Course specification and structure
Undergraduate Course Structures Postgraduate Course Structures

PMDESCOL - MA Design for Cultural Commons

Course Specification

Validation status Validated
Highest award Master of Arts Level Masters
Possible interim awards Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, Advanced Diploma in Professional Development
Total credits for course 180
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Subject Area Design
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 1 YEARS  
Part-time 2 YEARS  
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

‘Commons’ is part of an emerging discourse based around a resource, whose protection, benefits, values, profits and use are to be shared by considerable number of people with feasible governance and financial models.
This MA focuses on the role art and design practices such as performance, visual communication, product design, photography, installation, interiors and architecture can have as cultural commons within the built environment. This is combined with knowledge in economics, public policy, and sociology delivered by the School of Social Sciences and School of Social Professions. We will also offer an optional module from The MA in Digital Media.
The discourse on commons is fast growing with increased attention and advocates globally without widely available academic training to enter this emerging area. The MA will teach students the skills to enable them to practice be it within governmental organisations, cultural institutions or indeed their own entrepreneurial initiatives and NGOs working collaboratively across disciplines.
This unique course teaches students the discourse of ‘Commons’ both historical and current (core module: History and Theory of Commons). It teaches students commoning practices in live contexts (Commoning Practice). It also teaches students how to initiate, fund, self-govern and implement a ‘Commons’ project (Project: Enacting to Common). The course will encourage strong peer-to-peer collaboration between students and the public unlocking knowledge produced in live contexts that are not always present within academic institutions. Students will be required to set up platforms for knowledge sharing which is a key component of commons. This has been written into Commoning Practice. The commons is very much a discourse which requires students to learn through doing. As a practice- and project-based MA much of the learning in this course also happens outside the classroom in real situations where students are positioned. This situated learning is then evaluated, reflected on and discussed in face-to-face tutorials in the classroom. This enables the students to understand the value of knowledge gained within the live context.
The core modules delivering research and methodology and project will be led by Cass staff. This teaching will be supported by staff from the Cass, SSS, SSP and SCDM in other modules who will also offer critique at key public presentations during the course.
There will be online resources for the students and an archive of lectures and webinars to support students’ self-initiated project.
Students can also choose from optional modules outside The Cass which will teach public policy, governance, citizenship, localism, ethics and digital media. This gives the students the ability to design their curriculum outside the core modules.
In addition, the course employs a range of teaching and learning strategies.

Students develop and extend their individual intellectual and creative capabilities. ‘Live’ projects develop management skills, negotiation and collaborative working skills complemented by taught theoretical and case studies.

Peer review, critiques and self-evaluation
Students are encouraged to analyse, evaluate and engage with their own work and the work of others and develop advanced communication and presentation skills.

Seminars, reading groups, lectures, 1:1 tutorials
Students will be taught to rigorously and systematically interrogate core practice, projects, theory and case studies.

Blended Learning (the Weblearn virtual learning environment)
The course will upload module information on the web, project proposal development, practical, illustrated guidance in presentation skills, instruction in social media techniques, lecture notes, feedback. Weblearn blogs are used to enhance independent learning and record project development and foster student’s peer-to-peer communication and support.

Self-directed study
This is core to the course and used as the basis for tutorial discussion and critique. Students will be encouraged to engage with personal development planning (PDP) to enable them to reflect on, plan and review their own personal development as an ongoing process.

Professional practice talks and workshops
Shared across the School, these support students to develop their entrepreneurial strategies.

Course aims

The aim of this course is to tap into an emerging discourse and movement around the commons that has arisen as a result of systems of inequality in resource distribution and management. These resources can be natural, access to knowledge, digital, city spaces, financial, art and design objects etc.. Students will contribute to this emerging field through the practices/initiatives they create and the project they initiate in a live context.

The aim would be for students to continuously test their academic work within the University against external real-life situations in varying live contexts, always being aware of their ethical position. The course will give students the tools to negotiate appropriately their position in real projects. They will be taught to analyse the feasibility of their proposed practice and assess appropriate commoning models for the project. The aim is also to equip students with knowledge to critically assess the role of design in the commons project, which strives towards socio-economic equality.

Students will also develop appropriate communication skills in the project module to enable public accessibility to their work. The course also aims to work closely with the European Commons Network (ECN), Tate Exchange Program and UN Habitat. As the course develops, further key partnerships will be put in place to ensure the course and the students have a strong support network.

As well as the above the course aims to:

1- produce graduates who can negotiate complex, ambitious ideas, operate with agility in the face of problems and unexpected situations with confidence;
2- ensure that graduates understand the importance of, and have the knowledge and experience to carry out, appropriate, in-depth and ethical live projects with commons values;
3- develop collaborative, entrepreneurial, and presentational skills relevant to commoning projects and practices
4- enable students to become articulate and confident in delivering their projects to a wide audience;
5- champion a supportive and dynamic learning environment that encourages postgraduate students from a broad range of backgrounds, to engage in creative, critical enquiry and debate;
6- prepare students to critically appraise the context of commons and understand demands of working in a live context;
7- equip students with methodologies that enables them to act and innovate in changing demands;
8 - identify, research, plan and deliver an ambitious postgraduate level project to support advancement of their practice and the progress of their careers within the discourse of commons or similar discourses;
9- embed students within an established network of external partners, professionals and academics to support their future career.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

Course Learning Outcomes in Knowledge and Understanding

1. produce viable, creative, innovative commons projects and practice through live engagement within the situations the projects are grounded in (CA1, CA2, CA5, CA6, CA8, CA9);
2. interpret and evaluate their projects and practice from a range of critical and mainstream methods deployed by peer-to-peer organisations, considering the cultural and socio-economical context (CA1, CA2, CA5, CA7);
3. reflect upon ethical, environmental and legal issues involved in their projects (CA2, CA5, CA7);
4. develop methods for co-production and engagement that enables commoning practices and projects to deliver agency (CA2, CA6, CA8, CA9);
5. develop creative solutions on current overuse and abuse of resources (CA1, CA2, CA6, CA7);

Course Learning Outcomes in Cognitive Skills/ Intellectual Skills

6. construct and apply an iterative process that communicates, tests and evaluates ideas about the discourse of commons through critical, self-reflective and agile processes of analysis (CA1, CA5, CA7, CA8);
7. critically appraise, the commons practice and project within a given social, political, commercial, and cultural context (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA5, CA6, CA7, CA8, CA9);
8. learn to transform academic knowledge into practical applications (CA1, CA6, CA7, CA8);
9. clearly formulate and express the critical framework of the commons projects and role of design within it through appropriate models of representation or written argument (CA1, CA3, CA4, CA8);
10. understand power structures at play within commoning projects and develop innovative solutions to deal with inequality (CA1, CA2, CA7, CA9);

Course Learning Outcomes in Practical Skills

11. develop a project and practice from inception to completion, demonstrating an advanced and creative response to the challenging and complex conditions in designing for commons (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA4, CA8);
12. carry out effective research into current and emerging commoning initiatives and practices and select and draw from those appropriate for student’s own project (CA2, CA6, CA7, CA8);
13. exhibit final project and practice and host a discussion to both promote the students work but also design how it taps into the wider commons movement and discourse. Here we would support the students to tap into partnering organisations such as ECN, Tate and UN Habitat (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA4, CA5, CA6, CA9);
14. collate, document and present proposals effectively and persuasively in written, verbal and visual means appropriate to the proposed commons project (CA3, CA4, 8);
15. learn innovation in forms of practice and methods to measure its impact on social change (CA1, CA5, CA7);

Course Learning Outcomes in Key Transferable Skills

16. independently plan and effectively manage learning and project development to completion and presentation (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA4, CA8);
17. work effectively as a member of a team, recognising an individual’s potential for contribution and negotiating task allocation appropriately (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA8);
18. reflect realistically on the progress and success of their project within the commons movement and discourse (CA2, CA5, CA6, CA8);
19. articulate and defend clearly to clients, commissioners, peers and related professionals the intentions of commons projects produced and the rationale underpinning their development and production (CA1, CA2, CA3, CA4, CA8, CA9).

Course learning outcomes / Module cross reference

See module handbook.

Principle QAA benchmark statements

QAA Masters Degree Characteristics

Assessment strategy

Assessment is based on individual project development, written submissions, individual and group presentations, commons practice, culminating in the ‘commons’ project. Students are required to submit a portfolio of their relevant practical work together with all supporting material. Assessment includes a combination of diagnostic, formative and summative methods.
Assessment of knowledge and understanding is through coursework in form of project and practice, essays, and events. This may include as appropriate, oral presentations, group critiques, practical outcomes, situated project development, group work, practical (group, individual) critical review, study plans, learning agreements, reports, portfolios, verbal and visual presentations. Group critiques are used to assess students’ ability to identify and communicate their intentions both verbally and through their commons practice.
Students are expected to participate reflectively in assessment. Self-evaluation involves students in reflection on their own progress in relation to the learning outcomes, and mirrors the assessment process conducted by the course team, providing the basis for discussion at assessment feedback sessions after formal coursework assessment has taken place.
There will be formative assessment and feedback throughout the course, delivered in-class, through tutorials, in critique sessions and at presentations of work in progress. Feedback will be recorded and provided to students in line with approved School procedures and timelines. Feedback will follow the School policy of ‘feed forward’ clearly identifying both strengths of the work reviewed as well as areas and ways to improve work for the future. Students are expected to maintain appropriate records of their work as it develops across their agreed programme of studies and to take part in seminar discussion of their own and others’ work.
Summative assessment involves a formal presentation of work produced and considers the measure of achievement in relation to module learning outcomes.

Organised work experience, work based learning, sandwich year or year abroad

Work-related learning is embedded within the course, through engagement with practitioners and the essential component of the course to develop a ’Live’ project and practice. Students are required to set up an exhibition and an event to conclude their course. This event will be open to the public enabling students to talk about their final work and expand their future professional network. They can utilise their organisational and entrepreneurial skills taught through the course, to support the marketing of the event. The collaborations with UN Habitat, Tate Exchange program and European Commons Network also creates the support structure needed to give the students authority and an understanding of work based learning. The ultimate point here is that students will create their own practice.

Course specific regulations

The course will undertake a formal academic review of student performance at the end of each semester. Students performing below threshold standard will be recommended and/ or required to revise their program of study.

Completion and pass of core module DN7050, and completion of brief demonstrating clear practice aims, objectives and vision for a commons organisation part of core module DN7019, before commencement of module DN7P20 Project: Enacting the Common.

Students must have passed DN7050, GI7040 and a course option module to receive a PG Certificate.
Students must have passed all modules apart from the project module DN7P20 to receive a PG Diploma.

Modules required for interim awards

Masters 180 credits.

Full Time Study (12 months)
Year 1 - Autumn Term (60):
Core Modules – DN7050 History and Theory of Commons (20), DN7019 Commoning Practice (40)
Option Modules (1 can be selected) - GI7002 History and Theory of Human Rights (20), GI7084 Multi-level Governance (20), GI7075 Comparative Public Policy (20)
Year 1 - Spring Term (60):
Core Modules - GI7040 Citizenship and Social Justice (20), DN7019 Commoning Practice (40)
Option Modules (1 can be selected) - SM7098 Interaction Design (20), FA7027 Theoretical Studies for Art, Architecture and Design (20), AR7071 Economics of Place (20)
Year 1 - Summer Term (60)
Core Module – DN7P20 Project: Enacting the Common (60)

Part Time Study (24 months)
Year 1 - Autumn Term:
Core Module – DN7050 History and Theory of Commons (20),
Year 1 - Spring Term:
Core Module - GI7040 Citizenship and Social Justice (20),
Year 1 - Year:
Core Module - DN7019 Commoning Practice (40)

Year 2 - Autumn Term:
Option Modules (1 can be selected) - GI7002 History and Theory of Human Rights (20), GI7084 Multi-level Governance (20), GI7075 Comparative Public Policy (20)
Year 2 - Spring Term:
Option Modules (1 can be selected) - SM7098 Interaction Design (20), FA7027 Theoretical Studies for Art, Architecture and Design (20), AR7071 Economics of Place (20)
Year 2 - Summer Term:
Core Module – DN7P20 Project: Enacting the Common (60)

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

The course places a high value upon enabling postgraduate students to develop their confidence and independence as learners and practitioners in this emerging field of the commons. The course has developed four reflective learning strategies including:

1- peer-to-peer review (discussion platforms within the student body giving them agency and confidence);
2- external peer reviewers made up of experts, practitioners and citizens;
3- self-evaluation set up as part of the tutorial structure;
4- agile project evaluation documented in a journal.

These four elements taken collectively encourage analytical, critical and evaluative skills.

Opportunities for professional and personal development planning are built into this course through the curriculum, the choice of projects, public events and presentations, practice development and live project situations. These gives the students the framework to tailor the course around their specific interests. The self-directed nature of the Project: Enacting the Common and Commoning Practice modules encourages meaningful engagement with personal development throughout the curriculum, enabling postgraduate students to reflect on, plan and review their own progress and development during the course and post its completion.

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

This unique course teaches students to become entrepreneurs in creating their own initiative, NGO or practice. One-third of the course will focus on setting up students’ future commons practice: on completion of the course, students will have an operational practice. There will be an array of optional modules, ranging from public policies to social theories and citizenship, micro-economies and digital media. These are complemented with art and design teaching, from relational art, visual communication and performance to architecture and photography. Students will become pioneers in the emerging practices of cultural and urban commons. They will gain expertise in applying creative thinking towards asset sharing, mutual resources, self-governance and peer-to-peer economic models. Collaborating with cultural institutions and government agencies will enable them to develop related policies.

Formal and informal relationships will be maintained with organisations such as (typically) Tate Exchange Program, the European Commons Network, the UK Commons Assembly, and some programs within UN Habitat.

Career opportunities

Should students want to gain employment they will have opportunities in:

1) UN-Habitat agencies

2) Local Government

3) partners established during the MA

4) Organisations through European Commons network

5) Transition towns

6) Government research on future of cities

Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • 2.1/2.2 honours degree (or equivalent) in any subject discipline
  • An up-to-date CV and copies of award certificates.

If you have low qualifications but a portfolio of substantial relevant experience in the field of Commons or similar discourse you will be asked for an interview to demonstrate your competency for a postgraduate course on the Commons.

All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2018/19 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 18 Jun 2018 Last validation date 18 Jun 2018  
JACS codes 100197 (planning): 100%
Route code DESCOL

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 07 September start Offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
DN7019 Commoning Practice Core 40        
DN7050 History and Theory of Commons Core 20        
DN7P20 Project: Enacting the Commons Core 60 CITY SPR+SUM THU EV
GI7040 Citizenship and Social Justice Core 20        
AR7071 Economics of Place Option 20        
FA7027 Theoretical Studies for Art, Architecture and D... Option 20        
GI7002 History and Theory of Human Rights Option 20 NORTH AUT MON EV
GI7031 Introduction to Contemporary Public Administrat... Option 20        
GI7034 Public Service Design and Innovation Option 20 NORTH SUM WK  
SM7098 Interaction Design Option 20 NORTH SPR FRI AM

Stage 1 Level 07 January start Not currently offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
DN7019 Commoning Practice Core 40        
DN7050 History and Theory of Commons Core 20        
DN7P20 Project: Enacting the Commons Core 60        
GI7040 Citizenship and Social Justice Core 20        
AR7071 Economics of Place Option 20        
FA7027 Theoretical Studies for Art, Architecture and D... Option 20        
GI7002 History and Theory of Human Rights Option 20        
GI7031 Introduction to Contemporary Public Administrat... Option 20        
GI7034 Public Service Design and Innovation Option 20        
SM7098 Interaction Design Option 20