Dartington Trust

MA Ecological Design Thinking

It is precisely at this time of global upheaval that we want you to come to Dartington Trust to share with us the ways in which you are moved to live and act differently. With a focus on interactive, experiential and participatory learning, Dartington Trust offers the practical skills and strategic thinking required to face the ecological, economic and social challenges of the 21st Century bringing together the leading thinkers, activists and practitioners internationally, to deliver a unique brand of small group learning experiences. Dartington Trust has an enviable reputation for cutting-edge learning. 

The ecological design thinking programme is trans-disciplinary, insightful and universal in its application; pragmatic and integrative in its operation. It brings together theoretical and practical discourses on ecologically inspired design, with methods of design thinking that are merged with the latest developments in anthropology, psychology and socio- political economics. It aims to create a novel ground for change makers at the forefront of our transition to sustainable societies.

Course details
  • Year 1

  • Core modules

    • The Ecological Paradigm: Living Earth and the Anthropocene (SCH5421)

    • Social and Political Economy: From system maintenance to system transformation (SCH5435)

      This module will explore the evolution of dominant economic, political and socio-cultural systems, identifying historic and emerging alternatives from around the world. Students will explore the role of design in catalysing transformation. They will critique, explore and propose solutions ranging from how we produce and consume energy, to patterns of work, settlements and finance. Theoretical and empirical work in this module will be developed as part of a design response to a given settlement in SCH5424.

    • Ecological Design Thinking: Catalysing transformation (SCH5436)

      This module examines Ecological Design as an approach that works with ecological and human systems. It explores practices that consider circular resource use and echo nature. Participants will develop and enhance communication, facilitation and charrette skills and explore co-production as a full lifecycle approach. They will begin to develop their own theories and methodologies. Theoretical and empirical work in this module will be developed as part of a design response to a given settlement in SCH5424.

  • Final year

  • Core modules

    • Ecological Design Thinking in Practice 1: Transforming the story of place (SCH5437)

      This module explores the principles, processes and practices of ecological design thinking in the context of a given place. Students will pursue group investigations that include the study of precedents and the identification of issues and sites to develop project briefs and designs in response to particular contexts that increase the resilience of social and ecological systems. The selected settlement studied will build on and draw from the theoretical and empirical work in modules SCH5421, 5422 and 5423.

    • Ecological Design Thinking in Practice 2: Transformation in action (SCH5438)

      This module further explores and develops the principles, processes and practices of ecological design thinking with short placements with partners. Students will work in small teams to explore a live issue identified by placement organisations and develop proposals in response. Proposals may include designs for building, spaces or systems, or strategies for these organisations. Students will be asked to both critically reflect on the work they undertake from a theoretical, ethical and professional context.

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements


A relevant degree with honours or an equivalent professional qualification. Other qualifications accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field may also be considered. Non-standard applications will be considered on a case by case basis.


Please view the country specific pages for further information regarding the equivalency of your degree. International applicants will be required to provide evidence of their English language ability, for example by achieving an IELTS score of 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) or equivalent, see our English language requirements. Pre-sessional English language courses are available if you do not meet these requirements.

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.


Scholarships are available for postgraduate taught programmes. Tell me more about scholarships and bursaries.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

As this course is delivered by one of our partner colleges, please contact the college directly for information on fees and funding.

How to apply
For further information and to apply for this course, please contact the college's admissions team directly using the contact details below. 
Our partnership with Dartington Trust
The University of Plymouth has developed partnerships with institutions around the world with the sole purpose of making higher education more accessible to those people who need something just a little different.

Our Academic Partnerships enable students to enrol for a degree at a partnership institution closer to home, or engage in distance learning – even when they’re in the middle of the ocean. They are there for those people looking to return to education, or enhance their professional development. Full- or part-time; foundation degree to masters-level – we cater for a huge variety of needs and aspirations.

Many of our partners offer specialist degrees, unique facilities, and smaller class sizes at a competitive price. And as a student of two institutions, you get the best of both worlds; a supportive learning environment as part of a close-knit community, and a university-level qualification awarded by the University of Plymouth. You’ll enjoy not only the facilities and services your partnership institution provides, but also all of the additional support and resources you need from us, and you’ll automatically become a member of our Students’ Union, too.

We are continuing to grow the number of partner institutions and expand our academic community to new locations around the UK and overseas. Why not visit the Academic Partnerships page on our website for a full list of partners and for more details on studying with us?

One of our partners delivers this particular course – so please visit their website for full course details, entry requirements, tuition fees and information on what student life is like there. 

Open days

Partner college open days

This course is run at one of our partner colleges. Open days are held at the college and more details of these can be found on the college website. You'll find contact details below, on this page.

University of Plymouth open days

You are also very welcome to attend a University of Plymouth open day, to get a flavour of the courses you can progress to from a partner college. There will however be limited information on this specific course and college.

Studying with Dartington Trust

Study with some of the biggest international names in social, economic and ecological thinking for the 21st century. Experience our radical blend of traditional and reflective learning in a communal living and working environment.

Find out more about studying at Dartington Trust
Schumacher College