skip to primary navigationskip to content

Course assignments and dissertation

During the first academic year of the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership, participants undertake two 3,000 word individual assignments and a group project of 5,000–7000 words. In the second academic year a research dissertation of up to 15,000 words must be completed.

All the assignments are designed to offer real business value, critically examining sustainability challenges relevant to the students’ organisational and sector context, and applying learning to real-time business challenges and opportunities.

Individual assignments

Participants complete two individual assignments of relevance to their professional settings, namely:

Analysis paper

This consists of a detailed, critical analysis of a sustainability challenge of relevance to their organisation. The analysis makes use of relevant conceptual frameworks and theories, supported by current thinking in the field and practical examples.

Strategic action plan

Participants formulate recommendations to their organisation regarding how to respond to a sustainability challenge or opportunity. This usually builds on the Analysis Paper findings.

Group project

In parallel with the individual assignments, participants work in small groups of 6–8 to develop an original piece of thinking on a sustainability topic of mutual interest. It can take the form of a research paper, or a proposed model/tool with recommendations for its use. With the help of an expert Tutor, each group decides how to approach the project and then develops the ideas and content so that it draws on the collective experience of the group members. Participants must be willing to work collaboratively, share ideas generously and contribute to the fullest extent.

Download examples of group project topic areas.


Research towards a dissertation is undertaken with support and guidance from an academic supervisor. The research must follow a recognised qualitative and/or quantitative methodology, but can also take the form of applied research (e.g. action research). The research can address a topic of relevance to a specific organisation, or focus more generally on a sector, challenge or location. Participants are encouraged to choose research topics that are practically focused and of relevance in addressing pressing key sustainability challenges. The dissertations are expected to be at the same level as would be required on a full-time Master's programme.

Read more about the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership's research, including Master's sustainability leadership research projects.

Previous dissertations


Chris Urwin (MSt Cohort 3) presents the findings of his Master’s research into climate change adaptation and community resilience at the 150th Year DNV GL Anniversary event in London in July 2014.

Read about the research undertaken by one of our Cohort 1 students, published on the University of Cambridge Research website.

Additional publication and initiatives arising from the dissertation research are listed in the MSt Student & Alumni News & Achievements page.

Read other examples of previous dissertation topics.