New Design Tripos brings arts and science together in one degree to address global challenges

A brand-new Cambridge degree - the first undergraduate course ‘designed from scratch’ at the University for a number of years - will merge arts and science to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

group of students in a study session

For the first time, the Design Tripos brings together architecture, engineering and materials science in a single degree. Blending technical content with design freedom, the course will offer a different kind of creativity, and a new approach to tackling societal and environmental issues, including poverty and climate action.

Using practices of design and our understanding of how they influence people, economies and the natural world, the four-year Master of Design (MDes) degree will be structured around hands-on, problem-based learning projects. Studio work and practical skills, including drawing, writing, coding, and fabricating, will complement taught courses in the humanities, social and natural sciences, and mathematics - bringing historical, cultural, ecological and economic context.

“It’s pioneering – we’re merging the arts and sciences under the umbrella of creativity and design, and constructing the course to be as open and interesting as possible,” said Professor Michael Ramage, Director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation, and Deputy Head of the University’s Department of Architecture. “We don’t know of any other single degree course that brings these three subjects together like this.”

Delivering clean growth and a circular economy requires not just specific technical expertise but a holistic understanding of the world, said Prof Ramage, who points at the COVID pandemic response as an illustration of how rapid solutions arise from the confluence of different fields.

“Pressing challenges – such as achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and reaching sustainable development for all - are likely to be addressed directly as design challenges, rather than as separate mathematical or engineering challenges,” he said. “They don’t fit into a neat academic box; unlocking creativity requires collaboration and knowledge across a variety of disciplines.”

The Design Tripos - which will start in October 2024, and lead to a Master of Design (MDes) upon successful completion - has been developed by the Department of Architecture in collaboration with the Departments of Engineering and Materials Science & Metallurgy, amid a growing desire among students in these fields to blend elements of each other’s subjects.

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Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge

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