PGT Creating a Sustainable World: Interdisciplinary Applications of the Sustainable Development Goals

Course Unit Code


Course Unit Details

This unit has been designed specifically for online learning and offers a unique interactive experience.


  • Semester 2
  • FHEQ Level 7
  • 15 Credits
  • School of Environment, Education and Development


“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” - Robert Swan, Author

“We have 12 years to save the planet” - United Nations

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)are a call from the United Nations for all countries to tackle, by 2030, the global challenges faced by humanity. The SDGs cover a wide range of challenges, with 17 goals backed up by 169 indicators. The goals include poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The SDGs are designed for everyone to be able to play their part, including The University of Manchester and you, our students.

This online unit will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to address the SDGs. It presents the concept of sustainable development and explains the basis of partnership working that underpins the SDG approach. Each SDG is explored through its own module, drawing on cutting-edge research carried out by world-leading experts across the University of Manchester, together with input from external experts and international policy-makers and practitioners.


If we are to successfully achieve the SDGs by 2030 we need to be able to work across traditional disciplines and in more collaborative ways. This unit offers a unique opportunity to engage with multiple real-world challenges and develop applied knowledge and skill-sets that are highly prized by employers from the public, private and third sectors.

The unit is available for 15 credits. It is delivered online via Blackboard. There will be live (optional and recorded) additional lectures to support the assessment and to further your learning. There are weekly optional drop in support sessions with your tutors. Our learning is highly interactive and adopts a blend of approaches including video inputs, discussion space and case studies. Students will have a choice of assessment formats. We use the SDGs as pedagogy, so work in partnership respecting diverse knowledges and leaving nobody behind. Our collaborative interdisciplinary lens brings new light to old problems of sustainable development whilst enriching your learning and effecting change. Throughout the course we will invite you to construct the learning going forward which will effect change for sustainable development through your expertise.

Summary of Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Describe the key interlinked, interdisciplinary concepts and theories that underpin sustainable development, as presented by the SDGs
  • Analyse diverse ways in which sustainable development plays out across different spaces and scales, including policy spheres, everyday lives, and infrastructures
  • Identify and defend your own social positioning in the world and feel empowered to make positive change
  • Apply your knowledge to a specific problem, devise an action plan and communicate this in a well-argued report


15 Credits

You will take the two core modules. The first is about Sustainability and Goal 17 - Partnerships to achieve the goals. The second is about the Sustainable Development Goals. You then choose eight of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal modules shown below. Support and advice will be given about which goals to choose based upon your studies and prior knowledge. To find out more about each of the 17 Goals go to:

Core Modules

Core Module 1: Sustainability and GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goals

Core Module 2: Sustainable Development Goals

SDG Modules

SDG Module 1: No Poverty

SDG Module 2: Zero Hunger

SDG Module 3: Good Health and Well-being

SDG Module 4: Quality Education

SDG Module 5: Gender Equality

SDG Module 6: Clean Water and Sanitation

SDG Module 7: Affordable and Clean Energy

SDG Module 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

SDG Module 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

SDG Module 10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG Module 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

SDG Module 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

SDG Module 13: Climate Action

SDG Module 14: Life Below Water

SDG Module 15: Life On Land

SDG Module 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions


  1. Applied research sustainable development Project set by external organisation 2000 to 2500 words (70%)

  2. Research proposal for your applied research sustainable development project. 1000 words (20%)

  3. Interdisciplinary discussion with fellow students using Blackboard discussion board about how to enhance research project 2 x 200 words (10%)

Students’ will apply their understanding of the SDGs to their chosen applied research project which are set by external organisations. We share the completed research with the organisation so that they can effect change for sustainable development. In four years of trailing this assessment, student research has been used to change policy, it has been presented at the Rockefeller Centre in New York and two students have been employed by the organisations that they did their research for.

Students will apply their understanding of the SDGs to their chosen applied research project which are set by external organisations through the University Living Lab ( Research which receives a mark of 65% or over is shared with the organisation who set it so that they can effect change for sustainable development. In four years of trailing this assessment, student research has been used to change policy, it has been presented at the Rockefeller Centre in New York.Two students have been employed by the organisations that they did their research for and many more attribute their employment to this experience.


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to students from all disciplines. Students who completed the UG version of this unit will not be able to take it at PGT level.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Postgraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

Teaching Staff

The unit is led by Dr Jennifer O’Brien (School of Environment, Education and Development) and features over 80 expert contributors including Professor David Hulme (Global Development Institute), Khalid Malik (The United Nations), Professor Kevin Anderson (Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research), Dr. Manisha Anatharaman (Saint Mary’s College, California), Professor Amanda Bamford (Division of Evolution & Genomic Sciences), Carly Koinage (UN Habitat), Dr Susie Miles (Manchester Institute of Education), Professor James Evans (Manchester Urban Institute), Professor Michael Shaver (Manchester School of Materials) and Professor Paulo Bartolo (School of Engineering).

Teaching and Learning Methods

The unit is delivered entirely online via Blackboard. All students will study 2 core modules and will then choose their learning pathway, studying 8 SDG modules.

Each module is led by a leading researcher from across The University of Manchester and features leading contributors from around the world.

The unit is highly interactive and uses case studies, imagery and video to deliver the learning material.

Online seminars facilitate interdisciplinary discussions about your learning. There will be optional (live but recorded) additional lectures.


2 Core Modules and choice of 8 from 16 Goal Modules. Modules will be released at intervals.

Students have the opportunity to engage in asynchronous seminar discussions drawing upon material they have studied that week. Additional online and recorded sessions will be offered to support the assessment and to enhance learning.

Further support is offered via weekly optional drop in sessions with GTAs.