Ecological Design Thinking

MA | PGDip | PGCert
Apply now


  • A chance to join a growing network of design thinkers around the world working within a series of hubs operating within communities and enterprises
  • Discover how to use holistic approaches to unravel complex situations involving multiple stakeholders
  • A low-residency programme which enables students to develop their practice while continuing to work, allowing them to immediately implement their learning


MA: 1 year FT, 2 years PT.
Other routes are available, including online options – see ‘Learning Pathways’


start date: September

full Term dates

Term Dates – Academic Year 2021 – 2022

Autumn Term: Monday 13 September – Friday 17 December 2021
Winter Term: Monday 10 January – Friday 1 April 2022
Spring and Summer Term: Monday 25 April – Friday 1 July 2022

Deadline for Major Project/Dissertation: mid-August 2022

Onsite Teaching Weeks

13–17 September 2021: Welcome Week (at Schumacher College)
20 September–1 October 2021: Module 1
8–19 November 2021: Module 2
10–21 January 2022: Module 3
28 February –11 March 2022: Module 4

An online version of this course is available – see ‘learning pathways’, below.

next application deadline

All upcoming application and decision deadlines can be found here.

Learning pathways

Our degree programmes are designed to suit the complexities of modern life, allowing you to live where you live and work where you work, whilst studying the subject you are passionate about as a member of our wide-reaching learning community.

Some qualifications are offered part-time – these are indicated below.

MAster's (ft/pt; 180 credits)

Ecological Design Thinking is a low-residency programme with 4 x 30-credit modules and 1 x 60-credit Dissertation or Major Project module.

The course is available full time over one year (UK, EU or international students) or part time over two years (UK students only).

Part-time students would gain their 180 MA credits by completing modules 1, 2 and 3 (90 credits), alongside full-time students in Academic Year 1. They will join the cohort in the following year to complete modules 4 (30 credits) and 5 (60 credits) in Academic year 2.

Postgraduate Diploma (ft/pt; 120 credits)

A full-time (1 year) or part-time programme (2 years, UK students only) with 4 x 30 credit modules. PGDip students would gain 120 credits by completing modules 1, 2, 3,4 alongside MA students.

Each of the four (30 credit) modules will include:

  • 1 or 2-week intensive/residential element at Schumacher College followed by 4 weeks supported e-learning.
  • Students can take the course full-time over one year, or part-time over two years.

Part-time students would gain their 120 PG Dip credits by completing the core theoretic modules 1 and 2 alongside full-time students in Academic Year 1. They will join the cohort in the following year to complete the core studio modules 3 and 4 in Academic Year 2.

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits)

A full-time programme with 2 x 30 credit modules. PGCert students would gain 60 Credits by completing modules 1 and 2 alongside full-time students.

It is proposed that each of the two (30 credit) modules will include:

  • 1 or 2-week intensive/residential element at Schumacher College followed by,
  • 4 weeks supported low res learning.

First module only (30 credits)

The first module from this course can be studied on a standalone basis, with 30 credits allocated per module.

To apply for the accredited single module option, apply in the usual way, selecting the ‘Module One’ option during the application process.

Online-only pathways

All options for this course are offered on a low-residency model, and are also available online-only. Please ensure you select the online-only option during your application as required.

More about flexible learning at Dartington >

course content

We believe in a future where the things that we design no longer need to be detrimental to the wellbeing of our planet.
We believe in a future that pioneers ecological possibilities that redress social, environmental and economic imbalance.
We believe in a future that encourages creativity to explore integrated solutions that are beneficial to all-of-life.

This programme offers a dynamic new way of engaging with the challenging situations we face socially, economically and environmentally.

We show you how to use ecological design thinking to unravel complex situations in the work-place, in your community or within organisations. You will learn the practical skills and knowledge to show you how to achieve co-created solutions, which engage everyone and foster resilience in individuals and communities.

Ecological Design Thinking is a growing discipline around the world as its techniques are increasingly adopted in the fields of design, education and business as well as within leadership, management and consultancy.

The Ecological Design Thinking programme is transdisciplinary, insightful and universal in its application. The low-residency model allows for online study with four periods of two-week residency enabling professionals to continue their practice while studying.

It brings together theoretical and practical discourses on ecologically inspired design, with the latest developments in anthropology, psychology and socio-political economics. It aims to provide a tool-kit for change makers at the forefront of our transition to sustainable societies.


On this course you will:

  • Explore practical implications of eco-literacy for personal transformation and collective actions
  • Identify, frame and communicate systemic socio-ecological problems using innovative approaches, transdisciplinary frameworks and participatory practices
  • Co- design and facilitate bottom-up approaches to social change driven by ecological principles
  • Work in interdisciplinary teams and develop interpersonal skills to proactively formulate solutions to complex problems
  • Develop skills to evaluate, contrast, synthesise and work creatively with conflicting ideas and uncertainty
  • Use visual, verbal and written communications and appropriate media to present complex ideas effectively

programme structure & modules

This MA programme consist of 5 modules (4 taught and 1 dissertation module). The first 2 weeks of each taught module are timetabled teaching periods, where you must live on site (or nearby) and participate in the learning community. So there are 4 two-week periods, spread across 7 months.

The remaining 4 months are the dissertation research and writing period. You may choose to return home for the duration of the dissertation. If you are an international student you will no longer be sponsored by us for your Tier 4 visa.

Outside of the two-week periods, international students (only) may request accommodation and full board onsite at Dartington for terms 1 and 2: this would require you to participate in the learning community activities. Alternatively you can opt to live nearby or anywhere in the UK and travel to and from Dartington when required.

We have a limited number of residential places available for international students. Apply as early as possible and select the accommodation option on the application form.


Module One: Design and Ecology (30 credits)
Ecological Design Thinking seeks to design socio-cultural systems which are aligned and harmonious with ecological systems. As a foundation module, ‘Design and Ecology’ aims to explore the behaviour of ecosystems and cultivate ecological literacy through intellectual and embodied processes. In this module students evaluate their own ecological philosophy and explore principles from ecology and Gaia theory, dynamic systems thinking, planetary boundaries, complexity theory, regenerative design and biomimicry.

Module Two: Design and Society (30 credits)
To move towards regenerative societies, social and cultural systems need to be designed in partnership with ecological systems. The ‘Design and Society’ module integrates design thinking approaches with ecological processes and principles. In this module students explore and critically assess social behaviours and values manifested in both conventional and alternative socio-economics and political systems. They navigate complexity in the social context and begin to develop participatory methodologies and modes of intervention in social systems which would bring them into partnership with ecological systems.

Module Three: Design and Place (30 credits)
Stories of the past are integrated in the ecology of place. Ecological Design Thinking seeks to align itself to the evolutionary narrative of the land and be inspired by the wisdom of places and people. This module examines the principles and processes of ecological design thinking in the context of a given place. Students develop project briefs by pursuing investigations that include the study of past and present practices and identification of issues and opportunities in a particular place. This module applies the knowledge from the ‘Design and Ecology’ and ‘Design and Society’ modules to the design context.

Module Four: Design in Practice (30 credits)
Ecological design is the practice of navigating through complex socio-ecological dynamics. Drawing from the theoretical and experiential knowledge of the previous modules, this module further explores and develops the principles, processes and practices of ecological design thinking in the context of a placements or research project. Students explore the challenges and dynamics of working on live projects. They critically examine the ecological, social, economic and cultural context of the given project and systematically test ecological design solutions through a range of methods.

Dissertation or Major Project (60 credits)
This module enables students to pursue a project or an academic essay of their own interest in the context of Ecological Design Thinking. They are required to conduct autonomous inquiries and contribute to the further evolution of theory and practice in the field. Assessments are made of students’ ability to apply knowledge gained over the course of the taught elements of the Masters in innovative and practical ways.

Examples of dissertation topics and final projects have included:

  • Being reclaimed by the land: The role of landscape in transformative learning
  • Centring the Ecological Imagination: A catalyst for change
  • Weaving regenerative fabrics: An exploration of the community-led ecological textile industry
  • Designing through making: A theory and practice for reimagining the way we design
  • Water Tracing: An ecological design art practice
  • Story of Change: A quest for regenerative culture through storytelling
  • Weaving memory: threading the ecological self into social justice

entry requirements

Qualification(s) required for entry to the MA

BA/BSc (Honours) Degree
A first degree in design related subjects, or social or natural sciences. Where the first degree is not design-related, a portfolio of work will be required in support of the application or experience that is equivalent.

Other non-standard awards or experience
A willingness to play a part in the interrogating and co-creating of Ecological Design Thinking as an evolving discipline. Candidates will be considered with prior credited learning and prior experiences subject to interview.*

Interview requirements
All applicants are required to attend an interview, either at the College or online. During the interview we will look for: evidence of intellectual clarity during interview; a clearly formulated purpose for taking the course; focused interests and a clear understanding of the ethos and philosophy of the College; readiness and ability to live and work in a communal setting.

*For further information please contact our admissions team at


For full details on our fees, plus information about scholarships, student loans and bursaries, click here.


Mona Nasseri

Dr Mona Nasseri

Mona is Programme Lead for MA Ecological Design Thinking. She joined Schumacher College in 2014 and been involved in the delivery and development of the programme since its inception.
Read More

Roberto Fraquelli

Professor Roberto Fraquelli

Roberto is Senior Lecturer for MA Ecological Design Thinking. He is interested in Holistic Design and the dilemma many designers face between the pressures of economic growth and an empathy with all living systems.
Read More

guest lecturers

Inez Aponte

Inez Aponte

Inez is a facilitator, educator and consultant in the Human Scale Development Approach.

Read More

Ruth Ben-Tovim

Ruth Ben-Tovim

Ruth has worked as a professional artist, consultant and facilitator for 30 years.

Read More

Isabel Carlisle

Isabel Carlisle

Isabel co-founded and heads up the Bioregional Learning Centre (BLC) in South Devon, England, where she has lived for 10 years.

Read More

Daniel Christian Wahl

Daniel Christian Wahl

Daniel is an international consultant and educator specialising in biologically-inspired whole systems design and transformative innovation.

Read More

John Thackara

John Thackara

John is a writer, advisor and event producer.

Read More
David W. Orr

David W. Orr

David is the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College.

Read More


Graduates leave to work in:

  • Design and Architecture: building and development with regard to all systems of life
  • Town Planning: how to create an effective multi-functional community space
  • NGOs: especially those tackling climate emergency
  • Permaculture: agroforestry, land management and community
  • Business: making systems more ecologically sustainable
  • Education: teaching in multi-disciplinary disciplines
  • This programme can be taken full-time or part-time with a low-residency or online only pathway. PGCert (2 modules) and PGDip (4 modules) study options are also available.

Julian Lang

Institute for Intuitive Technology and Architecture

Read More

Felipe Collazo

Felipe completed his final project in Argentina at the Reserva El Potrero, where he now works.

Listen to our interview with Felipe:

Regina Ganem

Small scale farming cooperative

Read More

Jerome Peyronnet


Read More

Ahmed Buasallay

United Nations Development Programme

Read More

Camila Fava Pestana

On Purpose

Read More

Samantha Colli Sulu

Ecological growth through digital connection
Read More

live chats & open days

No event found!

latest news & blogs

Ecological Design Thinking in Practice

Ecological Design Thinking in Practice

As teaching comes to an end for this year’s Ecological Design Thinking, Programme Lead Mona Nasseri blogs on the last 7 months and the collaboration that was possible between current students and alumni who have developed inspiring initiatives around the world.

read more