Skip to main content

Study information

Rural Social Issues

Module titleRural Social Issues
Module codeGEO2445
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Michael Leyshon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

How is contemporary rural society organised and represented? How do we know a place is rural? Indeed, what do we mean when we talk about the rural and what is the future of rural society? During this module you will engage in an in-depth, philosophical and practical exploration of the form and function of rural environments which will attempt to answer these questions. You will explore how contemporary social transformations in the UK are changing our relationships to the countryside. In particular you will interrogate the make-up of the modern countryside, and question how we come to know rural landscapes and make sense of rural society. You will also explore the effects on rurality of new forms of sociality and concerns for community and identity. You will be encouraged to use the coursework to develop your own interests in rural studies by designing, writing and producing a podcast on rural life.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module provides you with a hands-on, in-depth, philosophical exploration of how rural society is constructed. Situated in contemporary social theory on the countryside, the module requires you to examine critically how the rural is constituted and represented and how these representations help us to organise our understandings of the countryside. The module requires you to explore local and national issues to think through the practical problems of interpreting rural ways of living.

This module has four distinct aims. The first is to examine the contemporary changes which are taking place in rural areas and to suggest multiple and complex understandings of such events. This involves not only an understanding of wider structural shifts in the economy, but also an appreciation of how those changes are experienced differentially by a wide variety of people. The second aim is to employ a number of theoretical perspectives – functionalism, pragmatism and ecological interpretative geographies to foster a wider understanding of rural society. The third aim is to present a close interconnection between research and teaching by consistent reference to contemporary research conducted by the module convenor, geographers and academics in other related disciplines – thus enabling a more joined up pedagogic approach to researching, writing, reading and understanding. The final aim is to give you research experience of examining real world examples of how the rural is constructed through creative media such as music, film, and lierature.

The module includes an observational and introductory field trip as the basis for practical work. In this regard, the module also provides an innovative learning experience by demanding that you undertake guided independent learning (you are required to undertake a short online course on ‘podcasting’). You are provided with weekly activities that enhance and deepen the scholarship presented in the main lecture classes. These have been designed to enhance knowledge of the ways in which the rural is constructed and represented. You are required to work through each of the activities either on your own or if you prefer in a small study group – these are supported through workshops with the module leader.

Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules

On completion of this module you will have gained a number of key employability skills that are embedded in the module. These skills range from teamwork, to verbal and written communication, initiative and self-motivation, drive, planning and organisation, flexibility, and time-management. In particular, the module will:

  • improve your ability to work confidently within a group
  • help you to express your ideas clearly and assuredly in speech and text
  • teach you to gather information systematically to establish principles and lines of reason
  • encourage you to act on initiative, identify opportunities and proactively put ideas and solutions forward
  • encourage you to get things done and make things happen by asking you to look for better ways of working
  • support you to be proficient in planning activities and carrying them out effectively
  • help you to be adaptive to changing situations and environments
  • develop your proficiency in time-management, and prioritising tasks and your ability to work to deadlines

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Illustrate coherently and in detail the relationship between environment, social and economic sectors in rural contexts
  • 2. Examine historical and current policy developments shaping the relationship between environment, sustainability and sociality, to make a reasoned argument
  • 3. Make a judgement between, and sustain an argument on, different theories of environment-social relations
  • 4. With guidance, illustrate and discuss competently the contested and provisional nature of knowledge on rural economies and societies

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Describe in some detail essential facts and theory across a sub-discipline of human geography
  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in human geography
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within human geography
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of human geography with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 14. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 15. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Module Themes and Outline
The module is divided into the following sections. The themes in each section are indicative only.

A. Foundations: Rurality, Culture and Space
Positioning Rural Geography
Functional/Pragmatic/Ecological frameworks

B. Understanding the Rural

C. Interpreting the Rural
Representing and imagining the rural
Writing, watching and listening to the rural

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching12Lectures are designed to provide you with advanced level knowledge on rural society, communities, policy and practice.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Workshops – focused around theoretical themes and project design to enable you to develop hands-on experience of real-world research.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Fieldtrip to local sites of relevance exploring key themes of representation and understanding rural society. Module field trips may have to be moved online/replaced in the event of continued COVID-19 lockdown/social distancing rules.
Guided independent study125Additional reading, research and preparation for module assessments including a short self-guided course on how to make a Podcast.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Workshop presentation5 minutes1, 4-12, 15Written and oral
Short answer questions during workshop sessionsOngoing throughout the module1-5, 7-10, 12-14Oral
Online forum weekly questions Ongoing throughout the module 1-5, 7-10, 12-14 Written and oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Project group presentation3010 minutes1, 4-12, 15Written and oral
Essay701300 words1-12Written and oral

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Project group presentationProject report 1, 4-12, 15August assessment period
ExaminationExamination1-12August assessment period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The group presentation is non-deferrable because of its practical nature and the need to complete the assessment task within a group. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

    • Cloke P, Marsden T, and Mooney P (eds) (2006) Handbook of Rural Studies, Sage, London 

    • Elson, V and Shirly, R (2017) Creating the Countryside: The Rural Idyll, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 

    • Shucksmith M and Brown D (eds) (2016) International Handbook of Rural Studies, Routledge, London 

    • Woods M (2005) Rural Geography, Sage, London  

    • Woods M (2010) Rural: Key Ideas in Geography, Routledge, London 

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Rural society, community, identity, representation, culture

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date