Bookings for the Practical Sustainability Course 2024-2025 are now OPEN
OPEN EVENTS - A chance to meet course organisers and talk to previous students
May 15th, 6.30-8.30 Zoom : Link will be added closer to the time
June 22nd, 1-3pm @ Gasworks (our main classroom), 27 Narroways Rd, Bristol, BS2 9XB
Applying for the course
Please read the below Information carefully before applying
We fill the course on a first come, first served basis. There is no application deadline.
There are 30 places available.
Part-concession and Full-concession places are limited (see below for details).
The course dates match Bristol school term times.
Term 1: 3 Sept - 24 Oct 2024
Term 2: 5 Nov - 19 Dec 2024
Term 3: 7 Jan - 13 Feb 2025
Term 4: 25 Feb - 3 April 2025
Term 5: 22 April - 22 May 2025
Term 6: 3 June - 24 July 2025 (please note this is 3 days after schools close for Summer)
Study Hours / Classroom Timings
Tues, Wed, Thurs.
Approx study hours 9.30am to 3.30pm.
Timings do not include travel/commuting time to field trips or site visits.
Some course days are longer, depending on the activity - students are informed in advance.
Most terms include an overnight field trip (1-2 nights).
It is a requirement that students commit to regular and ongoing attendance throughout the year.
Course Fees - these cover all tuition, materials and field trip accommodation.
- Full fee : £3,695
- Half concession : £3,095
- Full concession : £2,495
Visit here, for details on who can apply for a concessionary place.
You apply for a concessionary place when filling out your application form.
When you have been offered a place on the course you will be required to pay a non-refundable £600 deposit to confirm your place.
We recommend you send in your application form, even if you aren’t ready to pay your deposit, as it starts the process rolling. We will keep you informed as to how the course is filling up so that you can confirm your place before they run out.
The remaining Course Fees - Two options
- Paid in full by September 1st 2024, by BAC transfer.
- Payment by instalments. Details of instalment plans here.
- Shared transport costs of travelling to field visits/overnight stays/roundhouse build site. (Option to opt out of shared transport if you would prefer to make your own arrangements).
- Shared evening meal and breakfast costs, when staying on overnight field trips (£3 evening meal and £1.50 for breakfast).
- £20 Refundable library deposit.
- Suitable clothing and footwear for participating in practical learning and outdoor activities. Including steel-toe capped boots.
- Optional purchase of kit/tools
- Classroom: Notebook, pencil case & stationery.
- Permaculture Design: compass (both kinds), tape measure.
- Organic Horticulture: pen knife, secateurs, work gloves, loppers, pruning saw.
The design of the course (the study hours) allows students to claim Universal Credit whilst studying, and apply for a Council Tax reduction. We have a letter ‘Statement of Education’ for students to prove they are studying with us.
The PSC is a dynamic, ambitious and intensive course; some of the aspects are physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Please let us know on your application about anything that may affect your ability to participate and we can discuss the flexibility and support we can offer. See Terms and Conditions for more information about the course experience for students. A course place will be offered if we can reasonably provide for a student’s needs whilst making sure they are safe and gaining a valuable experience for their investment.
We’re passionate about creating an inclusive course experience that values diversity. Groups that are wide ranging in backgrounds and identity form a rich environment for sharing perspectives and promoting internal growth. We are actively working on seeking tutors and practitioners outside of our known networks; who may have new ideas, insights, and representation to offer.
Read more about the audit we are undertaking with Yassine Senghor from Confronting Change, to improve the Shift’s authentic inclusion within its organisational container, learning culture and taught content.
Logistics and Communications
Facilitators communicate and share information with students in-person and via email (google group) and the Telegram app. We also set up a Telegram channel for students to chat to each other. We use Google docs to help organise shared transport, and the Collectiv app for taking donations on field trips.
Please let us know on your application whether lack of access to technology will be a limiting factor for you, and if you will need an alternative.
Course Structure, Content and Delivery
The PSC was born in 2010, out of the evolution and expansion of a Full Permaculture Design Course. It is made up of ten course modules that weave together into a circular curriculum of “Practical Sustainability”. Read more about our Roots.
The PSC aims to deliver a holistic and wide-ranging educational experience that teaches effective sustainability practices for meeting needs (food, shelter, energy, comfort, health, connection etc), based in the context of real life parameters; that are also regenerative and joyful. Born out of our desire for permaculture principles and design to be used to solve systemic problems, our curriculum is tailored not only to those wanting to gain skills and understanding for themselves as individuals but also for those who also want to help others on a community level.
This ambitious course is huge in its range of subjects and experiences, and is ideal for those who are curious and searching for opportunities to try out lots of different skills and roles in the world of Practical Sustainability, and who want to learn about permaculture design can be applied in the wider context of the challenging times we find ourselves living in. Whether you’ve been disillusioned by mainstream education, you are thinking of a career change into something offering more connection with land or people, or you’re now retired and ready to pass on your experience in a meaningful way, this course provides a fun, engaging playground of discovery and exploration.
Read more about the course structure, content and delivery.
The PSC is delivered by an ever-evolving cracking team of over 40 tutors and practitioners, who bring with them their passion, expertise and pioneering spirit. All tutors are active in their field, so their knowledge and experience is fresh and relevant to our changing world. We only work with tutors who share our permaculture ethics of earth share, people share and fair share.
All of our teaching is delivered in real time and majoritively in-person (if a tutor is unable to pop into the classroom they deliver their sessions via Zoom; we gather and tune-in collectively). This equates to 650+ hours of in-person teaching time. We visit many tutors and practitioners in their natural environment and this helps to bring their lessons to life in a real world context. Read their Tutor Biographies here.
Design Projects & Additional Study
We do not set additional homework assignments or reading for most of our modules, outside of the course hours. The only exception to this is within the Permaculture Design module, where we set four design projects which are worked on in small groups. There is allotted time planned within the timetabled hours for these, but students often opt to work on them outside of these hours as well.
In order to aid the smooth running of the course we arrange the larger course group into Clans. Each clan takes on a responsibility, such as keeping the space neat and tidy, purchasing beverage supplies, planning a meal and cooking on a field trip, organising shared transport etc. These roles are passed on to a new clan each term.
Clan groups self organise, with the support of the facilitation team if needed. This requires communication, organisation, and doing some jobs outside of course hours when necessary.
Teaching Venues & Field Trips
As a nomadic organisation our teaching takes place across a variety of locations (we purposely don’t own a ‘Hogwarts’ premises to keep us rooted and connected within the Bristol community and wider network, and keep the cost of the course affordable).
Our main indoor classroom is based in St Werburghs, at the beautiful Gasworks studio. It is easily accessible by bike, walking and bus and train routes. There is street parking and bike racks in the garden.
Throughout the course we use a variety of other Bristol venues/locations, and each term we go on an overnight field trip for 1-2 nights. We ensure that shared transport is arranged, so that everyone has assistance in getting around. Past field trips have included Tinkers Bubble, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Brithdir Mawr Community, Five Penny Farm, Ourganics, Ragmans Lane Farm, Bioaqua Farm, East Devon Forest Garden.
These visits to the people on the ground and projects in action bring the taught material alive in a way that can’t happen in the classroom. They also give us the opportunity to experience the power of what 30 pairs of eager hands can achieve in a short amount of time - in the past we’ve planted entire orchards, dug swales and ponds, and erected giant polytunnels. We often get the added bonus of reacquainting with previous students who are now active in the network, leading their own ventures.
The field trip accommodation varies a lot; from staying in a cosy but cramped farmhouse, to living it up in a Grade II listed 19th Century Neo-Gothic rectory, to camping in a forest garden with a natural swimming pool. These are shared sleeping arrangements to different degrees; we can’t guarantee that there will be separate areas for different gender identities, or that we can group all the snorers together. Some of the sleeping accommodation requires some students to sleep crashpad stylee. It’s a big experiment in balancing the needs within the group and finding compromises and pooling our resources to help everyone feel as comfortable as possible.
We have a library of over 350 books available to borrow throughout the year, on all aspects of Practical Sustainability. We edit and expand on the library each year, ensuring it is built on student recommendations and kept current and representative.
Accreditation & What Next?
The course is deliberately not accredited. We choose to teach for the love of learning; enabling students to engage with the curriculum from all angles and develop diverse skills within a collaborative culture. Past students have appreciated the non-pressured learning environment and the opportunities to discover and explore their own unique passions and pathways - free from examination and testing. We value the strengths and individuality of each student to manifest positive change in the world in their own style. We champion our dedication to creating a course container that empowers students to bring their authentic selves into the room.
We provide a high quality education and we support our tutors and practitioners to bring their extensive practical experience into the classroom in dynamic and accessible ways. We have a great reputation, and students make lasting connections within our growing networks.
After the PSC our students have been successful in finding employment (e.g. The Soil Association or Ecological Land Co-operative), taking further education and apprenticeships (e.g. Middle Ground Growers or Land Workers Alliance), starting ventures and enterprises (e.g. Secret Soup Society or Sheltercraft), bought their own land and small holdings, written books, become journalists (Ursuala Billington, Bristol 24/7’s new Climate & Sustainability Editor) and many more rewarding avenues. We are confident that the knowledge and skills gained on this course are of value to anyone wanting to work with sustainability either professionally or in their home or community.
The only entry requirements are to apply with an open mind and curiosity for the range of subjects we cover, and lots of enthusiasm and the ability to commit to a year's study with us. You do not need previous experience or credentials in any of the subjects we teach as we always start from the basics.
Permaculture Design Course Certification
Full attendance and participation in the course earns a Permaculture Design Certificate certified by the Permaculture Association UK. Work completed on the course can contribute to the Permaculture Association's 'Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design' portfolio.
Studying in Bristol
Many students move to Bristol in order to study on the Practical Sustainability Course - despite Bristol being a tricky city to find places to rent. To help students find housemates we have a Telegram group for students to join, so that you can look for house shares together, and we can signpost opportunities/links for you to explore. We also have a couple of temporary hosts, so if you need a couple of weeks or crash pad space to stay during transitional periods, we can put you in touch.
Some students commute in order to study on the PSC but not need to move to Bristol. This works best when they can find accommodation from Mon eve to Thurs, so the commuting doesn’t take as much of a toll, and there is the opportunity for socialising outside of the course with the other students.
We have put together a Welcome to Brizzle document, for anyone new and wanting to explore what the city has to offer. This includes great projects to visit and volunteer at.
Who isn't the PSC for?
Just like any offering, the PSC is not going to suit everyone. Here are some of the reasons why the PSC might not be a good fit for you…
- You very much prefer to work independently and don’t enjoy collaborating with others. We’re a big group and that involves everyone having a willingness to practise compassion and compromise.
- You already have a vision and are looking to deepen your understanding or skill development in a focused way, e.g. you know you want to be a grower and would really like to hone your horticulture skills. What you may need instead, is an apprenticeship.
- Equally you are looking for a teaching environment that involves a small tutor to student ratio for learning. What you may need instead, is a mentor.
- You believe the solution to the challenges humanity faces will mainly be solved by technological advancements or the government. Not to say that you aren’t correct, but you may find a lot of what we cover on the course feels irrelevant for you.
- You very much prefer learning in a linear fashion, where knowledge is imparted by tutors and is absorbed by the student (more mainstream models of education). The PSC requires students to participate and contribute as part of the learning, in an active and creative way - you will not feel comfortable if you take on the role of being a tourist of the other students.
- You will struggle to house and support yourself financially during the course. Students who stretch themselves too thinly often end up needing to take time away from the course, and their wellbeing suffers as a result. If possible, consider starting the course a year later when you are in a more resourced situation.