Module Aims and Summary


Sustainability in the Arts and Humanities

U-Now, University of Nottingham

Module Aims and Summary

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the concept of sustainability’ as perceived from within the Arts and Humanities, in particular within the disciplines of archaeology, classics, history (including art history and landscape history), music, philosophy and theology. The module will review a number of topical issues – such as climate change, food security, water and waste management, landscape, environment and biodiversity – through the lens of the Arts and Humanities to consider how our disciplines can contribute to current debates and offer new routes to sustainable futures.

It is expected that the module will foster and develop students’ knowledge of issues in sustainability and, by placing evidence in its wider context, encourage students to think critically about possible solutions. Importantly, this module will render students ‘educated consumers’, aware that their daily decisions have an impact and that their choices can be equally influential. Above all it is about giving students the confidence, as individuals, to bring about social change for the future.

Module Details

Module Credits
Student Study Hours
Availability Online via U-Now website
Study Method
Self-taught from online resources
Academic Year

Entry Requirements

Open to all Undergraduates at the University of Nottingham
Suitable for students within the Faculty of Arts, particularly the School of Humanities

Intended Module Learning Outcomes

The intended learning outcomes are that, on completion of this module, the student should:

Understand the complexity of the term ‘sustainability’ – that it means different things to different people at different times and has the potential to be misused as a label for political and economic gain.

Demonstrate knowledge of the environmental and social issues confronting societies both today and in the past.

Demonstrate knowledge of the strategies that have been employed to address sustainability in the past (successfully and unsuccessfully) and how understanding of past success/failure may be used to inform future decision making.

Understand there is seldom a single ‘correct’ sustainable solution to many of the issues invoked by the term.

Demonstrate knowledge of how disciplines within the arts and humanities can make a difference and help to ensure a sustainable future.

Learning Objectives Context

Debates about sustainability seldom draw upon discussion from the arts and humanities but this module will use a variety of case-studies to demonstrate how disciplines within these fields have considerable potential to lead change and develop critical and informed solutions to social and environmental problems.

The module is suitable for students of any discipline wishing to gain knowledge of sustainability in its widest theoretical and temporal context.


Module Outline

The module will be delivered as an online resource via the University of Nottingham’s U-Now open source learning portal. Each online chapter will consist of 2 hours digital learning content drawn from disciplines across the arts and humanities: a mixture of text, images, video, sound bites, charts, tables, pod casts and lists of websites.

Chapter Title
Duration (hours)
Content Outline
1. Introduction 2

Introduction to module content

What is Sustainability?

Definitions and approaches by discipline

2. Sustainability in Context 2 Deep-time perspectives on present day issues
3. What is 'Nature'? 2 Critiquing and comparing the rise and prominence of the Nature-Culture divide in the West.
4. The Four Elements
2 Historical analysis of energy sources (fire and air), water security and soil stability – can lessons from the past help to deal with uncertain futures?
5. Waste
2 Great achievements (or mistakes) in waste management. Examining the rise of ‘rubbish’
6. Food 2 Sustainable production: local, organic, intensive or GM? Sustainable harvesting – plant, animal, wild or domestic?
7. Landscape, Environment and Biodiversity
2 Balancing the concerns of a changing world that is governed by static legislation.
8. Heritage
2 What is ‘heritage’ and how can it be made sustainable?
9. People and Knowledge 2 Arts and humanities solutions to sustainability of people and knowledge – museums, collections and digital resources.
10. Assignment 2 The world in microcosm – is the University of Nottingham sustainable?

Method of Assessment

In the final chapter students will spend time reviewing the University of Nottingham’s policy, documentation and statements concerning sustainability. As all institutions can be viewed as ‘the world in microcosm’ students should set out to critique the University, highlighting both good and bad practice, in the light of what has been learnt in the module. If students highlight areas for improvement, they are encouraged to develop well-researched creative solutions to the perceived problem.

The critique and proposal should take the form of a short and well-argued document of 500-1000 words. Once this has been submitted for assessment, the best proposals will be taken forward to the University’s ‘Sustainability Team’ for consideration.