Full time 12 Month(s), Part time 24 Month(s)
This is a degree aimed at those who want to engage critically, practically and creatively with global and local environmental problems through different disciplinary lenses. The course brings together theories, methods and insights from the social and environmental sciences and applies these to contemporary environmental issues, debates and controversies.
Students are encouraged to take a range of social and natural science modules offered by the Department of Sociology, the Law School and Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) and will acquire the skills to navigate, interpret and combine these different ways of knowing the environment. There is a strong emphasis on participatory and engaged research, making insights count in engagement with communities and policymakers.
You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.
Current debates over issues such as genetically modified crops, nuclear power, shale gas, loss of biodiversity or climate justice – and the protest movements and campaigns that have arisen in response – provide tangible evidence that the relationship between society and the environment is a difficult and often controversial one.
This module examines the role that sociology and social theory can play in helping us to understand that relationship better, and explores the range of approaches that have been developed in environmental sociology.
Studying the environment sociologically opens up a host of interconnected social, cultural and political issues. Whose knowledge counts? How can we handle unquantifiable risk? What role should technology play? And what about democracy, freedom, diversity and justice?
Using lectures and seminar discussion, the module will lead you through the resources of sociology and social theory to enable you to think through these questions in relation to some of the most urgent environmental issues facing societies today. For example, what might ‘liveable cities’ look like in the future? Do biotechnologies provide solutions to world hunger, or not? How can governments make democratic decisions about the disposal of nuclear waste?
This module is designed to familiarise you with various ways of thinking about and analysing contemporary relations between science, technology and society. It draws upon a rich vein of theory and practice within science and technology studies (STS), an area of research that is particularly strong at Lancaster University.
You will be encouraged to ask sociologically informed questions about the sciences and technologies that have become part of our everyday lives – including, for example, mobile phones, social media, cloud computing, genetic modification, human fertilisation techniques, air conditioning and technologies for electricity generation.
The module helps you to understand how different interpretive research methodologies used in STS – such as ethnography and participant observation, surveys, and analysis of social media – enable a researcher to ask important critical questions about science, technology, the environment and society.
Through case studies chosen by students on the module you will consider how we might engage as analysts – using which methods and practices? In what kinds of role? With what kind of limitations? And with what kinds of responsibility and accountability?
As the final element in your Masters programme, the MA dissertation allows you to bring together and showcase the skills and knowledge you have acquired from other modules, and demonstrate your ability to carry out a substantial independent research project.
Provided a suitable supervisor is available, you can choose your own topic to investigate. Once you have chosen your topic, the Department will provide a supervisor that best matches your research interests. You will be assessed on your capacity to define your research topic, to articulate a coherent scheme for examining that topic, to gather the necessary information, and to analyse and present the information in a way which does justice to the topic you have chosen.
As preparation for your dissertation you will take part in five MA learning skills workshops, although this element of the module is not formally assessed. These sessions are designed to help you develop your skills in reading, reviewing and writing, and in presenting your work in an environment which offers both support and constructive criticism.
This module provides a theoretical foundation for the study of development and the environment from a geographical perspective. You will focus on understanding the ways in which scholars have brought together development theory with the analysis of nature-society relations in the majority world. You will be provided with a critical understanding of the evolution of contemporary development discourses and new ways of thinking about the relationships between environment and development.
This module will introduce you to the fundamental principles of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing and shows how these complimentary technologies may be used to capture/derive, manipulate, analyse and display different forms of spatially-referenced environmental data.
Environmental auditing is a widespread management activity in both the public and private sectors of economies across the entire world. The module is designed to introduce students to the principles of environmental auditing and to give them practical experience in the use of key methods and techniques.
As part of the module, students will review and evaluate company environmental policies and undertake an environmental audit for a client organisation. This module has been designed to meet the professional standards and requirements for new entrants to the environmental auditing field.
Once this module is completed, each student will have advanced their understanding of the origins and history of environmental auditing. They will also be aware of the main drivers behind the emergence of this field, and will have gained the ability to apply key auditing tools and techniques. Students will have gained sufficient knowledge and experience to go on to design and conduct their own on-site assessments and prepare audit reports for clients in a professional manner.
This module aims to explore and reconfigure the ways in which climate change is understood through a focus on the social, rather than the scientific-environmental discourses that have dominated the policy and politics of climate change. This module give you a wide-ranging and intensive introduction to the politics, cultures and theories of climate change research in the social sciences and humanities. You will be able to critically evaluate different theoretical perspectives on a range of climate change debates and present alternative arguments.
The focus is to understand the component parts and the interdisciplinary basis of the global food system. To this end, students will examine challenges facing global agricultural production as a result of climate change. They will also gain an understanding of the shortage of key resources for food production and the subsequent issues that affect people’s access to food.
In addition to this, the module will demonstrate how basic plant physiology can inform both plant breeding and agronomy to increase the sustainability of agriculture. The factors impacting food safety and food quality (especially nutritive value) will also be explored.
Ultimately, students will develop a familiarity with several current/impending crises in global food security.
Please note, if taking the Food Security pathway this is a core module.
Students will learn about the planning that goes into, and the ecological principles underlying, habitat management.
There will be a series of excursions to sites of conservation interest, led by external contributors and experts within the Department. Workshops will train students in habitat management techniques and planning, and students will write a conservation management plan for a particular site.
Students will be able to describe how the principles underlying the management of habitats for conservation can be applied in a range of habitat types, and will be able to construct a standard conservation management plan.
They will also develop skills in identifying, abstracting and synthesising information, and report writing.
This module explains what wildlife population ecology entails and how it can be studied. It will explore the factors influencing population growth and involves quantifying the reproduction, survival, birth and death rate of various animals and plants.
One of the ways this exploration will be done is through completing a presentation which synthesises a quantitative aspect of wildlife population ecology. Through this, students will demonstrate an ability to use disparate literature sources and to present a coherent story of applied or theoretical interest.
They will come to appreciate how individual life history decisions determine population level processes, and will learn to resolve applied ecological problems using basic biological information.
They will also demonstrate knowledge of other basic population concepts, such as density-dependence, trade-offs, competition, predation, parasitism, etc. Another aspect will involve learning the fundamentals of population models, such as the Logistic and Lotka-Voltera models, and appreciating the use of population models in applied ecology.
Students will gain knowledge of identification, sampling and monitoring methods for some key taxa and an understanding of how these methods may be used in a wider context, e.g. local, national and international contexts of different types of survey.
The module will have five sections, each delivered with one or two lectures and including a field component on campus or away. It will also include the analysis of quantitative data.
Those who take this module will be taught to identify some taxonomic groups to appropriate levels (species, genus, etc.) and will devise appropriate sampling regimes to derive population estimates or indices for population monitoring. They will also use other monitoring techniques that may be appropriate for recording behaviour and quantifying biodiversity.
This module provides an introduction to basic principles and approaches to computer-aided modelling of environmental processes with applications to real environmental problems such as catchment modelling, pollutant dispersal in rivers and estuaries and population dynamics. Emphasis is placed on the use of computer-based methods and practical examples and you will be introduced to general aspects of environmental systems modelling.
An understanding of chemical toxicity and the methods of assessing toxic responses, including dose-response, biomonitoring and bioassays, will be developed during this module. Students will learn the routes by which chemicals enter biota and the biochemistry detailing biotic transformation and metabolism.
They will also develop presentation skills through the preparation and delivery of a case study on selected toxins present in the environment. In addition to this, the module will examine such topics as drinking water quality and health. An understanding of how toxicology plays a central role in the development of regulatory environmental quality standards for various pollutants in air, water and foodstuffs will also be provided. The effects of pesticides on non-target organisms and the accumulation of organic contaminants in food chains are examined in computer modelling and laboratory-based practicals, and are accompanied by demonstrations from scientists in the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.
Students will also learn about endocrine disrupting chemicals, chemical/toxicant synergy, the effects of chemical mixtures and the role of epidemiology in examining population level effects.
Taking a broad look at geological hazards, this module will cover everything from contemporary events to those that have shaped the Earth over geological time. The module explores in depth the fundamental processes involved in these events and how and to what extent such events can be predicted. Case histories of national and international disasters will be used to illustrate these hazards, and the inherent risks and potential mitigation measures will be discussed.
A demonstration and elaboration of the geological processes responsible for the occurrence, recurrence and magnitude of hazards will be given. Students will also learn to apply and report on the methods of prediction and mitigation strategies of geological hazards, and will apply simple prediction scenarios of geological hazard occurrence using geological datasets.To this end, students will develop skills in integrating sparse quantitative measurements and qualitative observations in order to derive interpretations from relevant datasets.
The module underscores far-reaching concepts such as using the past to inform the future and environmental risk. It will ultimately develop a sense of human-place in the geological world, promoting an understanding of how the geological world impacts human society, and what can be done to limit that impact.
This module covers the possible positive and negative effects that various forms of renewable energy have on the environment. You will develop a critical understanding of the key concepts of renewable energy, and the tools and techniques for assessing the environmental impact of renewable energy schemes. In particular, you will be able to assess the challenges facing the development and deployment of large renewable energy schemes and the uncertainties related to their environmental impact.
Please note, this is a core module for the Energy pathway.
How do international laws protect, govern and shape your human rights?
This course provides an overview of the various rights that are protected through international instruments: civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.
You will also be given a general introduction to regional and universal systems for human rights protection and promotion. This will focus on the UN human rights system but you will be encouraged to take a comparative view of regional human rights protection systems.
You will gain a substantive and procedural knowledge of human rights through the international system. And you’ll engage with some key debates in this legal arena, such as the development of human rights and the human rights obligations of non-state actors.
To get the most from this module, you will have some knowledge of general international law and have a law or social science background.
Our prestigious Law School is home to some of the most highly-regarded international lawyers and research-active lecturers - you will benefit from their expertise as they teach on areas closely aligned with their own research interests.
National and ethnic tensions lie at the heart of many contemporary international conflicts. But what are the rights of peoples, national minorities and indigenous peoples under international law?
Our Rights of Peoples module takes an in-depth look at this key question and encourages you to critically explore the idea of a national identity and relations between groups within states.
In particular, you will examine:
A combination of independent reading and regular seminars with our highly-regarded, research-active lawyers and academics will provide you with a sound grasp of this fascinating and highly-relevant legal area.
The module is based on the convenor’s monograph, Peoples and International Law, which has been cited before and in the ICJ.
How have the principles of environmental law developed? How effective is the environmental law of England and Wales?
Law students and students from Lancaster Environment Centre study side by side on this module. This presents you with a rare interdisciplinary opportunity to share ideas and perspectives between lawyers and scientists. Together, we will explore the sources, principles and effectiveness of environmental law in England and Wales.
Within your studies you will investigate the efficacy and effect of environmental law. Topics analysed include: water pollution, the history of environmental law, green criminology and the protection of the countryside. The module then builds upon this critical analysis to explain how the aqueous, atmospheric and terraneous environments are protected by law.
Environmental law is taught by research-active academics who will introduce you to their cutting-edge research into green criminology, access to the countryside, market mechanisms and environmental protection. This research informs their teaching and you can choose an essay based on these topics or develop your own question with the support of our lecturers.
This module explores the social, ethical and political implications of science and technology, introducing you to the main theoretical and methodological approaches associated with science and technology studies (STS) and to the debates between them.
On this module you will acquire a thorough grounding in the history of STS through review and discussion of seminal texts and you will also be introduced to current approaches, using a varied mix of workshops, contemporary case studies, film screenings and two laboratory visits.
This enables us to explore how different theoretical approaches may be applied, and helps to build your understanding of how different approaches to analysis imply particular political and epistemological assumptions. You will also develop the capacity to criticise different approaches to STS, and gain the initial knowledge needed to develop and justify your own approaches.
Lancaster is home to the internationally recognised Centre for Science Studies and is a centre of excellence for STS research. On this module you will meet some of the key researchers in the field.
This module examines the ways in which different social theoretical perspectives approach their objects. It focuses on three main topics: an investigation of the nature of the object of social theory, that is, the social; key issues in contemporary social theory; and the relationship between social theory, modernity and postmodernity.
In this module you will look at the possible long-term effects of information and communications technology (ICT) on human society.
You will do this by critically exploring the beliefs and claims of different ‘cybercultures’ – social and cultural movements, each of which promotes a particular vision of the future premised on the radically transformative potential of ICT.
You will explore a range of ‘cultural imaginaries’as manifested in popular culture, civil society, professional groups and scholarly writing. In these imaginaries, the development and spread of digital and networked technologies are seen as having revolutionary implications for social identities, political life and economic relations – or even for the essence or viability of human beings themselves.
These imaginaries involve narratives that range from the utopian to the apocalyptic – from cybercommunist and cyberfeminist visions of rejuvenated progressive politics to a postpolitical world run by algorithmic capitalism, or from transhumanist visions of digital immortality to dire warnings of machine super-intelligence replacing humanity.
Through lectures, seminar discussions, film screenings and debates, and drawing on sociology, media and cultural studies, science studies, philosophy and science fiction, you will learn about some of the most high-stakes questions about the future of society.
How are gender, sex and bodies understood in contemporary sociology and feminist theory? How do feminist theorists and social scientists address questions of difference, representation and performativity in their research? What kinds of methods are used to research sex, gender and bodies?
In this module we engage in depth with the work of particular theorists (enabling you to acquire skills in close reading) and we explore current issues of importance to feminism. These include girlhood and sexualisation, gender and work, race and racism, and sex and sexuality.
The essays you write then give you scope to follow your own interests in more depth by using the reading lists provided and undertaking independent research.
This module reflects the mobilities turn within the social sciences, a turn pioneered at Lancaster’s Centre for Mobilities Research, which is recognised worldwide as a key centre for mobilities research.
Social institutions and social practices rest upon multiple mobilities – of people, objects, messages and ideas – and the complex interconnections between them.
This module explores how various types of mobility are fundamental to society. It shows that examining these many different mobilities, fluid and fleeting as they often are, is crucial to social science inquiry, explanation and critique. It provides key conceptual and methodological resources that will help you to understand changes in past, present and future patterns of mobility and what fateful implications they can have for people’s lives and experiences.
This module introduces approaches to critical analysis of key forms of contemporary media and culture such as commodities, celebrities, platforms and different media forms and environments.
We will read and discuss recent and formative writings in cultural and media studies, allowing you to develop an understanding of key concepts such as subjectivity, platform, materiality, commodity, difference, value and power, and how they help us make sense of contemporary social life. You will also engage with analytical work on specific media platforms, products and practices, ranging from photographs and search engines to newspapers and reality TV.
Among the topics that we will explore are:
concepts of culture in relation to images, commodities and brands
popular culture, audiences and media practices associated with celebrity
contemporary digital media cultures, and their circulation and consumption
embodiment, differences, politics and identities amidst media change
The focus of this module is on helping you to think critically about gender-based violence – what causes it, and under what circumstances there is more or less of it.
We look at what counts as gender-based violence in social and gender theory as well as in empirical and policy studies. This will require you to engage critically with alternative ways of theorising and analysing the interconnections between gender and violence, and to consider what implications these could have for practice.
We will also investigate the links between gendered violence and the economy, governance and policy, civil society and other forms of violence.
In this module we consider a major theme in classical and contemporary sociology – capitalism and its crisis tendencies.
Topics for debate will include:
the nature of capitalism, its phases, varieties, and global articulation
whether capitalism is inherently prone to crisis, and what forms of crisis are characteristic of capitalism
the nature of the contemporary crisis in capitalism, its periodisation and temporalities, differences in its dynamics across so-called varieties of capitalism, and its broader economic, political, and socio-cultural repercussions
the question of whether capitalism is governable, crisis management, and crises of crisis management
Our world is facing an ever-increasing number of global environmental challenges. This engaging module examines the international legal response to those challenges.
We will delve into the socio-economic, political and scientific implications of environmental problems. As we do so, we will assess the impact of those implications on law and policy-making.
The module focuses on a number of contemporary environmental problems: climate change, marine pollution, the protection of international watercourses, fisheries and biodiversity, and the relationship between trade and the environment. You will assess the strengths and inadequacies of the law in regulating each of these issues.
Your studies will also include:
You will be taught by lecturers who are specialists in their field and active researchers. Current, cutting-edge research within the teaching team informs this module.
Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research.
Undergraduate Degree: 2:1 (Hons) degree (UK or equivalent) in a relevant social science or environment degree
If you have studied outside of the UK, you can check your qualifications here: International Qualifications
English Language: IELTS - Overall score of at least 7.0, with no individual element below 6.0
We consider tests from other providers, which can be found here: English language requirements
If your score is below our requirements we may consider you for one of our pre-sessional English language programmes
Pre-sessional English language programmes available:
4 Week Overall score of at least 6.5, with no individual element below 6.0
10 Week Overall score of at least 6.0, with no individual element below 5.5
Longer courses are not an option for this programme
Funding: All applicants should consult our information on Fees and Funding; Faculty Scholarships and Funding; Sociology Fees and Funding
Further information: For more information about the department please visit our webpages http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/sociology/
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