Program Rhythms

All Gaia U programs - Diplomas and Degrees - follow a standard learning design pattern that has grown out of the original open source, action-learning Diploma established by the Permaculture Academy of Britain in the 1990's and has been adopted in full or in part by Permaculture Associations and nodes in Italy, Germany, Israel, Spain, Britain and Chile. Tested and refined over several decades (eight years at Gaia U now), this blended-learning design combines core rhythms, patterns and elements in an elegant matrix of appropriate amount of online studies and hands-on, action-learning, documented project work.

Program Phases

Each program is denoted by two distinct phases: a Pre-Capstone Phase and a Capstone Phase (except for Post-Graduate Diplomas which are only 1 year in length and thus only have a Capstone Phase).

Pre-Capstone Phase

Generally, you as an associate will focus more on acquiring skillflexes during your Pre-Capstone Phase. This could mean:

  • Doing internships
  • Attending workshops
  • Seeking out mentors
  • Taking classes
  • Doing multiple, small projects
  • Learning skill building tools, models, and frameworks recommended by Gaia U

The primary goal is to broaden your skills and knowledge base and cast a wide net around your areas of interest. It is also an opportunity to learn the skills of being an action learner and of resilient documentation.

Capstone Phase

While the Pre-Capstone Phase is primarily focused on acquiring skills, the Capstone Phase is more heavily dedicated to applying skills. Generally, but not necessarily, a larger, more strategic project becomes the focal point of the Capstone Phase and Output Packet process. Skillflexes are applied and refined in the project process and Output Packet creation is honed.

You must have all requirements for the Pre-Capstone Phase fulfilled before entering a Capstone Phase and all requirements of the Capstone Phase fulfilled before graduating.

spiral roofAction Learning Cycles

Within each phase are one or more Action Learning Cycles (ALCs). You can think of an ALC as the equivalent of a semester or quarter in a traditional university, except with more flexibility. It basically denotes the time span for you to produce five Output Packets. An ALC always begins with an allocation of 12 In Program months (a year); however, you, the associate have the option to cater your program to unexpected life events that may occasionally interfere with your studies, or simply to manage your program by inserting Program Pause months, in essence lengthening the ALC accordingly.  

Each program has a specific number of ALCs:          

Bachelor's starting in Year 1

3 - 4 (depending on whether the optional Career Phase is added)

Bachlor's starting in Year 2 2 - 3 (depending on whether the optional Career Phase is added)
Masters 2
Post-Graduate Diplomas 1
Internally-accredited Diplomas 2

NOTE: Our externally accredited Bachelor's degree is a 4-year program. However, due to our UK accreditation system, Year 3 is an optional career year. In consultation with your advisors, you may opt to take this year or to proceed directly from Year 2 to Year 4. Under certain circumstances--for instance being significantly behind in the production of your Output Packets--we may require you add on the optional phase.


Here is an example of a 4-ALC Bachelors program:


Pauses and Extensions

monica teaching kidsWe understand that life may bring unexpected changes and if your original time frame becomes unmanageable, we have designed a few options to assist you in completing your degree or diploma. These options are designed to allow you to manage your program proactively and thoughtfully as a capable action learner.

Program Pause: Pause months offer you the ability to take a break from working on Output Packets or to catch up on your documentation work. No advising support is available during pause months unless you wish to purchase individual or multiple sessions to maintain contact with your advisor (which we strongly recommend). Your scheduled tuition payments are also suspended for the duration of pause months, as long as you are up to date on your tuition fees. Pause months may be taken at any time during the program year and do not need to be consecutive. A small administrative fee per pause month will apply.

Extensions: If, after completing all allocated In Program months for a phase, you need more time to complete your program phase, you may arrange for extension months with appropriate additional fees.

Options for Acceleration

Under rare circumstances, an associate may petition for acceleration of their Bachelors or Masters program. If you evidence a high level of competency and attention through your documentation work or have already spent many years working at a strategic level - as an entrepreneur, organizer, or designer in the fields of environmental or social change -  and have made a substantial contribution at a community or global scale, you may petition to accelerate your program after the successful completion of your third output packet. The decision to shift an associate to an accelerated bachelor's or master’s program is based on the competence, discipline, and project outcomes evidenced in their documentation to date. There is a fee for portfolio evaluation for acceleration.

Completing a 2-year diploma program accredited by Gaia U (offered by us and/or by one of our partners) also entitles you to apply to enter in Year 2 of the Bachelor's Pre-Capstone Phase or the Capstone Phase of either a Bachelor's or Master's degree program with Gaia U.

This is intended to

  • provide a low-cost route to professional competence through a diploma in its own right
  • provide an economical progression route to a degree for all and especially for 'mature students' who may not have had the privilege of a college education
  • enable the many excellent providers in the 'informal'  ecosocial sector to add value to their offerings with a diploma option