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Sustainable Development BSc(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code Year of entry
3 years full time DK44 2015
4 years full time including sandwich year DK4K 2015
4/5 years full time including foundation year H220 2015

Why choose this course?

Our Sustainable Development course investigates the interactions of people and society with their environment and seeks sustainable solutions to solve complex management challenges. Sustainable Development students learn how to recognise and make sense of diverse global problems and contested sustainability issues. As well as evaluating current practices you explore alternative solutions that could be used to achieve good living standards without compromising the Earth's environment and resources. As business, authorities and regulators seek to 'green' their activities, Kingston University Sustainable Development graduates are ideally placed to enter the workplace and the course is offered as a three-year full-time degree programme and as a four-year degree including a sandwich placement for students who want to gain first-hand work experience in a related environment prior to graduating.

Kingston University course director Stuart Downward talks about the environmental and sustainable development programmes:

What will you study?

Initially you will study the Earth's physical environments, their development and their relationship to people and cultures. You will develop a diverse range of knowledge and practical skills that will allow you to analyse and understand these relationships and begin to apply these skills to solving increasingly complex sustainability challenges. You will investigate the political, economic and cultural influences on development processes and, through fieldwork and practical examples, you will test your knowledge on real-world examples in a range of geographical settings.

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Modules in year one

  • Spatial analysis introduces and develops the fundamental geographical skills of data collection, analysis and presentation and the solving of spatial problems using GIS. It concerns data types, representations of reality and key spatial analysis techniques.

  • This core module introduces techniques of fieldwork and the principles that form the basis of successful investigations within this, including statistics and subject specific to geographical, geological and environment degrees.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • prepare for and perform basic fieldwork techniques;
    • produce a field report in the appropriate format; underpinned by field observations and records;
    • undertake elementary data analysis;
    • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamental scientific (and other) principles and techniques that are pertinent to the course; and
    • apply undergraduate-level academic skills.
  • This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the basic principles and processes that operate and cause change in environmental systems and show how this knowledge can be applied to sustainably manage environmental problems. The importance of a holistic, 'top-down' approach to problem solving will be introduced along with material on key underpinning scientific disciplines including environmental chemistry and genetics. Practical and fieldwork sessions are designed to develop observation and recording skills.

  • This module is designed to introduce you to key geographical theories and concepts and deals with the relationship of human societies to a range of economic, cultural, social and political processes.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Engage with a range of theoretical and conceptual issues in human geography.
    • Show an understanding of current global patterns, trends and processes in relation to key geographical ideas and approaches.
    • Demonstrate a range of oral and written communication skills (oral presentations, essay, report, peer review).
    • Provide evidence of reading with a critical and analytic sensibility.

Year 2

  • This module introduces the theory and practice of environment and sustainable development in meeting the challenges of the future as they affect society, business and the economy.  Sustainable development considers the theoretical basis in economic, social and environmental factors  including economic theory, natural resource usage and globalisation. In addition, economic mechanisms are explored and the theory of externalities and their control through regulation, market-based incentive, property rights, economic behaviour and macroeconomic issues of sustainable development.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Demonstrate an understanding of environment-society interactions including the interplay of local and regional issues within a framework of globalisation.
    • Demonstrate an awareness of the theory of externalities and their control through regulation and through economic instruments such as market-based incentives and property rights.
    • Apply the fundamental economic analysis to issues of environmental concern.
    • Appreciate the governance environment in which modern  practices of environmental management operate.
    • Understand the key issues for business and industry in relation to the environment and sustainability agenda, including environmental management systems.
    • Be able to carry out and /or evaluate an environmental audit, a simple waste management/minimisation programme and an environmental impact assessment.
  • This module deals with aspects of research design; defining research questions, research philosophy and methodologies. The module culminates in designing and managing a field-based research project in a UK and/or overseas setting. In addition, the module deals with the interpretation of statistical data and presentation format.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Design and execute an environmental and/or geographical research investigation.
    • Understand the importance of, and achieve, quality control in project design and management and be able to undertake critical analysis of environmental and/or geographical research projects and published literature.
    • Take account of, or mitigate, logistical considerations in field-based project design and management, safety aspects associated with such projects, ethical issues and intellectual property rights.
    • Communicate with clarity the findings of a research investigation.
    • Through the tutorial system, develop wider transferable linkages that map the experiences of the module to their wider academic learning environment and career/professional development, and prepare an independent research proposal as a pre-cursor to embarking on an independent research project at Level 6.

    And specific to this version of the module:

    • Confidently select and apply appropriate statistical methods to support the investigation and evaluation of quantitative information.
  • Select one module denoted as * and one module denoted as **:

    • This module explores the ecological concepts using a hierarchical approach; population, community and ecosystem levels of ecology, highlighting the interactions between man and nature. A research-led approach is used to emphasise the models by which ecologists attempt to explain complex biological systems.

      On successful completion of the module you should be able to:

      • Describe the models used to explain fundamental ecological processes that govern populations, communities and ecosystems.
      • Discuss and evaluate the processes that modulate distribution and abundance of organisms in ecological systems.
      • Critically discuss the mechanisms that lead to change in ecological systems.
      • Analyse ecological data and interpret results in the context of appropriate ecological theory and discuss its implications for the management of environments.
    • This module develops an understanding of the fundamental principles of soil science whereby the various soil properties and processes, including storage and transport of water in soil, are explained. This provides a good underpinning to developing an understanding of hydrology. Core principles of hydrology are explored both as theoretical physical science of hydrology and practical hydrological skills, which students gain through hands-on experience and investigations. This knowledge of soil and water sciences forms the essential base for introducing and explaining environmental pollution, including the impact of pollutants on environmental systems (soil, water, plants and air) and human health. It also discusses pollution mitigation and control strategies.

    • This module develops skills in spatial data analysis and modelling and explores the application of spatial statistical techniques using GIS. Maps are important tools for visualising geospatial data to communicate spatial patterns and processes and the results of geographical analysis.  Methods for the analysis of point patterns, spatially continuous data, area based data, spatial interaction data and networks are explored. The module deals with the principles of design and production of maps in a GIS environment.

      On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

      • Explain the purpose of spatial analysis, including spatial statistics, and their application to geographical data.
      • Describe the difference in types of data and the techniques appropriate to their analysis.
      • Formulate and execute the solution to a spatial problem using appropriate spatial and non-spatial analytical methods.
      • Explain fundamental cartographic principles for effective data communication.
      • Produce thematic and topographic maps in accord with good design criteria, symbolisation, colour and other features.
      • Describe and interpret the uneven spatial distribution of geographic events such as crime, disease, deprivation, land cover and pollution.
    • The module aims to introduce you to, and develop your understanding of, the core concerns of contemporary social and cultural geography: its substantive concerns, theoretical perspectives, and methodological innovations. The module evaluates the role of space and place in the construction of social relations and cultural identities and how these are differentiated according to the social constructions of class, gender, race and ethnicity, age, sexuality and disability. It aims to develop skills of critical social and cultural interpretation through your engagement with how geography is central to the construction of social and cultural difference.

    • The introduction to the module will provide the overview starting with the concept of regional geography as a sub-discipline in geography, followed by a set of core lectures analysing the major regions of the world. An accompanying seminar programme will aid you in evaluating regional concepts and alternative definitions of regions. Workshop sessions will be provided as an arena for preparing assignments and formative assessment.

    • The module is designed to introduce you to the basic principles of investigating a range of contemporary global issues in terms of their political economy. This includes a wide range of spatial issues from the local to the global and the inter-linkages and process that bind them together. The key focus is to understand how contemporary capitalism plays out across different spatial levels and to highlight the processes that underpin it and the implications for different communities. This includes exploring relations between, state, business and citizens.


Optional sandwich year

Year 3/4

  • This module provides experience in the design, execution and preparation of an independent but approved programme of research. Students will be required to identify and analyse a significant research problem and demonstrate an understanding of relevant arguments by presenting a coherent critique of the available research literature and materials, rigorous research methodology, data manipulation, analysis and interpretation.

    On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

    • identify and formulate research questions within an appropriate academic subject;
    • demonstrate the ability to develop a detailed, coherent and logical argument;
    • develop and implement an appropriate research methodology, including evaluation of safety and ethical considerations relevant to the proposed project;
    • demonstrate skills in the collection, analysis and interpretation of geographical data;
    • show an ability to organise a work programme effectively and independently, with support from a supervisor;
    • through the Personal Tutorial System, reflect on the variety of employability skills applied and further developed through their research project as a foundation for the consideration of further study and their professional/work place development.
  • This module introduces you to critical issues of development including cross-cutting themes of poverty, exclusion, inequality, famine, HIV/AIDS, natural hazards, gender and conflict. In addition, the module explores relations between developed states and the developing world contexts to explore some of the challenges of inequality and globalisation. The module will include a substantial fieldwork element.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Critically assess contemporary approaches to development.
    • Explain the geographies of developing countries, including a critical assessment of the importance of the representation of places and the ways different  societies relate to them.
    • Explain contemporary problems in, and future prospects of, developing countries; including current geographical and region-specific issues affecting development.
    • Undertake field research on critical issues relevant to the study of development.
    • Demonstrate skills in sourcing and evaluating information and data on development issues from a variety of media sources.
  • Select one module denoted as * and one module denoted as **:

    • This module tackles the key issues relating to climate change in the three main subject areas of science, policy and society. It aims to provide you with an understanding of the key concepts and processes of climate change and the various ways in which societies can respond. Fieldwork sessions are designed to complement the lecture series and give further practical demonstration of policy and practice complexities.

    • The module examines the relationship between land and water management, global challenges associated with the management of land and water, and sustainable options to seek their resolution. The module will develop an understanding and critical evaluation of these challenges from several perspectives, ie through the systematic investigation of land-use practices; the applications of soil science and linking practices to processes and patterns of land degradation; the interface between land management and water management; global concerns for water security; land use impacts on the wider environment, including climate, physical and socio-political drivers; plus an examination of the regional land-water management issues.

    • This module examines the importance of historical and contemporary land use practices in shaping current biotic communities. Current issues in biodiversity and conservation are explored through a lecture and seminar programme. Fieldwork supports the lectures and assignments which are designed to introduce students to important aspects of practical conservation work, such as funding bids, species conservation strategies, and communicating to non-specialists/decision makers.

    • This module explores the application of GIS in a range of socio-demographic and environmental areas and provides practical experience of using demographic, environmental and socio-economic geospatial data sources. Application areas include, but are not limited to, area classification and geomarketing, crime hotspot mapping and geographical profiling, disease mapping and healthcare resourcing, and environmental modelling.

      On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

      • Describe and interpret the uneven spatial distribution of geographic events such as crime, disease, deprivation, land cover and pollution.
      • Design and implement an application of GIS and spatial analysis for one of a range of demographic, environmental or socio-economic topics.
      • Apply and interpret the results of multivariate and spatial analytic techniques.
      • Demonstrate key communication skills of succinct report writing, visualisation and oral presentation.
    • This module aims to provide students with an understanding of contemporary debates relating to rural areas in both the developed and developing world. It examines the processes and patterns of contemporary change in rural regions and analyses the factors conditioning the restructuring of rural land use and rural economic, social and cultural systems across the world.

    • The module reviews current perspectives on notions and understandings of what constitutes urban spaces and approaches to studying urban environments, exploring critical perspectives and intervention strategies that construct these environments. It also explores the relationship between urban form and identity and questions the links between cultural practices and concepts of community, with a particular focus on social processes, urban spaces and design within the built environment. Additionally, after completing this module, students should have further developed their ability to make and record accurate observations in the field; present conclusions in a logical, intelligible manner; and increased their ability to work as a part of a team.


You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Most of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's study abroad programme or Erasmus programme.

Key information set

The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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