skip to content

Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Engineering for Sustainable Development is no longer accepting new applications.

The Engineering for Sustainable Development MPhil course is designed for graduates who want to help tackle pressing global problems by developing practical engineering solutions. The course is about recognising that engineers have to operate within an increasingly complex set of constraints, and therefore must be capable of dealing with a range of challenges. The subject is based on some very straightforward principles: it is about living within Earth’s finite limits and resources, helping everyone on the planet to achieve an acceptable quality of life; acting as stewards of the environment for future generations; dealing with complexity, and handling the many trade-offs which have to be made.

The programme aims to:

  • produce engineers who are equipped to lead change with the understanding and skills necessary to conceive and deliver fitting solutions to society’s needs and to address global challenges within a sustainability framework;
  • explore value frameworks for engineers which are based on the concepts behind sustainable development and which can guide the design and management of engineering artefacts and schemes, so that their impacts are addressed at every stage of planning, implementation and disposal;
  • develop strong business awareness in engineering graduates and foster an understanding of the introduction of change within organisations;
  • encourage a multidisciplinary approach to problem formulation so that through a dialogue with other subject specialists suitable solutions can be developed and wider constraints on engineering activity can be understood, including awareness of natural, business and social environments;
  • encourage an appreciation of the trade-offs and conflicts inherent in decision-making the need to seek wider and alternative solutions to engineering problems so that graduates of the course can engage in strategic thinking during their future employment within the industry, business or government; and
  • move beyond a reductionist approach to problem-solving by recognising a complex systems view of problem formulations.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of the MPhil programme will be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to meet the challenges of engineering work in a sustainable development context. 

By the end of the programme, they will have knowledge and understanding of the following:

  • fundamental concepts of environmental impact, social responsibility and economic accountability;
  • sustainable development frameworks and wider issues relating to sustainable development and how these can be influenced by engineers;
  • a range of metrics, evaluation methodologies and procedures for evaluating the merits and demerits of options, and their limitations – enabling students to account for environmental, economic, financial, political and technical factors;
  • current and potential engineering responses for moving to sustainable development, recognising both the technical and non-technical barriers to change, and of both good and bad sustainability practice in a range of engineering sectors;
  • exemplified theories about organisational change, including tools for analysis and development of change strategies – equipping students to act as change-agents and to manage change effectively within organisations.

Graduate will have developed skills in the following areas:

  • working with complex or ill-defined problems both systematically and creatively;
  • decision-making in the absence of complete information or evidence;
  • accommodating environmental limits through resource efficiency, pollution control and maintaining ecosystem services;
  • dealing with whole life costs by considering project externalities and life-cycle management;
  • harmonious teamworking, two-way communication, enabling students to build multi-disciplinary teams, and to engage in dialogue, consultation and negotiation in order to meet the needs of both society and stakeholder groups;
  • dealing with trade-offs and creating solutions acceptable to all by avoiding optimisation around a single variable;
  • planning, executing and critically evaluating original investigative work through production of a research dissertation.


The MPhil is a professional practice programme and is not specifically designed to lead on to doctoral research. Nevertheless, students wishing to apply for a PhD in Engineering at Cambridge would normally be expected to attain an overall mark of at least 70 percent.

Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

Key Information

11 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Department of Engineering

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
May 16, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

Similar Courses