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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The final component is undertaken between April and August when students complete an individual piece of research for their Master’s Dissertation. This can involve working with companies, government agencies and other organisations and often produces work that is subsequently published in peer-reviewed technical journals. The dissertation of 12,000 – 15,000 words is submitted by noon on the last Friday of August.  This aspect of the course is equivalent to four modules and allows an aspect of engineering and sustainable development to be pursued in depth.   The dissertation represents a major element of the MPhil and is the opportunity for students to extract maximum value from their time at Cambridge.

Topics might range from the design of geothermal heat pumps or the infrastructure requirements for hydrogen-based transportation systems to using sustainability criteria to prioritise asset management decisions in the water industry or how effective sustainability reporting is in an engineering sector.  Students discuss their ideas with the Course Director during Michaelmas term, and then they are assigned appropriate supervisors and agree titles for their work during Lent term.  This process allows preliminary preparation and planning to take place before the execution of the work itself gets underway around Easter.

The Supervisor’s involvement in each dissertation is a key element of success and staff are committed to ensuring that students obtain the fullest possible advantage from the experience.

The work itself is conducted as a full-time activity between April and the end of August. In mid-July a Dissertation Conference is held, in which students report the progress they have made to date to an invited audience of academics and industrial collaborators and receive feedback on their work.

Abstracts of completed dissertations are available here.

Course Overview



The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.