Bilal Mian, MSc Sustainability and Consultancy alumni

Bilal Mian

Why did you decide to study a Masters at the University of Leeds?

I had completed my BEng in Civil Engineering prior at the University of Leeds and in light of the COVID-19 I wanted to stay in familiar territory, as well as this I was able to complete my masters with 10% discounted from the original price as I was a Leeds alumnus.

I also wanted to stay at the University of Leeds as the Sustainability and Consultancy MSc was a niche masters degree which I had not found elsewhere at any other university during my search for a masters degree, I was impressed with the School of Earth and Environment and their commitment to sustainability through the Sustainability Research Institute which encouraged me to complete the MSc with the school.

What has been the best aspect of studying on your course and at the University so far and why?

The Sustainability Consultancy Project which was an independent piece of work which provided a unique insight of working in industry for a real life client and conducting a project of your choice, at your own pace, which allowed for independent learning as well as supportive academic advice throughout.

Tell us about more about your Sustainability Consultancy Project

It was an independent project where I was able to take complete control of the work being carried out and lead myself towards providing project outcomes for the client.

My project, in collaboration with the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council (CBMDC), aimed to create a collective eco-crisis response for citizens, communities and businesses in the Bradford District to take meaningful climate action in addressing the climate crisis.

CBMDC passed a motion in January 2019 declaring a climate emergency in the district, taking steps to ensure a robust, healthy and just society, residing within environmental limits, attaining a sustainable future, and conscientiously using sound science; these guidelines promote the Sustainable Development Action Plan for CBMDC going into 2022. The action plan calls for the formation of new sustainable development partnerships to manage and execute strategic policy and direction among sectors within the Bradford District. CBMDC acknowledged that the sustainable development agenda can be regarded as a "middle-class" or "white agenda" that does not consider the most effective response from the district, demanding the formation of an inclusive and collective eco-crisis response that includes all voices within the Bradford District.

The objective of the work carried out was to develop a framework for CBMDC to establish their collective eco-crisis response in taking climate action within the district. Rather than solving the climate crisis, the project focused on assisting CBMDC in understanding the situation at hand in order to move forward in addressing the climate crisis through their action plan; the outcomes of this project were then developed further by CBMDC upon project completion. To contextualise and support large-scale regeneration, commercial, public sector, institutional, policy responses, CBMDC established a sustainable development action plan in 2019; however, there are gaps in their present framework with regards to stakeholder engagement.

My project demonstrated how CBMDC can develop meaningful stakeholder engagement to support their collective eco-crisis response, considering the widest possible response within the Bradford District when addressing climate action. The research provided the basis of a stakeholder engagement framework to identify various stakeholder groups within the Bradford District, hoping that CBMDC can continue to use my research to continue the development of an interactive framework which can be mapped with GIS software.

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

The University of Leeds has one of the largest campuses of any university in the UK, after 5 years of studying at the University I have still not seen the entire campus and everything Leeds has to offer. The University also has an exceptional students’ union with supportive staff and facilities for everyone including cafes, dessert bars, job agencies, study spaces and even a prayer room.

The University also has 4 amazing libraries with amazing facilities to use, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the libraries stayed open for students such as myself to use who are not able to work from home, my personal favourite is the Laidlaw Library where I studied throughout my 5 years at the University. There are also niche independent cafes scattered around the campus which make great places to study and eat, my personal favourites are Rand and Bakery 164.

Leeds as a city is one of the best for student culture, the university campus is a 10-minute walk from the city centre and with 2 nearby universities and several colleges in the city centre, the city is always lively.

What are your ambitions for the future? 

Now that I have completed my MSc I am hoping to work in industry in a sustainability related role or the charity/humanitarian sector where I can utilise the skills from both my undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering and my postgraduate MSc in Sustainability and Consultancy to contribute towards a better future for society.

I have always been passionate about completing charity work at some point in my life and looking at countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Palestine in their current climate, I want to help in any way I can to aid these countries in recovery and helping the people that have been displaced through the refugee crisis.

Once I have worked in industry and gained further skills to develop upon the ones attained throughout my university studies, I would like to establish my own line of charity work or even a community centre to serve and rehabilitate those affected by homelessness, poverty as well as cultural and religious trauma.

What experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

My time at Leeds has not been an easy one. I had to remain resilient throughout my studies and remain confident in myself that I could not only complete my studies, but complete them to the best of my ability. Studying at the University of Leeds has made me a stronger person than I was before and its taught me that I am capable of achieving anything in life if I put my mind to it. I never thought that I would make it this far throughout my studies, let alone completing an MSc throughout a pandemic and I cannot wait to see what happens for me next.

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

The best thing I can say is try to enjoy the MSc as much as you can and remember that help is always at hand if you need it, teaching staff are always available and not only are they friendly, they are also extremely supportive throughout your studies. The teaching school was able to cater to my battles with mental health as well as family and religious commitments throughout the MSc and this enabled me to complete the MSc to the best of my ability.