in an academic space that encourages a critical dialogue.

Dissertation

An independent and original dissertation is an integral component of the course. In order to equip you with the necessary skills to undertake high quality research, a suite of training activities is offered to develop key transferable skills in order for you to be able to execute high quality independent and original research. The dissertation will expose you to applied research methods used widely in academic and professional research.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the School of Geography and the Environment and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the School of Geography and the Environment.

Assessment

In addition to the dissertation, assessment is through written examination as well as an additional policy brief assignment for the core modules. The two electives are each assessed through a 4,000 word essay.

Please note: The actual course content may vary from the information provided online and should therefore be taken to be indicative rather than tightly prescriptive.