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Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership

Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership

Applications for the MSt 2015–17 are now open. The deadline for applications is Monday 6 April 2015. Please contact if you have any queries about your eligibility.

Exploring leadership responses to sustainability challenges and opportunities

The Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership is a leading accredited University of Cambridge postgraduate degree. This programme attracts high-calibre candidates from a wide variety of sectors and countries. Both academic excellence and leadership on sustainability are prioritised in the competitive selection process, and in the design and delivery of the programme.

The interdisciplinary Master's is offered in association with the Departments of Architecture, Engineering, Geography, Land Economy and the Judge Business School.

The programme is delivered on a part-time basis over two years, making it an ideal choice for participants who intend to continue in full-time employment. Likewise, students do not need to be UK- or Cambridge-based.

The Master’s programme develops further the highly successful format used for CISL’s portfolio of programmes, including The Prince of Wales’s Business and Sustainability Programme. In addition, it potentially provides an opportunity for alumni of our Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB) and the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains to further advance their learning.

The Master’s typically attracts candidates who wish to formalise their credentials as sustainability professionals, advisers or consultants. We are also the first choice for mainstream business leaders seeking to gain a better understanding of sustainability risks and opportunities and how to respond to these. We likewise appeal to leaders from the not-for-profit or public sectors who wish to work together with the private sector to address sustainability challenges.

Why Apply?






The Master's Team 






The Master's in Detail







Application & Fees







 Master's Students

Main Components of the Master's

• Four week-long residential workshops in Cambridge, usually in August/September and March/April of each academic year.

• E-learning via a virtual learning environment between the residential workshops.

• Two individual work-based assignments.

• A group project around an area of mutual relevance.

• An individual research dissertation.

The learning approach is highly interactive and designed to encourage reflection and debate. Participants are supported by a team of expert tutors and supervisors. The speakers, lecturers and facilitators are leading experts and practitioners from academia, business government and civil society.

A key feature of the programme is the collaborative learning experience. The programme facilitates shared learning between peers, benchmarking against other organisations, and networking with the extensive range of contributors, together providing a rich learning environment. 

It is estimated that over the course of the Master’s participants will need to set aside 360 hours, apart from the 24 days of residential workshops, to complete the programme successfully. This is an average across the whole programme for a typical student, and variations in individual approaches to scheduling and learning can result in weeks where the workload may be heavier or lighter. Students are provided with all substantive tasks and deadlines at the start of the programme, so they can plan in advance in order to help spread the work evenly across the two years.

Graduation of Cohort 1 Master's Students

2013 Graduation of Master's Students

Aims of the Master's

The overall goal of the programme is to challenge, stretch and stimulate current and future leaders both to achieve academic excellence and to build their capacity to bring about positive change for sustainability. In particular, the programme aims to: 

  • Provide current and future leaders with an essential understanding of the most urgent and critical social, environmental, ethical and economic challenges facing the world, and to equip them to respond more effectively. 

  • Expose participants to a range of best-practice cases of how business, government and civil society are future-proofing themselves and responding to these complex challenges. 

  • Help participants make a compelling business case for sustainability in their sector and/or institutional context, and understand how best to put sustainability policies into practice. 

  • Give our sustainability Master's students insights into the leading-edge interdisciplinary thinking and research on sustainability, including some of the key scientific and technological issues, from leading Cambridge academics and other thought leaders.

  • Provide sustainable business training to participants from the private sector and to serve as a forum for gaining exposure to sustainable business practices for participants from the not-for-profit or public sectors.

  • Develop students' skills to think critically and to undertake relevant, business-focused research.

  • Link participants into the Cambridge Sustainability Network, including over 5,000 CISL alumni, faculty and contributors from around the world, who are leading the way in turning sustainability thinking into practice.

Additional benefits include: gaining full access to the University Library, including borrowing rights and electronic resources; membership of a Cambridge College; and membership of the University Centre, which continues after completion of the course.

Graduate Programmes Employer Support

Designed specifically for those working in full-time employment, with a schedule that can be completed alongside day-to-day business activities, the CISL graduate programmes have been designed to offer content that is directly transferable to business.

Participants are actively encouraged to apply insights from each programme, bringing immediate value to organisations from the very first workshop, in the form of innovative thinking, improved engagement, and practical business impact.

Innovative thinking

  • Attendees engage openly with innovators from business and leading academic thinkers to critique and explore the latest thinking in strategic responses to sustainability challenges.

  • The strong emphasis on peer-based supported learning amongst the high calibre of students provides a unique space for ideas to form and take shape before implementation by the organisation.

  • Cohorts represent a diverse range of industries, geographies and operational functions, reflecting the interconnected global economy. Insight into different economies, regions and sectors provides participants with the ability to help their organisation identify new ways of responding to complex challenges and the potential for new business opportunities.

Improved engagement

  • Access to the latest knowledge from research and industry best practice allows participants to approach their work with confidence.

  • Students are equipped to become effective change agents within their organisational contexts, providing them with a language to engage with customers and investors, as well as strategies to secure internal engagement.

  • As such, the potential for wider engagement and development within the organisation is considerable, maximising the returns from the initial investment in a participant.

Business impact

  • Assignments are specifically designed to provide students with the opportunity to focus on transferable practical solutions, with the purpose of enhancing business value for their organisation, alongside increasing their value to society. 

  • Participants determine the focus of their individual assignments, receiving personalised support from expert industry and academic tutors. Employer involvement in the assignment process ensures that relevant projects are being addressed, enhancing the transfer of expertise into the organisation and effectively receiving bespoke consultancy. 

  • Decision-making is enhanced, as participants’ awareness of critical issues and risks is improved, and innovative thinking applied to ensure future business activity is resilient and responsible.

Building a business case

If you are seeking support from your employer it may be helpful to prepare the following:

  • Undertake a skills gap analysis – think through where you currently fit in your organisation and how the course will enhance the contribution you make.

  • Match your objectives in undertaking the programme to those of your organisation by using the curriculum content listed on our webpages.

  • Demonstrate how attendance at the course and the increased knowledge gained could benefit your organisation. 

  • Share the detailed alumni testimonials as past students illustrate how the programmes have bought value for them and their organisations. 

  • Consider a strategic issue facing the organisation that you could research in more detail for the assignments – this ensures a project of direct relevance to you and results in a valuable piece of internal consultancy work for your organisation.

Recent organisations represented include:

AkzoNobel Johnson Matthey plc
Asian Development Bank Jones Lang LaSalle
BAE Systems Lloyds Banking Group
Birmingham City Council Mars
BNP Paribas NHS National Services Scotland
BP International Panasonic Europe
BSkyB Pret a Manger
BT Group Pick 'n' Pay
Cafédirect Rand Merchant Bank
Commonwealth Bank of Australia Sir Robert McAlpine
Diageo Tesco plc
EDF Energy Unilever
Fairtrade International W.K. Kellogg Foundation
GlaxoSmithKline Zurich International Life
Jaguar Land Rover

2013 Graduation of Wolfson College Members

2013 Graduation of Wolfson College Members

Photograph of Wolfson College. Photo: Dele Oke
Wolfson College


The programme is delivered at a range of venues across Cambridge, ensuring that participants experience the breadth of resources that the University has to offer. This includes lectures at the associated departments and dinners in historic colleges.

College Membership

All students at the University of Cambridge become members of a College, which provides pastoral support within a stimulating academic community. Wolfson College and Robinson College serve as the main hosts for the programme and are where the majority of our students find membership. Wolfson was founded especially for graduate and mature students and is one of only a few Colleges that cater specifically for the needs of part-time students, including offering accommodation and regular formal dining outside the normal University terms (which is when the residential workshops take place). Robinson also has a thriving graduate community and a good support network for graduate students. Robinson is well known for its beautiful gardens, excellent graduate accommodation and is centrally located near to the University Library and to the science departments located on the West Cambridge site.

Due to significant demand for College membership, we recommend that applicants applying to join Cohort 6 commencing in Autumn 2015 consider applying to become a member of Wolfson College. If you choose to apply to another College, please be aware that it might not be successful and we cannot guarantee that you will receive similar levels of support, especially outside the normal University terms. If you do not indicate a preference for a particular College, then your application will be submitted to Wolfson College.

Once a College member, you will remain a member for life, and this typically includes some on-going opportunity to book accommodation and formal dinners, and being invited to College alumni events.

Queen's College Dining Hall. Photo: Philip_wgtn_nz on Flickr


To foster a collegiate atmosphere during the intensive workshops, we block book accommodation, usually at Wolfson or Robinson College. College accommodation is of a reasonable quality and rooms have basic furnishing and en suite bathrooms; however it does not provide full hotel standards of service and convenience. Students are not obliged to take up the offer of accommodation; however staying in College is encouraged, since it offers practical benefits and enhances the experience of Cambridge student life. Accommodation at these colleges is also very reasonably priced, especially for members of the College.

Formal Dinners 

At residential workshops, complimentary/optional formal dinners are held at other Colleges such as Jesus, Emmanuel, St Catharine’s, Queen's, Peterhouse and Trinity Hall.

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Apply Here

Applications for the MSt are made via the Institute of Continuing Education website.

For any queries, contact

Why Apply?


Master's Flyer

Workshop Dates


Workshop 2: 28 Mar–2 Apr 2015
Workshop 3: 2–8 Aug 2015
Workshop 4: 9–15 Apr 2016


Workshop 1: 30 Aug–5 Sep 2015
Workshop 2: 9–15 Apr 2016
Workshop 3: 31 July–6 Aug 2016
Workshop 4: 26 Mar–1 Apr 2017

Contact Us

Fergus Kirkpatrick
Graduate Programmes Manager

T: +44 (0)1223 768816