MA in Circular by Design (Part Time)

Transitioning from linear to circular requires us to redesign everything - from materials, to products, to services, to systems. Therefore, we believe that designers have a pivotal role to play. This Part Time MA will commence in September 2024. There is a Postgrad Futures Scholarship 2024 available for one student joining this course. It is a half EU fee bursary awarded on academic merit.

June webinar on MA Circular by Design takes place on Tuesday, June 11th, at 11:00 AM.

Gwen Cunningham, lead of the Circular by Design MA programme will be presenting and answering all your questions.  An opportunity to learn from experts and explore how this programme can shape your future.


Download the brochure by clicking on the link below.  A member of the team will folow up to answer any further questions.


Duration: 2 years
Starts: Sept 2024

Watch our Webinar from Postgrad Futures Week Here!


What to expect

The fashion and textiles industry is the joint third highest emitter of greenhouses globally, responsible for 10% of carbon emissions, more than all international flights and shipping combined. Operating in a largely linear take-make-use-waste system, textiles is one of the most pollutive and wasteful industries on earth. 

In March 2022, the European Commission presented an “EU strategy for sustainable and circular textiles”, which sets an ambitious vision that ‘by 2030 textile products placed on the EU market are long-lived and recyclable, to a great extent made of recycled fibres, free of hazardous substances and produced in respect of social rights and the environment”

The circular economy is an economic and industrial  model based on the principles of reducing consumption of natural resources, designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, and recycling the materials at the end of life. 

However, the transition from a linear to a circular requires new and additional attitudes, knowledge and skill-sets. An estimated 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage, before production even begins. Therefore, designers have a pivotal role to play in reshaping all aspects of the industry - from materials, to products, to services, to systems. 

NCAD and CFA understand the critical need to build the circular innovation capacity of Ireland’s design sector, and equip the next generation of fashion and textiles designers with the knowledge, skills and mindset needed to rethink why, what and how we make. Therefore, NCAD is developing a new suite of programmes, for current and future professionals who want to investigate and challenge the current ‘linear’ state-of-play.

The Circular by Design MA is focussed on the fashion and textiles sector. This part-time MA is for those who want to build a deep and nuanced understanding of sustainability and circularity within the fashion and textiles sector, and practically apply that knowledge to their own work or to tackle key ecological and social challenges across the value chain. The programme combines theory and practice and champions collaborative and pre-competitive processes.

Through a combination of taught seminars and workshops and independent study, learners will be invited to question and critique the purpose of textiles and fashion today, and investigate alternative ways of designing, producing, selling, using and disposing of textiles and clothing. 

Using their own design practice, research and experience as a guide, learners will develop their own critical perspective on the local and global challenges the industry faces, and begin to shape and articulate their unique role within it, as change makers. 

Through live industry-informed and led projects, learners will have the opportunity to collaborate with peers and with external partners such as fashion and textiles brands, retailers and manufacturers, circular innovators, social enterprises and local councils to innovate and test new circular materials, products and services.

Indicative Timetable

Learners are required to commit ±20hrs per week to successfully complete the programme. Learning hours per week vary, but typically, learners can expect up to 1 day per week (7-8 hrs) of contact time, and the remaining time (10-12 hours) will consist of individual and self-led work and study. 

The programme will be delivered through a blended model, with both online and offline learning, to accommodate a diverse group of learners. Types of learning and teaching methods include lectures, seminars, masterclasses, workshops, small group presentations and tutorials. In general, learners will be expected to be on the NCAD campus for in-person delivery, once every three weeks. 

Opportunities to Engage 

Collaboration is a key element of the circular economy, since it is essential to work together throughout the supply chain, internally within organisations and with the public sector to increase transparency and create joint value. 

Therefore, the part-time MA has a considerable emphasis on collaborative engagement with peers, as well as with private and public stakeholders from across the textiles value chain. 

Throughout the programme, learners will receive input, in the form of lecturers, panel discussions and coaching from a number of international experts, companies and innovators, whose work is advancing the field of circular textiles and apparel. 

Former visiting lecturers and guests to the Circular by Design 2022 programme with the Design and Crafts Council Ireland included: 

  • Loop A.Life (The Netherlands): Ellen Mensink, Founder and CEO
  • MUD Jeans & Recover Textiles (Spain): Ana Rodes, Sustainability Manager
  • Eileen Fisher (United States): Carmen Gama, Director of Circular Design
  • Maker's Unite (The Netherlands): Thami Schweichler, Founder and CEO
  • Nu Wardrobe (UK): Aisling Byrne, Founder
  • Adidas (Germany): Claudia Lumbi, Design Director Global Brands and Dr. Naveed Anwar, Global Technical Design Engineer at Adidas
  • The Centre for Circular Design(UK): Professor Rebecca Earley, Co-Founder 
  • Packbags (UK): Alei Verspoor, Founder 
  • ByBrown (The Netherlands): Melanie Brown, Founder
  • ROHI Woolen Mills & 13Rugs (Germany): Lara Wernert, Co-Founder
  • Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Netherlands): Lori Di Vito, Professor of collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship at 
  •  (USA): Lexi Fujii, Membership & Learning Center Coordinator
  • Circular.Berlin (Berlin): Arianna Nicolett, Circular Textiles Lead
  • Makers Unite and United Repairs Centre (Netherlands) Founder and Thami Schweichler, CEO 

Furthermore, a number of modules has been design specifically with the collaborations in mind;  

  • In Trimester two, learners will undertake a thematic project with colleagues and creative peers, and develop work through teamwork, negotiation and collaboration.
  • In Trimester three, learners will have the opportunity to engage directly with the programme's strategic industry partners (to be announced shortly) as part of the Design Connections module. During this module, learners undertake a live industry project working with stakeholders to devise, prototype and test circular design concepts and solutions in ‘the wild’. 
  • In Trimester five and six, the creative research and creative capstone Major Projects will  consist of a live studio project undertaken with a project partner.

Educational Standard

All applicants are expected to present an approved Bachelor degree at minimum level of 2nd class honours (2.2)

Applicants who do not meet the minimum academic entry requirements may be considered on the basis of prior work or learning experience (RPEL). Candidates may be required to pass a qualifying examination set by the relevant department before being accepted to a Masters degree programme. Attendance at selected undergraduate lecture courses at NCAD, together with related written work may be prescribed. 

You may apply for the programme if you are currently completing your Undergraduate Degree. NCAD will review the rest of your application If necessary, we can make you a Conditional Offer. When your degree is completed and you send us final transcripts we will upgrade this to a Full Offer

Essential Supporting documents 

  1. A Statement of Interest - 500-1500 words framing your reasons for applying to the programme. Please indicate a subject/discipline area that you believe can best advance your practice.
  2. A recent CV
  3. Certified transcripts of previous programmes followed
  4. Certified copies of degree / certificates and/or other appropriate third level qualifications bearing the official stamp of the institution.
  5. Reference 1 (Academic - Head of School/Department preferred)
  6. Reference 2 (Tutor or Current/Recent Employer)
  7. Portfolio / Evidence of previous work:
    • Applications must be supported by documentation that best represents your practice.
    • Applicants are requested to upload a document via the online application with access to your portfolio. This document can include a link to an on-line portfolio or a link to a folder on Google Drive.
    • We do require evidence of previous work undertaken, even if your background is not Design related.
    • This will depend on the experience and background of the candidate making the application.
    • Feel free to submit any material you feel showcases an aspect of your skill-set that is relevant to the programme you are applying for.
    • We are open to reviewing written work or documentation of a project that might be more theoretical or technical in nature. 
    • Some candidates chose to describe projects they have been involved with in a "case study" format, eg. for MA Design for a Circular Economy if they have been involved in textile and apparel design and manufacturing, product design, business and retail, environmental and social actions. 
    • There is no set requirement on the number of pages or projects - this is up to each individual applicant.

Document Description

When uploading documents please make sure you clearly label them using the Description Box like in the example below 

English Language Requirements 

All programmes in NCAD are taught through English. International Applicants are asked to provide proof of their English Language Proficiency.

Full details of acceptable tests and the standard required can be found at the following link English Language Requirement.

Programme to commence September 2024 


For information on tuition fees please follow this Link

There is an application fee of €55.00*

The fee for the programme is €4,500 per year. 


Step 1: Click on Apply Now button below | Step 2: Fill in your details

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Postgrad Futures Scholarship 2024

There  was a half EU tuition fee scholarship available for one MA Circular by Design student in 2024.   The scholarship was based on merit and only those who applied by 31 May to the programme were considered for the scholarship.

The MA aims to prepare graduates for careers in the textiles and fashion industry, independent circular design consultancy, start-up ventures, creative practice and academic research. You will have the knowledge, skills, and attitude to develop and implement novel circular design and business model concepts. With the skills to develop circular design solutions related to material and product innovation and systems and service innovation, graduates have a wide range of local and global opportunities available to them. Potential career pathways for graduates include:

  • Innovation manager 
  • CSR / sustainability manager 
  • Product Designer or Product Manager
  • Material Sourcing Manager 
  • Supply Chain Manager
  • Supply Chain Planner/Buyer
  • Business consultant or project manager

Graduates are also supported to progress to PhD level.

Programme Director

Gwen Cunningham

Gwen Cunningham is originally a designer by trade, but for the past decade she has been focussed on driving the practical implementation of circularity across the textiles and apparel industry. 

Since 2014, Gwen has been based in Amsterdam, leading the Textiles Programme for impact organisation Circle Economy. The mission of the Textiles Programme is to achieve a zero waste textiles industry. In this role, Gwen manages a team of circular textiles specialists and designs and leads various international multi-stakeholder research and innovation projects with stakeholders across the textiles value chain. Recent and ongoing projects include;

  • The Fibersort project - the development and commercialisation of the Fibersort, a technology that automatically sorts post- consumer textiles by fibre composition, in order to generate consistent input for textile-to-textile recycling
  • The Sorting for Circularity project - the large scale mapping and categorisation of post-consumer textiles waste across Europe, India and North America, together with Fashion for Good. 
  • Switching Gear Project - the design and piloting of rental or resale business models, together with 4 global fashion retailers and 50 innovators 
  • The Denim Alliance - the development and integration of post-consumer recycled denim, together with 40 global denim brands, suppliers and recyclers

Since returning to Ireland in 2020, Gwen has simultaneously taken up a new role at the National College of Art and Design, as Lead for Circularity and Sustainability. Her role at NCAD is to support staff to integrate the topic into existing BA programmes, as well as lead the development of new educational national provisions on sustainability and circularity, including the Circular by Design Professional Diploma for current industry professionals and a new Circular Design Masters - to be launched in 2024. 

Gwen co-founded World Circular Textiles Day, chairs the Irish Government's Textiles Advisory Group, and sits on the Board of the EU Commission’s WORTH Partnership Programme and on the Advisory Board of  chemical polyester recycler Worn Again Technologies. 

Gwen Cunningham:

Admissions Contact 

Bernie McCoy:

Camille Rocca:

01 636 4200