Life Cycle Thinking and the Circular Economy

Key information

Start date: To be confirmed

(Due to run in the 2020/21 academic year)

Attendance dates:

To be confirmed


Stag Hill campus, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey GU2 7XH

Contact details:


This module can be taken as a standalone course or as part of building up to a certificate, diploma or master’s degree. You can take up to three modules before deciding whether you want to work towards a degree.

If you are wanting to gain a master’s degree then you will need to complete and pass eight modules and a dissertation within a five year period, certain modules will be compulsory depending on the degree you opt to take. Find out which modules these are and how to apply for a part-time course.

Module overview

When considering how to reduce the environmental impacts of a product, a service, an organisation, a household or even a nation, it is vital to take a life cycle approach. In this module we introduce you to life cycle thinking, the concept of the circular economy, life cycle management and related environmental systems analysis approaches. We consider how such approaches can guard against trade-offs in sustainability, thus leading to better-informed decisions.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Explain the concept of life cycle thinking (LCT) and describe the benefits and challenges of its application in practice, in industry and for policy making
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the circular economy concept
  • Describe the goal, key methodologies, challenges and role of systems analysis approaches such as life cycle assessment (LCA) and input-output analysis
  • Appreciate different types of footprints, appropriate methodologies, and to be aware of current protocols and standards used for carbon foot-printing of products, services and organisations
  • Apply the principles and tools of design for sustainability to consumer products.

Course content

Content includes the following:

  • Introduction to life cycle thinking, the circular economy, and life cycle management
  • Concepts, policy and organisational drivers, and application in practice
  • Introduction to life cycle assessment methodology, simplified life cycle studies; and case studies (from academia and industry)
  • Overview of input-output analysis: principles and application
  • Principles and practice of design for sustainability.

Learning and teaching methods

The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Preparatory reading
  • Lectures
  • In-class exercises and group discussions.


  • An in-class group presentation in which you will be asked to present how principles of life cycle thinking and the circular economy may be implemented by a business to improve sustainability
  • A 3,000 word essay based upon a topic covered in the module, to be completed over the four-week period following this module.

Please note: If you are taking this as a standalone module, then you are not required to complete the 3,000 word post-module essay, however, this will mean that you won't gain any credits for completing the module and so won't be able to work towards a master’s degree if you later decide to do so.

Course leader

Angela Druckman

Angela Druckman is Professor of Sustainable Consumption and Production at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey. She is a Chartered Engineer, having read Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Angela's research f...

Reading list

You will be required to do some reading prior to the module starting, take a look at the reading list.

Entry requirements

If you are taking this module as a standalone course then there are no entry requirements.

If you are aiming to take this module to work towards a degree then you will need:

  • A minimum of a 2:2 UK honours degree, or a recognised equivalent international qualification.
  • Relevant work experience may also be considered.

Recognition of prior learning

There are no prerequisites required to do this module.

Fees and funding

To be confirmed

For group bookings or bespoke training packages please contact us.

How to apply

MSc courses

Take a look at the course pages if you would like to apply for a part-time (or full-time) MSc course:

Individual module

This is for those wanting to take this as a standalone module or aren't yet sure if they want to work towards a degree.

Payment can be accepted by purchase order, credit card or bank transfer on our online store. Payments will be accepted subject to availability. Please note that we do not charge VAT as we are an educational establishment.

If you have any problems with booking or payments then please contact the Administrative Officer, Melanie Wilde:

Register your interest

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations and our terms and conditions. You are also confirming you have read and understood the University's prospective student privacy notice.

Further details of our terms and conditions will follow.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the commencement of the course. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.