Lead in Sustainability

As businesses, investors, and consumers increasingly embrace sustainability as a core ethos, there is a growing demand for sustainability expertise and leadership across the entire business.

UCEM’s take on the Level 7 Sustainability Business Specialist Apprenticeship standard stands out from others in its field. It is the only Level 7 apprenticeship that specialises in sustainability within the context of the built environment. The programme is designed to upskill apprentices in critical thinking and enable the collaborative development and implementation of long-term organisational sustainability strategies.

Apprentices will gain the ability to navigate and lead the industry in its fast-paced changes and meet the demand for expertise in sustainable built environment, understanding and challenging the discourse surrounding the topic.

Reasons why degree is for you

Reasons to do this apprenticeship

Apprentices will:

Develop effective leadership and management skills to drive organisational sustainability objectives

Cultivate a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to solving complex problems

Acquire the sustainability expertise and language to influence and inspire others to achieve business goals

Build adaptability and resilience to deal with the accelerating pace of change in the industry

About the apprenticeship

What can you expect?

The Level 7 Sustainability Business Specialist Apprenticeship aims to nurture leadership for a more sustainable built environment. While net-zero and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) are a significant part of the programme, this apprenticeship extends its focus to encompass all four pillars of sustainability, including social, human, economic, and environmental across multiple modules.

The degree content has been developed by academics and industry professionals and is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. With a more holistic definition of sustainability at its core, this programme offers a well-rounded, interdisciplinary learning experience. Apprentices will gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to act as subject matter experts, directly applying their learning to drive tangible organisational success.

Through online peer discussions and lectures as well as work-based training provided by the employer, apprentices will be able to gain a comprehensive understanding of complex sustainability challenges within the context of businesses and discover how to navigate them using innovative approaches.

The apprenticeship standard aligns with Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) professional recognition and on achievement of End Point Assessment (EPA) the apprentice can apply for IEMA full membership.

This apprenticeship is for those

  • In a position to influence sustainability in their organisation, not just for sustainability specialists
  • Dedicated to making sustainable business decisions to prevent future sustainability challenges
  • Committed to staying informed about sustainability regulations and legislation
  • Seeking enhanced credibility when discussing sustainability with stakeholders, external or internal
  • Eager to adopt an interdisciplinary perspective and contribute to holistic solutions

This course will allow you to push the boundaries, think afresh, be the champion and changemaker. Sustainability is not defined; it’s an evolving process, be part of shaping that process.”

Dr Graeme Larsen
Associate Dean (Sustainability)


Benefits for apprentices

Shape organisational change

Apprentices will learn to think critically about and implement different sustainability and ESG practices.

Opportunity for progression

Completing this apprenticeship will help apprentices become highly valuable in their organisation.

Gain leadership and management skills

Through the degree and hands-on experience provided by their employer, apprentices will develop skills necessary to guide others towards achieving sustainability objectives.

Boost confidence and stakeholder engagement

As apprentices become well-vested in sustainability principles, they will gain confidence in their ability to navigate complex ESG and sustainability challenges.

Interdisciplinary insights

UCEM provides a platform for apprentices to develop a holistic understanding of how sustainability practices intersect across various aspects of business operations.

Benefits for employers

Enable regulatory compliance and accountability

Employers can ensure their workforce has knowledge on the latest regulations and legislation on various aspects of sustainability and the built environment.

Drive long-term profitability and growth

Apprentices will be able to immediately integrate their learning into their work and the need for businesses to outsource for sustainability specialists will be reduced, resulting in an overall positive return on investment.

Enhance reputation and credibility

Investing in sustainability training demonstrates a commitment to responsible business practices, building a positive reputation for clients and customers.

Retain top talent through upskilling

Providing opportunities for employees to upskill in sustainability will help retain valuable staff and attract top talent. Skilled employees are more likely to stay with a company that invests in their professional development.

Interdisciplinary collaboration

Apprentices gain the ability to help bridge departmental gaps, preventing siloed work. They will learn to seamlessly integrate sustainability, cultivating a shared responsibility and amplifying the effectiveness of the organisation’s sustainability initiatives.

Apprenticeship programme structure

Delivery Structure

L7 Sustainability Business Specialist apprenticeship will be delivered online through live peer engagement sessions, guided study and activities, plus independent learning and reading. Development of the required knowledge, skills and behaviours for all apprenticeships happens through a combination of workplace training provided by the employer and off-the job training provided by UCEM.

This apprenticeship is 180 credits, including an integrated 40 credits End Point Assessment (EPA) period. Due to the integrated nature of the apprenticeship, apprentices will only be awarded MSc Sustainability once they have successfully completed 180 credits, including the EPA. The employer must be able to provide their apprentices with relevant workplace experience for the requirements of the EPA to be met.

Year 1

Below are the modules for year 1 (depending on the qualification you choose) along with an overview of the topics you will study.

Paradigms of Sustainability (20 credits)

In this module, you will develop a critical understanding of the paradigms of sustainability. You will question assumptions about predominant themes in the industry and explore various drivers of sustainability.

By examining their impact on the creation of a sustainable built environment, you will gain a deep understanding of cultural, social, economical, and financial sustainability, as well as climate change. Through this exploration, you will recognise how these factors influence the triple bottom line: profit, people, and the planet.

This knowledge will equip you with the necessary skills to become a leader in driving change for a sustainable built environment.

Realities of Sustainability (20 credits)

There’s a wealth of conflicting information surrounding sustainability. This module will enhance your ability to identify and evaluate information and data sources related to sustainability in the built environment.

You will learn how to critically analyse and synthesise information from diverse sources, enabling you to distinguish facts from fiction.

This module includes the appraisal of live case studies, allowing you to enhance your academic literacy and create work that will be peer-reviewed and disseminated. Through this process, you will demonstrate your knowledge and awareness of the leading-edge themes in the creation of a more sustainable built environment.

Realities of Sustainability Module Descriptor >

Sustainable Materials, Processes and Technologies (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the current discourse on sustainable materials, processes, and technologies (MPT) and their role in building a more sustainable built environment.

Taking a socio-technical approach, you will gain knowledge of the stakeholders and agendas that shape the adoption of sustainable MPTs. You will examine the digital agenda and consider the impact of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) on the built environment.

By identifying current and emerging concepts, you will understand their significance in achieving a sustainable built environment.

Research Skills and Current Affairs (10 credits)

This module gives you the opportunity to enhance your research skills and navigate the ever-evolving discourse surrounding sustainability. It will enable you to investigate sustainability from both academic and practical perspectives, preparing you to undertake either a research dissertation or a work-based project.

You will develop knowledge and understanding of social research skills and apply critical thinking to hypothetical and existing perspectives, trends, dynamics, and principles. This will enable you to comprehend the social factors and influences of sustainability in the built environment.

Sustainable Infrastructure (20 credits)

Understanding the components and systems of a country, region, or community’s social infrastructure is a key part of learning about the built environment. This module will provide a critical understanding of how different constituents, such as transport, water waste, and digital infrastructure, can drive and accelerate change toward achieving a sustainable infrastructure.

By adopting a holistic and open system view, you will evaluate the built environment’s relationship with power sources like gas, electricity, and solar, identifying challenges in incorporating sustainability into the agenda.

Year 2

Leadership and management

Operationalising Sustainability (20 credits)

In this module, you will explore sustainable practices implemented by built environment organisations. You will critically evaluate and develop an understanding of the leadership and management skills required to be sustainable in the sector.

The module covers how to sustain a competitive advantage through future innovation and trends, building a sustainable workforce by addressing diversity, inclusion, race, bullying, and sexism, and examining the economic and financial models that shape the built environment.

You will also explore alternative models with international sustainability implications.

Institutional Quality for Sustainability (20 credits)

This module delves into the standards for sustainability, including BREEAM, LEED, UNSDG, ESD guidance, and ISO14001. It explores how these standards can be implemented and equips you with the skills to identify key organisational logics needed to address and maintain quality issues that impact sustainability.

By critically understanding the institutional quality agenda, you will be able to assess what, how, and by whom these standards should be measured.


EPA Module (Final project)

This consists of a:

Work-based project (40 credits)

Work-based project will include research on an existing/hypothetical problem in your organisation and will be based on the Project Outline you develop collaboratively with your employer.

This will consist of a report, presentation, and questioning.

and a:

Technical interview

This interview will be underpinned by a portfolio of evidence.

Project Outline (10 credits)

The project outline will be developed collaboratively by the employer, apprentice and EPAO. This will include the project title, scope, key activities/ milestones and expected outputs/ measures of success. The apprentice will ensure it is relevant to their role, the employer will confirm it meets a business need and the EPAO will ensure it will cover all the knowledge, skills and behaviours for this assessment method.

If you require further information about programme content, please view the programme specifications below which set out aims, intended learning outcomes and assessment methods. Please note that modules are subject to change.

Programme design

The programme design has been driven by a team of UCEM’s academics, led by Dr Graeme Larsen and Dr James Ritson, who have expertise in sustainable built environments.

Dr Graeme Larsen

Dr Graeme Larsen is Associate Dean of Sustainability. He joined UCEM in 2021, becoming part of the team to fulfil our vision of becoming the ‘Centre of Excellence for the Built Environment Education’.

Dr James Ritson

Dr James Ritson is an architecturally trained building conservator specialising in sustainability and recording of the historic built environment. Currently he is the programme leader for the MSc Building Surveying programme.

Why choose UCEM?

UCEM is a leading university for the built environment providing flexible and accessible supported online education. Our commitment to become the most sustainable university in the world has led us to change the way we teach, operate, and collaborate with others to ensure that sustainability is integrated into everything that we do.

  • Rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted
  • 87% of employers believe that UCEM provides the right training at the right time
  • 94% of apprentices felt that UCEM supported them and their apprenticeship
  • Apprentices receive consistent learning regardless of their location
  • Apprentices and employers receive progress reviews approximately every 12 weeks

Online learning

When choosing UCEM, students gain access to our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This specialised platform acts as a hub for studies, offering resources, schedules, and engaging learning activities. Apprentices also have access to the Apprentice Hub – a one-stop shop on the VLE including guidance on off the job diary and end point assessment.

Apprenticeship outcome officers

Our apprenticeship outcomes officers are the main point of contact whilst on programme. Their pastoral role is all encompassing and includes providing apprentice and employer with regular progress reviews to support with academic and personal development goals.

“Jenny Curtis, my apprenticeship outcome officer, has walked along with me throughout this journey and has been fantastic. She cares about her students and is always on the other end of the phone. I never thought I would have a strong relationship with someone I had never met in person until graduation day.”

Alumni apprentice, Sadaqat

Account manager

Our experienced Business Development team are on hand to guide you through the apprenticeship process from beginning of the sign-up to the end of your apprentices EPA.

Disability and welfare

UCEM has a dedicated disability and welfare team who work to provide all students with the support and tools they need to succeed. Support is available to students with a range of disabilities, health conditions, and learning difficulties.

Support tutors

This team helps apprentices to navigate the world of online learning. The tutors support in a variety of ways, whether that be explaining how to use the VLE, the e-Library, submitting assignments, or managing workload.

Academic support

Our academic staff are experts in their fields and are here to make studying with UCEM stimulating and inspiring whilst offering vital support and guidance along the way.

Module team

Module leaders are assisted by a team of module tutors who provide additional support via weekly discussion forums and webinars.

Key information

Entry requirements

Please note as part of your application you will be required to provide a personal statement and a reference from your employer or mentor.

Applicants to the apprenticeship programme must also:

  • Have the right to work in England, meet Education and Skills funding residency status requirements, spend at least 50% of their working hours in England and be directly employed in a job role that will enable the requirements of the apprenticeship to be achieved.
  • Have GCSE Grade 4 (or C) or above in Mathematics, or an equivalent qualification. For further information on equivalent qualifications please contact admissions@ucem.ac.uk. Applicants for the apprenticeship programme that do not have accepted current or prior equivalent Level 2 Maths and English qualifications on entry will be required to achieve these as part of the apprenticeship. Please click on ‘English Language requirements’ below for more information.


Academic requirements

You should have:

A Bachelor’s degree with honours at upper second standard (2:1) or equivalent


A Bachelor’s degree with honours at lower second standard (2:2) or equivalent and be employed in a relevant role


A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent plus three years’ experience in a relevant field


A level 5 qualification as defined by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) plus five years’ relevant experience


A professional qualification plus five years’ relevant experience, two of which should be at senior management level

English language requirements

All UCEM programmes are taught and assessed in English. In addition to the programme entry requirements listed above, all applicants will therefore be required to demonstrate adequate proficiency in the language before being admitted to a programme.

You should have:

  • GCSE Grade 4 (or C) or above in English Language or English Literature or equivalent qualification
  • Grade 6.0 or above, with at least 6.0 in the reading and writing modules, in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) academic test administered by the British Council
  • 88 or above in the internet option, 230 or above in the computer-based option or 570 or above in the paper-based option of the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test
  • Grade C or above in English (Language or Literature) at A/S Level
  • A cognate sub-degree (Level 5) qualification taught and assessed in English from the University of Hong Kong or City University of Hong Kong

Applicants with a Bachelor’s degree that has been taught and examined in English can be considered for entry in the absence of the English language qualifications detailed above.


Applicants that have been deemed academically eligible will be invited to an interview with a member of the programme team. The purpose of the interview is to provide an opportunity for the programme team to gauge your suitability and alignment with the programme to ensure the programme is the right fit for you. The interview also provides an opportunity for applicants to meet members of the programme team prior to starting the programme.

Providing evidence

Evidence is required in the form of certificates or statements. You should send photocopies that have been verified by someone in a professional occupation.

Applications are assessed in accordance with the UCEM Code of Practice on Admissions and Recognition of Prior Learning.

Time commitment

For apprentices

15-20 hours of study a week for 42 weeks per year.

For employers

You will need to provide your apprentice with the equivalent of one day off a week to study and you will need to ensure that their job role enables them to fulfil the requirements of the apprenticeship.

Funding information

The programme meets the criteria of the Sustainability Business Specialist Level 7 Apprenticeship Standard. Eligible organisations are able to use £11,000 of their levy fund towards the £12,000 fees.

For more information, see Apprenticeship funding.

Application process

Prospective apprentices

If you are currently employed within the built environment in England, you will need your employer’s support as they will fund your apprenticeship. Speak to your them about your options. If they have questions, then our business development team will be happy to answer them.

If you are looking to do an apprenticeship but are not currently employed, you will need to search for an apprenticeship before applying. Search on the government website, or try reaching out to relevant employers to see if there are vacancies.


Get in touch with our Business Development Team who will be able to guide you through the application process and support with any queries.

Current students

If you are currently studying the MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments but wish to switch over to the apprenticeship route then please follow the process for prospective apprentices.

The built environment plays a key role in sustainability and every aspect of the built environment needs sustaining. We need to ask ourselves, what can we do and what can our organisations do to shape future sustainability."

Dr Graeme Larsen
Associate Dean (Sustainability)