OU Students To Learn To Take On The World’s Negotiators

July 21, 2002

Part of the course will see students logging on simultaneously to a real-time online conference, in which they will each assume the role of a particular country in the simulated chamber as they try to agree a global treaty on forests.

Students taking Environmental practice: negotiating policy in a global society will use custom-designed interactive computer technology that will mirror as closely as possible the real-life UN negotiating system.

The launch of the course comes as preparations continue for the World Summit on Sustainable Development – the Earth Summit – to be held in South Africa later this year. “The negotiation simulation has captured the essence of negotiation as it will be practised by delegates at Johannesburg,” said course chair Dr Dave Humphreys.

Course manager Dr Dan Weinbren added: “All the students will have different perspectives. For example, one student will represent the USA with, say, lots of money and another will represent the Cameroon, with lots of trees. The real-time negotiations to be used in the course will challenge the participants to make sure they do their preparations and to think on their feet in the simulated forum. “The students will soon learn the difference between the theory of negotiation and the practice of resolving disagreements.”

The computer program will provide a main chamber, where formal discussions are held. Alongside are side-rooms – for breakout bi-lateral and multi-lateral discussions – and whisper areas at the back of the chamber. There, delegates can engage in their own discussions while keeping track of the main debate.

Unofficial discussions can also be held in the virtual corridors, just as they are in the real-life UN environment. The course aims to develop students’ understanding of negotiating theory, international relations and international environmental law. “While the course is of particular relevance to practitioners of environmental policy whose work involves negotiation, it is also relevant to a wide range of other professionals,” added Dr Weinbren. They include those working for government, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, voluntary groups and in business.

The course, which will be launched in November 2002, forms part of the university’s master’s programme in the social sciences; it can also be studied as a stand-alone course. Because this is a postgraduate course, students will have to hold a first degree at honours level. A computer with internet access will also be required.

For more information about the course, potential students can call the university’s advice centre on 01908 653231 or can visit www.open.ac.uk/courses/ and click on the Environment section.


The course is offered by the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences, which offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses in economics, geography, government and politics, psychology, sociology and social policy.


Dr Dave Humphreys

Course chair

01908 654480 (w)

01227 830422 (h)

Dr Dan Weinbren

Course manager

01908 654491

Neil Coaten

Open University Media Relations

01908 652580