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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)

Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership

Develop the skills and knowledge to lead change, embed sustainability and make a real impact. 

Applications are closed for 2024 entry, applications open in September 2024 for 2025 entry. Applications for the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business and the Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Business close on 5th March. 

About the Master's

The Master's helps to develop leaders who can respond effectively to the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the world and lead others to achieve positive change.

The Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership is a full Master’s degree, delivered part time for working professionals. It is part of the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership's (CISL) mission to empower individuals and organisations to take leadership to tackle critical global challenges. 

It is fully accredited by the University of Cambridge, and is delivered as an interdisciplinary programme by CISL, drawing on academic expertise from the Departments of Engineering, Geography, Land Economy , Zoology, and the Cambridge Judge Business School, among others. 

Both academic excellence and practical application in a business context are prioritised in the competitive selection process, and in the design and delivery of the programme. Assessment is through short practical assignments as well as an extended research assignment. 

The programme attracts an exceptional calibre of senior and mid-career leaders globally from a wide range of sectors. Applicants may wish to formalise their credentials as sustainability professionals or gain a better understanding of how sustainability risks and opportunities apply to mainstream business functions. We likewise appeal to leaders from the not-for-profit or public sectors who wish to work together with the private sector to address sustainability challenges. 

Read about the impact of our postgraduate programmes from our students. 


Aims and curriculum

Through a combination of interdisciplinary insights, academic analysis, practical business application, peer learning and personal reflection, the Master's aims to develop a community of leaders who have: 

  • a wide awareness and deep understanding of the social, environmental, ethical and economic challenges and opportunities facing the world 

  • the vision and ambition to drive business leadership to achieve real systems change 

  • the knowledge, experience and ability to critically evaluate a range of strategic levers for change 

  • the leadership capacity and confidence at a personal and organisational level to best use these levers to effect transformation 

This course is designed around six interconnected learning outcomes: 

  1. The changing global context, the case for a radical shift from current systems and the role of business 

  1. A sustainable future, and the potential synergies and tensions in achieving it 

  1. Potential levers, leverage points and pathways to achieve change both within and beyond organisations to achieve sustainability 

  1. Personal and collective leadership and effective action as an agent of change 

  1. Sustainability insights, knowledge and research for specific contexts 

  1. Communication and engagement, individually and collaboratively, to advance the sustainability agenda 

The following course modules are delivered via a combination of residential workshop teaching and a programme of online learning.  


Routes to the award

There are two routes that can be taken to achieve the Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership, which are continuous or flexible. Both routes will result in the same qualifications if successfully pursued to the end, achieving the same learning outcomes and provide a similar learning experience and networking opportunities.  

Students on the flexible route will complete the same modules as those on the continuous route, although they may receive content in a different order, depending on the modules they elect to join in stage 2. 

The continuous route is the traditional entry method to the Master’s, requiring a consistent commitment to study time during the 2-year programme. The flexible route offers the option to split studying into shorter, less intense, stages for more flexibility to accommodate work, family and other commitments, and provides qualifications in multiple stages up to the full Master’s degree. 

The graphic and table below summarise the key differences between the two routes. 


  Continuous route Flexible route
Format Continuous, unless an intermission is granted due to exceptional circumstances. Students can elect to take a break between each of the three stages (Certificate, Diploma, MSt) but must complete all three in a maximum of 10 years. Each higher qualification subsumes the previous, i.e. only one qualification is obtained.  
Estimated time commitment An average of one day per week equivalent for the duration of the course (in addition to attendance at residential workshops) 

Stage 1: An average of one day per week.  

Stages 2 & 3: An average of half a day per week  

(these are in addition to attendance at residential workshops) 

Residential workshop attendance requirements

Details of workshop dates can be found in this overview table.

Four 7-day workshops, two in year 1 and two in year 2. 

Stage 1: Two 4-day workshops. 

Stage 2: Three 2.5-day workshops plus half a day of ‘Leadership for Change’.  

Stage 3: Three 2.5-day workshops plus two half days of ‘Leadership for Change’ content. 


Find out more about the course assignments here.

Year 1: Two individual assignments and one group research project.  

Year 2: Research dissertation

Stage 1: Two individual assignments and one group research project 
Stage 2: Two individual assignments 
Stage 3: Research essay

Fee schedule

Details of the fees for 2024 entry can be found in this overview table.

Fees are charged in two equal halves, half before starting year 1 and half before starting year 2. Fees are charged in three parts, before the start of each stage.



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 

Master's course overview

Who should apply?

Admission requirements

Funding opportunities

Learning approach and time commitment


Assignment Supervisors

Dissertation Supervisors

Flexible Route Supervisors

College Membership

Student blogs

Employer benefits and information

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

Programme governance

Frequently asked questions


Email the team

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