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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Creating a Sustainable World: 21st Century Challenges and the Sustainable Development Goals

Course Unit Code

UCIL20311 (10 credits)

Course Unit Details

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


  • Level 2
  • 10 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 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, then 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 as 10 credits.

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


10 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 can then choose six of the UN's Sustainable Development Goal modules shown below. Support and advice will be given about which goals to choose based upon your degree.

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

To find out more about each of the 17 Goals go to:


10 Credits

  1. Ongoing module assessment (20%)

These are small tasks at more or less weekly intervals including a proposal for assignment 3 (on which you will receive feedback) and short discussion questions delivered online via Blackboard

  1. Sustainability analysis exercise. 250 words. (20%)
  2. Inform the world about a sustainable development issue in choice of format. 1500 words. (60%)


UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

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 Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

If you completed the 10 credit module in 2022-23 and are interested in studying a further 20 credit module in Semester 2 2023-24, please see UCIL20612 Creating a Sustainable World: Applying the SDGs units for 20 credits.

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 (with one optional face-to-face session). It is highly interactive and flexible and adopts a blend of approaches including video inputs, discussion space and case studies.

Students will have a choice of format to present the final assessment. All students will study 2 core modules and will then choose their learning pathway, studying 6 modules . Students will engage in weekly discussions drawing upon material they have studied that week.

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

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