Students on the MSc in Environmental Policy and Management (EPM) are able to undertake a partnership project where they work with a community partner either as part of a team or individually , producing either a dissertation or a group project.

Since 2013, this Engaged Learning unit has been expanding with more students and more community partners being involved annually. Every year the University reaches out to organisations that may be interested in harnessing the talent and enthusiasm of our students while at the same time providing students with a valuable opportunity to conduct dissertation research that is driven by ‘real world’ demand.

Suitable projects relate to environmental policy and management issues (broadly defined) at any scale, from the very local (e.g. neighbourhood level) to the global. The students take up these projects as MSc dissertation topics or in a group project as student consultants. On the MSc EPM course, the students explore a wide range of topics including environmental policy, corporate environmental management and climate science. Students also receive training in statistics, GIS software and the use of remote sensing data.

Previous community partner organisations include Bristol Energy Network, DeFRA, Environment Agency, International Emissions Trading Association, IMS Consulting, Resource Futures, Bristol Green Capital Resilience Action Group, Schumacher Institute, SLR Consulting Ltd, Sustain Ltd, Welsh Government and People & Environment Division.

The partnerships are mutually beneficial, with highly skilled and capable students researching key industry concerns that partner organisations may not have the funds or time to dedicate to. The research often has a life longer than the duration of the unit.  A thesis written by a student in partnership with the IEA is being shared with Korean Energy Economics Institute to look at ways to classify and understand energy policies, with the potential of being turned into a journal paper. A partnership with IMS Consulting will use the dissertation written in this unit to support the work they do with Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). Students have also taken on permanent contracts with their partnership organisations.

A case study of a mutually beneficial arrangement with the community partnership organisation was one with the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership to see if biodiversity could be improved in the local area. The student presented her findings at a public meeting in Bedminster and created an executive summary of her dissertation for the partnership. The Greater Bedminster Community Partnership plan to use the student’s findings for reference and funding as ‘it provides evidence for the partnership to be taken seriously’. The Partnership has also used the report to build public support for planting wildflowers with an article in the Bristol Post.

Community partners have praised the initiative. In evaluation, a partner remarked that: “It provided useful insights to enrich our understanding in a key area of work. In some ways, the findings confirmed what we know, rather than challenged or changed or work, so that gives us confidence that we understand the issues, and can draw on examples to illustrate our work.”

Another partner agreed and praised the relationship: “The opportunity to have a competent person give some real thought and attention to something that was interesting and useful for me to know about, but which I didn’t have the resource to fully explore myself. The work she did in tying the practical project to the literature offered a new perspective which I valued”.

Dr Sean Fox, one of the organisers of the partnership, comments that: ‘The University of Bristol is committed to developing constructive engagement between our community of students and researchers and a wide range of stakeholders beyond academia, including public, private and non-profit organisations. Both students and organisations find this to be a mutually beneficial engagement. Through this initiative, our MSc Environmental Policy & Management students have a unique learning opportunity in tackling a ‘real world’ challenge while partners benefit from the skills, knowledge and enthusiasm of our students’.

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Volunteers gardening in a very green space

Improving biodiversity