Engaged Ecology

MA | PGDip | PGCert
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overview

  • A radical new experiment in embodied learning for students looking to reconsider their relationship with the more-than-human, and find solutions to the environmental and social crises of our time
  • A course that enables you to experiment with a range of ways of engaging with the non-human world, whilst also allowing you the time and space to develop a personal understanding of the interconnected nature of the world and your place in it

duration

MA: 1 year FT, 2 years PT.
Other routes are available, including online options – see ‘Learning Pathways’

department

start date: january

view full Term dates

3 January – 8 July 2022: Onsite teaching weeks at Schumacher College
Term 1: Jan 10th – April 1st
Term 2: Apr 25th – July 1st

24 October 2022: Final Project/Dissertation Deadline

next application deadline

All upcoming application and decision deadlines can be found here.

Learning pathways

Our degree programmes are designed to suit the complexities of modern life, allowing you to live where you live and work where you work, whilst studying the subject you are passionate about as a member of our wide-reaching learning community.

For this course, all the below qualifications are offered on a six-month residency model.

Some qualifications are offered part-time – these are indicated below. More about flexible learning at Dartington >

MAster's (ft/pt; 180 credits)

A six-month residency programme with 4 x 30-credit modules and 1 x 60-credit Dissertation or Major Project module.

The course is available full time over one year (UK, EU or international students) or part time over two years (UK students only).

If taking the course part-time: In the first year you would take module 1, Engaging with Ecology, in term 1 and module 3, Living Together, in term 2. By the end of the first year you will therefore have accrued 60 credits. In the second year you would take Making Connections in term 1 and The Ecological Self in term 2 (a further 60 credits), then complete the dissertation/major project (which brings you to the total of 180 credits).

Each module will require you to be in College for no more than two days per week, and where possible we try to timetable these days to be consecutive so as to allow you to do other work. Please bear in mind however that you would still have to make time for independent study outside those College days (a good estimate is that a 30 credit module requires 300 hours of learning time, of which 30 are face to face).

Postgraduate Diploma (ft/pt; 120 credits)

A full-time (1 year) or part-time programme (2 years, UK students only) with 4 x 30 credit modules.

If you enrol for the PGDip you would come here for two terms, taking modules 1 and 2, Engaging with Ecology and Making Connections, in term 1, and modules 3 and 4, Living Together and the Ecological Self, in term 2. The PGDip accrues you 120 credits.

If you enrol for the MA you can chose to exit the programme at the end of term 2 with a PGDip. However, if you enrol for the PGDip you cannot automatically upgrade to the MA. You would have to graduate, reapply the subsequent year and continue the remainder of the programme then.

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits)

If you enrol for the PGCert (full-time study only) you would come here for just one term and take modules 1 and 2, Engaging with Ecology and Making Connections. The PGCert accrues you 60 credits.

If you enrol for the MA you can chose to exit the programme at the end of term 1 with a PGCert. However, if you enrol for the PGCert you cannot automatically upgrade to the MA. You would have to graduate, reapply the subsequent year and continue the remainder of the programme then.

course content

Engaged Ecology asks three fundamental questions: What is place? Who are we? And, what, then, can we do?

“The Engaged Ecology course fills a gap in education as it provides the hands-on experience and resources that are usually left to the student’s own initiative … the academic subjects are the most relevant and useful in the time we live” – Laura Pasetti, Alumnus  

WHAT IS PLACE?

If the climate crisis is too enormous a problem for any of us to grasp, we all nonetheless have a relationship to place, the immediate world about us. Through various ecological practices of deep observation and immersive engagement, through making and theoretical reflection, we will question what we mean by place and discover the historical, economic, cultural and ecological entanglements that together create a sense of place. We will discover for ourselves the meaning of terms like ‘ecology’, ‘nature’, ‘anthropocene’, ‘Gaia’, ‘participation’, ‘craft’, and ‘self’.

By developing competence in various practices of making we will explore cultures of production. The exact practices will vary according to availability, but might include weaving linen fabric that’s been grown from seed and prepared at every stage by hand; or felling a tree to hand carve a cup, a spoon, or a bowl; or writing, designing, typesetting and printing a magazine. How do these practices enrich our understanding of, or highlight our dislocation from, place?

Rather than approaching these questions from an epistemological framework of ecophilosophy, Engaged Ecology builds a scaffold through the radical assertion that higher education must first and foremost be a physical engagement with our shared socioecological/material world. It is through first-hand experience of place that we build an immersively tactile ontology that will serve as the foundation for the conceptual framework we develop through the arc of the programme.

WHO ARE WE?

Using various practices, so-called ‘technologies of the self’, we will examine what we mean by ‘the self’. Can there ever be an ecological self, or are we ordained by biology, or culture, to be atomistic individuals? What happens if we entertain indigenous or posthuman ideas in which the boundaries of the self are regarded as porous? What role does spirituality play in shaping or shaking up the self? Why is it that as social beings, who come together in community, we exclude even as we include, on the basis of sexuality, gender, race, class, ability, or species even? How can we (can we even?) reconcile living in community with a decentralization of human identity? Can we fully permeate the boundary between ego and eco? By living, learning and working together in community, here at Schumacher, we will ask what we mean by community and consider how it could be done differently in the world.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Finally, we challenge students to address how they can best act in the world. We examine theories of change, movement building, and non-violent direct action and ask if there are different ways of being ‘activists’ that do not replicate the very thing we are trying to change. Must change always involve opposition? Is there such a thing as post-activism? The final project or dissertation gives students the opportunity to dive deeply into these questions and to begin to envisage a career path after graduation.

Throughout this radical programme we give students the space to learn experientially, to reflect on what they’ve done, to consider abstract theory, and to experiment with new possibilities. Students will be able to draw on and immerse themselves in the rich history of growers, makers, craftivists, radical thinkers, social entrepreneurs, pedagogues, adherents of alternative spiritualities, not to mention the land itself, that together comprise the Dartington experiment.

Engaged Ecology is the cutting edge of Environmental Humanities, an interdisciplinary arena that brings together leading progressive thought within science and the humanities to address the great problems of our age.

KEY FACTS

  • Explore leading-edge thinking about the nature of being human in a more-than-human world
  • Grapple with ecological problems through hands-on learning and deep reflection
  • Develop the tools to become a leader in ecological, economic, and social decision-making conversations
  • Fortify existing practice with a robust theoretical framework
  • Be able to apply a deep and critical understanding of place in a broad range of contexts.

programme structure & modules

If you take the programme full time, you complete four taught modules, of 30 credits each, over two consecutive terms. This is the residential part of the programme, and it lasts roughly between January and the start of July. Your residential period then ends and you leave the College to complete your dissertation/major project. This is handed in in October. Some students elect to stay in the area to write their dissertations, so as to make use of the libraries, but supervision can just as easily take place online. Students will be able to access the University of Plymouth library at a distance for the duration of their studies.

During the residential period you take two taught modules per term. Each module runs in parallel throughout the length of the term, with classes for one module occurring on Mondays and Tuesdays, and for the other on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Occasionally classes take place in the evening or on a Friday but advance notice will be given. Each taught module is 30 credits. For a 30 credit module you are expected to complete 300 learning hours of which approximately 10%, or 30 hours, comprises face to face teaching.

Students can elect to live on the campus, in Dartington accommodation, or off campus in accommodation they have found. Early booking of Dartington accommodation is recommended and we strongly recommend that you stay on site, as the shared experience of living and working on the Dartington estate is key to your course experience.

Term 1

Engaging with Ecology – 30 credits

This foundational module aims to provoke in students a greater understanding of our dire ecological predicament, its urgency and its historical and philosophical origins. Building on different practices of paying attention to and engaging with the world about us, it introduces critical terms and maps out key developments in ecological thought from various transdisciplinary perspectives.

Making Connections – 30 credits

This module examines making practices as primary ways in which humans engage with the world at large. Students will experiment with a variety of practices, where possible performing every step of production from first principles to finished product, so as to explore, and reflect upon the many ways in which making entangles us with the world. Informed by theory, students will consider aesthetics, craft, materials, place and the role, if any, of the sacred.

Term 2

Living Together – 30 credits

This module examines the social and ecological implications of living together and asks what it means to belong in community. It seeks to understand how communities at once include and exclude, through the often invisible exercise of power. It considers the implications of extending the definition of community to include the more-than-human and investigates the role of structure and ritual in maintaining community.

The Ecological Self – 30 credits

This module considers the significance of the self in creating, maintaining or resolving the ecological crisis. It critiques Western notions of the self and experiments with and evaluates practices that may engender a more ecological self. In the light of theories of change and the post-activist critique, it then asks students to reflect on how they might best go on to act as ecological selves in service of a just world.

Term 3

Dissertation or Final Project – 60 credits

Undertake a substantial investigation that addresses significant areas of Engaged Ecology.
Assessments will be made of students’ ability to apply knowledge gained over the course of the taught elements of the Masters in innovative and practical ways in a dynamic live, or exploratory, context. Students may work in small groups or independently. They may also produce an academic dissertation relating to tEngaged Ecology. Students will be provided with a list of potential titles and projects, or are free to develop their own in consultation with the Primary Dissertation Supervisor.

watch: overview of the engaged ecology programme

entry requirements

Qualification(s) required for entry to the MA

BA/BSc (Honours) Degree
A good first degree of UK 2.1 equivalent or higher in any subject, but preferably in the Humanities, Social or Natural Sciences. Where the degree is not obviously related to the programme candidates may be required to submit examples of their academic writing. In exceptional circumstances we will consider applications from candidates without a first degree, provided they can demonstrate an equivalent level of experience.

Other non-standard awards or experience
A willingness to play a part in the interrogating and co-creating of Ecological Design Thinking as an evolving discipline. Candidates will be considered with prior credited learning and prior experiences subject to interview.*

Interview requirements
All applicants are required to attend an interview, either at the College or online. During the interview we will look for: evidence of intellectual clarity during interview; a clearly formulated purpose for taking the course; focused interests and a clear understanding of the ethos and philosophy of the College; readiness and ability to live and work in a communal setting.

*For further information please contact our admissions team at admissions@dartington.org.

fees

For full details on our fees, plus information about scholarships, student loans and bursaries, click here.

staff

Dr Andy Letcher

Dr Andy Letcher

andy.letcher@schumachercollege.org.uk

Andy is the programme lead for MA Engaged Ecology at Schumacher College.

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Sarah Elisa Kelly

Dr Sarah Elisa Kelly

sarahelisa.kelly@dartington.org

Dr Sarah Elisa Kelly’s background is in cultural theory and critical thinking, with interests spanning the arts and environmental humanities.

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careers

Graduates leave to work in:

  •  NGOs: especially those tackling climate emergency
  • Nonprofits: building relationships between people and place
  • Permaculture: agroforestry, land management and community
  • Business: making systems more resilient and regenerative
  • Education: teaching in multi-disciplinary disciplines

alumni stories

Laura Pasetti

Theatre Director and Dramaturg

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