Charting new horizons: AOD's Graduate School MA program redefines design education with a seamless path from ALs, BA, to Masters

In a leap for design education in Sri Lanka, the AOD Graduate Startup School MA program offers a seamless pathway from starter qualifications at BA level to Masters’ programs accepted worldwide. For young creatives seeking to launch thriving and sustainable businesses not stopping at preliminary studies, this is a sure way to go from A/Ls to launching a business or career linked to innovation with close guidance from local and global mentors. This program seamlessly bridges the educational journey from A/Ls, BA to MA, for students who want to build their dreams early on and focus on growing their aspirations without lengthy intervals and breaks in between.

Unlocking global excellence locally; a strategic partnership with De Montfort University

The AOD Grad School Masters qualification offers students direct access to a British qualification, providing an unbroken pathway from BA to MA. This unique opportunity empowers students not only to attain recognized qualifications but also to go beyond—a journey encompassing launching, innovating, incubating, and creating leadership for organizations. The MA in Design Management and Entrepreneurship stands as the catalyst for building a generation of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs ready to drive their passions into serious careers with sustainable output.

AOD presented two distinct Masters Programs—MA in Design and Innovation, MA Design Management and Entrepreneurship. Each program is meticulously crafted to prepare students to utilize technology, innovation, and analytics in propelling their careers within the dynamic design industry.

In collaboration with De Montfort University (DMU), AOD sets a new standard in Masters Qualifications. The strategic partnership is rooted in shared values and principles, emphasizing the importance of industry alignment and practical skill development. DMU, recognized as one of the 150 best young universities globally, brings world-renowned education to the shores of Sri Lanka through this groundbreaking collaboration.

Both AOD and DMU maintain a commitment to staying attuned to global trends and changing requirements. AOD, as a pioneer in introducing the importance of design to Sri Lanka, ensures its graduates are not only skilled but also possess an entrepreneurial mindset. This ethos is seamlessly integrated into the Graduate School, fostering a unique learning environment.


Creating holistic entrepreneurs

The AOD Startup School takes mentorship to a new level, providing an engaging learning experience. This ecosystem, combining industry, government, and global partners, becomes the pathway for students to launch their ideas. The program offers structured knowledge through the recognized DMU MA, coupled with mentorship and training from Startup School's incubation activities and events.

Carol Holdsworth, Lead Mentor and Lecturer at AOD Grad School and AOD Startup School said that AOD creates a student environment for holistic entrepreneurship; “I had the honour of walking this path with them for the past 2 years, with their studies, final dissertations, as well as with the Startup School, a startup incubator by AOD, specifically aimed at helping their master's students transition their ideas into businesses. What I observed was a group of youngsters who see the world differently, despite its challenges and uncertainty, focused on the future and making it brighter, for themselves, their community and country. With their passion and determination, I cannot help but believe they will achieve their goals. Many of them already have. AOD created a wonderful environment for these students, recruiting international mentors and lecturers, combining that with local expertise and hands on support, to create truly impactful learning that allowed the students to develop not only their professional and entrepreneurial skill sets, but their personal journey as citizens and human beings. I would like to thank the students and AOD for the opportunity to be part of this journey and it is my sincere and heartfelt prayer that they grab life with both hands and squeeze every joy, achievement and celebration from it.”

Since its inception, AOD Graduate School MA programme has transformed student life and encouraged them to explore new avenues and to pursue what they’re truly passionate about, with expert guidance to help them bring aspirations into reality. It’s a learning path full of challenges and making opportunities out of current local and global market contexts. Chani Perera, recent MA graduate from Design Innovation said; “The Design Innovation MA programme really helped me dissect and reflect on my skills and abilities accumulated in my career journey so far and formulate a new path for myself. I’m now going into the next year with a new trajectory in my design journey that I trust will contribute to the design landscape in Sri Lanka very differently. It’s thrilling and also nerve wrecking at the same time. All signs of Design Innovation in the making I suppose!”

A robust network bringing aspirations into reality

The collaborative environment fostered by AOD Grad School and Startup School, in partnership with industry, government, and global entities, serves as a conduit for students to harmonize and launch their innovative ideas. Participants not only enroll in the AOD grad school but also gain entry to the comprehensive ecosystem situated at Colombo Innovation Tower in Colombo. This ecosystem boasts a robust network of industry connections, global experts, funding bodies, and more, providing holistic support to effectively develop and sustain businesses.

Sarani Gunawickrama, MA design innovation graduate spoke about how the programme helped her move her artistic work into material based research; “as an artist my research interest on graphite began 10 years ago with an art practice of abstract drawings. Over the years it evolved into material-based research, extending from art to science and nanotechnology. Thus, through my MA project I combined the advanced material graphene with the futuristic technology of 4D printing, exploring how graphite can shape the future of humankind. This is an innovative area that has no existing research. Therefore, my project provides an original contribution to the current knowledge on advanced materials and technologies. During this Masters I was blessed to be mentored by the world-renowned Professor Jane Rapley and Artist Peter Towse, which built the foundation for my next step beyond the MA. The best word I can use to describe this journey of 2 years is, life-changing.”


Nimna Wickramasinghe who graduated with an MA in Design Innovation also said that the programme helped her propel her creativity into a business that utilizes both human creativity and technology; “I studied fashion & textiles for my BA at AOD; exploring menswear, and starting a brand 'NIMNA' featuring my characters. I explored product design, homeware, merchandise, animation and other mediums before expanding NIMNA and the BORN Series into comics, merchandise, NFTs, toys and finally into a video game. My MA was a ticket to exploring the potential of these characters in every situation I saw fit, allowing me to tell stories that only I could tell.”


The program is designed for a wide range of individuals—whether designers, corporate professionals, or business owners. It seeks impact makers with a vision for real growth, not just within the program but in their businesses. It's a platform for those aspiring to be creative entrepreneurs, business strategists, and management decision-makers who want to transform how businesses operate on a global scale.


Enrollments are now open. For more information on the MA programs, reach out to / +94 77 584 7772 or visit the Colombo Innovation Tower, No 477, R A De Mel Mawatha, Colombo 4, between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday. Join us on this transformative journey towards becoming true creative entrepreneurs, shaping the future of design and business.

5th December 2023 (Daily Mirror Newspaper)