Collaboration offers new mountains to climb
After a year of controversies over ash trees, badger culls and floods hitting the headlines, a new Masters theme has been launched to help professionals tackle environmental challenges that cut across the rural-urban divide.
A unique collaboration between Birmingham City University and the University of the Highlands and Islands, the “mountains to city” theme in Birmingham City University’s MSc Environmental Sustainability course equips students to deal with challenges that connect our urban centres with some of the wildest parts of the country.
Course Co-Director, Mark Reed explains: “Many of the recent floods in UK cities have been blamed on the way that areas upstream have been managed, and many of the most cost-effective solutions to prevent flooding focus on managing uplands differently. Urban visitors to the countryside are being warned about spreading ash dieback and the conflict over badger culling has widely been characterized as a conflict between urban versus rural values.”
“The new theme in the MSc Environmental Sustainability programme explores the links and dependencies between Britain’s remote upland landscapes and our largely urban population, to learn principles that can be applied to the management of multi-functional landscapes across the world,” added Mark.
Professor Martin Price, UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Mountain Development and Director of the Centre for Mountain Studies at Perth College UHI, who helps deliver the course explains: “Uplands are our most significant semi-natural environment supporting internationally important wildlife and our biggest carbon store, important for global climate regulation. Yet, uplands are also enormously popular visitor destinations, including the majority of our National Parks, and they provide the majority of the UK’s drinking water. These landscapes, like others all over the world, are many things to many people, and this leads to tough decisions about how they are managed.”
The Masters theme is designed to give students the skills to identify the wide range of current and potential future benefits that landscapes such as uplands can provide to individuals and society, and provide tools to make decisions that include the values of all those affected.
Dr Nick Morton, Head of Birmingham School of the Built Environment, part of Birmingham City University, said: “This collaboration allows students to study both upland and urban settings and understand their linkages. It also allows students to study modules from Perth College UHI via distance learning, enriching and diversifying the student learning experience. The focus of this course, on the interface between uplands and the urban centres that depend upon them, is unique in the UK and internationally, giving students a qualification that stands out from the crowd.”
Alister Scott, Professor of Environmental and Spatial Planning at Birmingham City University, said: “The collaboration between Birmingham City University and the University of the Highlands and Islands helps us build capacity to tackle key environmental issues, using an interdisciplinary approach. This collaboration builds on an internationally leading research base on upland management, urban planning and the often contested spaces between city and countryside. It builds on existing research relationships between the two institutions and provides a globally relevant course that has world leading research and practice at its heart.”