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The subject at Selwyn

Design combines architecture, engineering and materials science in one degree, giving you the opportunity to design solutions to environmental and societal challenges as defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It combines a focus on mathematical and scientific literacy with creative thinking to prepare students for a wide range of careers.  You will study design in the built environment as well as physical objects, apps, artificial intelligence and electronics, thinking about how each of these designs can influence people, cultures, economies and the natural world.  You will learn to create, critique, analyse and explain design solutions.

The first three years of the course provide a BA degree, equivalent to Part I of the Architecture Tripos.  Through a fourth year of study, students can achieve a Master of Design (MDes) qualification, which is expected to lead to accreditation in structural engineering or materials science.

The course is structured around a series of core studio projects which will require you to create solutions to real-world problems: from planning stage through to pitching a final product and evaluating user impact. For most projects, you will be working with stakeholders such as clients, end-users and suppliers. Outside of the studio, you will learn about related subjects including design history, philosophy, mathematics, engineering and natural sciences, which will then be applied to your design projects.  There are options to specialise in some areas as you progress through the course.  Most of the assessment is coursework-based, with some mathematics and programming skills assessed through written examinations.

Based in the Department of Architecture, you will have access to a variety of facilities such as workshops, studios, reprographics, flexible co-working spaces and a new digital fabrication lab.

The Teaching Fellows

Our Director of Studies for first and second year Design students is Professor James Moultrie (Professor of Engineering Design in the Department of Engineering).  Our Director of Studies for third and fourth year Design students will be Dr Ronita Bardhan (Associate Professor of Sustainable Built Environment in the Department of Architecture).  Both Professor Moultrie and Dr Bardhan are Fellows of Selwyn College.

Qualities we are looking for

You must have an enthusiasm for both the arts and the sciences. The ability to draw and an interest in the engineering, materials, design and architecture are essential, as is a knowledge of mathematics.

Subject requirements

We require applicants for Design to be studying A-Level (or equivalent) Mathematics and we will require an A* grade.


Applicants for Design have an interview with the Directors of Studies to discuss their interest in Design as well as their portfolio. The portfolio should typically contain a range of pieces of work (e.g. drawings, paintings, photographs of three-dimensional work, etc.) and related sketch-books. The best candidates will be able to show that they have worked independently, beyond their school Art or Design syllabus.  In the process of working through problems within the interview, they will also be able to demonstrate the mathematical and scientific literacy necessary to succeed on the course.

Submitted Work

All applicants will be asked to submit a PDF (6 A4 pages, less than 15MB in size) of their own artwork, prior to the interview.  The selection of images should, in part, reflect material you  might bring to interview as part of your portfolio.

Admissions Assessment

There will be an admissions assessment for all Design students for which no pre-registration is required.  The format consists of a graphic and spatial ability assessment.

July 2024