SPG8013 : Environmental Impact Assessment

Semester 2 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0


The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process should inform decision makers about the likely effects of a proposed development on the natural and man-made environment. It is a consultative and participatory process between scientists, environmental managers, developers, public bodies and government authorities which requires a wide range of skills and expertise to complete successfully. Its aim is to identify likely effects and possible mitigation measures at an early stage and thus improve the quality of both project planning and decision-making. This course will provide a background to the principles and practice of the EIA process and hands-on experience and skills training with realistic environmental impact scenarios. Although the course is designed for international applications, much of the documentation and procedures are based on EU EIA frameworks and is particularly suited to work within the EU countries.
Specifically it aims to:

* Provide a background outlining the principles and practice of the EIA process.
* Provide training in undertaking EIA projects, including the communication of outcomes via final written report.
* Promote development of a wide range of transferable skills that are an integral part of the specialist ability to contribute to the EIA process.

Outline Of Syllabus


The following on-line study sessions each involve approximately 5 hours work and are associated with formative on-line multiple-choice tests so that students can monitor their learning. Recommended background texts provide a framework to assist students where needed and links are provided to useful further reading for specific applications.

1.       Introduction. What is EIA and how does it work? Objectives of the module; preparation and presentation of EIA reports; evaluating and reviewing EIA statements and reports; sourcing information; introduction to the EIA projects and case studies.
2.       Issues and trends in EIA. Types of EIA; integration into a sustainable development framework; approaches to developing effective EIA procedures; strategic EIA (SEA); trans-boundary issues.
3.       Stages in the project cycle. Project screening; initial environmental evaluation; scoping studies; baseline studies; impact prediction and significance; mitigating measures; monitoring requirements.
4.       Techniques used in the EIA process. Checklists; matrices; mapping techniques; assessing social, fiscal and human health impacts; risk analysis.
5.       Success of EIA. Historical and regional overview of EIA practices; case studies and cost-benefit analysis; where and why has EIA failed to be effective?

During the preschool, participants are also required to review existing Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) using appropriate methodologies and templates provided. By recognising the efficiencies in existing EISs participants should develop a deeper understanding of good practice in the EIA process and the final reporting stages.


The EIA process is best learnt by doing, and in-session training will mainly involve hands-on group work and engagement in guided case-study exercises. There are three elements to the programme:

1.       Introduction and review of on-line materials (Day 1): This session will review the on-line materials and explore any issues or questions students may have. There will be a short multiple choice exam at the end of the session.
2.       Case study exercises (Day 2): A case study exercise will introduce students to aspects of EIA practice and provide formative assessment of performance. This will involve approximately 10 hours student time, based on an imaginary (simplified) proposal for a development, you will be asked to develop a rational EIA project structure and plan Terms of Reference (ToR) for the implementing agency. Elements of the exercise will include: a) setting out the problem, identifying the main environmental impacts; b) establishing and evaluating project options and mitigation; c) establishing priority inputs (data and information) required for the decision-making process; d) creating and describing specific ToR, including aspects such as logistics, expert teams, time-scales and costs.
3.       EIA project (Day 3 to 5): The culmination of in-session training is an exercise to research, prepare and present specific aspects of an EIA drawn from a real development project. You will initially receive documentation outlining the development at hand and the approach to be used (the Terms of Reference), plus supporting materials describing the potential site of impact. You will also benefit from experience (seminars) from a practising EIA Consultant. Acting as sub-contractors to an EIA consultancy, students carry out an initial Scoping exercise to focus on the main environmental impacts and outline the data requirements for the EIA. Once the scoping exercise is completed, you will be supplied with further information and data sheets relating to the EIA, and visit field site of the project to set the example into context and practice field data collection techniques. The EIA project will be assessed by completion of Terms of Reference for the project by the end of the intensive teaching week (20% of module marks).

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion11:001:00Class test
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching82:0016:00Intensive teaching week
Guided Independent StudyProject work138:0038:00Post-school report preparation based on project work undertaken during the intensive teaching week.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork14:004:00Field site visit to a renewable energy installation.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision116:0016:00EIA project work (teamwork and independent study) during the intensive teaching week.
Guided Independent StudyDistance Learning Advance Preparation55:0025:00Five online learning units completed during the pre-school.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Web based sessions available during the pre-school provide fundamental information on EIA and indicate further and most appropriate information sources for further study. The knowledge outcomes are formatively assessed via online MCQ and summatively assessed in an in-class MCQ on Day 1 of the intensive teaching week. Case study exercises carried out in small group tutorial sessions are used to enhance problem solving skills and reinforce relevant EIA material, application of legislative materials, data collection approaches and interpretation. During group learning sessions, (Project Work), EIA project work uses fundamental information delivered via the web and applies this knowledge in a simulated ‘real world’ EIA project, providing experiential learning of the skills of impact prediction and EIA project management on a project relevant to renewable energy development.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Report2M20In session report (ToR Exercise). Max 5 pages
Report2M50Post School Report. Max 8 pages
Written exercise2M30MCQ test
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Factual knowledge of EIA process and procedures is assessed via MCQ. The in-session report assesses problem solving, information synthesis and evaluation via completed EIA review and Scoping Report forms. A brief (2 page) Terms of Reference assesses ability to focus on relevant issues and think critically about appropriate EIA activities. The post-school report assesses the ability to prepare a final report for the specific target audience to a high standard of presentation appropriate to the EIA governance audience.

In order to pass the module, students must attain a minimum of 40 in each component of assessment. Failure to reach 40 in each component will result in a module mark no greater than 49. This rule has been introduced as an accreditation requirement on the Reflex or REEM programmes.

Reading Lists