NIGK23009U Rural Landscapes: Transformation and Governance

Volume 2023/2024

MSc Programme in Geography and Geoinformatics

MSc Programme in Nature Management

MSc Programme in Landscape Architecture


Rural landscapes cover more than a third of the earth and contribute most of the food and fiber consumed by human populations. However, they also constitute an arena for a multitude of other activities and processes. These include production of energy as well as residential, recreational, tourism and biodiversity functions. As such rural landscapes are manifestations of the way in which human societies organize and use their environment through continuous processes of decision making, forming an interface between society and its ecological basis.


As societies evolve, new demands for  recreation, nature, environmental and cultural heritage protection are sharply contrasted with traditional rural production functions. In parallel, mega-drivers, such as globalization, urbanization, biodiversity decline and climate change further contribute to the transformation of rural landscapes. As a response, novel approaches to landscape planning and governance are evolving trying to minimize conflicts between functions and to support a sustainable use of landscapes.


During the course landscapes are examined as multifunctional arenas where interests of different sectors and actors need to be accommodated and conflicts between sometimes opposing interests need to be recognized, managed, and resolved.


The course gives important insight into the MSc programmes  in Nature Management, Geography and Landscape Architecture as well as constitutes an important supplement to students involved in studies of sustainability science, forestry, agronomy, biology, environmental management, environmental anthropology and rural sociology.


The aims of the course are:

  1. to study and discuss processes of contemporary rural landscape changes, including driving forces, impacts, functions, and conflicts in different landscapes, ranging from traditional rural to peri-urban settings   
  2. to discuss rural landscape change from the perspective of important societal agendas, including opportunities and challenges for a green transition
  3. to give insights into theories and methods to identify landscape characteristics, qualities, values, and resilience
  4. to introduce different approaches and strategies to rural landscape plaaning and governance within the wider framework of national and international policies



Learning Outcome

The course provides:



  • Methods for analysis, description, and assessment of landscapes
  • Methods for examination of preferences, values and attitudes
  • Local, national and international policies related to rural landscape planning and governance
  • Planning processes, governance, and actor analysis. 
  • Contemporary trajectories of landscape change, their driving forces and impacts


  • Account for central theoretical approaches to describe and explain current rural landscapes dynamics and processes, including central driving
  • Account for methods for analysis of landscapes, including landscape characteristics, values and preferences
  • Identify and discuss relevant policies for the regulation and governance of rural landscapes including the involvement of citizens in the policy and planning process
  • Identify and discuss landscape charateristics, values, discources, processes and interests



  • Perform analysis of landscape values, discourses, processes, and interests present in diverse types of rural landscapes using key theories, concepts and empirical material.
  • Hold a critical and reflective view on contemporary approaches and strategies related to the use and protection of rural landscapes
  • Discuss rural landscape policies and strategies in a wider context
  • Work as an individual as well as in groups with people from different disciplines

An electronic compendium. For more information please see Absalon course page

Basic knowledge of landscape functions, processes and changes (bachelor level) is recommended
Teaching is given in the form of lectures, exercises, seminars and excursions. Most lectures will be followed by seminars where students are asked to give small presentations or by group discussions or exercises. Exercises are done in groups and will mostly be concluded by group presentations.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 154
  • Theory exercises
  • 42
  • Excursions
  • 10
  • Total
  • 206
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment, During course
Type of assessment details
The written assignment is prepared individual by the students during the course and must be handed in by the end of the course. The assignment includes 2-4 papers. The background material on which the papers build may be derived partly from work done in groups during the course.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners.

Re-submission of papers from ordinary examination, followed by 15 minuttes oral examination without preperation. A combined grade is given after the oral exam.

Criteria for exam assesment

Please see learning outcome.