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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

The Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment programmes are supported by the Departments of Engineering and Architecture, and many of the academic staff from both departments are involved in teaching and supervising. University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)'s core team manages the course delivery and has most contact with the students.

Learning approach

Our applied, practitioner-oriented postgraduate programmes are designed to support personal and professional development. The following are key features that underpin CISL’s distinctive approach to learning:

Flexible: Programmes are designed for professionals working full time; hence the intensive workshops are blended with remote working on assignments and other course-related activities.

Thought leadership: The speakers, lecturers and facilitators are leading experts and practitioners from academia, business, government and civil society.

Practical relevance: Business case studies and hearing from leading industry figures are an integral part of the taught content, and assignments are focused on real contexts; thereby developing skills needed to translate cutting-edge insights into practice.

Topical: The content includes developing a robust ‘business case’ for sustainability, a focus on sustainability leadership aims and responses, and covering both established and emergent experiences.

Interactive: The learning approach is highly interactive, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and designed to encourage reflection and debate.

Diversity of perspectives: Students come from a wide range of functions, disciplines, and geographies; hence provide a wide spectrum of insights and opportunities to benchmark against how other organisations are responding to sustainability.

Peer-learning: Shared learning and networking between peers, and the extensive range of contributors, together provide a rich co-learning environment.

Support and mentorship: A dedicated CISL team and expert supervisors support the learning journey, including providing feedback on assignments that are focused on real-world challenges and opportunities.

Personal application:  Students are encouraged to identify personal opportunities for leadership and engage in reflective practice throughout the programme, supported by peers and supervisors.

Time commitment

In addition to attending the residential workshops, it is estimated that to complete the programme successfully students will need to spend the equivalent of 1 day per week (8 hours) on directed learning, independent study, reading, accessing one-to-one support, and completing work for assessment. In addition, students admitted to the programme are also expected to be in a position to undertake personal reflection, apply the learning in practice and/or gain relevant practical experience related to the themes of the programme for at least 1 day per week. This is an average across the two years of the programme for a typical student, and variations in individual approaches to scheduling and learning can result in weeks where the workload may be heavier or lighter.  Students are provided with all substantive tasks and deadlines at the start of the programme, so they can plan in advance in order to help spread the work evenly across the duration of the course.

Core modules

Our Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment programmes offer flexible, part-time learning and are available as a ten-month Postgraduate Certificate or two-year Master’s (MSt). Courses are delivered through a blend of online e-learning, and interactive workshops in Cambridge.  At workshop 1, the core modules are introduced, and each subsequent workshops explores the core modules through various built environment lenses: living environments; working environments; historic environments; moving environments; and, future urban environments.

Module 1: Leadership, professionalism and interdisciplinary practice

Develop the skills and competencies required to help lead and achieve effective collaboration within interdisciplinary teams.

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Module 2: Sustainability and resilience

Examine the principles and practices of sustainable development and understand the environmental, social and economic impacts.


Module 3: Innovation and technology

Explore how new ideas, tools, devices and methods can help improve performance and make built environments that are more responsive to user needs.


Module 4: Design thinking

Understand the many definitions and uses of design and how to integrate skills from different disciplines to improve project outcomes.


Module 5: Research skills

Learn rigorous academic approaches and skills including methodology, research design and qualitative and quantitative methods to help transform professional experience and knowledge into impact and action.


Meet the Directors webinars

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


More information

Sustainable Built Environment Courses Overview

Who should apply? 

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