Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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Here you will find some answers to questions frequently asked about our postgraduate courses at CAT. If the answers do not hold the information you are looking for, please contact us.


What facilities are available at CAT?

Most of the lectures and tutorials you would attend at CAT are located in the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE) building. This includes:

  • A 200-seat circular lecture theatre made from rammed earth
  • Large classrooms/workspaces and further smaller seminar rooms
  • A computer suite
  • Foyer with games, books and a bar
  • 24 en-suite twin bedrooms, overlooking a large open roof garden and decking

On-site we also have:

To learn more about the facilities at CAT click here

I have been away from education for some time and am nervous about coming back to study. Can you advise?

We help students make the transition back to studying and support them in regaining confidence and other aspects of their work. CAT attracts a diverse range of people, from the UK and across the world, with a wide variety of different backgrounds, life and work experiences and ages.

If you’d like to talk to us about your concerns about getting back into studying, please contact us

Will other learning institutions and employers recognise my CAT qualifications?

Yes, all of our postgraduate programmes are validated by an accrediting university (either Liverpool John Moore’s University or the University of East London) and are recognised internationally. Your qualification at the end of the programme will be joint with CAT and the validating university.

Does the site have disabled access?

During the Summer Season (April – October), access to site is via the cliff railway which has carriages that are adapted to receive wheelchairs. Free disabled parking spaces are available very close to the bottom station. We offer free entry to the Visitor Centre for carers.

During the winter months (November – March), the railway is closed and access to the Visitor Centre is via a stepped pathway, taking about 10 minutes to walk. Alternative disabled parking spaces are available at the top of the South Drive, avoiding the steps. The displays are located throughout a 7-acre open-air site. Most of the pathways around site are made up of compacted aggregates which are mostly level; however wheelchair users may require assistance in using these, particularly during periods of inclement weather. All the buildings have ramped or level access with doors, entrances and corridors wide enough for a wheelchair. There are wheelchair accessible toilets at the bottom car park reception building and near the shop at the top of the cliff railway.

We have electric mobility scooters and a wheelchair, either of which can be hired free of charge by calling 01654 705950 in advance of your visit.

Do you have Wi-Fi facilities for students on-site?

Free student Wi-Fi is available within and close to several buildings on-site, including bottom and top station, the shop, the café and the WISE building. As a student of CAT, you will be able to log into the CAT student Wi-Fi using your CAT email address.

Do I have to spend time at the accrediting university?

No, our courses are validated by our accrediting universities but are created and delivered by CAT and our staff.

All of your lectures and tutorials will either be at the Centre for Alternative Technology or can be accessed online for distance learning.

Distance learning is available for all courses except the Masters in Sustainable Architecture, which due to the nature of the course, must be completed on-site.

Sounds great – can I come for a visit?

Get a real sense of what it’s like to study at CAT by visiting us virtually or on-site on one of our Graduate School open days, click here to learn more . We offer open days throughout the year, in the run-up to the application deadlines for our courses in the spring.

Or if you’d like, come and experience our visitors centre, which is open all year round (except when we close over the winter). Most of our staff (similar to our students) attend on-site for teaching weeks and then work from a distance outside of these times so if you’d like to find out more about our Graduate School and courses specifically we recommend you book to attend one of our Graduate School open days or get in touch if you’d like to talk with staff or find out more about studying with us.

Can I get a student loan?

Our courses are designated for student finance each year by HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales). Once we receive designation then students if they are eligible may be able to apply for the Postgraduate Loan to cover both tuition fees and living costs via Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales.

MArch Sustainable Architecture students may also be eligible to continue with their professional undergraduate loan through Student Finance England and Student FinanceWales or apply for the postgraduate loan through Student Finance England.

See our funding page for more info

Are there any scholarship options available?

CAT offers a number of bursaries to new students, created from donations from supporters of CAT like the late Sir John Houghton or the Ethel and Gwynne Morgan Trust. Our bursaries range in criteria and have application deadlines so we recommend you read more about each bursary before applying.

Learn how to apply here

What kind of jobs do graduates go onto after studying at CAT?

Over 2000 students have graduated from our courses over the past 15 years and have gone on to use the knowledge and skills learnt on our courses in a range of environmental and sustainability careers. From architecture and energy management to environmental policy or consultancy, CAT graduates work across government, industry, charities and academia, with many running their own businesses or setting them up after they graduate.

A range of career pathways are open to our students and you can read profiles of our past graduates and the kind of jobs they go into here.

Master of Science (MSc), Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip.), and Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert.)

Can I study part-time?

Yes, you can study part-time by distance or in-person starting with the September and November double-credit module. We then encourage you to complete a further two modules in your first academic year and the remaining chosen modules in your second academic year; you can, however, take longer if needed.

It is worth noting that, for a postgraduate student loan, you would need to complete the part-time MSc course within two years plus a 6-month dissertation.

For more info on fees and funding click here

Can I study remotely?

Yes, you can study our MSc Programmes via distance learning, or in person at CAT during study weeks (1 week in each 8-week module) or do a bit of both. You are asked to state your mode of study for your modules at the start of the course or each academic year (if studying part-time), which give you greater flexibility to plan for your life outside of study.

If you choose to study a module or the entire course by distance, it is delivered through a Virtual Learning Environment platform (Moodle/Canvas) and through Microsoft Teams for the following:

  • Lecture recordings, slides and lecture notes are available to download
  • Online seminars
  • Formative practical exercises
  • Group tutorials
  • Individual contact with your tutor

Also as a student of CAT and our validating partner universities, you will also have access to:

  • Online library access
  • Membership of SCONUL scheme, which provides you with access to university libraries across the UK and Ireland, national libraries and many of the UK’s colleges of higher education.

There is a good student social network that can be accessed through developing relationships in your online seminars and through social media (currently many students are in a Facebook group and WhatsApp groups usually get set up by students at the start of each module). Some regions have informal CAT groups made of graduates and current students and are student-led.

What qualifications do I need to study at CAT?

You need an undergraduate degree in any subject or equivalent experience, knowledge or skills to study on our MSc programmes. See the entry requirements for each course on the relevant course pages. We do consider all applications, so if you are dedicated and interested and would like to discuss your suitability, do get in touch with our Graduate School Marketing Officer.

What teaching methods will be used?

If you attend the study weeks on-site, you will have the opportunity to take part in Talks, Lectures, Workshops, Practical sessions and Seminars from our academic staff and from visiting and guest lecturers. If you study by distance, you would receive lectures and seminars and, where possible, practical and workshop sessions or an alternative.

Coursework assignments aid learning and are achieved through a variety of assignments in the form of written essays, critiques, reports, a case study, numerical analysis, blogs, presentations and posters. This provides an opportunity for you to explore your personal interests in the field or professional practice in greater depth.

The MSc courses finish with a dissertation for which you would have support throughout.

Can I switch between Masters courses?

It is possible to change between our Sustainability and Adaptation courses. However, changes between the other MSc courses are discouraged as it often isn’t possible to complete the required modules and it is administratively very difficult to swap between awarding universities.

We recommend that you explore all your options prior to applying, including reading the various course documents online, talking with the School and perhaps visiting on an open day. It is also possible to attend some of the modules as a weeklong short course, view short courses here.

But if you have any questions please get in touch.

I want to take one your postgraduate qualifications but don’t think I want to commit to the full MSc to begin with. Can I start on a PG Certificate and build up to the full MSc?

Yes, it is possible to start with one of our lesser postgraduate qualifications, PG Certificate (60 credits) or PG Diploma (120 credits) and then if you want to continue your studies at CAT, build up to a full MSc by taking further modules to complete 180 credits.

If you intend to study the full MSc we recommend you commit to this from your application as we do have some courses where a specific pathway through the modules is recommended and you will commit to these modules from the start of the course.

For our Postgraduate Certificates, you will usually complete the core modules which are course focused whereas for a Postgraduate Diploma you would take the core modules and also be able to choose from a range of optional modules.

You can also exit our courses earlier than expected too if you do not want to continue your studies and you could leave with either a PG Certificate or PG Diploma, subject to having taken the relevant credits and modules needed.

We recommend you get in touch if you have further questions about specific courses and their study levels.

What are the core and optional modules for each course and when do they run?

Each MSc course has both core and optional modules, with many of these being shared between courses.

To learn which modules are essential and which are optional for each course these are listed on each course page and to find out module dates, you download our MSc Module Timetable here.

Master of Architecture (MArch)

Do I have to have Part I before I can do Part II at CAT?

Candidates for the MArch Part 2 course must have an undergraduate degree carrying an exemption from ARB/RIBA Part I or a relevant undergraduate degree.

If you are interested in the course and have a relevant undergraduate degree that does not carry an exemption from ARB’s Part 1 examination you will be required to successfully complete the ARB’s Part 1 examination before you can register as an architect in the UK.

Further information can be obtained on the ARB website.

Who will be teaching on the course?

The current teaching team is Dr Alison Pooley and Gwyn Stacey along with regular visiting lecturers and tutors like David Lea, Elinor Gray-Williams, Pat Borer, and Zoe Quick.

In addition to the teaching staff, we have a list of over 20 leading architects from all over the UK and further afield who contribute to the course as visiting lecturers, tutors and critics. Students will also have access to tutors from the related MSc programmes and from visits from CAT graduates.

All members of the teaching team for this programme have extensive knowledge and experience in sustainable architecture and the built environment.

What teaching methods will be used?

Teaching and learning at CAT is a collaborative process. Students are valued as equals, taking responsibility for their own learning.

Our main pedagogical approach is learning by doing. Much of the course promotes practical testing and building. For this reason, we avoid conventional “crits”; instead, students are encouraged to evaluate their own work and progress with the help of tutors. We do this through open reviews in the design studio, as well as exhibitions in the community, with our “live” project clients, and by presenting to students on our other programmes.

Through the years of teaching experience at CAT, we’ve found that this method of teaching enables students to develop the confidence and capability needed to tackle the building challenges they will face once they go back into the professional environment.

Find out about the experience of studying here or on one of our upcoming open days.

Will the course focus on technology instead of design?

No, the course is a balance of architectural design and technology in which the two are integrated. We will ensure that students have a portfolio of project and design work that will be up to the high standards expected at Part II level.

Find out more about the details of studying Architecture at CAT on an Open Day.

Our students share their study experience.

This all looks great. Does this mean that you have RIBA validation?

ARB prescription and RIBA validation are two separate processes. Every school of Architecture has to have prescription from ARB and we run a formally recognised Part II programme.

The majority of our students think that it is a positive virtue to be independent of the RIBA. Many of our students who have successfully completed our Part II course have gone on to sign up for Part III RIBA courses at a range of other Schools of Architecture.

It is worth noting that a quarter to a third of all architects registered with ARB are not RIBA members. ARB is the UK’s statutory regulator of architects. ARB keeps a public register – of around 33,000 architects. Every architect in the UK has to meet the standards that it sets for education, training and practice. It is the sole legislative body within the UK responsible for allowing the use of the title Architect and for allowing the bearer to be a practising Architect within the UK.

Your Part II course looks very interesting. Is it possible to do it on a part-time basis?

Yes in 2019, we introduced a part-time version to the course which allows students to study over 3 years rather than 2 years. This spreads out the workload making it even more flexible for you to continue to work or with family or other commitments during the period of study.

Similar to the structure of the full-time programme which has been designed to accommodate students who wish to maintain a limited amount of employment or other commitments, the part-time structure still requires attendance at CAT one week every month in the first and third year and around 6 visits to CAT during the second year for teaching weeks on-site.

If you would like further information about studying on the course part-time then get in touch.

What facilities are available at CAT?

Students have access to all of the facilities at CAT, such as shared studio space where they can meet, have tutorials and review work. There is also access to other teaching facilities contained in the WISE building at CAT.

We have a lot of space for practicals and provide more hands-on building than most architecture schools with a range of sustainable materials such as timber, straw, hemp-lime and earth.

CAT also has a diverse and inspiring range of sustainable architecture projects on-site that have been built over the years by students and CAT, including the WISE building which won the RIBA award in 2011.

Can I get a student loan?

Students may be eligible for a Postgraduate Loan (MSc & MArch) or an undergraduate loan (MArch only) via Student Finance England or Student Finance Wales.

For more info on fees and funding click here

Are there any scholarship options available?

CAT offers the Sir John Houghton annual bursary of £4,500 to a promising postgraduate student who demonstrates that they have an excellent academic record and a passion for tackling climate change.

Click here for details

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