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Course assignments and dissertation

The development of both written and verbal presentation skills is an essential element of the course, critical to professional success, and one which is widely appreciated by our alumni. Whatever each student's level of ability to start with, the unique learning style of the course will support each student's individual development and growth.

Postgraduate certificate and Master’s students undertake two assessed individual assignments and a group project. For Master’s students, in the second academic year, a research dissertation must be completed.

Students work in small multidisciplinary groups during the residential workshops (workshop 2 for Postgraduate certificate students and workshops 2-6 for Master’s students). Together the groups will need to think, discuss, draw, write and persuade in order to come to a unified solution to the set problem. At the end of the week all teams present their solutions to their fellow students, and a review panel of studio leaders and stakeholders.  


Individual assignments

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

Reflective case study

This 4,000-word essay reflects on the detail of a project students have personally been involved in. Students are asked to consider an element of interdisciplinary design within the project that went particularly well, or particularly poorly; why this may have happened, and what lessons can be learnt from the experience. This is considered against relevant conceptual frameworks and theories, supported by current thinking in the field and practical examples.

Literature review essay

This 3,000-word essay is designed to support students developing research and writing skills, focusing on conducting a literature review using academic references.


Group project

In parallel with the individual assignments, students will work in small groups of 5–6 to develop an original piece of thinking on a 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. Students must be willing to work collaboratively, share ideas generously and contribute to the fullest extent.



For Master's students 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 (eg action research). The research can address a topic of relevance to a specific organisation, or focus more generally on a challenge or location.

Students are encouraged to choose research topics that are: practically focused; cross traditional disciplinary boundaries; and/or address a key social, economic, or environmental challenge in the built environment.

Potential areas for research include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Sustainability
  • Resilience
  • Leadership
  • Innovation and/or technology
  • Professionalism
  • Interdisciplinary Practice
  • Design thinking
  • Heritage, and/or conservation
  • Policy, regulation and/or legislation
  • Retrofit
  • Urbanism and urban design
  • Low carbon design
  • Infrastructure
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Commercial buildings
  • Human health and/or social well-being
  • Finance

Read about recent supervisors and student dissertation topics.


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.


Blog: A day in the life of an IDBE student:

Hear from students as they share their experience of the programme and detail what an average day looks like on one of the residential workshops in Cambridge, UK. Read here.


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Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager