An infographic of a tree with branches leading off to areas of sustainability covered by the course and additional illustrations next to these key themes. Raquel Durán

Specialist short course

Pathways tO Sustainability (online)

Explore critical approaches to sustainability, with theories and methods that can help you to discover and support alternative and diverse pathways and perspectives.

Major social and environmental challenges around the world have provoked a search for solutions. But sustainability is about more than fixing technical problems. Seeking equitable, diverse responses is a political challenge, requiring struggle and understanding between many perspectives and values in the face of incomplete knowledge about the world. The way knowledge is used and produced is also shaped by unequal relations of power.

This free and Open Access six-part course draws on the work of the ESRC STEPS Centre in addressing this challenge.

The course builds on the Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability run annually by the STEPS Centre. Themes include understanding policy processes, uncertainty, technology and innovation, resource politics, and methodologies.

“A great experience to open up your ways of thinking, grow as a researcher and have fantastic conversations about research, life and everything in between.
“A great way to expand your network as a PhD student and find like-minded people who I hope to keep in touch with and work with the future.
“I can honestly say it has been the best two weeks of my PhD so far. To be in such an amazing, supportive and inspiring group has been fantastic

Course aims

To equip participants with critical tools and methods to challenge dominant narratives and approaches to sustainability, and uncover alternatives in research and practice.

Who is it for?

Early career researchers, PhD researchers and practitioners who work in fields relevant to sustainability and international development.

How you'll learn

The course is in six parts, with video lectures and reading lists in each part. Some parts also include suggested exercises to help you think about particular challenges.

You can complete the course at your own pace.

Course structure:

  1. Introduction to the Pathways Approach
  2. Uncertainty and incomplete knowledge
  3. Technology, innovation and sustainability
  4. Resource politics
  5. Understanding policy processes
  6. Methods and methodologies

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, you will have gained:

  • An appreciation of the need to explore alternative pathways to sustainability, and how to understand what pathways are
  • Knowledge of concrete examples of competing interests and views in a variety of domains of sustainability
  • Understanding of the importance of uncertainty and incomplete knowledge
  • Understanding of the importance of methods.


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Key information


Learn with us

No formal enrolment is required to take this free course.

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Key contacts

Nathan Oxley

Impact Communications and Engagement Officer

+44 (0)1273 915826


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