Taught course

Sustainable Cities

University of Portsmouth · Portsmouth School of Architecture

Entry requirements

A minimum of a second-class honours degree in Interior Design, Architecture or a related subject, or equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. An online portfolio submission will be required as part of the selection process. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Months of entry


Course content

Why take this course?

This course aims to form professionals capable of responding to the needs of planning and designing sustainable communities and cities. There is a growing need for more urbanised areas, better places for the human existence and a diminished ecological footprint. It is expected that nearly 70% of the world's population will be living in cities by 2050, while cities are now responsible for 80% of our CO2 emissions.

This leads us to an apparent paradox; the need for more urban environments and, on the other hand, the need to reduce our demands on nature. In this context, the role that cities, and those involved in their planning, will play in the future of mankind is absolutely crucial. Building on our university-wide Cluster for Sustainable Cities, the MA Sustainable Cities draws from the expertise of leading experts in a variety of disciplines.

You will explore new systemic and integrated solutions for cities, leading towards greener, healthier, more inclusive and resilient environments.

What will I experience?

The course has a strong focus on ensuring that you apply the theoretical knowledge gained in the development of design proposals at a range of scales, from the city to the neighbourhood level. You will develop the skills required to tackle the challenges of designing our contemporary environment. MA Sustainable Cities will offer you a series of opportunities to engage in live projects and to work in interdisciplinary groups. An optional field trip to an international location will be offered to allow you to learn from the most current thinking and practice of sustainable communities.

On this course you will undertake a blend of theory units and studio-based design projects, with opportunities to:

  • engage with leading research into sustainable cities
  • experience an exciting postgraduate environment
  • develop collaborative projects with external partners, including practitioners and academic institutions in the UK and other countries
  • work on live-projects, with real clients
  • opt to undertake an international field trip to learn from world-leading experiences in urban sustainability
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What opportunities might it lead to?

This course provides a firm grounding for employment in a range of jobs. Green jobs is one of the fastest growing industries in the field of construction. Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

  • consultancy
  • urban planning and urban design offices
  • NGOs and environmental organisations
  • local authorities
  • Doctoral degree, leading to an academic career

Module details

This course uses the experience and skills of teaching staff with a proven track record in the research and practice of sustainable cities. You will also benefit from a multi-disciplinary learning environment where more than 100 postgraduate students in architecture, interior design, urban design and historic building conservation can meet and work. Here are the units you will study:

  • Theory: This unit presents the challenges and key theoretical frameworks of planning and designing for sustainability. It will also analyse selected themes in the history and theory of planning and urban design relevant to contemporary debates. Topics to be covered may include urban systems, nature in cities, sustainable planning models, environmental and climate sensitive design, resilience for adaptation, environmental policies, radical theories and criticism, sustainable conservation and sustainable buildings. The unit will foster your reflection on the social, cultural and physical processes involved in the production of sustainable communities; allowing you to recognise the most significant past experiences, to engage with contemporary theoretical discussions and to critically reflect upon your own practice. Governance, management and policy relating to sustainable development will also be covered in this unit. The coursework will be a series of critical mini reports for each session and an essay.
  • Practice: The main aim of this unit is to present you with the opportunity to integrate your knowledge and skills in a project for a sustainable city or community. Today, major environmental and economic challenges require new models for the built environment that are resource efficient, adaptable to environmental modifications and designed to facilitate placemaking. This unit asks you to investigate such models, thus prefiguring ‘future cities’ and exploring how new frameworks can contribute to a higher quality of life, resilience and sustainability. Climate sensitive design will be an essential means to rethink the urban fabric in order to transform the cities in resilient systems capable to positively adapt to climate change and respond to events such as sea level rise, desertification, earthquakes and tornados. Moreover, the transformation of the built environment from energy intensive to an energy generator will be a further opportunity to develop design skills through the use of advanced digital tools and smart technologies.
  • Research Methods: This unit will introduce you to key research methods and approaches in the built environment. Here you will develop your research skills, which will aid you throughout your course and particularly in producing your thesis. You will be encouraged to explore methods of investigation that are responsive to, as well as inquisitive of, the conditions presented and which therefore speculate around possible critical scenarios. Implicit within these explorations is the need to investigate diverse means of data representation and depiction through a variety of possible media and discourse.
  • Integration: This unit allows you to work in a multi-disciplinary context in a practice-base environment. You will need to work collectively on given projects or problems, which explore a range of themes related to sustainable cities. There will be a group-based activity that is both subject specific and that spans different dimensions of your topic of study.
  • Work-Based Learning: This optional unit can be taken instead of the Integration unit. Work-based learning requires you to engage in critical and reflective learning in the workplace. This will be developed through a learning contract, negotiated by you, your employer and the School. The work undertaken in practice will be appraised through critical reflective writing that engages with the practice of the particular subject discipline and this will form the assessment artefacts.
  • Thesis: Your thesis is a substantial research-based or practice-based project that enables you to carry out an in-depth investigation into a subject area within the theme of sustainable cities. An initial seminar programme will help you develop your research proposal, define a research question and locate suitable primary and secondary sources. You will be allocated an appropriate supervisor on the basis of this proposal, who will work with you toward the final submission. Tutorial guidance will be provided by the allocated supervisor.

Student Destinations

This course enables you to specialise in sustainable architecture and build upon your passion for the design of the twenty-first century urban environment.

On graduating, you will be adept in spatial practice and able to work within design practices, architectural firms and cross-disciplinary environments, engaging in issues from the design of details to the exploration of the urban environment.

The creative skills, professional competencies and expansive learning environment that we provide could also lead to a range of careers in disciplines such as marketing, advertising, journalism, virtual design and modelling, through to people-centred careers such as project management.

Fees and funding

UK students
Full time: £6,500 Part time: £2,170 in year 1 and £4,330* in year 2 *Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.
International students
Full time: £13,200 Part time: £4,400 in year 1 and £8,800* in year 2 *Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Admissions Team
023 9284 5566