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Postgraduate

MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures

Photo of people wearing animal masks in an outdoor setting.
Shannon Larkin, Welcome to the Future, 2023, MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, LCC, UAL. Photograph: Freyja Sewell
College
London College of Communication
Start date
September 2024
Course length
1 year 3 months full time (45 weeks across a four-term model)

MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures will connect you to others with a shared interest in eco-social justice and sustainability. Develop a more critical perspective while applying your design practice and radical imagination to some of our most complex eco-social challenges.

Applying for more than 1 course

You can apply for more than 1 postgraduate course at UAL but we recommend that you apply for no more than 3. Find out more in the Apply Now section.

Why choose this course at London College of Communication

  • Expand your mind and practice: Through workshops, talks, visits and exhibitions, you'll consider existing approaches and theories while developing your own way of working and thinking.
  • Collaborations: You'll work with a diverse peer group from varied backgrounds, students from other courses, and exciting external partners such as community organisations, social enterprises and local councils.
  • Find your voice and agency: Joining a boundary-pushing community of practice, you’ll critically evaluate your position as a designer, explore your personal values, question what matters most, and consider your role in eco-social change.
  • Make a difference: Exploring interrelated issues, you’ll develop self-reflexive and critical approaches to creative change-making. You'll question common notions of progress and innovation, and consider how problems can be addressed responsibly.
  • Become a responsible creative practitioner: By developing pluriversal and intersectional approaches to design, you’ll gain transferable skills across design research, impact evaluation, participatory design, social entrepreneurship and critical analysis. You’ll work towards your professional future by adapting them into your own eco-social design practice.

Open Days

A recording of our latest Virtual Open Event for this course is available. Watch online.

Course overview

MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures has been established as a collaborative, creative and generative studio for designers interested in working with complex global issues.

The course explores the future of design practice and its interdependence with eco-social concerns. Whether you are a graphic designer, systems designer, animator, filmmaker or architect, no matter your educational or professional background, you are invited to investigate and question your discipline in relation to the global systems you inhabit. Looking at the environment, materiality, empathy, ethics and justice within broad and dynamic socio-cultural, economic and political contexts, this is both a practical and thoughtful course with an emphasis on innovative practice, collective action, plurality and real-world change.

The MA will culminate in a final ‘Design in Action’, creating demonstrable eco-social impact.

What can you expect?

You will work fast. You will work slow. You will think deeply. You will make quickly. You might fail periodically. You might play intensely. You should learn continuously. You will learn with and from your peers. You will cultivate your distinct voice and creative confidence. You will critique, deconstruct and re-define the innovation and sustainability canon. You will design for justice.

You will delve deeply into research methodologies, prototyping and experimentation, diverse models of sustainable eco-social practice, systems design and speculative futures. 

Through various forms of collaboration inside and outside the University, you will learn to connect with stakeholders, frame your inquiry and re-imagine the present for more sustainable futures. You will be exposed to different theories in social innovation and sustainable practice. You will be invited to critique these and build your own knowledge.

You’ll be given opportunities to participate in a diverse range of experiences including workshops, presentations, exhibitions, symposia, knowledge exchange and skills sharing. The course has been designed to be designed. All students involved will be shape-shifting this course through their own critical and practical work.

The Design School at London College of Communication believes in ‘design as the site of action and agency to radically transform our world’. This course will be putting thinking into practice, giving you the chance to make real eco-social impact through a Design in Action final project.

Who is this course for? 

  • Students who care about the world they inhabit. Who make work with purpose and intent. Enthusiastic, collaborative and responsive designers who want to concentrate their practice on working as agents of positive change. 
  • Students curious about both the systemic power of design in shaping the future, and the limitations, ethics and critical dialogue around eco-social innovation practices.
  • Students with a creative background and with practical design experience. Able to take initiative, try things out, take risks, disrupt, put their values into practice, and lead through uncertainty.
  • Students who want to work with people who are not the same as them. Able to create productive ecosystems of collective action. Able to cross boundaries of discipline, experience, identity and beliefs.

Mode of Study

MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures is in full time mode which runs for 45 weeks over 15 months. You will access learning through a blended model of online and offline experiences. You will be expected to commit 40 hours per week to study.

Course units

We are committed to ensuring that your skills are set within an ethical framework, and we have worked to embed UAL’s Principles for Climate, Racial and Social Justice Principles into the curriculum and in everything we do.  

As part of this initiative, we’ve shaped our courses around social and environmental sustainability principles that ensure learning outcomes reflect the urgent need to equip you with the understanding, skills, and values to foster a more sustainable planet. Our aim is to change the way our students think, and to empower you to work towards a sustainable future.

Each course is divided into units, which are credit-rated. The minimum unit size is 20 credits. The MA course structure involves five units, totalling 180 credits.

Researching and framing for innovation (20 credits)

Understand the range of different design research methods and apply these to a real-world enquiry. Explore the ethics of research practice, the complexity of the global issues within our different personal and cultural contexts, and the importance of getting the question right.

Eco-Social innovation and impact (40 credits)

Explore an expansive range of theories, models, and literature around the subject of social innovation and sustainability. Dive into examples of practice and take a critical look at the past, present and future.

Collaborative unit (20 credits)

A chance to do a real project with other people across the university and beyond. Put your knowledge, thinking, and ideas into practice.

Co-design for sustainable futures (40 credits)

Speculate, imagine, and make more plural, collaborative and sustainable futures.

Design in action: major project (60 credits)

A chance for you start your own piece of work in direct reaction to a situation or issue in the world that you want to change. 

Learning and teaching methods

  • Collaborative learning
  • Peer-to-peer exchange
  • Hands on workshops
  • Reading groups
  • Peer-led seminar learning
  • Individual and group tutorials
  • Self-directed learning
  • Visiting practitioners
  • Study trips
  • Formative and summative assessment

UAL Showcase

Explore work by our recent students on the UAL Showcase

  • Renée Materials
    Renée Materials, Frieda Bischoff, 2022 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Symbiotic Purradies
    Symbiotic Purradies, guanting chen, 2023 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL
  • City Can be A Friend
    City Can be A Friend, Zhennan Zhang, 2023 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Happily, Ever After - From Biohacking Pregnant
    Happily, Ever After - From Biohacking Pregnant, Ruizhi Xiao, 2023 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Re-ID
    Re-ID, Yan Chen, 2023 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL
  • Marghera nel mezzo (Marghera in-between)
    Marghera nel mezzo (Marghera in-between), Chiara Portinari, 2023 MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures, London College of Communication, UAL

Student work

  • pipi-yuan-giulia-capasso-the-adventure-in-a-future-of-rewilding-2120-9.jpg
    Pipi Yan and Giulia Capasso, The Adventure in a Future of Rewilding, 2020.
  • student-rrun-sessions.jpg
  • working-from-home-ma-dsfsf.jpg
    MA Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures cohort working collaboratively from home.
  • workshop-gallery-design-innovation-2.jpg
  • Rebecca-Ghim-_-Decolonising-Futures_1.jpg
    Rebecca Ghim, Decolonising Sadaejuui in Korean History Through Speculative Letter from the Future
  • Haneen-Jamal-and-Muneera-al-barrak-cleair.jpg
    Haneen Jamal and Muneera al Barrak, Cle/Air
  • PiPi-Yuan-and-Giulia-Capasso_The-adventure-in-a-future-of-rewilding-2120-13.jpg

Student voices

Michael Wright

Michael’s project, ‘The Museum of Alternative Education’, is a pop-up museum that facilitates workshops for children to create their own curriculum, challenging traditional education.

Marie Vodickova

Marie's project is a proposal for Nike for a more sustainable Internet.

Course stories

410 Gone

410 Gone


openresty

Facilities

  • Red light indicating recording is taking place.
    Image © Vladimir Molico

    Lens-based and Audio-visual

    Find out about the workspaces and studios that support Lens-based and Audio-visual practice.

  • A tutor in the process of producing a print.
    Image © Lewis Bush

    Printmaking

    Have a look around the places and spaces that make up LCC and get an idea of what it's like to be here.

  • The Digital Space, London College of Communication.
    Image © Ana Escobar

    The Digital Space

    The Digital Space is an open-plan, creative hub with computers set up with specialist software.

Staff

Acting Course Leader

Emily Briselden-Waters

Fees and funding

Home fee

£13,330

This fee is correct for 2024/25 entry and is subject to change for 2025/26 entry.

Tuition fees may increase in future years for new and continuing students on courses lasting more than one year. For this course, you can pay tuition fees in instalments.

Students from countries outside of the UK will generally be charged international fees. The rules are complex so read more about tuition fees and determining your fee status.

International fee

£28,570

This fee is correct for 2024/25 entry and is subject to change for 2025/26 entry.

Tuition fees may increase in future years for new and continuing students on courses lasting more than one year. For this course, you can pay tuition fees in instalments.

Students from countries outside of the UK will generally be charged international fees. The rules are complex so read more about tuition fees and determining your fee status.

Scholarship search

Entry requirements

The MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures course welcomes applicants who are keen to explore design in terms of its human-centred and strategic approach, its collaborative potential, and as a leading force for driving meaningful and contextually relevant societal and ecological transformation.

Applicants may come from a range of design disciplines or related creative industry experiences with a 2:1 or above Honours degree course, or have other equivalent qualifications.

The course team also welcomes students with relevant technical/ practical background experience who have worked in creative industries and who show a commitment to design and experiential learning, being keen to explore their practice as a place of sustainable action and social transformation.

The teaching team is looking for applicants who value critical thinking and socially and environmentally focused design, and are looking to question the relationship of design industry and the global systems it inhabits.

Educational level may be demonstrated by:

  • Honours degree at 2:1 or first-class
  • Possession of equivalent qualifications;
  • Prior experiential learning, the outcome of which can be demonstrated to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required;
  • Or a combination of formal qualifications and experiential learning which, taken together, can be demonstrated to be equivalent to formal qualifications otherwise required.

Language requirements

All classes are conducted in English. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend you let us know your English language test score in your application.

If you have booked a test or are awaiting your results, please indicate this in your application. When asked to upload a CV as part of your application, please include any information about your English test score.

  • IELTS 6.5 (or equivalent) is required, with a minimum of 6.0 in speaking and reading, and 5.5 in writing and listening.
  • If your first language is not English, you can check you have achieved the correct IELTS level in English on the Language Requirements page.

For further details regarding international admissions and advice please visit the International Applications page.

Selection criteria

Offers will be made based on the following selection criteria, which applicants are expected to demonstrate:

  • Sufficient prior knowledge and experience of and/or potential in a specialist subject area to be able to successfully complete the programme of study and have an academic or professional background in design for social innovation
  • A willingness to work as a team player, excellent language skills in speaking, reading and writing, the ability to work independently/be self-motivated and work collaboratively.
  • A proactive team attitude, with strong communication skills and the ability to work both collaboratively and independently.
  • Critical knowledge of and enthusiasm for design as place of social transformation and capacity for research-led design, intellectual inquiry and reflective thought through: contextual awareness (professional, cultural, social, historical, environmental); evidence of investigation, analysis, development and evaluation (from previous academic study and/or employment) and a grounded understanding of the world of design cultures and be able to engage in and contribute to critical discussion.
  • Via the ‘Personal Statement’ – a curiosity to explore responsible and ethical design practice in order to transform society and enable sustainable futures.
  • Via the ‘Portfolio’ – creative and research-based projects, that show problem-solving, experimentation and making processes.

Apply now

Application deadline

Deadline

Round 1:

13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)

Round 2:

3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)

Digital portfolio and video task deadline

Round 1:

16 January 2024

Round 2:

16 April 2024

Decision outcome

Round 1:

End of March 2024

Round 2:

End of June 2024

Round 1
Round 2
Deadline
13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)
3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)
Digital portfolio and video task deadline
16 January 2024
16 April 2024
Decision outcome
End of March 2024
End of June 2024

The deadline has now passed. However, this course is still open to applications and will remain open until all places are filled.

Read more about deadlines

Apply now

Application deadline

Deadline

Round 1:

13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)

Round 2:

3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)

Digital portfolio and video task deadline

Round 1:

16 January 2024

Round 2:

16 April 2024

Decision outcome

Round 1:

End of March 2024

Round 2:

End of June 2024

Round 1
Round 2
Deadline
13 December 2023 at 1pm (UK time)
3 April 2024 at 1pm (UK time)
Digital portfolio and video task deadline
16 January 2024
16 April 2024
Decision outcome
End of March 2024
End of June 2024

The deadline has now passed. However, this course is still open to applications and will remain open until all places are filled.

Read more about deadlines

Apply to UAL

Start your application
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Based across the world, our local UAL representatives can support you with your application from your home country. Check to see if there is a representative available in your country currently.

Find your representative

How to apply

Follow this step-by-step guide to apply for this course

Step 1: Initial application

You will need to submit an initial application including your personal statement and CV.

Personal statement advice

This should be about 500 words long and include:

  • your reasons for choosing the course
  • your current creative practice and how this course will help you achieve your future plans
  • any relevant education and experience, especially if you do not have any formal academic qualifications.

CV advice

Please provide a CV detailing your education, qualifications and any relevant work or voluntary experience. If you have any web projects or other media that you would like to share, please include links in your CV. If English is not your first language, please also include your most recent English language test score.

Step 2: Video task and digital portfolio

We will review your initial application. If you have met the standard entry requirements, we will ask you to submit a video task and digital portfolio.

You’ll need to submit these via PebblePad, our online portfolio tool. Please submit your video task on the first page followed by your portfolio.

Video task advice

We’d like you to submit a 2-3 minute video to help us learn more about you. When recording your task, please face the camera and speak in English.

What to include in your video task

  • Choose 1 project from your portfolio and explain how it challenged you and your understanding of design for social innovation and sustainable futures.
  • Tell us how this experience inspired you to apply to MA Design for Social Innovation and Sustainable Futures at London College of Communication.

Read our guidance for how to submit your video task and which file types we accept.

Digital portfolio advice

Your portfolio should consist of recent work that reflects your creative strengths.

It should:

  • be maximum 20 pages, featuring work from up to 5 projects
  • include short statements about each project that describe your motivation, development and contribution/roles
  • showcase your creativity, research and working process as well as final outcomes
  • include examples of creative work (visual and written)
  • include evidence of developmental research and process competencies
  • highlight your interests and enthusiasm in sustainability and social innovation.

For more support, see our Portfolio advice and PebblePad advice.

Step 3: Interview

You may be invited to an interview following our review of your application. All interviews are held online and last 15 to 20 minutes.

For top tips, see our Interview advice.

You also need to know

Communicating with you

Once you have submitted your initial application, we will email you with your login details for our Applicant portal.

Requests for supplementary documents like qualifications and English language tests will be made through the applicant portal. You can also use it to ask questions regarding your application. Visit our After you apply page for more information.

Applying to more than 1 course

You can apply for more than 1 postgraduate course at UAL but we recommend that you apply for no more than 3 courses. You need to tailor your application, supporting documents and portfolio to each course, so applying for many different courses could risk the overall quality of your application. If you receive offers for multiple courses, you'll only be able to accept 1 offer. UAL doesn't accept repeat applications to the same course in the same academic year.

Visas and immigration history check

All non-UK nationals must complete an immigration history check. Your application may be considered by our course teams before this check takes place. This means that we may request your portfolio and/or video task before we identify any issues arising from your immigration history check. Sometimes your history may mean that we are not able to continue considering your application. Visit our Immigration and visas advice page for more information.

External student transfer policy

UAL accepts transfers from other institutions on a case-by-case basis. Read our Student transfer policy for more information.

Alternative offers

If your application is really strong, but we believe your strengths and skillset are better suited to a different course, we may make you an alternative offer. This means you will be offered a place on a different course or at a different UAL College.

Deferring your place

We do not accept any deferral requests for our postgraduate courses. This means that you must apply in the year that you plan to start your course and you will not be able to defer your place to start at a later date.

Application deadlines

For postgraduate courses at UAL there are 2 equal consideration deadlines to ensure fairness for all our applicants. If you apply ahead of either of these deadlines, your application will be considered on an equal basis with all other applications in that round. If there are places available after the second deadline, the course will remain open to applications until places have been filled.

Careers

Careers paths

Demand in the public, private and third sectors for professionals with this knowledge-set and experience means that career options are diverse. Therefore, graduates might join/work with:

  • Creative practices and strategic design companies.
  • Corporate social responsibility departments.
  • Ethical businesses or social enterprises.
  • Government, policy-makers and government agencies/advisors.
  • Charities, NGOs and Not for Profits.

By combining strong practice-based learning and strategic thinking with an innovative and enterprising mind-set, students will also have the knowledge, confidence and competitive edge to:

  • Set up their own agencies, start-ups or incubators.
  • Become eco-social entrepreneurs, researchers and educators.
  • Act as ethical/sustainable consultants or advisors to business, organisations and enterprises.