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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

How do I choose which course is most suitable for me?

These summary tables, Master's-level sustainable business qualificationsSustainability Leadership for the Built Environment qualifications provide an overview of each programme, and who might benefit from attending. Factors to consider when choosing a course or study route might be your ultimate goal and what you hope to achieve by taking an accredited qualification, your existing qualifications and experience, your time available to commit to studying and access to funding or financial support.

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

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

How do the different courses relate to each other?

This diagram shows the different ways in which the programmes interrelate, and how you might progress from one to another.

Where can I find details about the location, cost and duration of each course?

These summary tables, Master's-level sustainable business qualificationsSustainability Leadership for the Built Environment qualifications provide an overview of the duration and cost of each cross-sectoral course. All of the residential teaching workshops are held in Cambridge, UK, supported by distance learning through a virtual e-learning environment.

Further detail on each course can be found on the pages for:

Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership

Master of Studies and Postgraduate Certificate in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment

Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business (PGDip)

Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (PCSB)

Can I study CISL’s postgraduate courses entirely online?

No. The programmes are designed for professionals in full time employment so the majority of study can be done remotely at the student’s own pace, but all our programmes require attendance at workshops in Cambridge. Information about these can be found on the course overview tables: Master's-level sustainable business qualificationsSustainability Leadership for the Built Environment qualifications.

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 Employer benefits page provides details on how the courses provide competitor advantage to the companies represented and how applicants can approach their organisations for support.

What is a Master of Studies? Is it different to an MA, MPhil or MSc?

A Master’s of Studies (MSt) is a part-time degree awarded at the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford. Cambridge does not have an MSc award, and at Cambridge and Oxford, a Master of Arts (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.

Read more.

What is training for 'sustainable business' 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. 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.

How does sustainable business relate to concepts like the circular economy?

Instead of an economy driven by a linear model of ‘take, make and dispose’, the circular economy model is premised on designing out waste, allowing materials to safely re-enter the biosphere or continue to circulate as high-quality production resources. Our postgraduate programmes encompass many aspects of circular economy thinking, alongside other important dimensions such as how environmental protection intersects with human development, issues of social justice, and the leadership required to drive change.

The circular economy is an integral part of the two-year (part-time) Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership where it features in modules on sustainable production and consumption, sustainable value, business model innovation and strategy. It is also a core part of our ten-month (part-time) Postgraduate Certificates in Sustainable Business as part of the teaching on business model innovation, drawing on research from the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), in particular. 

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

Our programmes draw on over 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 are invited to join our alumni network.

Students undertaking a Master of Studies course also become alumni of their Cambridge College, which has a range of benefits. 

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. 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. 

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.

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. Participation in the workshops is a compulsory element of the programmes.

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?

Yes. All students on our postgraduate 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.

Do you still run the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains?

CISL has decided to synthesise our Postgraduate Certificates. The Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business is now offered with two separate streams– organisational and value chains. The value chains stream corresponds to the programme previously offered as PCSVC. At interview stage, the Course Directors can discuss with applicants which of the two streams is most appropriate for them. This will be determined by their business function, role and sector.

Can Alumni of the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains still progress to the PG Diploma in Sustainable Business or MSt in Sustainability Leadership?

Alumni of the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Value Chains and the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business (since 2008) can apply to continue their learning with CISL and progress on to the PG Diploma in Sustainable Business or the MSt in Sustainability Leadership.

How can I donate to the CISL Graduate Bursary Fund?

Thanks to the generosity of our alumni and teaching colleagues CISL has been able to offer the Sustainability Leadership Access Bursary, to support sustainability leaders of the future otherwise unable to fund their studies. Anyone wishing to donate to the fund can do so via this page.

Strengthen your leadership skills, embed sustainability in your organisation, and further your career.

Study a part-time postgraduate course via a combination of workshops and e-modules.


Meet the Directors

Join a webinar session hosted by the Directors of our part-time postgraduate courses as they give you an overview of our programmes and admissions process for 2023 applications and can answer your questions.


Alumni testimonials and impact stories

Hear from our postgraduate students leading transformational change


Postgraduate study with CISL

Programme overview - Sustainable Business

Programme overview - Built Environment

Why Cambridge?


Postgraduate research

Student and alumni achievements

Employer benefits and support

Tutor Q&A: The value of a sustainability education

Tutor Q&A: The value of a sustainability education for built environment professionals

Progression routes

What's the difference between an MSc and an MSt?


Student evaluation


90 per cent feel our courses enabled them to progress in their career. Learn more about impact.


Recent organisations represented

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