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Are you a designer, creative worker or other specialist who wants to direct your practice towards progressive sustainability and social agendas?
This Sustainable Design MA course focuses on the value of design as a vehicle for addressing social and ecological concerns in both developed and developing world settings. It will equip you with the knowledge, capabilities and confidence to challenge the status quo, by applying design thinking to design-led interventions for a sustainable future.
See what we get up to on the course on Instagram @ma_sd_ksa.
|Full time||1 year||2 days a week||September 2021|
|Full time||2 years including professional placement||2 days a week, plus placement year||September 2021|
|Part time||2 years||Contact the course leader for details||September 2021|
Stand-alone module: Design for Social Innovation.
|Location||Kingston School of Art, Knights Park|
If you are planning to join this course in the academic year 2020/21 (i.e. between August 2020 and July 2021), please view the information about changes to courses for 2020/21 due to Covid-19.
Students who are continuing their studies with Kingston University in 2020/21 should refer to their Course Handbook for information about specific changes that have been, or may be, made to their course or modules being delivered in 2020/21. Course Handbooks are located within the Canvas Course page.
* covers graphic design, interior design, illustration, animation and product and furniture design.
If you'd like to find out more about this course, why not attend our next online Postgraduate Open Evening on Wednesday 3 March 2021?
This Sustainable Design MA is directed towards the goal of creating a more sustainable and equitable society. You will explore innovative and practical ways to help realise those visions, emphasising design, creativity, empathy, innovation and activism.
You'll be encouraged to think critically about the social and ecological agendas it addresses. The course is design-based, but not confined to design practice - it includes a significant amount of theoretical and contextual studies. You can choose to write a dissertation for the final major project.
This course is part of the Design School's Postgraduate Framework. The structure, shared with postgraduate students from other design courses, enables you to explore your individual specialist interests within an integrative learning environment.
Throughout the course, you'll understand the value and role of interdisciplinary methods and ways of working. The impact of thinking from related design subjects, on your own specialist study, is an important aspect of the identity and community of interdisciplinary practice at master's level in the Design School.
Design for Social Innovation can also be taken as a stand-alone module.
Design for social innovation is the emerging mode of design practice and theory in which design thinking is applied to social and societal challenges. This module focuses on the development of design-based research skills and capabilities useful for responding to real-world challenges or so-called 'wicked problems'. Emphasis is placed on problem-finding and problem-setting, rather than simply seeking solutions to problems as they are currently expressed.
The aim of the module is to give you an understanding of the design research tools and methods that are available to you, to inform and support the development of your practical study, and to provide the basis of your further study on your course. Practical research methods are explored, with an emphasis on the development of creative and evidence-based approaches to experimentation, and critical reflection on practical design work.
This module explores key principles and perspectives that inform various practices of sustainability, sustainable development and sustainable design, in developed and developing world contexts. It examines the ways in which contemporary and emerging modes of design practice and theory relate to the sustainability agenda.
This module is based on the assumption that the best jobs/careers in the creative industries do not exist – they are invented from individual creative ambitions. The module explores how this can be approached in practical terms. The programme of study encourages you to develop a personal and critical approach to your future career, and how this can inform the development of your individual major project for the Major Project.
The Major Project – the capstone project – consolidates the knowledge gained in earlier modules, and is informed by your prior learning within the Design School's postgraduate interdisciplinary framework and course-specific specialist study.
You will extend your work on the course thus far in the form of a practical design proposal, defining and developing a substantive solution to an individually defined design-related problem. In so doing, you will demonstrate advanced understanding and application of contemporary design practice as it can be brought to bear on a specific challenge of sustainability.
Many postgraduate courses at Kingston University allow students to do a 12-month work placement as part of their course. The responsibility for finding the work placement is with the student; we cannot guarantee the work placement, just the opportunity to undertake it. As the work placement is an assessed part of the course, it is covered by a student's Tier 4 visa.
Read about our student Katie Sharman's work placement on our blog: she completed a ten-month placement as the Communications and Sustainability Coordinator at Hackney Herbal, a community-focused social enterprise.
Find out more about the postgraduate work placement scheme.
The Professional Placement module is a core module for those students following a masters programme that incorporates professional placement learning, following completion of 120 credits. It provides you with the opportunity to apply your knowledge and skills to an appropriate working environment, and to develop and enhance key employability skills and subject-specific professional skills in your chosen subject. You may wish to use the placement experience as a platform for your subsequent major project module, and would be expected to use it to help inform your decisions about future careers.
Design for social innovation is an emerging mode of design practice gaining popularity and interest within the design professions and more widely, for example in the public sector. Local authorities are increasingly looking to employ designers to redesign public services and to deliver their programmes more effectively.
There is therefore demand for training in design for social innovation. This is a distinguishing feature of the Sustainable Design MA, but there are designers and other practitioners who do not yet wish to embark on a full MA course. This module is for them.
The module will be based around a 'live' project brief, and include sessions with leading practitioners in the field.
"This module will be useful to designers and those who come from the world of frontline social impact services, who want to learn more about innovation and design - and to gain practical experience with which to develop." Mat Hunter (Chief design officer, Design Council)
This is currently a course-specific module within the Sustainable Design MA. It is also available as a credit-bearing stand-alone module, whereby it can be taken without enrolling on the Sustainable Design MA (although the credits could be used subsequently for entry to the course). Students enrolled on the MA and stand-alone modules are part of the same module cohort, participate equally, and have the same module experience.
Please note that this is an indicative list of sessions and is not intended as a definitive list.
This is an 11-week module, delivered on Thursdays from 24 September to 10 December 2020.
Please email Paul Micklethwaite with any enquiries about this stand-alone module.
The information above reflects the currently intended course structure and module details. Updates may be made on an annual basis and revised details will be published through Programme Specifications ahead of each academic year. The regulations governing this course are available on our website. If we have insufficient numbers of students interested in an optional module, this may not be offered.
You'll normally need to have:
All non-UK applicants must meet our English language requirement, which is Academic IELTS of 6.5 overall, with no element below 5.5. Make sure you read our full guidance about English language requirements, which includes details of other qualifications we consider.
Applicants who do not meet the English language requirements could be eligible to join our pre-sessional English language course.
Applicants from a recognised majority English speaking countries (MESCs) do not need to meet these requirements.
Design project work, live projects, research project folders, 5,000-word creative essay, and a major design research project.
When not attending timetabled sessions, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This typically involves reading and analysing articles, regulations, policy documents and key texts, documenting individual projects, preparing coursework assignments and completing your PEDRs, etc.
Your independent learning is supported by a range of excellent facilities including online resources, the library and CANVAS, the University's online virtual learning platform.
At Kingston University, we know that postgraduate students have particular needs and therefore we have a range of support available to help you during your time here.
Year 1: 15% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity.
Contact hours may vary depending on your modules.
Type of teaching and learning
Assessment typically comprises exams (eg test or exam), practical (eg presentations, performance) and coursework (eg essays, reports, self-assessment, portfolios, dissertation). The approximate percentage for how you will be assessed on this course is as follows, though depends to some extent on the optional modules you choose:
Type of assessment
We aim to provide feedback on assessments within 20 working days.
To give you an indication of class sizes, this course normally enrols 20 students and lecture sizes are normally 100 within the Design School Postgraduate Framework. However this can vary by module and academic year.
You will be taught by leading academics and practitioners in sustainable design, social design, social innovation, participatory design, strategic design, service design, design-led innovation, and related topics.
This course is delivered by Kingston School of Art, which has its roots in the studio-based approach of Britain's art school system (the original School of Art was founded in the 1890s).
Today, for most courses, learning still takes place in our specialist studios, each subject area having its own fully-equipped studio, where you take part in classes, tutorials and critical reviews with fellow students. This strong studio culture also ensures regular interaction between students and tutors.
For non studio-based courses, learning takes place in classroom-based seminars, tutorials and lectures, alongside site visits to museums, galleries, auction houses and other creative professional environments.
Our students are encouraged to engage closely with the diverse businesses that make London one of the most important centres for the creative industries. Our industry connections mean we provide unique study opportunities, such as:
Our excellent reputation means that industry leaders regularly visit our student shows to see the best of the new talent.
Postgraduate students may also contribute to the teaching of seminars under the supervision of the module leader.
Kingston University offers a range of postgraduate scholarships, including:
If you are an international student, find out more about scholarships and bursaries.
We also offer the following discounts for Kingston University alumni:
Students on this course have gained Chevening scholarships to support their studies. These awards go to outstanding candidates who are pursuing postgraduate course subjects which their home country considers to be important to its future development.
There is a wide range of facilities at our Knights Park campus, where this course is based. Kingston School of Art has recently completed an ambitious programme of investment, making significant improvements to our workshops and other resources, to ensure that students are exposed to as many creative pathways as possible.
The workshops and studios at Knights Park are open for creative exploration and allow opportunities for students and staff to collaborate on projects and share ideas, whether they are studying or researching. There are many adaptable studio and workshop spaces, active breakout spaces and stronger vertical and horizontal connections.
Our ground-breaking facilities include:
Kingston is just a 30 minute train journey away from central London. Here you can access world-famous museums and galleries.
Images from the MA Sustainable Design New Stories showcase held at The Rose Theatre Kingston (photos by Monika Jastrzebska). Work presented included projects on perishable jewellery, urban desire lines, the real value of our public spaces, activating the core economy through co-produced services, and establishing a fibreshed for London.
MA Sustainable Design is ideal for showing how designers need to adapt and respond better to current challenges we face locally and globally. The lectures were exceptional, with a breadth of industry experience led by one of the best course leaders a university could have. We benefited from being taught every pillar of sustainability, and being able to dive deeper into how it all joins up and relates to us personally.
After the course we had an impulse to be part of the change we want to see in the world, applying practical design methods to address the various strands of sustainability, so we set up Climate Labs.
The experience on the course was way over my expectations - meeting like-minded people from such diverse backgrounds was a real eye opener. Being able to collaborate with talented designers from various disciplines helped produce some amazing projects.
As governments, private sector and civil society are now being asked to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the relevance of this course couldn't be greater - inspiring future generations to design better services, products and experiences for the prosperity of people and the planet.
Ahsan Khan - Climate Labs
I can honestly say the Design for Social Innovation stand-alone module was one of the most interesting, sufficiently challenging and thoughtfully delivered courses I've completed, and I've done a fair few.
I wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and providing the opportunity, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I'm finding the tools extremely useful day to day, working with live 'wicked problems.
I'm gaining deeper insight, being disciplined enough to do sufficient iteration and co-designing products to prototype and develop better outcomes.
Carmel Ring (stand-alone module student)
The course was more than what I expected - a professional and personal growth.
It was an intense year where I had the chance to deconstruct the concept I had of sustainability and social innovation, and then rebuilt and reframe it with a new postmodern perspective.
The course made me skilled with different social design and social research methodologies, ethnographic methods, service design tools, human centered and participatory design approaches, as well as developing sustainability literacy. It really helped me to understand my role as a designer, and what I can offer.
Nowadays I am working as a Social and Service Designer for SocialFare, the Centre of Social Innovation based in Torino, Italy.
During the course, me and my classmates often discussed the right name for our future job position. We identified ‘social and local designer'. The Sustainable Design MA showed me the right path to follow in order to bear that title.
Giuliana Gheza, Social and Service Designer for SocialFare
For me, the course was an ideal combination of practical research methods and theory, of innovation and design, all with a continuous focus on sustainability.
Being on the course broadened my horizons, and gave me the confidence and a setting from which to explore topics I wouldn't have otherwise considered.
For my masters major project, I investigated streets as public spaces in a suburban setting (specifically, Surbiton), and how participatory design could contribute to the creation of such places.
Ultimately, the course led me to my current role, which I wouldn't have considered, or have had the right skillset for, before doing the course.
Saskia Baard, Innovation Unit
The Sustainable Design course at Kingston changed the way I design for good.
The way sustainability is addressed in this course is holistic and goes far beyond the lecture slides and usual green clichés. Students reflect on different ways in which they can contribute to tackling the biggest problem of our time - enhancing the well-being of people whilst protecting the environment, in a positive and thoughtful way.
The course leader took the class on a journey of deep reflection and learning, prompting passionate debates, for which we needed to read, research a lot and, of course, also design. My fellow students were also professionals with thriving creative careers, which contributed to a very fruitful environment for collaboration.
I now work in social housing within a major housing association, contributing to the creation of safe and sustainable communities.
Maria Fernandez, Optivo Housing, Research & Innovation team
Something else that I highly valued, was the presence of the 'stand-alone-module-students'. They brought in a completely new perspective as they were working in the professional field. I was not familiar with this context, and would therefore not have been able to see things from this angle without them. I hope the insight this gave me allows me to see things from this angle in the future too.
Cindy van Rees (MA student)
Prior to the course, I felt like I was not qualified to solve social challenges or had the skills in doing so. However, due to the fact that all the peers are from different backgrounds in terms of culture and industry it made the learning richer. This has resulted in developing my inner confidence where I feel I could use my skills to help drive social change after studying this course. The course format complements the way I learn particularly with the peer-learning and tutor facilitating with workshops and to get you to think of topics in different angles.
Rachel Liu (stand-alone module student)
A big thank you for delivering such an interesting and thought-provoking module. I am keen to study this area further in some way and so will be investigating various routes. It was also such pleasure to be among such a diverse cohort and I really look forward to seeing the other MA students' presentations later in the year.
Madeleine Rogers (stand-alone module student)
The double diamond process for design has not only thrown out a service which could be developed into a sustainable social franchise, but has taught me an awful lot about how to solve 'wicked' social problems and how to innovate within a structure.
I have no formal design experience and in the beginning had no context in which to sit this process on. It has felt like a steep learning curve, but one which cannot be undone. When talking to clients (schools), I now visualise the process and the stakeholder journey - ensuring the person really is at the heart of solving the problem, rather than just throwing out another idea because we 'think' it is right and it might stick.
Anna Bateman (stand-alone module student)
The course incorporates collaboration with partners such as Design Council, Futerra, Active Minds.
You'll also benefit from:
Previous students have worked with many organisations involved in furthering societal sustainability, including:
A distinctive advantage of this programme is connecting with people with a shared purpose - fellow students, tutors and teaching guests, and organisations you collaborate with on a project.
We do not anticipate making any changes to the composition of the course, i.e. the number of modules or credits in a year for part-time postgraduate courses, as a result of the pandemic.
In order to safeguard our students' health and safety and to minimise the risk of disruption to their studies, the University has postponed all Study Abroad programmes for outgoing students in the first teaching block of 2020/21 (from September 2020 to December 2020). The University will review this decision before the second teaching block and will take into account relevant government advice at that time.
Changes can be made to courses as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area and to provide a high quality student experience. Any such changes made to the composition of the course will be highlighted to students during the induction period.
We do not anticipate making any changes to module titles and summaries or to the availability of modules as a result of the pandemic.
Changes can be made to modules as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area and to provide a high quality student experience. Any such changes made to module titles and/or availability of modules will be highlighted to students during the induction period.
We expect to deliver the course within the planned timescales to enable successful students to progress through and graduate from the course without delay.
In exceptional circumstances the sequence of learning and teaching activities may be changed, e.g. re-sequencing those modules that can be delivered more effectively under the current restrictions with those which would be more difficult to deliver, such as practical modules and placements.
We have not changed entry requirements as a result of the pandemic. However, the range of accepted alternatives have increased as has the way in which we select students, which now includes virtual interviews and online portfolios.
We have not changed entry requirements for international students as a result of the pandemic. However, in response to the pandemic, we now accept a much broader list of English language exams for entry to the course; the level of these exams remain the same.
Due to the current pandemic the course's teaching and learning activities will be delivered through both online and on-campus methods (blended learning) in 2020/21. In order to provide all students with a comparable on-campus experience, the University has committed to ensuring that all courses provide at least 30% of their teaching and learning activities on-campus.
While physical distancing measures remain in place, you will receive your learning and teaching via a blend of on-campus and on-line activities. Should your circumstances prevent your attendance at on-campus sessions, you will still be able to engage with your course in a way that allows you to progress. Where this is not possible, support will be available to consider what options are open to you.
The University will continue to closely monitor government announcements and advice in relation to the current pandemic and, where required, will take any necessary action in order to comply with such advice.
In the event that a further lockdown is enforced the University will aim to deliver the course fully online. This may require some additional changes being made to planned teaching and learning activities, including assessments. The majority of our courses are prepared to be delivered fully online if the situation requires it. Where the quality of the student experience may be compromised significantly, or the course is unable to be delivered fully online, the University may need to suspend the delivery of that course until a time that it can be delivered appropriately. Students will be supported in these situations to ensure they are able to make the right choices for their particular circumstances.
In the event that the current social distancing restrictions are fully lifted and the University is able to resume normal delivery of teaching and learning activities, courses will assess whether it is in the students' interest to resume normal delivery. In some cases it may be better to continue and complete modules under the planned blended delivery mode.
Changes to the overall breakdown of scheduled teaching hours, placements and guided independent study hours will not be made as a result of the pandemic. However, it is possible that some adjustments might be made at module level, e.g. a few more scheduled activities, in order to help ensure student engagement with blended learning.
Any changes made to the overall breakdown of scheduled teaching hours, placements and guided independent study hours for the course will be highlighted to students during the induction period.
'Scheduled teaching' includes teaching that is online either live or recorded / on demand.
Your individualised timetable for teaching block 1 (i.e. from September 2020 to December 2020) should be available by the end of August 2020. Timetables for teaching block 2 (i.e. from January 2021) will not be available until the autumn. Whilst we make every effort to ensure timetables are as student-friendly as possible, scheduled teaching can take place on any day of the week between 9am and 9pm. To accommodate smaller group sizes and social distancing, we will need to maximise the time available for teaching. This means, we may have to use Wednesday afternoons and enrichment week for additional teaching slots. Timetables for part-time students will depend on the modules selected.
On campus classes, class sizes will be smaller, in line with social distancing measures. Online (synchronous) activities will be delivered via videoconferencing apps that will enable a full range of class sizes to be used as appropriate.
Changes can be made to modules, including how they are assessed, as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our modules up to date with current developments in that subject area. Due to the current restrictions in place, i.e. social distancing, it is anticipated that many formal on-campus examinations, including practical examinations, will be replaced with alternative assessments which can be completed online. These changes will be considered and approved through the University's processes to ensure that student assessments will be able to demonstrate they have achieved the expected learning outcomes. The approval process will also assess whether the change impacts the status of any professional body accreditation the course benefits from.
Any changes to the overall methods of assessment for the course will be highlighted to students during the induction period.
No changes are expected to the general level of experience or status of staff involved in delivering the course.
As a result of the social distancing restrictions in place, on-campus teaching activities may need to be split into smaller groups which may require the support of teaching assistants and student mentors, who will be managed by experienced staff.
There will be no changes to published tuition fees for 2020/21.
As a result of the blended delivery of courses in 2020/21, where a significant proportion of the teaching will be done online, students will need a personal laptop or computer and access to the internet to participate in online teaching and learning activities. Students who are able to travel will have access to computers on campus, however, it should be noted that access to on-campus facilities will be restricted due to social distancing requirements.
The University is considering how best to provide support to students who do not have access to suitable hardware and software requirements and access to the internet. Identifying students who require this type of support is an important milestone for the University in our journey to ensure equity of access while we continue to deliver our blended approach. Information about the support that will be available will be provided to students during the induction period.
There will be no changes to any existing University funding arrangements for 2020/21. Currently there are no indications from the UK government that there will be any changes to government funding arrangements.
There will be no changes to published tuition fees or funding arrangements specifically relating to international students for 2020/21.
Placements (including work and clinical placements) and field trips included as part of the course will go ahead as planned. However, to ensure students are able to gain maximum value from these activities, it may be necessary to reschedule them to later in the year when current restrictions have been lifted. We acknowledge that this year it may be more difficult for students to secure appropriate placements. In those situations, students will be guided and supported through the various options that will be available to them, including switching courses or interrupting their studies until a time when they can complete their placement.
Any proposed changes to placements or field trips would go through University's agreed processes where the impact of the change will be carefully considered. Students will be advised of any changes that may become necessary and appropriate support will be available to students to guide them through the various options that may be available to them.
In the interest of the health and wellbeing of our students, the University will ensure that appropriate risk assessments are made before students are sent on a placement.
Courses which require placements or field trips to be completed in order to pass relevant modules will have contingency plans in place in the event that a placement or field trip cannot be completed due to another lockdown or more stringent social distancing measures.
Voluntary placements or field trips may be rescheduled, or, as a last resort, cancelled if it becomes difficult to deliver them and doing so is in the interest of the health and safety of our staff and students.
No changes will be made to the qualification awarded, e.g. MSc, as a result of the pandemic.
Changes can be made to courses, including the qualification awarded (although very rare), as part of normal enhancement processes in order to keep our courses up to date with current developments in that subject area. Any changes made to the qualification awarded for the course will be highlighted to students during the induction period.
International students should maintain awareness of the UK government's and their home country's government advice on possible travel restrictions. The University will closely monitor advice and guidance published by the UK government and assess its impact on our international students. Appropriate advice and guidance will be provided as and when required.
The University will ensure students who are unable to attend on-campus learning and teaching activities are able to effectively engage with their studies remotely. For certain courses an inability to attend on-campus learning and teaching activities may not be in the students best interest, as it may impede their chances of succeeding in the course or lead to them receiving a poor learning experience. In such cases students will be advised and guided through the various options available to them, such as deferring their studies until they can engage fully with the course.