Oxford
MSc

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The first level of courses are offered within the MSc programmes of the School of Geography and the Environment to introduce the research specialties of the Smith School within the broader programmes offered by the department’s International Graduate School. Individuals may pursue the full track of these courses across the MSc programme to achieve recognition of a concentration in enterprise and the environment within their MSc.

Further complementary opportunities to strengthen the relationship for students between robust research and the strategic engagement with enterprise that characterizes the Smith School’s work includes the facilitation of industry placements.

Below is a sample of courses taught by our Fellows:

Corporate Environmental Management - Prof Gordon Clark

Corporations act across many jurisdictions, and the largest of them have the economic and political weight of whole nations. Their environmental footprints matter. Furthermore, some firms see the environment as a potential source of profit if focused upon the reduction of costs, innovation, and the management of risk. In this course we look at the role of the corporation in managing the environment and the costs and benefits of environmental management. We also look at the interlocking management systems within the firm that affect environmental strategies and performance: performance management, risk management, and integrated processes of technological innovation. We also look at the role of audit in ensuring compliance with both internal policies and external standards as well as the difficulties of creating real change in any large organisation. The course informs students wishing to act as internal or external change agents for driving corporate environmental performance, as well as those wishing to understand the nature of the modern corporation for research purposes.

Course: MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy

Environmental Economics and Policy - Prof Bob Hahn

This course covers selected topics in the economics and politics of environmental and resource policy. It introduces students to how economists think about environmental and resource challenges. It gives an overview of the tools that economists use to factor environmental concerns into decision making. The primary aim of this course is to encourage students to think critically about important environmental issues, using economics as one tool in the sudents broader toolkit. This course presumes a mastery of basic graphical analysis as it pertains to economics (think supply and demand, and related concepts).

Course: MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy

Decision Making Process - Prof Cameron Hepburn

Decisions and decision making are central to how people live their everyday lives, to how economic processes and political life unfold and spaces are produced, and to how policy makers seek to intervene in society and the environment. The default position is to assume that decision making is a rational processes in which the most desirable or appropriate course of action is taken, but conventional understandings of decision making, which have a long lineage in western philosophy and economical and political theory, have over the past decades been challenged in a number of ways by thinkers and scholars from a range of academic disciplines. In economics, for instance, there has been a (modest) shift from normative and deductive understandings of decision-making – how decisions should be taken and what should be done – to more descriptively realistic and inductive models – how people actually make decisions. And in geography and social theory it has been argued that decision making is a relational and distributed process rather than the province of self-contained, sovereign subjects. At the same time, developments in the tools and techniques that are used to aid and inform policy making tend to lag behind those in theory and conceptualisation: many continue to be premised on fairly conventional understandings of decision making, although this is gradually starting to change.

This core module engages decision making processes from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. It begins by outlining basic notions about decision making from economic theory in the first session and gradually allows for more complexity in how decision processes unfold. Thus, in subsequent sessions the focus will be broadened to consider: how individuals actually take decisions; decision processes as undertaken by collectives rather than individual agents; how the past and future shape decisions in the present; multiple criteria according to which decision making processes can be considered to be successful or to have failed; how decision making processes are affected by various forms of uncertainty; and how such processes are complicated and sometimes even paralysed by “wicked” problems. The module will pay specific attention to how geographers have engaged with and understood decision making processes, and how decision making processes are implicated in the production of spaces.

Throughout the module theoretical frameworks and ideas are illustrated with the help of case-study examples focused, among others, on issues related to climate change, energy and transport. Close attention is paid to the implications for policy processes of the various aspects of decision making that will be addressed.

Course: MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy

Water Economics - Dr Rob Hope
This module aims to introduce economic theory, principles and techniques that pertain to water resource and water services decision-making. Societal and environmental change has contributed to increasing water scarcity, access and availability, which have increased the role and relevance of economics in water policy. We chart neo-classical economic theory through to contemporary disciplinary interests in environmental, resource, ecological and behavioural economics. By evaluating the economic value of water to society and nature, we examine a range of economic instruments to manage water more efficiently. Conditions for market failure are examined in relation to institutional economics, social choice theory and public goods theory. We critically assess the application of economic theory to a range of water management challenges, including water service tariff structures, irrigation management, valuing ecosystems, and markets for ecosystem services. We conclude by examining the degree to which water policy can be empirically measured using impact evaluation techniques. By the end of the module, students should have a critical understanding of how economic instruments differ from regulatory approaches, be familiar with a broad range of economic techniques and how they can be applied in the water sector, and be in a position to evaluate economic theory and evidence employed in the design and performance of policy directed to water resources and water services.

Course: MSc in Water Science, Policy and Management

Mobile water for development - Dr Rob Hope
The module aims to critically evaluate the role, impacts and implications of mobile technology for water security and poverty reduction. Learning outcomes will include: a) critical understanding of (some of) the theoretical and empirical literature on society, technology and development, b) methodological insights into evaluating development impacts from interventions, c) the emerging role of mobile technologies for water security and poverty reduction relating to a) and b).

Course: Elective

The Politics of Oil and Gas - Dr Caitlin McElroy
The importance of oil and gas to contemporary politics and international relations seems clear enough. It is widely recognized that oil and gas play a critical part in the politics of both producing and consuming states, yet more sophisticated accounts of the relation between hydrocarbon extraction and politics have only recently been published in human geography. While there is an established literature on the existence of the ‘resource curse’, which is said to blight the political and economic life of many oil and gas producing states, other perspectives from notable geographical studies are starting to expand the discourse. This literature does so through both its use of theory and attention to new subjects such as the operations of oil and gas companies, the possibility and implications of global resource scarcity, and the politics of hydrocarbon extraction in particular regions, including the Middle East, the Gulf of Guinea and the United States. One aim of this course is to enable students to gain a critical overview of the existing literature on the politics of oil and gas, highlighting where future research is needed. A second aim is to consider what empirical and conceptual difficulties still need to be addressed if we are to develop a better understanding of the political geographies of oil and gas and extractive industries more generally.

Course: Elective