AT7057 - Circular Economy

What will I learn on this module?

This course provides you with conceptual and practical tools for analysing and evaluating linear business practices and models from a circular economy perspective, and in turn innovating and designing circular economy-based business opportunities. Real-world business practices and case studies will be used throughout the course as you evaluate linear business products and practices. This material will cover national and international issues, cases and organisations. Further, you will conduct team-based projects that concern both domestic and international organisations working in commercial and social sectors.

Mid-way through the module (week 6), you will have the opportunity to interact with Northumbria University students in the UK. You will be joined, both virtually and in person, by postgraduate students from the Design School at Northumbria and will work with them on a Circular Economy Design Sprint. Through this you will learn the ‘theory’ of design thinking, and explore a real-world challenge posed by one, or more, of our partnering organisations. The facilitated sprint will give you an opportunity to learn about design thinking whilst benefitting from a broader diversity of cultural experience and disciplinary expertise. The outputs of the Design Sprint week will form the core of your team-based project, which will span weeks 7-12 and be conducted with a partnering external organisation. On-line and face-to-face project tutorials and coaching will support your learning and assignment preparation during this latter part of the module.

Subject areas include the following:

The differences between linear and circular economies

What value chains look like in circular economies, and how to identify circularity challenges in linear value chains

How the circular economy is a biomimetic system, and how biomimicry is a source of innovation for transitioning to circular economy business models

What circular business models are, and why they are needed to implement the circular economy

The role of systems thinking in understanding and adopting circular business models

The role of technologies in supporting circular economy business practices

What design thinking is, and how it can help companies transition from linear to circular business models

How will I learn on this module?

While the overarching format for the course is active learning, half of this module will be theory-based, and the other half will be practice-based.

In the first 6 weeks, students will engage in active learning primarily using the academic literature and business cases. Before, during, and after class students will conduct both desk and empirical research to analyse linear practices and business models and, in turn, devise feasible strategies, ideas and solutions. Student-led discussions, debates, elaborations, and explanations will be a core part of each class meeting. The last week of this half will be the Design Sprint. Each week will which prepare students, in terms of both knowledge and practice, for the second half.

Active learning will be guided by the lecturer, but driven by students. Both the lecturers’ and students’ role is to inform and guide exploration, analysis, elaboration, skill development, and learning; the student’s role is to also take initiative to expand beyond (but not impede) course instruction, to seek feedback from lecturers in order to resolve questions and concerns related to course content and outcomes, practical matters, and inter-relational issues.

Guest lecturers from business and academia will be involved.

In the second 6 weeks (weeks 7-12), students will put the concepts and tools learned in the first half of the course into action. This half of the module is based on students’ practical engagement with organisations, in which they assess one or more organisation’s products or services for their potential to be made circular. This part of the course will be enacted according to design thinking principles and tools, and will culminate in a circular economy-based pitch to a partnering organisation.

Please note that, for both halves, self-study is integral to student success. This includes preparation before and after class sessions by reading course material, doing assignments provided by the lecturers and working on individual and group projects.

Recommended and required reading and viewing will be specified in the Teaching and Learning Plan. Materials used will either be freely available on the internet or in the library, or they will be provided by your lecturers.

The format of the course is the following:

Weeks 1-6

Seminar: Each weekly seminar period will consist of teacher- and student-led activities and discussions, as well as student ‘check-ins’ in which students ask questions regarding course requirements, concepts, and materials .

Workshop: Students will work on projects in groups (5-6 students). They will receive feedback and guidance from lecturers, which will involve both group and class-level discussion.

Week 6 Design Sprint: Week 6 will involve student groups working with one, or more, organisation for 2 days, the particular times to be determined in collaboration with the partner organisation. During this week students will work with postgraduate students from Northumbria University’s Design School using a Design Sprint format. The Design Sprint will introduce a design thinking approach that will form a model of how the remainder of the class (weeks 7-12) will play out.

Weeks 7 – 12:

In this period students will work in groups with a partner organisation to engage in a longer-form assessment of their potential to adopt a circular business model. Groups will meet with course coaches on-line and face-to-face once per week in the normally scheduled timeslot to engage in design-thinking activities that will help them advance their project. In these sessions student groups will also provide updates, get feedback, resolve issues, and set weekly goals. This period will culminate in a group-level deliverable, in which they pitch a circular business model to a partner organisation.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lecturers will be available for student questions throughout the module (each lecturer will specify his/her availability). Additional support will be provided by student service offices in both AMSIB and NU

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?


How will I be assessed?

Individual assignment: Transition Journal

Students will create a transformation journal. ‘Transformation’ here refers both to student’s account of their involvement in helping an organisation transition from a linear to a circular business model, as well as the student’s own transformation in their knowledge, mode of thinking, and way of analysing problems and devising solutions.

Students will submit a factual account of what they did throughout both halves of the course, as well as reflective commentary on what they learned and how it relates to theory and practice. Students will evaluate theories and practices, as well as what they are learning on a week-to-week basis, both in class and outside of it, as the class progresses. In this course students will be encouraged to be innovative and entrepreneurial, and thus to ‘fail often’ - but to do so mindfully. In the journal students are expected to thoughtfully reflect and candidly evaluate what went right and what went wrong, why activities went down either pathway, and what can be learned.

The Transformation Journal will be due one week after the end of the course (week 13). Mid-way through the course lecturers will provide (ungraded) feedback on each student’s journal.

A rubric for the Transformation Journal is included in the Assessment brief.

Group deliverable: Innovative circular business model pitch

Half of the module time, work, and grade is based on students’ practical engagement, in groups and with an organsiation. In this part of the course students will assess one or more of the organisation’s products or services for their potential to be made circular. In the end, each group will pitch a new, innovative circular business model to the partner organisation.

This part of the course will span weeks 7-12, and will be structured according to design thinking principles and tools, and guidance will be be devoted to student engagement with and preparation for the final deliverable.

The group assessment will be determined according to engagement in weekly design-thinking coaching sessions, and the deliverable’s adherence to posted guidelines, its thoroughness, its professional quality, and its innovative nature.

A rubric for the group deliverable is included in the Assessment brief. A guidance document will be posted on Blackboard.

Peer assessment

At the end of the course students will complete a confidential peer assessment. A rubric for this is included in the Assessment brief.





Module abstract

The United Kingdom and the European Union have begun to transition from linear to circular economies. In a circular, as opposed to a linear, economy there is a beneficial (rather than harmful) relationship between ecological and economic health. In the EU, the goal is for each country’s economy to be fully circular by 2050. Other countries around the world are also making this transition, with some economies leading the way (e.g., China, Japan), and others following suit (e.g., South Africa, Thailand). What they all have in common is that they are sources of both demands and opportunities for international businesses.

In this module you will study what a circular economy is, how businesses can contribute to and benefit from the transition, and how you can help. You will not merely study a new framework, you will learn how to use a design thinking approach to contribute to this major, and necessary, shift to a more circular, and therefore sustainable, future in both the UK and the Netherlands, as well as abroad.

Course info

Credits 20

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 18 months Full-Time

Department Newcastle Business School

Location Netherlands

City Amsterdam

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

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