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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

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

The following summary tables provide an overview of each programme, and who might benefit from attending: Master's-level sustainable business qualifications, Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment qualifications. Factors to consider when choosing a programme or study route may include your career ambitions, existing qualifications and experience, 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 as University of Cambridge postgraduate qualifications. Our aim is that they provide a rigorous academic grounding for the development of practical business insights. Students on the programmes are exposed to the cutting-edge research taking place within the University. In addition, the programmes have been designed to develop knowledge and skills that is transferable to business practice, 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 programmes 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 programme?

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

Further detail on each programme 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 programmes 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 a limited amount of attendance at workshops in Cambridge. Information about these can be found on the overview tables: Master's-level sustainable business qualifications, Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment qualifications

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

Our programmes offer content that is relevant and directly transferable to business. This Employer benefits page provides details on how the programmes provide value to employers 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 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 main options – the Master of Philosophy (MPhil), which is awarded for successful full-time study, and the MSt, which is awarded for part-time study. They both have the same gravitas and are recognised as the same level of degree. 

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What is training for 'sustainable business' or 'sustainability leadership'? Is it the same as corporate social responsibility (CSR) or Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) training?

CISL’s programmes focus on the business and organisational implications of sustainability. Our postgraduate programmes 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 the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Our programmes encompass but are typically far more comprehensive and/or ambitious, than ‘CSR training’ or ‘ESG training’.  

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  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 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 programmes different from sustainable business conferences or short courses?

Our programmes draw on over 25 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.  

Business conferences and short courses are typically limited in the manner in which they engage participants fully and are unlikely to include formal mechanisms for confirming the knowledge and skills gained. Our 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.  Students who completely the assessed work successfully receive a recognised qualification from the world leading University of Cambridge

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 the role of 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 number of consultants are accepted on to the programmes each year. The key requirement is the ability to apply the learning to an organisation, which needed not be their employer, and to have positive impact.  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 programmes be taken full-time, or do I need to be in employment?

All our programmes are part-time and designed for students in full-time employment. Students generally base the assignments on their own organisation and/or business context.  Some students may be able to arrange some study leave or reduced working hours, but this is not the expectation. Overseas students also do not qualify for visas for full-time study.

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 in Cambridge 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 can apply to continue their learning with CISL and progress on to the PG Diploma in Sustainable Business or the MSt in Sustainability Leadership. Students looking to complete the master's via the flexible route are expected to complete all three stages within 10 years of starting the PG Cert. Alumni already outside of this time frame should contact the CISL team to discuss their eligibility for continuing their studies. 

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

Who is responsible for governance of CISL's postgraduate programmes?

Please see our separate webpages for information on the various bodies contributing to the governance of our sustainability leadership and built environment programme: