Design for Cultural Commons - MA

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Why study this course?

Our Design for Cultural Commons MA course is ideal if you are critical of current inequalities within companies and institutions that shape our lives. This MA addresses this through developing new innovative, socially ethical and applied practice models or influencing existing institutions towards a more equitable society. The models are based on methods of co-design, collaboration and conflict embedded in the city. This course is predominantly practice and project based with an injection of theory to offer criticality to the work produced.

Throughout this course, you will develop your ethical practices and projects through the lens of the commons. The commons as a field of study is an emerging discourse coined as a post-capitalist solution to our current problems in social and economic inequality supporting methods to instigate power shifts. On the course you’ll learn how to design models of sharing resources -- these models include self-management, forms of resource use, authorship and ownership of our current cultural resources embedded in cities. These resources can be knowledge, nature, arts, architecture and laws, which we will articulate as part of our cultural ecosystem.

At the heart of the Commons are relationships, be it social, financial, spatial or political. This means models of collaboration, conflict, negotiation and working together is at the heart of this course. You'll learn to design how these shared assets are created, governed, used and distributed without overuse and abuse.

More about this course

This unique course is the first of its kind that hopes to expand on current practice models in the commons through experimenting with ethical practices in a variety of contexts. It teaches the discourse of commons, both historical and current. A third of the course will focus on setting up your future commons organisation through an incubation programme. To support your organisational design and project, we offer an array of optional modules ranging from public policies, social theories and citizenship to economies, social psychology, environmental law and digital media. This will be complemented by teaching you about art and design, visual communication, performance, architecture and photography.

There is also the opportunity to tailor your learning and construct your own unique curriculum.

You'll become a pioneer in the emerging practices of cultural and urban commons. You'll gain expertise in creative thinking towards asset-sharing, mutual resources, self-governance and peer-to-peer economic models. Collaborating with cultural institutions and government agencies will enable you to develop your organisation grounded in current policies.

The course will support you to be integrated within the network of the International Association for the Study of the Commons. This will enable you to gain awards, as well as access international collaboration opportunities and platforms for knowledge exchange following your MA.

We'll support you in applying for mentoring programmes following your MA, to develop your practice/initiative into a viable social enterprise.


You will be assessed through individual and group presentations, case studies, reports, research proposals and a final project in the form of a practice portfolio and written thesis.

Fees and key information

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Entry requirements

You will be required to have:

  • 2.1/2.2 honours degree (or equivalent) in any subject discipline

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.

To study a degree at London Met, you must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. If you require a Tier 4 student visa you may need to provide the results of a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

If you need (or wish) to improve your English before starting your degree, the University offers a Pre-sessional Academic English course to help you build your confidence and reach the level of English you require.

Modular structure

The modules listed below are for the academic year 2019/20 and represent the course modules at this time. Modules and module details (including, but not limited to, location and time) are subject to change over time.

Year 1 modules include:

  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Thursday evening

    According to republican ideals, citizenship originally denoted being an active part of a city and its civil society, of a polis and its political community, not simply the possessor of a passport. This module explores the changing meaning and continuing potential of citizenship, including the modern separation of the politics of the sovereign, bureaucratic state from the market society of its economically active subjects, and the failure of twentieth-century attempts to use states’ representative democracy to democratize society and justify corporate and institutionalized power in terms of citizens’ participation. This failure has much to do with the massive scale of modern political and economic organization, and the module will explore recent arguments about both the politics of locality and community and the relation of citizenship and rights to duties, virtues, and justice.

    Module aims

    • To provide a historical and critical introduction to ideas, theories and arguments about
    citizenship and social justice.
    • To explore ethical ideas and to articulate such ideas in the construction of a logical argument.
    • To relate philosophical propositions to political, social and economic issues and to institutional, legal and policy prescriptions.
    Module learning outcomes
    By the end of this module students will be able to:
    • understand the sources and development of contemporary ideas and practices of
    • analyze, articulate, criticize and defend ethical ideas, and apply such ideas in the
    evaluation of political ideologies and institutions and of social and economic policies;
    • present and defend a logical argument supported by relevant evidence.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • all year (September start)

    This module is practice-based and vocational as well as creative and innovative in developing new forms of practice. It will enable students to either develop a fully operational practice initiative within the discourse of commons or develop an imaginary one using real practice models. The module has components in form of lectures and seminars and one to one design tutorials where the concepts and ideas of the practice are formed. Within tutorials students discuss the role of partnerships, collaboration and co-production and their relationship to supporting institutions. Students will be encouraged to publicly present their practice in real-life scenarios. The course will already have key institutional partners which may not be obviously commons but will act as support to the development of the students’ ‘Commons’ practices/ initiatives.

    The module aims to give students the power to imagine or create a practice within which to initiate their own commons projects, developing appropriate practice models based on the country and context in which they will be located. Students will devise appropriate practice policies related to equality, ethics and inclusivity and learn fund-raising skills. Students will gain a critical understanding of the role and position of their practice within the field of commons and as part of a larger global network. They will develop skills for co-operative and collaborative working and designing which sit within the commons discourse; and develop models to assess impact via monitoring and evaluation methods.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Monday morning

    This module sets the context, both theoretical and practical, around the commons discourse. It will cover its historical context and points of origin, towards its current manifestation and global movement. The module will comprise lectures by practitioners in the field as well as reading seminars covering a range of themes on cultural, knowledge, urban, digital, and economic commons. The students will become familiar with similar parallel discourses such as peer-to-peer models of creating common goods as well as cooperatives. The module aims to cultivate a solid ground for the students to develop their future practice. It enables students to develop critical thinking essential in development of such an emerging field. Students will be able to study alongside their peers on related courses and engage in productive discussion, debate and at times collaboration.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • all year (September start) - Thursday morning
    • spring semester - Monday afternoon

    The module builds on the students’ draft brief developed in the MA’s core module: History and Theory of Commons. This module supports students to develop their brief further into a rigorous project proposal. The project will be required to be live in its nature and embedded in a real context. This context can be institutions, other initiatives or practices, factories or places of cultural production, banks, farms and any other live context the students chose. The year long project will develop students’ skills to co-produce their projects, critically assess individual and collective authorships, explore critical approaches to design and its ethics as well as the meaning of the work and its materiality.
    The aim of the module is to enable students to have a high quality project developed within the discourse of the commons which enables them to revisit or continue following their MA qualification.

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  • The module will explore the explanations that have been given for the variations in policy in fields such as health, education, urban policy, etc between nations and groups of nations. It will draw on examples of policy in each area from both developing and developed nations. Students will be encouraged to research case studies in particular fields of policy and to present these. The instructional model is devoted to a comparative analysis of local policies in some of the most important social fields. The general principles of government policy are considered in turn, along with a comparative study of national economic development policy, social policy, and policy in health, education and public order. There will be special topics consisting of the basic directions of local policy (municipal development, public services and transport). Having studied the model, the students will have gained an overall impression of typical problems tackled at national level in these areas, ways of solving them in different states and the machinery of government policy in these areas.

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  • This module provides an overview of development economics, and an analysis of historic and contemporary policies and practices, involved in the economics of delivering sustainable urban change.

    This module aims to:

    • provide students with an understanding of development economics within planning practice in the UK, with specialist knowledge of urban contexts and comparisons with international case studies;
    • critically assess a range of elements, involved in creating economically sustainable plans and places;
    • inform students on the choice of appropriate specialisms.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday evening

    History and Theory of Human Rights critically engages contemporary scholarship and debate about the political history and moral and political theory of human rights. It follows recent analyses of the mediaeval, Enlightenment and American histories of rights doctrine, paying especial attention to Immanuel Kant’s moral universalism, to the realism of his doctrine of right, and to his importance for contemporary liberalism and rights theory. It explores issues of historical relativism and cultural particularity in various ways but especially through analysis of UNESCO’s famous human rights symposium and of Alasdair MacIntyre’s infamously realist critique. The historical context and significance of Jacques Maritain’s theorization of human rights is evaluated, in relation to the formation Europe’s human rights regime and to non-European traditions, and so too is John Rawls’ retheorization of moral and political rights-based liberalisms. Contemporary academic debate about human rights focusses on the rival claims advanced by historians and moral theorists for the superiority of their respective approaches. Historians, led by Samuel Moyn, have recently had the best of this, although John Tasioulas has long promised a rebuttal. Participants in the module scrutinize such debate and engage in the intellectually demanding task of evaluating rival theories..

    Module aims

    To provide a historical and critical introduction to ideas, theories and arguments about human rights.
    To evaluate political, social, legal and economic institutions and actions by ethical criteria.
    To explore ethical ideas and to articulate such ideas in the construction of logical arguments.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Friday morning

    Interaction design is an expanding field increasingly concerned with end user requirements, user experiences and their everyday practice. Digital networks and portable devices have changed the way we work, play and interact with each other. This module provides an introduction to the theoretical and practical issues that underlie interaction design for end users of digital products. Students will be introduced to the key concepts of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), user-centred design approaches and design research methods as well as practically implementing these principles and methods. From gathering use requirements to assembling high fidelity prototypes this module will enable students to develop practical as well as analytical skills necessary for digital project development on different platforms.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • autumn semester - Tuesday evening

    This module provides an advanced examination of patterns in multi-tier governance, within the context of globalisation and increased complexity of the modern state. It explores the historical and contemporary nature of sub-central (local and regional) and supra-national governance, their relationship with central governments, and sets this within the theoretic and systemic context.

    The module provides an analysis of competing theories that could explain the complexity of modern state administration and governance. The tensions between globalisation and subsidiarity will be discussed, as well as the concepts of multi-level governance, decentralisation and localism. These concepts and theories will be reviewed through a series of case studies of local and regional governance in the United Kingdom, the European Union and internationally, as well as through identifying the issues and frameworks that impact on contemporary modes of governance at these levels. It concludes by evaluating the potential future direction of governance at local and regional levels.

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  • This module currently runs:
    • spring semester - Monday afternoon

    This module examines a number of key perspectives from which students may explore the contexts and implications of their own practice and the works that they produce. Seminars encourage group discussion of a range of theoretical frameworks, and their controversies and criticisms, through examination of selected texts and projects.

    The module culminates in the production of an essay on themes and issues identified as relevant to the student’s own practice and evolving research project, through negotiation with the student’s supervisor.

    The module aims to:
    • enable students to refine their understanding of debates and issues which are integral to their project;
    • further develop and consolidate critical and analytical thinking;
    • define understanding of the relation of theory to practice (and practice in relation to theory);
    • enable students to engage with a range of critical debates and vocabularies applicable to their work.

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After the course

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

Additional costs

Please note, in addition to the tuition fee there may be additional costs for things like equipment, materials, printing, textbooks, trips or professional body fees.

Additionally, there may be other activities that are not formally part of your course and not required to complete your course, but which you may find helpful (for example, optional field trips). The costs of these are additional to your tuition fee and the fees set out above and will be notified when the activity is being arranged.

How to apply

Use the apply button to begin your application.

Non-EU applicants looking to study part-time should apply direct to the University. If you require a Tier 4 visa and wish to study a postgraduate course on a part-time basis, please read our how to apply information for international students to ensure you have all the details you need about the application process.

When to apply

You are advised to apply as early as possible as applications will only be considered if there are places available on the course.

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