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FAQs

What graduate courses does CISL offer and how do they compare?

What sustainability training is available for business professionals?     

We offer the following part-time graduate study courses: Postgraduate Certificates in Sustainable Value Chains or Sustainable Business lasting 9 months; a Postgraduate Diploma lasting 1.5 to 3 years; and a Master’s Degree lasting 2 years. Professionals looking for shorter Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses will be interested in the thematic Sustainability Leadership Laboratories which run over 2 days.

CISL also runs a range of executive education programmes. It has an international reputation for helping senior leaders to understand the scale of change required to address key sustainability challenges by giving them insight into innovative new approaches and responses, and inspires them to take action.

Do you have an illustration showing how the graduate/ postgraduate courses compare?

Please see this document for an overview of our programmes and this illustration to see how students can progress through our programmes. 

What’s the difference between the Postgraduate Certificates (PCSB or PCSVC) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PG Dip)?

PCSB and PCSVC are standalone qualifications accredited by the University of Cambridge. Under the UK’s Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) they carry 60 points, i.e. equivalent to 1/3 of a full Master’s degree. They provide essential foundation knowledge for practitioners working in the fields that they cover. PCSB and PCSVC also form the initial component of the PG Dip. This University accredited Diploma carries 120 CATS points, i.e. equivalent to two-thirds of a full Master’s degree. It provides professionals with the opportunity to deepen their knowledge in topical and emergent leadership responses to sustainability in a business context. See this illustration for more information on how the courses differ with regard to contact time, assessment and content.

What are the differences between the Postgraduate Certificates and the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership (MSt)?

The Postgraduate Certificates takes nine months to complete (part-time). During this time students attend 7.5 days at in Cambridge at short workshops and undertake three assignments. These courses are equivalent to approximately one-third of a full Master’s degree and are worth 60 CATS points (see question above). They provide action-oriented introductions to sustainability in a business context for current and future leaders who wish to improve their ability to respond to risks and opportunities.

The Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership takes two years to complete (part-time). It involves 24 days contact time in Cambridge over 2 years, the completion of  three e-modules, three assignments in the first year and a 15,000-word dissertation in the second year. It is targeted at current and future leaders who wish to develop and formalise their credentials as sustainability professionals, advisers, entrepreneurs or consultants, whilst continuing in full-time employment.

This diagram shows how individuals who complete a PG Certificate can progress to the Master’s programme. This document contains a comparison between the courses.

What’s the difference between the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PG Dip) and the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership (MSt)?

Whilst both programmes are designed to develop leaders who have deep understanding of the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the world, they differ in approach, content and depth of learning.  The MSt has a stronger research component, although still tailored to practical application in a business context, and due to its longer duration can cover more themes and leadership responses in greater detail than the PG Dip. The PG Dip has been designed as an alternative pathway to the MSt for business professionals who want a blend of academic insight and practical application, but with shorter assignments and greater flexibility with regard to time commitment and the content covered.

See this illustration for more information on how the courses differ with regard to contact time, assessment and content. 

What’s the difference between the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB) and the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains (PCSVC)?

PCSB and PCSVC are similar in format and require approximately the same length of time to complete. Both programmes are designed for current and future leaders who wish to improve their ability to respond to sustainability challenges and opportunities whilst continuing in full-time employment. PCSB provides a broad, action-oriented introduction to sustainability in a business context, with emphasis on how to embed sustainability from strategy through to operations. PCSVC has a similar intent, but is focused specifically on the value chain; hence the ‘lens’ is lifecycles, with emphasis on integration across functions within the organisation and on building positive relations with external stakeholders.  

See this document for information on how the courses compare and differ.

How are the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories different to the Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip) and the MSt in Sustainability Leadership?

The Sustainability Leadership Labs are two-day events, held biannually, which focus on some of the most pressing issues and cutting edge opportunities relating to sustainable business. CISL alumni and current students of our graduate programmes are eligible to attend as are senior sustainability practitioners.

PCSB, PCSVC, the PG Dip and the MSt in Sustainability Leadership are accredited University of Cambridge awards that carry academic credit. The Labs provide the compulsory residential contact time for students enrolled on the PG Dip. For individuals not registered on the PG Dip, the Labs do not carry any academic credit. Lab participants receive a Certificate of Attendance. This is not a University of Cambridge award, whereas students who complete our graduate programmes receive a University of Cambridge qualification and transcript. 

How do these courses compare with other types of training and courses?

What is a Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership? Is it different to an MSc in Sustainability?

An MSt is a part-time degree awarded at the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford. Cambridge does not have an MSc award. Students who undertake a full-time Master's-level programme are awarded an MPhil (Master of Philosophy). At Cambridge and Oxford, all students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree can upgrade to a Master of Arts (MA) title six years after their first term of study without undertaking any extra work. Therefore a Cambridge MA is an honorary qualification. For students who attend the University of Cambridge and undertake Master's-level study there are two options – the Master of Philosophy, which is awarded for full-time Master's-level study, and the Master of Studies which is awarded for part-time Master's-level study. They both have the same gravitas and are recognised as the same level of degree.

What is 'sustainable business training' or 'sustainability leadership'? Is it the same as corporate social responsibility (CSR) training?

CISL’s programmes focus on the business and organisational implications of sustainability, i.e. the risks and opportunities that sustainability challenges pose for business strategies and operations, the nature and scale of response required, and the leadership required to drive the changes that business and society need. Our accredited programmes on sustainability business and sustainability leadership aim to equip current and future leaders with the insight and skills needed to respond to sustainability challenges and opportunities, through exploring the full spectrum of 'core business' activities in relation to significant ecological, social, and economic issues, and the interactions between the various issues at a systems level.

When corporate social responsibility is defined broadly, then our programmes may be essentially a specific form of ‘CSR training’. When CSR is defined narrowly to refer just to philanthropy by companies, for example, then ‘CSR training’ is only a sub-set of the focus of our programmes.

Is this 'vocational training' in sustainable business or an academic sustainability qualification from the University of Cambridge?

The programmes are both accredited University of Cambridge postgraduate-level qualifications. Students on the programmes are given insight into the cutting-edge research taking place within the University and benefit from hearing lectures and being supervised by leading Cambridge academics. In addition to this the programmes have been designed to offer content that is directly transferable to business. Students engage openly with innovators from business to critique and explore best practice. Our aim is that both programmes provide a rigorous academic grounding for the development of practical business insights. Students are encouraged to take their insights from the programmes and create positive change within their organisations.

In what way are CISL accredited courses different from sustainable business conferences or short courses?

Our programmes draw on 20 years of experience in designing and delivering programmes that help current and future business leaders understand and respond to significant challenges facing their organisations and the world today.

Students are given the opportunity to engage directly with leading academics, business leaders, NGOs and government. We use a collaborative learning model, which emphasises the importance of dialogue and discussion in small groups, facilitated by expert tutors. Though our workshops are challenging, students are given time to reflect and follow their own career and personal development interests. Students completing the programmes receive a recognised qualification from the world-leading University of Cambridge, and develop assignments that are directly applicable to their roles in the workplace.

On completion students join over 6,500 CISL alumni, and are invited to join our alumni network.

Students on the Master's Programme also become Alumni of the University of Cambridge, which has a range of benefits. 

Are these courses suitable for me and what are the benefits?

What are the benefits of these courses for my organisation and how can I get employer support?

Our courses are designed for those working in full-time employment, with a schedule that can be completed alongside day-to-day business activities. They offer content that is relevant and directly transferable to business. This document provides detailed information on how the courses provide competitor advantage to the companies represented and how applicants can approach their organisations for support.

Where can I find recommendations/testimonials from previous participants?

Watch videos and read testimonials from our current Master's students.

I don’t work in the private sector. Are these programmes suitable for me?

The short answer is yes, if you are looking to work with the private sector. Our courses are designed for senior and mid-career professionals and managers who want to enhance their ability to respond to sustainability challenges and are looking to increase their own professional and personal development in the field. Applicants from the public sector and NGOs should be aware that the content of the programmes is predominantly focused towards business, though in the context of working with other actors as part of wider systems. Applicants from these sectors who want to deepen their understanding of how the private sector is tackling sustainability challenges, in order to enhance their ability to work with business, will benefit from attending the programme.

I am a consultant. Are these programmes suitable for me?

A small number of consultants are accepted on to the programmes each year.  We restrict the number to ensure that the cohort has an ample mix of individuals based in mainstream roles within organisations. This is because peer learning is a vital element of the programme. The assignments have been designed to be business relevant and students focus them on their own organisation. At the application stage we ask that consultants provide us with evidence that they have permission from an organisation to base their assignments on it and that they will have the necessary access to organisational data to be able to complete the assignment requirements.  

How do the courses link and what progression routes are available?

Is it possible to proceed incrementally through the programmes?

Individuals can build up credit by attending a Postgraduate Certificate and then moving on to either the PG Dip or the Master’s. This illustration shows how students can progress through our programmes.

Is it possible to complete the Master of Studies without completing a Postgraduate Certificate first?

Yes students can apply directly for the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership. This illustration shows the various ways in which individuals can access and complete our programmes.

I want to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PG Dip). Do I need to apply to attend one of the Certificates first?

Individuals wanting to complete the PG Dip can apply for it at the outset. As part of the PG Dip application process you will be asked to select which one of the PG Certs (PCSB or PCSVC) you want to attend as the first component of the PG Dip. Successful applicants are then offered a place on the next available course. This diagram shows how students can progress through our programmes.

How does the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PG Dip) link to the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories (Labs)?

After completion of either PCSB or PCSVC, the Labs serve as the main residential contact time for students enrolled on the PG Dip. To gain the PG Dip students must complete three Labs. How the programme’s link is illustrated in this document.

I am a Postgraduate Certificate student and would like to join the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PG Dip). Is this possible?

Students can apply to upgrade their qualification to the PG Dip. You are not guaranteed a place on the PG Dip and your application will be reviewed following CISL’s standard procedures with places awarded on a competitive basis. The PG Cert that you were awarded will be forfeited once the PG Dip is awarded, since it is integral to the higher qualification.

I’m not sure if I can commit to the PG Dip yet. What should I do?

You can start by applying to one of the PG Certificates and then apply to continue to the higher qualification at a future date. However, please note that it is slightly more expensive to follow this route than applying for the PG Dip outright. However this route won’t take longer to complete. See this diagram for information on the incremental journey available. 

I’m not sure if I can commit to the Master’s yet. What should I do?

You can start by applying to one of the PG Certificates and then apply to continue to the higher qualification at a future date. However, please note that it is slightly more expensive to follow this route than applying for the Master’s outright and will take longer to complete. See this diagram for information on the incremental journey available. 

I am a student on one of the Postgraduate Certificates and have enrolled for the PG Dip.  When can I start to attend the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories (Labs) and start the PG Dip assignments?

We ask that students complete the first workshop of the Postgraduate Certificate before attending any Labs. This is to ensure that they have a good understanding of key sustainability pressures and trends and can therefore contribute to the Lab content as much as the other attendees.

Given that a PG Cert on its own can be challenging to complete alongside a professional career, it may be prudent to complete all its assignments before starting those for the PG Dip. However, some participants may be able to find enough time to undertake them concurrently. 

What is the format of the courses and what support is provided?

Can the sustainable business courses be taken full-time, or do I need to be in employment?

All our courses are designed for students in full-time employment. They are not offered on a full-time basis. These courses are business relevant and practical. Students generally base the assignments on their own organisation and/or business context.

How long are the sustainability courses?

The Postgraduate Certificates run for nine months, part-time. During this time students attend two or three workshops in Cambridge totaling 7.5 days.

The Postgraduate Diploma allows students flexibility, and can be completed part-time over a minimum of 1.5 years minimum to 3 years maximum. During this time, students attend 15 days in Cambridge at short workshops and Labs.  

The Master’s runs part-time for two years. During this time, students attend four, week-long workshops in Cambridge (two in the first year of the programme and two in the second year of the programme).The total residential time is 24 days.

The Sustainability Leadership Laboratories run over two intensive days. 

Can I take the sustainability programmes from outside the UK?

Applications are welcomed from individuals based throughout the world. The part-time nature of the programmes means that they are suitable for non-UK-based applicants, and one of the main benefits of our educational programmes is the internationally diverse and high calibre nature of our attendees. Attendance at the residential workshops is a compulsory element of the programmes.

Where do the residential workshops take place?

Workshops are held in Cambridge, UK.

What will I do for accommodation during the residential workshops?

Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership: In order to foster a collegiate atmosphere during the intensive workshops, we block-book accommodation, usually at Wolfson College 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. While students are not obliged to take up the offer of accommodation, staying in College is encouraged, since it offers practical benefits and enhances the experience of Cambridge student life. Accommodation at Robinson College or Wolfson College is also very reasonably priced, especially for College members. The cost of accommodation and meals is not included in the University Fee.

Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business & Postgraduate Certificates (PCSB and PCSVC): Accommodation and meals are included in the Programme Fee and are provided at a University of Cambridge College or Madingley Hall. Participants are expected to be in residence during the short workshops. It is not possible to provide additional accommodation for family or guests.

Will I have access to University of Cambridge resources?

Students on our accredited programmes have access to the University of Cambridge Electronic Resources (e.g. Journals and e-Books).

Will I receive a University of Cambridge qualification?

 All students on our graduate programmes will receive a University of Cambridge certificate and transcript. PG Certificate and PG Diploma students will be invited to attend an awards ceremony at one of the Cambridge Colleges. Master's students are fully matriculated students of the University of Cambridge and are eligible to attend a graduation ceremony at the Senate House.

Will I become a member of a Cambridge College?

Master’s students are fully matriculated students of the University of Cambridge meaning that they join a College. The PG Certificates and PG Diploma are non-matriculated courses and so students do not join a College.

For the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership, which Cambridge College should I choose for membership?

For Cohort 8 (2017–2019), Robinson College will serve as main host for the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership and will be where the majority of our students find membership. Robinson has a good support network for graduate students. Once a student of Robinson College, you will remain a member of the College for life, and this will include the opportunity to book accommodation and meals as part of alumni activities, and being invited to College alumni events.  

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 support, especially outside the normal University terms. 

When are the courses delivered and how much do they cost?

When are the next programmes?

Dates for the next programmes can be found at the webpages for the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business, the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains, the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business, the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership and the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories.

How much do the sustainability courses cost?

The Master of Studies costs £23,142 (£11,571 per year) for Home students and £23,466 (£11,733 per year) for Overseas students. Approximately 25% of this covers membership of a Cambridge College. It excludes accommodation and meals; however, reasonably priced College accommodation is offered. PCSB (since 2008) and PCSVC alumni pay a reduced fee for the Master's.

The Postgraduate Diploma costs £13,515, including accommodation and meals during residential sessions. (This fee includes one of the Postgraduate Certificate, which needs to be completed as part if the PG Dip.) PG Cert alumni who later progress to the Diploma pay £7,395.

The Postgraduate Certificates cost £7,395, including accommodation and meals during the workshops.

For information on the Sustainability Leadership Laboratories fee please follow this link.

All courses are VAT-exempt.

What does the University Fee for the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership cover?

The University Fee covers the cost of delivering the course, including all teaching, materials, workshops, and assessment (approx. 75% of the fee). It also covers the cost of becoming a member of a Cambridge College, which provides pastoral support within a stimulating academic community (approx. 25% of the fee). Robinson College or Wolfson College serve as the main host for the MSt programme and is where the majority of our students find membership.

This fee does not cover accommodation and basic subsistence costs during the residential workshops. However, students are offered the option of reasonably priced accommodation, usually at Robinson College or Wolfson College.

Participants on the Postgraduate Certificates and the Postgraduate Diploma do not become College members and, hence, are only charged a Programme Fee. 

How do apply and where can I find out more?

How do I apply?

Applications are made via the CISL website for the PG Dip, PCSB and PCSVC. Applications for the Master's are made via the Institute of Continuing Education website.

How do I find out more?

If you cannot find the information you need via our website, then please contact us:

For the Master's: masters@cisl.cam.ac.uk

For the PG Dip: diploma@cisl.cam.ac.uk

For PCSB: pcsb@cisl.cam.ac.uk

For PCSVC: pcsvc@cisl.cam.ac.uk

For Labs: labs@cisl.cam.ac.uk