Academic Programmes at Oxford

Course & Options in Environmental Studies

General Introduction


International Governmental and public concern is aroused by the impact of the unprecedented consumption of space and resources on Earth's environmental systems and human societies. They are generated by our rapidly increasing technological capability, reorganisation of international political and economic systems such as the rapid industrio-economic emergence of China, India and other developing nations, global demographic trends and 2008 crises in the global banking system.


Concerted global action ~ despite the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit failure to create a successor to the expired Kyoto Protocol ~ recognises that the changing fabric of society and reorganisation of socio-economic systems are intimately linked with progressive degradation of physical and social environments we inhabit. The outcomes of the 2015 Paris Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change Summit are now vital to our ability to stave off dangerous Climate Change.


Past environmental changes and human-environment impacts offer important clues to those we now experience and how our ancestors perceived and reacted, amounting to a sea-change in the recognition of human-forced global climate and environmental change and realising that we have to manage its consequences rather than prevent it.



An Opportunity for Interdisciplinary Study


The Course opportunities in Environmental Studies are designed specifically to explore the character and implications of these changes over a wide range of multi- and inter-disciplinary studies, in keeping with the realisation that solutions for our socio-economic and environmental future can be found no longer in any one discipline. Participants from a wide range of relevant academic backgrounds can expect to bring their particular expertise to the Course and to learn something and appreciate the significance, of adjacent disciplines in the best traditions of the Oxford Tutorial system of study. Participation in this cross-disciplinary Course irrespective of the student's principal academic background is encouraged.


Historical evidence of the impact of physical and human forces shaping the landscape is important to our themes. This is evident in the use made during the Summer School of the rich and diverse nature of British Landscapes in illustrating the impact of past as well as contemporary environmental, socio-economic, cultural and technological systems and using them as models on which to base assessments for the future.


As a result, the Course is likely to appeal to majors in Archaeology, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Ecology, European Studies, Geography, History, Humanities, International Studies, Life Sciences, Medieval Studies, Policy, Political, Social & Economic Studies and Urban Studies.


Field Excursions


A popular, 4-Day Field Excursion The Development of British Landscapes is held half-way through the Summer School and is a co-requisite part of the academic programme of study as well as being open to other participants of the Summer School. This is in addition to the general, 1-Day Excursions which form an integral part of the Summer School-wide Programme (see main brochure). Many parts of the British Isles record almost continuous human settlement from the end of the last global episode of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago, embracing inter alia periods of Neolithic (upper Stone Age), Bronze & Iron Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement prior to the Norman Conquest, the High Middle Ages, Industrial Revolution and Modern periods. They provide a magnificent opportunity for direct study of a full range of environmental changes in an enjoyable academic and social atmosphere.


Selection of the Programme of Study


Choice of Course Options allows participants to construct their own individual Summer School programmes, enabling them to concentrate on areas of prime interest or to extend their range of study by sampling related disciplines. Three study Options, each one described individually and accompanying this brochure are available as follows:











11,500 BP ~ 1700 AD/CE



Students study ONE Option (worth 6 credits) and will be required to participate on the co-requisite 4-Day Field Excursion (worth 2 Credits) to form a Full, 8-Credit Programme.

Other students not studying the Environmental Studies Course are welcome to attend this Field Excursion if places are available.


On application, participants are asked to nominate both Options in order of preference. First preferences will be allocated as far as possible (and are the normal rule) but it may be necessary to vary this occasionally in order to obtain balanced Tutorial groups. The College reserves the right to do this.


Each Option will involve an average of 4 hours specialist formal contact with tutors each week, 2 further interdisciplinary hours with other Options in the Environmental Studies Course. Students are required to submit a Tutorial Essay or present a Seminar Paper in each week of the Programme.



© Dr Ken Addison, St.Peter's College, University of Oxford: for 2018

Courses & Options

A range of available Academic Courses and Options are available, see below, and follow the links for further information.

Intending participants select the Course of their choice and are then asked to elect to study one of its particular Options in order of preference. Most students are likely to secure their first-choice Option.

The Medieval Studies Course also has an Interdisciplinary Seminar studied by all participants, irrespective of their Option choice.


English literature

Option 1: Rediscovering Shakespeare

Option 2: Jane Austen in Text and Context

Option 3: The Inklings In Oxford (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis et al.)

Option 4: Introduction to Topics in the English Language


Option 5: Prison Literature : The Freedom of Imprisonment

Environmental studies

Option 1: Climate Change In The Anthropocene : Global Catastrophic Risk & Management

Option 2: Environmental Change & British Landscape Development 11,500 BP -1700 AD


Residential Field Programme: The Development of British Landscapes (required for Environmentalists, Medievalists; optional for others)

Medieval studies

Option 1: Conquest and Colonisation : England and her neighbours: 1016-1296

Option 2: Death, Nature and the Supernatural in Medieval Literature

Option 3: Medieval Margins: Identity and Otherness


Interdisciplinary Seminar: The Arthurian Tradition (required study taken by all Medievalists)