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BA (Honours) Environmental Studies

Environmental change affects us all, and the challenge of how human society can - and should - respond to environmental problems is likely to be one of the most pressing issues of the twenty-first century. The BA (Hons) Environmental Studies is an original and topical qualification that provides a lively and engaging treatment of a broad range of environmental issues. It integrates the social sciences, technology and sciences to help you develop a comprehensive understanding of the environment. While studying towards this degree course you'll learn about the political, economic, social and scientific conflicts that are at the heart of important contemporary environmental problems and debates. You'll explore subjects such as climate change; air pollution; waste management; genetically modified food; over-fishing; renewable fuels; sustainability; and global trade. Throughout your studies, you'll have specialist, subject-based academic support and the chance to join in online communities of other social sciences students for teaching, learning and peer support.

Study Mode

Online Education, Distance Learning & External study modes available

Key facts

Code: Q19 Made up of: 360 credits

There are no formal entry requirements to study this degree.

Fees: Our fees depend on where you are ordinarily resident. We have a range of funding options to help you with payment. When you apply to study we will tell you the fee and funding options that are available to you. Before you apply you can read What you can expect to pay.

Career relevance and employability

Through studying this degree course you'll gain a portfolio of skills including the ability to:

  • analyse the natural and social causes and consequences of environmental change
  • critically examine potential, sometimes competing, responses to environmental problems
  • analyse and evaluate evidence and arguments from a range of sources
  • debate the moral and ethical dimensions associated with environmental issues
  • collect, record and analyse data using a range of techniques.

These skills will provide you with exciting, interesting and satisfying career options, in public, voluntary and private sector occupations. Today many businesses and employers contribute in some way to environmental change - making the BA (Honours) Environmental Studies relevant to a wide range of professions including environmental management; environmental health; environmental policy; teaching; journalism; and information systems. It may also help you to gain recognition from a professional body. You can view or download our Recognition leaflet 3.2, Royal Town Planning Institute and Recognition leaflet 3.4 Chartered Institution of Water and Environment Management for further information.

There's more information about how OU study can improve your employability in the OU's Employability Statement from our Careers Advisory Service. You can also read or download our publication OU study and your career and look at our subject pages to find out about career opportunities.

Educational aims

Your studies will equip you with knowledge and key transferable skills to enable you to understand the relations between the human and natural environments and to take responsible roles as a citizen with regard to environments. You will be able to take an active part in debate about human-environment interactions and to apply your knowledge to related issues such as sustainable development.

The programme will:

  • provide you with a foundation of scientific understanding of natural and anthropogenic processes operating on the Earth
  • provide you with a systems approach to understanding the present and past interactions between the processes operating in the biosphere and the changes in these introduced by human activity
  • enable you to understand the political, economic, social and technical factors influencing human interaction with the biosphere
  • demonstrate the relationship between environment, human cultures and values
  • provide you with an understanding of environmental change and the possible responses of humanity to this.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

When you have completed this degree, you will have knowledge and understanding of the following:

  • the role of the Earth's systems in supporting life and human activities, and the complexity, sustainability and interrelatedness of human and environmental systems
  • interdisciplinary/multidisciplinary approaches: the contribution of the social sciences, natural sciences and technology disciplines to the identification, understanding and resolution of environmental issues and concerns
  • the relationship between environmental, social and cultural values
  • time and space: the importance of timescale in considering the environmental impact of human activity and the spatial nature of environmental change and human responses to it, including unevenness
  • alternative approaches to and explanations of the causes and consequences of environmental problems, the social conflicts that may contribute to or arise from such problems, and possible solutions to these problems.

Cognitive skills

On completion of this degree, you will be able to:

  • analyse and critically evaluate evidence and arguments from a range of sources, recognising possible limitations in these sources
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential subject specific theories, concepts and principles
  • recognise and debate the moral and ethical dimensions associated with environmental issues
  • study and learn independently, including using feedback from various sources
  • take part in discussion of environmental issues in face-to-face or online forums
  • use information technology to obtain, prepare, process, interpret and present data including using the Internet critically for communication and as an information source
  • apply numerical and mathematical skills to analyse, model and interpret data and to solve appropriately structured numerical problems.

Practical and/or professional skills

When you have completed this degree, you will be able to:

  • plan, conduct and write an independent investigation using primary and secondary data, being sensitive to the impact of investigations on environment and other stakeholders
  • collect, record and analyse data using a limited range of techniques
  • reference work to commonly accepted academic standards.

Key skills

Note: not all skills are addressed fully in each module in the degree programme.

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