- 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.
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)
To apply for the accredited single module option, apply in the usual way, selecting the ‘Module One’ option during the application process.
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.
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
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.*
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 email@example.com.
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.
Mona has a background in craft and design. After doing an undergraduate degree in Craft and Material Culture at the University of Art, Tehran, Iran, she completed MDes and PhD in Design at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Her doctorate thesis is an exploration of the role of unmediated relationship with the environment in the evolution of human consciousness. Her aspiration is to reintroduce the embodied and relational qualities of craft practice into regenerative design processes, particularly in participatory approaches to Transition.
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.
She was the founder and Artistic Director of Louder than Words productions 1989-2000, working closely with the Young Vic theatre, creating award-winning, multi-media performances, touring nationally.
2003-20020 she was founder and Exec Director of Encounters creating imaginative spaces and processes for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to explore their relationship with themselves, each other, where they live and the wider natural world. Working across sectors, Encounters co-authored artworks with people of all ages and backgrounds, mapping and collecting stories, ideas, and everyday experiences which were then retold to a wider community through, street based interventions, installations, exhibitions, public art, performance, publications and uniquely tailor made events. Ruth delivered over 60 projects with Encounters including creative projects for Liverpool Capital of Culture, the RSA’s Art and Society programme in Peterborough, Rural Forum projects in Denmark, Transition Network, and representing the UK at the Venice Biennale of Architecture.
Ruth is one of the four artists that make up Walking Forest, a ten-year artwork linking women activism, and trees culminating in the planting of an intentional woodland in 2028 to honour women earth defenders. In 2021. Walking Forest was commissioned by the national Season for Change programme and the Green futures programme of Coventry 21: Capital of Culture.
Ruth has been active in Extinction Rebellion as a local and national co-ordinator and was on of the instigators of the Culture Declares movement.
After a long career in the London art world (art critic for The Times, deputy head of exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts, initiator and director of The Festival of Muslim Cultures 2006) Isabel redirected her career to creating learning experiences that equip young people for an environmentally aware future. While working with schools in the East End of London she studied for the Certificate in Education for Sustainability at Schumacher College.
In 2010 Isabel moved to Devon and joined Transition Network as education coordinator. She designed and led two learning programmes: Schools in Transition and One Year in Transition (an enterprise and skills-based training for over 20s). During that time she also trained in Regenerative Design with the Regenesis Group and is active in networks of regenerative practitioners in Europe and internationally.
Daniel Christian Wahl
Daniel has worked with local and national governments on foresight and futures, facilitated seminars on sustainable development for the UNITAR affiliated training centre CIFAL Scotland, consulted companies like Camper, Ecover and Lush on sustainable innovation, and has co-authored and taught sustainability training courses for Gaia Education, LEAD International and various universities and design schools.
He is a member of the International Futures Forum, a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts (FRSA), co-founder of Biomimicry Iberia, and brought Bioneers to Europe in 2010. Daniel currently works for Gaia Education and the SMART UIB project of the Universidad de las Islas Balears. Triarchy Press published his first book, Designing Regenerative Cultures, in 2016.
John is a writer, advisor and event producer.Read More
John curated the celebrated Doors of Perception conference for 20 years – first in Amsterdam, later across India – and was commissioner of the UK social innovation biennial Dott07 and the French design biennial City Eco Lab. Since then, with a focus on focus on social, ecological and relational design, Thackara has curated place-based xskool workshops in 20 countries and has lectured in more than forty.
John is the author of a widely-read blog (you’re reading it now) and of How To Thrive In The Next Economy. His previous books (among twelve in total) were Wouldn’t It be Great If... and In the Bubble: Designing In A Complex World (MIT Press). He has lectured in more than forty countries.
John is a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art, in London; a Fellow of Musashino Art University in Japan; visiting professor at School of Visual Art in New York; senior advisor on the new Masters in Relational Design at Pontio Innovation in Wales; and, since 2019, visiting professor at Tongji University College of Design & Innovation.
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
He is the author of five books: Design on the Edge: The Making of a High Performance Building (MIT Press, 2006); The Last Refuge: Patriotism, Politics, and the Environment (Island Press, 2004); The Nature of Design (Oxford, 2002); Earth in Mind (Island, 1994/2004); Ecological Literacy (SUNY, 1992) and co-editor of The Global Predicament (North Carolina, 1979) and The Campus and Environmental Responsibility (Jossey-Bass, 1992). He has published 150 articles in scientific journals, social science publications, and popular magazines.
He is best known for his pioneering work on environmental literacy in higher education and his recent work in ecological design. He raised funds for and spearheaded the effort to design and build a $7.2 million Environmental Studies Center at Oberlin College, a building described by the New York Times as “the most remarkable” of a new generation of college buildings and by the U.S. Department of Energy as one of thirty “milestone buildings” of the 20th century.
He is the recipient of a Bioneers Award (2003), a National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation, a Lyndhurst Prize awarded by the Lyndhurst Foundation “to recognize the educational, cultural, and charitable activities of particular individuals of exceptional talent, character, and moral vision.” He was named “an Environmental Hero for 2004” by Interiors & Sources Magazine. He holds three Honorary Doctorates and has been a distinguished scholar in residence at University of Washington, Ball State University and Westminster College in Salt Lake City. In a special citation, the Connecticut General Assembly noted Orr’s “vision, dedication, and personal passion” in promoting the principles of sustainability. The Cleveland Plain Dealer described him as “one of those who will shape our lives.”
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.
Institute for Intuitive Technology and ArchitectureRead More
He says: “My studies reignited an interest in pursuing natural architecture but with a new lens and desire to explore wholeness in design through collaborative and participatory design processes”.
Listen to our interview with Felipe:
Small scale farming cooperativeRead More
“Studying Ecological Design Thinking gave me an opportunity of growing back into myself, of coming closer to my nature. From this, a sense of possibility sprouted and I regained the hope that I had lost along my path.”
He says: “I’m happy to feel that I’m embodying the Schumacher experience.”
He says: “I am excited to apply the design-thinking, process facilitation, and community engagement skills I learnt at College within an international organisation, to help future generations develop innovative and regenerative responses to our emerging social and ecological challenges in Bahrain and the Arab Region.”
Camila Fava Pestana
On PurposeRead More
Camlia is now working at On Purpose as a marketing and community manager, a London-based not for profit organisation that supports people changing their careers to jobs that bring positive impact to society and the planet.
“More than learning different tools and frameworks to bring about change, I learned a different way of approaching wicked problems that brings the process of self-reflective enquiry to its core.
She co-created an award winning animation with On Purpose CEO, Tom Rippin, called ‘From Business Case to Systems Case’, as part of the ‘Rethinking Economics and Doughnut Economics 8th Way of Thinking like a 21st-Century Economist’ competition. She was also invited to be part of the Unleash Lab in China to work in the SDG 13 – Climate Action around the regeneration of the Amazon with colleagues from the world, on their ‘Tierra Co‘ concept..
Samantha Colli Sulu
She says: “As a result of my research I became deeply aware of the systemic link of our ecological, economic and social crises, and how they are the consequence of a collective narrative of separation, from ourselves, our communities, and the Earth.”
live chats & open days
Live Chat: Ecological Design Thinking Last Few Tickets
latest news & blogs
Schumacher College and Dartington School of Arts are increasing financial support for students from less well-off backgrounds who want to study at the colleges.
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.
Dr Mona Nasseri – programme lead for MA Ecological Design Thinking – explains what makes the approach to learning at Schumacher College different to many other academic institutions.