Covid-19 pandemic is focus of UoE electives

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Students will build skills and understanding of global challenges in two different electives featuring the pandemic and societal responses to it.

Image credit: United Nations Covid-19 Response, image created by Laura Makaltses

Understanding and addressing global challenges is the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s mission. It is also the topic of its first elective course which opens to undergraduates this autumn.


Currents: Understanding and addressing global challenges’ is a new, multi-disciplinary elective that offers students an opportunity to explore a current challenge facing the world. This autumn Covid-19 will be the challenge – in life and in the classroom. Students will explore the experience and consequences of the global pandemic in a course that that takes a planetary health approach and draws on world-leading expertise from across the University.

EFI is not alone in addressing Covid-19 through a challenge-led curriculum. ‘Our Changing World’, offered by the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences, will also use the pandemic as the context for their UG elective. This long-standing interdisciplinary course requires students to confront contemporary issues and challenge their own thinking and perspectives.

Learning and experience in a pandemic

The current crisis offers an unprecedented opportunity for students to learn. The two courses offer different ways for considering how the pandemic will shape future society and what our responses to it might look like.

EFI’s Currents includes expert lectures from leading academics and professionals from industry, government and third sector. The course will explore the role of data in understanding and responding to complex challenges. Topics covered will include the representation of disease, illness and health in the arts; what the Covid-19 pandemic reveals about systemic inequity and gender issues; and how the pandemic is affecting children and young people.

Our Changing World offers students a collaborative environment to develop a shared project in response to weekly seminars. The course takes a student-led approach to understanding the pandemic, with students developing a shared project in response to this year’s theme – Pandemic: A Changed World? The course provides a dynamic educational structure for students to explore in and find the freedom and confidence to express how they want to change their world – as we enter the next phase of the pandemic.

Both courses address the current real-time challenge of the pandemic, giving students an opportunity to gain unique insights and skills for participating in society’s recovery.

A first for the Futures Institute

Recognising that the biggest challenges facing societies globally are complex and interconnected, EFI aims to support the interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding we need to address them.

With its first undergraduate offering EFI is bringing together expertise from different Schools to offer students multiple perspectives on the crisis they have experienced over recent months. A strong focus on understanding and using data will help students develop the skills they need to approach the topic, alongside a critical perspective which enables them to map their own lived experience to its broader social contexts.

Professor Siân Bayne, Director of Education for EFI, said:

“The Currents course is a great example of the kind of education we want to continue to build through EFI. It’s led by Professor Liz Grant in the College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, supported by Dr Andy Cross in Geosciences, and built around expertise and input from academics across medicine, humanities, social sciences and the arts. It has a strong critical theme relating to data and its uses, and embeds new ways of thinking about assessment, public engagement and the values of inclusivity and the common good.”

With thanks to Dr Tim Squires Lecturer, Edinburgh Medical School: Deanery of Biomedical Sciences; Professor Liz Grant, Assistant Principal (Global Health) and Director of the Global Health Academy and Dr Andrew Cross, Impact Coordinator, School of Geosciences.

‘Our Changing World’ is offered by the Deanery of Biomedical Sciences.

‘Currents: Understanding and addressing global challenges’ is offered by EFI.

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