The OxNet STEM programme draws on the world-class research and expertise of academics at the University of Oxford and our other partner institutions to provide participants with an insight into what it is like to study a STEM subject at undergraduate-level. The programme is broad in focus, covering not only academic scientific and mathematic content, but also focusing on the skills that are required at this level such as coding, researching, and an awareness of ethical issues. 

To apply for the STEM course, there are two steps. Both of these are compulsory.

1) Fill in this application form

2) Answer the following three questions with reference to one of the options below. You must write a response between 750 and 1000 words.

You must submit your completed essay to before 9am on 9th November.

Late submissions will not be considered.

1. The topic of sustainability is receiving increasing global attention, sparked by individuals as Greta Thunberg and organisations as Extinction Rebellion. These actions illustrate that consumer decisions play in important role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. However, the environmental impact of certain product choices is not always straightforward. A product’s ecological footprint, as defined by the Global Footprint Network, is understood as the amount of land required to produce that product. Based on the information in tables 1 to 3, we would like you to conduct an ecological footprint analysis of alternative consumer options to see which is more sustainable. Choose one of the following options:

a) Transport from Manchester to London using bus, train, car, taxi or airplane (assume you only use one means of transport)

b) A meal based on beef, poultry, pork or a vegetarian alternative.

c) Powering a house using renewable energy sources or fossil fuels

2. Once you have done this, we would like you calculate your own ecological footprint at and write a response between 750 and 1000 words to the followings question, using examples from your footprint to support your response.


3. Our ways of life depend on ecological processes. What ecological processes are at the basis of your chosen example (from a, b or c), and what options are available to consumers to influence their sustainable use? How might consumers make their final choice? 


Tables adapted from Merkel, J. (2003). Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth. Canada, New Society Publishers.

Table 1: Footprint factor of transport options

Transport option followed by footprint factor

Bus, around town, 9 m2 /km

Bus, inter-city, 2 m2 /km

Train, inter-city, 9 m2 /km

Taxi/rental/other's car (divide miles by number in car, exclude taxi driver), 21 m2 /km

Gasoline (divide fuel by number of people in vehicle), 113 m2 /l

Airplane, Economy Class, 4361 m2 /hr

Airplane, Business class, 5050 m2/hr


Table 2: Footprint factors of meal options

Meal option followed by footprint factor

Veggies, potatoes & fruit, 63 m2 /kg

Bread and bakery products, 235 m2 /kg

Flour, rice, noodles, cereal products, 218 m2 /kg

Beans & other legumes, 464 m2 /kg

Milk, cream, yogurt, sour cream, 105m2 /l

Ice cream, other frozen dairy, 420 m2 /l

Cheese, butter, 926 m2 /kg

Eggs (number), 23 m2 /egg

Pork, 844 m2 /kg

Chicken, turkey, 616 m2 /kg

Beef, 2171 m2 /kg

Fish, 5154 m2 /kg

Vegetable oil (seed and olive), 966 m2 /l

Margarine, 1208 m2 /kg

Coffee & tea, 943 m2 /kg

Beer, 121m2 /l

Juice & wine, 153 m2 /l


Table 3: Footprint factors of energy sources

Energy source followed by footprint factor

House size, 2 m2 /m2

Electricity from the grid, 27 m2 /kWh

Fossil fuel, 30 m2 /kWh

Solar power, 0.24 m2 /kWh

Hydro power, 0.9 m2 /kWh

Wind power, 0.5 m2/kWh

Natural gas, 76 m2 /m3

Coal, 64 m2 /kg

Firewood, 69 m2 /kg

Below are examples of some of the concepts and ideas that OxNet STEM participants have encountered this year.