SUM4501 – Achieving the SDGs: Global Goals and National Interests

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content


This course will introduce students to national and international policies related to the 2030 Agenda and its 17 accompanying Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although there is growing awareness about the SDGs, the emerging consensus in most academic and policy discussions is that the pace of action is slow and that far too many people of the world continue to be excluded from the development process. This course will discuss the contested nature of the sustainable development discourse, and highlight core features of the 2030 Agenda, including the underlying theory of change. What is the added value of international goal-setting, and how does the international community justify the SDGs? Are the SDGs merely a new framework to situate the development discourse?

The lectures will identify and discuss the effectiveness of global and national institutional arrangements for achieving the SDGs as well as the availability of development finance. With a focus on Malawi, India, and China – where the Oslo SDG Initiative has undertaken recent research – the course will highlight how and to what extent the global agenda has been operationalized at national and local levels. The course will also highlight a set of promising practices, as well as identify the most critical challenges ahead, including the need for a greater focus on addressing the politics of the sustainable development agenda.

Learning outcome

Students will:

  • Be well acquainted with the major theoretical and empirical approaches to the study of sustainable development
  • Learn how to better understand what works, how and why in relation to global and national interventions aimed at promoting sustainable development
  • Gain insight into the explicit role of politics in policies aimed at achieving sustainable development  
  • Undertake comparative studies of sustainable development and SDG implementation in differing contexts


You may apply to be a guest student at SUM. Please follow these instructions.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

A bachelor’s degree. 

Recommended previous knowledge

Specialization equivalent to at least 80 ECTS within subjects from the humanities or social sciences, sustainable development, or equivalent relevant subjects. 



  • The module will last one week (5 continuous days) and consist of a 3-hour lecture every morning.
  • Some lectures may contain short recorded videos with Oslo SDG Initiative affiliated faculty or from fieldwork in connection with research projects;
  • Students will be encouraged to participate in groupwork in the afternoons and present their findings in class on the final day (Friday);
  • All students must attend all lectures unless there are valid grounds for not doing so.


  • Examination: 4 hour written exam.
  • Oral presentation based on group work (pass/fail).

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

Students may use a language translation dictionary at this exam.

  • Language translation dictionaries may be used in examinations. A language translation dictionary is defined as a dictionary that simply gives equivalent words or phrases in two languages, without further explanatory text or description.
  • You may bring a maximum of two dictionaries.
  • Electronic dictionaries are not to be used in examinations.
  • Dictionaries must be unmarked and free of notations.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language