Research course

Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment

University of Cambridge · Department of Architecture

Entry requirements

Besides enthusiasm and commitment, applicants must have:

  • At least a 2.i honours bachelor’s degree (or successful completion of a Master’s degree) from a UK University, or an equivalent standard from a recognised overseas institution.
  • A minimum of three years' work experience in the built environment since graduating.
  • Good ability in written and spoken English language.
  • Endorsement from your employer or, if independent, a demonstrated understanding of the time commitment needed to undertake part-time study at this level.
  • Access to appropriate computer technology and internet software.
  • The ability to pay the course fees or to identify a sponsoring institution.

Non-standard applicants

Exceptional candidates who do not meet the above standard academic requirements may be considered, based on the ability to demonstrate suitability for postgraduate study through professional and other attainments.

If you think you are a non-standard applicant (ie you have alternative experience and qualifications), please contact us attaching a copy of your curriculum vitae, and we will give you an initial indication of whether you are likely to be considered favourably.

Months of entry


Course content

The Master’s in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) is unique in many ways. It is truly interdisciplinary, in the background of its staff and students, and in the areas it covers, but also most importantly in its approach to teaching and learning.

From its inception, IDBE has successfully encouraged and supported the integration of skills between specialists from different background disciplines to improve project design. This includes the collaboration between disciplines, as well as with clients and the supply side of the industry.

The focus of the course is on the design phases of a project where critical decisions are made about what to build and the business case for building it; and defining project objectives, aspirations and outcomes.

The principles that inform the course delivery mean that each individual is supported in developing their full potential in a field of interest to themselves. Spreading the course over two years allows the assimilation of new ideas, concepts and even ways of thinking, while applying this within everyday working lives as an ongoing action learning exercise.

IDBE is delivered through a combination of six week-long residential workshops in Cambridge, and online learning modules.

Residential weeks

The six residential weeks are structured around key themes which are annually reviewed to keep up to date with emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges within the built environment. Some of the issues recently covered have included technical innovations such as building information modelling (BIM) and low carbon energy and materials, political and regulatory changes, and the more intangible issues which form part of our daily lives as professionals working in the complex socio-technical system of the built environment.

Workshop one

The first residential week of IDBE introduces these cross-cutting learning modules:
  • Sustainability and resilience
  • Innovation and technology
  • Design thinking
  • Leadership and teamworking
  • Research

The spotlight focus areas for subsequent workshops are:

Workshop two: Living environments (how people live within the built environment)
Workshop three: Historic environments (how existing historic built environments can be fit for now and the future)
Workshop four: Working environments (how people work within the built environment)
Workshop five: Moving environments (the movement of people and resources within the built environment)
Workshop six: Future urban environments (the urbanisation of the built environment)


The course does not have written exams on the factual content of the lectures. Each student identifies specific areas of interest which are used to produce the written assignments. Therefore, it is entirely up to you which areas you choose to study in more detail, store to use later in your careers, or just enjoy for the purpose of expanding your general knowledge. Along the way you will develop core skills in critical thinking and reflection, helping you to understand the multiple disciplines and complex structure of the construction industry and related professions.

Information for international students

This course is part time with limited residential time in Cambridge so it is ideally suited for international students.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Limited bursaries are available. Please see our website for details.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MSt
    part time
    24 months
    • Distance learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Course Administrator