MA in Sustainable Urbanism

Educating the next generation of architects and designers to meet the challenges of rapid urbanisation and climate change.

Length: two years

Our course is an established two-year programme, now in its seventh intake, teaching the theory and practice of sustainable architecture and urbanism, We believe that comprehensive and practical action is needed to train the next generation of architects and designers to evolve traditional approaches to planning and design in response to our contemporary crisis. 

Sustainable Urbanism

Sustainable urbanism is the art and science of building cities and towns that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage active travel, while being resilient enough to allow adaptation for future change. It draws on research in the fields of climate change, economics, urban design, architecture, urban geography, transport and related disciplines, and is informed by study of the successful places of the past.

The proportion of the global population living in cities has recently passed 50% and rural-urban migration is accelerating in most parts of the world. At the same time, the concentration of carbon dioxide has passed 400 parts per million, widely understood to be the ‘tipping point’ after which global warming will be unstoppable due to positive feedback loops.

Meanwhile, cities and towns across the world are in a state of flux not seen since the industrial revolution. Some metropolises are growing fast to become leading world cities, while others decline in employment and population. Rural towns and villages within commuter range of prosperous cities are seeing continued growth; those in the distant parts of many countries continue to decline in population.

Urban sprawl, traffic growth and congestion, decline of habitats and even the decline of regional cuisines are the results of urban policies that have allowed low-density sprawl to develop on the fringes of cities that are both increasing in population and those that are shrinking in size. This form of development is predicated by engineers, architects, land surveyors, property developers and real estate agents who each follow their own internal rule systems and do not collaborate effectively.

The MA in Sustainable Urbanism

The MA in Sustainable Urbanism aims to meet the need for the next generation of architects and designers who will evolve traditional architecture and urbanism in response to the global climate and urbanisation challenges.

The full time programme begins with a three-week residential summer school, providing an introduction to the holistic approach to planning, designing and building practised at The Foundation, and an intensive course in key skills such as drawing, painting, designing, construction and the implementation of traditional urbanism. Students are then placed in one of the Foundation’s teams and spend three days a week working alongside practitioners and reflecting on sustainability practices. They participate in an Enquiry by Design (a practical method of engaging partners in a design-led process) and in major educational events, and work on research projects, help to produce major events and write and produce reports and design studies. Through a weekly seminar programme they are exposed to leading urbanists, traditional architects and transport reformers.

The first year may also be taken in part-time mode, in which students stay in their current job and come in on Thursdays and for six 1-week block sessions at the Foundation. 

In their second year and while continuing their studies and producing a dissertation, students find a placement in an associated organisation or firm, and their experience there provides an inflection to their dissertation.

Course structure

PART 1 (First Year)

M1 A Culture of Building: The first three weeks of the first year is spent in a full-time summer school taught by visiting and in-house lecturers and tutors. Students work alongside The Foundation’s Building Crafts Apprentices. The final week is a design project for a small building, built by the Building Crafts Apprentices later in the year. Students are assessed on a written reflection and portfolio of their work during the module.

M2 Practice of Sustainable Urbanism: In their first year, full-time students are attached to one of the departments of the Foundation, and spend 3 days a week working alongside professional practitioners and technical staff on live projects forming part of the Foundation’s work around the UK and abroad. Part-time students can take the module in placement with their existing employer, and by attending weeks at the Foundation to work on group projects. All students also spend a week tutoring in the Summer School under the guidance of teaching staff. Students are assessed on an analytical reflection report reflecting on sustainability practices in the placement, and a portfolio.

M3 Sustainable Urbanism Elective: Each student undertakes a special project, developing a research or design project from inception to completion, with support from academic staff within the department. In the past these have included special research reports and publications on special subjects. Students give a research seminar in the Summer Term and are assessed on that and their research paper.

M4 Contemporary Debates on Sustainable Urbanism: The module is taught in 3 1/2 hour seminars held weekly during term time. Each class consists of a lecture on a contemporary controversy or recent research finding, delivered by an in-house or visiting lecturer, chosen for their expertise in areas of practice that are tackling contemporary challenges. Lectures are followed by a structured tutorial session attended by the lecturer and led by Foundation teaching staff. Students reflect on these debates through formatively and summatively assessed essays.

M5 Community Engagement: This module builds on the experience of attending Enquiry by Design and other public consultation events - held by the Foundation around the UK and abroad - to introduce themes of representation, engagement, participation and legitimacy in design processes. Students produce an analytical business-style report reflecting on their experiences, the policy situation, and their own research.

PART 2 (Second Year)

M6 Sustainable Urbanism Major Project: During the second year, students find placements in practices and organisations whose mission is close to the course aims. Students use this placement as a springboard to prepare a dissertation equivalent to a written text of c. 16,000 words with drawings and other documentation. If a dissertation includes significant design work the text may be varied by prior agreement on an individual basis. The placement is not assessed, but is expected to inflect the written dissertation, with the main assessment being by a Graduate Seminar, given in Spring, and a research paper.

Teaching staff

The course is taught by our own staff and by visiting lecturers. In past years these have included Anna Minton, Andres Duany, Andy Cameron, Dr Susan Parham, Biljana Savic, James Greyson, Dr Fran Tonkiss, Professor Bill Hillier, and other prominent practitioners and theorists.

The course director Dr Matthew Hardy is co-founder and co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Journal of Urbanism published by Routledge, specialising in international research on place-making and urban sustainability.

External examiners

The External Examiners are Dr Stephen Marshall, Reader in Urban Morphology and Planning at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London, and Dr Ombretta Romice, Senior Lecturer in Urban design at the Department of Architecture, University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

Graduate Employability

Of the 22 students who have completed the programme since 2008, 19 are in full time employment, two have gone on to further study, and one is a volunteer for an NGO.

Who can apply?

We welcome applications from students across the EU. All we ask is that they are fluent in English (IELTS score 7.0) and have completed a first degree (or Part I) in any of the following:

• Planning or urban policy

• Landscape design

• Urban design

• Architecture

• Surveying

• Engineering


Or related areas.

We will also accept applications from entrants without one of these qualifications who have acquired experience through work or other means and can satisfy staff responsible for admissions of their ability to succeed in the programme.

How to apply?

Students should apply by sending the following to Dr Matthew Hardy at our Shoreditch office in London by email or recorded delivery.

• A CV and covering letter

• A 500 word essay on the topic "Is traditional architecture sustainable?"

• Reference letter from your Head of School

• A Portfolio, containing samples of your work

• If you have not previously completed a university course taught in English, please include an IELTS certificate with a score of at least 7.0

Non-standard entry

We will also accept applications from entrants without one of these qualifications who have acquired experience through work or other means and can satisfy staff responsible for admissions of their ability to succeed in the programme.

Things to Note:

If you would like to visit us and meet current students, please get in touch with Matthew Hardy at the address below.

The closing date for completed applications is 26th MAY 2016

Shortlisted candidates will be expected to attend interviews in the last week of May or soon after. 

QAA Review Graphic thumbnail

We have undergone a Higher Education Review (Plus) by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and have received its final report, which is available in full at:

We have received the following judgements from QAA:

  • The maintenance of the academic standards of award offered on behalf of degree-awarding bodies and/or other awarding organisations meets UK expectations.
  • The quality of student learning opportunities meets UK expectations.
  • The quality of the information about learning opportunities meets UK expectations.
  • The enhancement of student learning opportunities meets UK expectations.

Alternative modes for taking the course:

The programme can also be taken as a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Sustainable Urbanism or a part time Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Urbanism.

The first year is usually taken as a part-time course while you stay in your current job.

You are welcome to take the course in any of the available modes.

What it costs

Course fees: 

£6,250 per annum (EU)

£ 10,000 per annum (NON-EU)*              

If you want to find out more before applying then Dr Matthew Hardy will be happy to help. You can contact Matthew on 020 7613 8520, or

*Subject to successful accreditation by the QAA.


The programme is validated by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.