Courses Overview >> Postgraduate Programmes >> Ecological Design Thinking

Ecological Design Thinking

Key Info

  • Low-Residency Programme
  • Starts September 2021
  • Online only pathway available

About this course

This course offers a chance to join a growing network of design thinkers around the world working within a series of hubs operating within communities and enterprises. Ecological Design Thinking is about using holistic approaches to unravel complex situations involving multiple stakeholders. Students will learn how to apply a variety of skills and techniques to arrive at a creative solution.

The low-residency programme enables students to develop their practice while continuing to work, allowing them to immediately implement their learning. It is delivered in five modules: Design and Ecology, Design and Society, Design and Place and Design in Practice​ and the Dissertation or Major Project.

Applications are open for a September 2021 start. Click below to apply online (form opens in new window/tab).
Deadline for applications, second round: 1 July 2021*


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Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates: We are open for Academic Year 2020/21

Please note that we are able to make online provision for students who are not able to travel to Dartington due to the pandemic. If you anticipate needing to take part or all of the course from your home location for this reason, please contact to make arrangements. More information about services affected by the coronavirus can be found here >

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

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.

*We are working to accommodate as many students as is right for our programmes and will begin interviewing and making offers very soon. Applicants who applied before our initial preferred deadline will be given priority. In the meantime though, in recognition of the complexity of the global situation and the difficult decisions posed to many prospective students by the pandemic, we’re extending our application deadline as above.

Programme information / apply now

IMPORTANT: Please ensure you consult our Applicant Information for full information on tuition fees and other key information about our courses.

You can then return to this page for programme-specific information and to make your course application.

Ecological Design Thinking

Click below to apply for this course online(form opens in new window/tab).
Deadline for applications, second round: 1 July 2021

We are working to accommodate as many students as is right for our programmes and will begin interviewing and making offers very soon. Applicants who applied before our initial preferred deadline will be given priority. In the meantime though, in recognition of the complexity of the global situation and the difficult decisions posed to many prospective students by the pandemic, we’re extending our application deadline as above.


Click here to download a checklist to help you with your application (pdf).

Additional Documentation in Support of your Application

After you have submitted your application, please send all necessary supporting information listed below as soon as possible to allow us to process your application. As our staff are mostly working from home at present, please send scanned copies or electronic versions of the below to:


1) Certificate(s) or transcript(s) of first degree or equivalent qualifications: these can be Original or certified copies:

Photocopies MUST be certified by a public notary or solicitor (with contact details provided for them).

Any documents that are not in English MUST be accompanied by a full translation then certified by a public notary or solicitor. All translations must be accompanied by the certificate or transcript in the original language.

Important notes for students requiring a Student Visa

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will only accept original copies of your documents during the visa application process. We are happy to accept originals, but it is safer to post certified photocopies which meet the above guidelines. Please bring the originals with you to enrolment if offered a place.

UKVI also require a full translation of any documents that are not in English.

Schumacher College is licensed under Dartington Hall Trust as a Student Visa Sponsor. To comply with our sponsorship duties, we are required to check other aspects of your application in addition to your academic achievements. We will look at previous studies in the UK and other aspects outlined in UKVI guidance for sponsors. Information you provide on your application form will be passed on to the UKVI once you have been offered a place and Schumacher College agrees to sponsor you. 

2) A recent passport-size photograph

3) A copy of the front cover and information page of your current passport (inform us immediately if you get a new passport before you come to the UK to study).

4) A copy of any previous or current UK visa.

Translations of documents which are not in English

The original translation must contain:

  • confirmation from the translator/translation company that it is an accurate translation of the original document
  • the date of the translation
  • the translator/an authorised official of the translation company’s full name and signature, and
  • the translator/translation company’s contact details.

Documentary requirements for Student Visa applicants can be found here. Please read the Guidance and Appendix at the bottom of the page.  

Programme Structure

Full time (UK, EU or international students) or part time (UK students only) MA

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

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

Remote learning

We understand that due to the pandemic, you may be unsure about your ability to travel to our campus. If you feel that you may need to complete part or all of your qualification remotely, we are happy to consider this on a case-by-case basis. Please contact to discuss your requirements.

Part-Time Study

Students can take the course full-time over one year, or part-time over two years. 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.

PG Cert

PG Cert Ecological Design Thinking is a low residency learning 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.

PG Dip

PG Dip Ecological Design Thinking is a low residency programme with 4 x 30 credit modules. PG Dip 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.

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: 8 August 2022

Contact us for details of part-time programme patterns and deadlines.

Taught Dates

14–17 September 2021: Welcome Week (at Schumacher College)
20 September–1 October 2021: Module 1 (Teaching Weeks at Schumacher College)
8–19 November 2021: Module 2 (Teaching Weeks at Schumacher College or online)
10–21 January 2022: Module 3 (Teaching Weeks at Schumacher College)
28 February –11 March 2022: Module 4 (Teaching Weeks at Schumacher College)

Julian Lang

Julian has moved to Brazil to take up an apprenticeship at TIBA (Institute for Intuitive Technology and Architecture) launched by sustainability pioneer Johan van Lenghen. 

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.

Regina Ganem

Regina had spent 15 years working in the field of social justice and human rights before coming to College.  She is now working with a small scale farming cooperative to help them build a sustainable future.

“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.”

Camila Fava Pestana

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 (see our idea called Tierra. here). 

Ahmed Buasallay

Ahmed works with the United Nations Development Programme in Bahrain, as part of the Youth Leadership Programme team.

“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.”

Jerome Peyronnet

Jerome works for French Green Energy company Enercoop, an innovative coorperative working on ecological transition through energetic transition. Its aim is to provide 100% green electricity from producer to consumer with energy purchased from independent energy producers.

I’m happy to feel that I’m embodying Schumacher experience.”

Samantha Colli Sulu

Before College Samantha had been working in the field of international human rights law but had become disillusioned with legal solutions to the challenges we face. She is now developing Telar de Maya, a digital platform and podcast in Spanish. In many of the Spanish-speaking countries the regenerative voices are far from each other and Telar aims to connect them, proving a network to facilitate growth of the new ecological paradigm.

"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."

Professor Roberto Fraquelli, Senior Lecturer, MA Ecological Design Thinking

Roberto is interested in Holistic Design and the dilemma many designers face between the pressures of economic growth and an empathy with all living systems. His current research focuses on four interrelated themes: ecological design thinking, deep empathic design, systems design thinking and contemplative inquiry. With over 20 years of professional practice, mostly working with IDEO global design company, Roberto has designed products, environments and experiences for clients across Europe, America, India and the Far East. He holds a number of international design awards and patents - and his work has been featured in Domus, Business Week, Design Week, The Observer, and NewDesign magazine. Roberto studied Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.

Dr Mona Nasseri, Programme Lead, MA Ecological Design Thinking

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.

Mona joined Schumacher College in 2014 and been involved in the delivery and development of the Ecological Design Thinking programme since its inception. Alongside her role on the EDT programme, she has been working with interdisciplinary teams on multiple projects in relation to the problem of soil erosion in East Africa. Her main responsibility is to engage local communities in co-designing pathways to change and ensure local problems are responded by local wisdoms.

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