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Department of Architecture


The Master of Architecture (MArch) is a two-year ARB/RIBA Part 2 accredited programme with a structured focus on research and design. The MArch at Cambridge is designed for mature students who have distinct research interests that they wish to pursue and that align with the wider objectives of the course as a professional degree programme. Students pursue independently framed research-based design projects in the context of shared studios under the guidance of experienced practitioners and design tutors. The studio programme is supported by lecture and seminar courses at an advanced level that cover a range of topics in the history and theory of architecture, the socio-politics and culture of architecture and the city, and sustainability and environmental design in coordination with the MAUS (research degree) programme. The programme introduces students to research skills and specialist knowledge, and students are integrated into the research culture of the Department by working one to one with a research supervisor. Students are expected to attend the Department’s programme of research seminars and other graduate courses. Informal opportunities to develop research skills also exist through mentoring and other opportunities by visiting researchers and members of staff. Students are required to participate in postgraduate skills training courses on offer via the Department and the School of Arts and Humanities. By the end of the programme, students will have acquired advanced research training and been equipped with knowledge and skills to specialise and enhance their professional prospects.

Research Proposal

Students attend the postgraduate weekly lectures and seminars coordinated with the MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies (MAUS) and have studio supervisions for their design projects which are developed through a series of exercises and design research methods directed by studio tutors who look after students working in a particular area of interest or approach. These are handed in and assessed termly. At the same time students work with an academic research supervisor on refining their research thesis and carrying out background reading. During the first academic year they produce a research proposal which outlines the scope of the written thesis, developed in relation to their design project. This must be passed to progress to the second year.


Any fieldwork for the written thesis or design project is carried out over the summer between first and second year. There are various sources of funding which students can apply for to support travel and expenses if necessary.

Written Thesis and Design Project

In the Michaelmas Term of the second year, students complete their written thesis. The 15,000-20,000-word written dissertation must clearly relate to the design thesis and usually they together form an integrated project, research having informed the design and often the design work having informed the research. If a student wishes to progress to a PhD after the completion of the MArch, a mark of 70% or above in the written thesis is necessary.

Topic for Research and Design Projects 

The MArch hosts theses on a wide spectrum of topics that students bring to the degree programme, which range from studies focused on architecture and sustainability—in material, environmental, socio-economic and cultural terms—, architecture in its critical relation to civic institutions and their contemporary function, and the impact of architecture and urbanism on issues of social equity and environmental justice. While each candidate applies to the course with an individual design research proposal, the structure of the programme groups these topics into a shared set of themes and approaches. In each case, students are helped to refine their work to focus on a distinct design scale, and to engage with core research objectives, supported by the specialist knowledge of the academic staff. These common areas of study enable the cohort to consolidate and share resources and expertise whilst building upon the creative productivity of a studio environment.

Through interaction with research groups within the Department and engagement with experts in the wider University, the programme promotes interdisciplinarity and the integration of studio and research cultures, towards the production of a stimulating design environment. The primary aim of the course is the development of strong, imaginative, design projects that are grounded in an understanding of the concrete conditions that influence them as well as the more abstract debates that are implicated.

Course Structure & Examination

The course is structured by six residential terms (in Cambridge), an interim fieldwork period over the summer break (working elsewhere) and a third term focusing on regional analysis/research (residence in Cambridge). These provide an opportunity to explore distinct interests within design practice in various settings, whilst offering a sound framework to pursue meaningful research.

Candidates are free to choose a geographic area/region of interest that frames their study throughout the programme, to which they should have access in order to conduct fieldwork.  Candidates should also identify a potential academic supervisor within the Department with suitable expertise that they can work with.

The programme positively encourages students to develop complex architectural proposals that meet ARB/RIBA criteria for Part II exemption and to acquire knowledge and develop and apply research skills that push beyond current professional spheres and boundaries in the following areas:

  • The role of environmental and socio-political issues in architecture;
  • The wider environmental, historical, socio-cultural and economic context related to architecture and cities;
  • The building and material science and socio-political theories associated with architecture;
  • Modelling and assessment of building design;
  • Monitoring and surveying of buildings and urban environments;
  • Human behaviour, perception and comfort, and their role in building and urban characteristics;
  • Research methods and their application through academic and design research.


Teaching is delivered through lectures and seminars, supported by individual tutorials and supervisions.  Students develop their research and design projects through a series of studio sessions, participate in hands-on workshops, and are offered support in computer modelling, physical laboratory testing and guidance on the use of environmental sensors and loggers. Throughout the programme individual supervision is provided regularly to assist, direct, and monitor progress. Individual research activities, oral presentations and written essays encourage students to identify and solve problems, and are supported by regular feedback sessions and in supervisions. These strategies, particularly through specialist supervisions, are built upon through the independent dissertation research programme.

The course requires regular written, visual and oral presentations in the studio.  Effective communication of research findings and design concepts are an important criterion in all areas of students' work, and are assessed at all stages. Students are allocated a departmental supervisor during their first week who supports their academic progress for the duration of the course (two to three supervisions per term). This is complemented by studio tutorials and specialist supervisions arranged by the course director. In addition to research skills seminars, students attend weekly seminar courses for the first term and elect to attend seminar modules during their second. They are expected to audit other modules as appropriate for their projects.  Attending lectures is optional but students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of lectures offered in the Department and other University Faculties, Schools and institutes relevant to their research.

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At a Glance

Course length and dates:

21 months full-time, October start.  Not available on a part-time basis.


Thesis / Dissertation: Students must submit a dissertation of up to, and no more than, 20,000 words (including footnotes and annotations, but excluding bibliography) on a subject that falls within the research topics advertised in the Easter Term before they start the course. A list of these research topics and supervisors can be found on the Department website. The dissertation carries 30% of the final mark. Students who wish to continue to the PhD degree must get at least 70% in the dissertation.

Essay: Students must prepare a 3,000-word research proposal at the end of the first year which outlines both the topic of their written dissertation and the form and site of their final study project and details how the dissertation relates to the studio project. The research proposal counts for 10% of the final mark and must be passed before proceeding to the second year.

Written examination: Students sit two papers on Management, Practice and Law in the Easter Term of their first year. These carry 10% of the overall marks and must be passed to complete the course.

Other: Studio work represents the major output of the course and takes up most of the time. Students are expected to produce regular portfolio work in the form of drawings, models and design work throughout the two years of the course which will be submitted for assessment, typically termly, culminating in a building project proposal at the end of the first year, and the full design project which is completed in the second year. Overall portfolio work counts for 50% of the final mark in the degree. Portfolios are submitted electronically and can be accompanied by physical models, and students are expected to present their work to examiners in oral presentations. 

Academic requirement:

A 1st class or a high 2i honours degree in architecture, engineering, physics, mathematics, applied science or an appropriate cognate discipline.

English language requirement:

See Postgraduate Admissions Office.  

Applications accepted from:

The preceding September.

Application Deadlines:

The final deadline for applicants seeking funding is early January, for the exact date, please see the Postgraduate Admissions website. Even if you are not seeking funding, we strongly recommend that you submit your application by this date, as no applications will be accepted once the programme is full.

If places are still available in the programme beyond this deadline, self-funded applicants will continue to be considered until the final deadline in March; for the exact date please see the Postgraduate Admissions website. No applications will be considered after this deadline.

Course Fees:

Information relating to the fee for this course is available from the Postgraduate Admissions Office.  


If you are seeking funding for your course via one of the University’s main funding competitions, there are specific deadlines and eligibility criteria for each competition. Please check the Funding Section of the Postgraduate Admissions Office website for information and application deadlines.