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The Master of Studies (MSt) in Sustainability Leadership is a full Master’s degree, delivered part-time for working professionals, that develops the leadership capacity to drive the business response to critical sustainability challenges and opportunities. It is fully accredited by the University of Cambridge, and is delivered as an interdisciplinary programme by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), in association with the Departments of Architecture, Engineering, Geography, Land Economy and the Cambridge Judge Business School.


Academic excellence and practical application in a business context are prioritised both in the competitive selection process, and in the design and delivery of the programme. Assessment is through short practical assignments and an extended research dissertation.

The programme typically attracts an exceptional calibre of senior and mid-career leaders from all across the world, and a range of business 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.

Aims of the programme

The Master’s in Sustainability Leadership is part of CISL’s mission to empower individuals and organisations to take leadership to tackle critical global challenges.

More specifically, through a combination of interdisciplinary insights, academic analysis, practical business application, peer-learning and personal reflection, it 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; and
  • the leadership capacity and confidence at a personal and organisational level to best use these levers to effect transformation.


As an applied, practitioner-oriented Master's, the programme is designed to support personal and professional development. 

The programme comprises a blended approach to learning, with four week-long residential workshops in Cambridge (broadly every six months) and remote learning coordinated through a virtual learning environment. In addition to attending the workshops, it is estimated that participants need to undertake at least three to four hours of work every week to complete the programme successfully.

  • Supervision
  • Seminars and classes
  • Lectures
  • Small group teaching
  • Literature reviews
  • Posters and presentations
  • Oral dissertation presentation in the second year.


Students are given formal feedback on their assignments and informal feedback throughout their course, including during supervisions. First-year tutors give an annual progress report at the end of Year 1 and dissertation supervisors provide termly reports during Year 2.


Essays, projects and written papers

In Year 1 of the programme, there are three written assignments:

  • A 3,000-word Analysis Paper which takes the form of a detailed, critical analysis of a sustainability challenge or opportunity for a specific organisation, culminating in clear strategic recommendations
  • A 3,000-word Strategic Action Plan, building on the Analysis Paper, developing a practical implementation plan for taking forward one or more of the recommendations, supported by a sound rationale and existing literature and cases.
  • A 7,000-word Group Project (undertaken with five to seven other students) on an issue relevant to sustainability, business and leadership, producing an original piece of research that draws upon the group’s collective interest and experience.


In Year 2 of the programme students undertake:

  • a thesis of not more than 15,000 words, including footnotes and appendices, but excluding bibliography, on a subject approved by the Degree Committee. The assessment of the thesis will include an oral presentation of the project work on which the thesis is based.

Examples of previous dissertation topics, articles produced based on dissertation research undertaken during the master's programme, and example group project topics are available on the CISL website.


Small grants for research and travel costs may be available from CISL's Graduate Programmes Bursary Fund and the Mentis Cleantech Futures Bursary. Please see the CISL website for more information.

How to apply

Applications will be accepted online from 3 September 2018 until 28 February 2019.

Read the MSt Application Guide to find out more about the application process and what you need to do and

Visit the MSt in Sustainability Leadership page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!




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Recipient: University of Cambridge

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