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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Engineering for Sustainable Development is no longer accepting new applications.


The course is divided into three components, which students must pass independently: 

The first of these is a core programme of lectures which all students take, and this focuses on developing a breadth of skills and understanding which complement the technical background of participants.

The second component comprises four elective modules from a list of around 20 topics offered by the Centre for Sustainable Development, the Engineering Department and other departments within the University. The exact number of elective modules offered, and the topics covered by the electives, will vary from year to year. Additionally, this component includes a requirement to take a module on stakeholder engagement, and to undertake a team-based client consultancy project. 

The final component is undertaken between April and August when students complete an individual piece of research for their Master’s dissertation.

Students also participate in weekly seminar discussions, practitioner viewpoint talks, role plays, simulation games, residential field courses and site visits (where possible), and other active learning opportunities.

One to one supervision

Students will receive approximately 12 hours of dissertation supervision in the year.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

Non-assessed discussion seminars and other support activities are provided. This includes a 32-hour seminar programme, 16-hour 'Practitioner Viewpoint Series', and occasional support seminars on topics such as research methods and library use (approximately 6 hours).


Approximately 160 hours per year.


The programme usually runs two field trips or challenge-based activities at the beginning of Michaelmas Term and the end of Lent Term, but these are subject to review as dictated by external factors. If the Michaelmas Term trip (typically held at the end of the induction week) does go ahead, students will be expected to prioritise this trip over any College-related activities.

Literature Reviews

Literature reviews comprise part of the dissertation and are also required for some coursework assessments.

Posters and Presentations

A proportion of the available dissertation marks are tied to the production of a poster.

Other core and elective modules may also include an oral assessment or a poster display component. 


The MPhil programme does not seek formal periods of placement with companies or external organisations, but in some cases client consultancy projects and research for dissertations may take place in collaboration with industry, NGOs, charities, or other relevant bodies. 


Students can expect to receive termly reports from their course director, via an online system, and will be able to submit an online self evaluation report towards the end of the first term. Students will receive comments on items of coursework and will have access to a University supervisor for their dissertation. All students will also have personal access to the course director and the other staff delivering the course.


Thesis / Dissertation

All students must submit a dissertation of between 12,000 and 15,000 words. Planning for the dissertation begins in mid-November, and students will work full-time on research between April and August. Five percent of the dissertation marks will be assigned through a plan submitted in January; fifteen percent will be assigned through an oral presentation given at a dissertation conference in July;  ten percent will be assigned through the preparation of a research poster which will also be displayed in July. The remainder of the marks will be given for the final written report which is submitted by the last Friday of August.


All core modules and most of the elective modules are assessed exclusively by coursework (which may include both technical work and reflective essays). The assessment of the client consultancy project includes written work.

Written examination

A minority of the elective modules are assessed solely through written examination, or through a combination of written examination and coursework. Some students will take no written examinations, but others may take up to four, depending upon module choice.


Students are normally expected to attend two residential field courses or challenge-based activities. These are important elements of the programme, but no numerical mark will be given.

The assessment of the client consultancy project will include a group presentation to the client and associated deliverables. A proportion of the available dissertation marks is tied to an oral presentation, and a further proportion is tied to a poster display. The assessment of some modules may also include an oral or poster display component.

At the discretion of the examiners, candidates may be required to take an oral examination on the work submitted during the course and the general field of knowledge within which it falls. This would normally take place prior to the final meeting of the MPhil Examiners in late September. 

Key Information

11 months full-time

Study Mode : Taught

Master of Philosophy

Department of Engineering

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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.

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