Sheffield has a strong reputation for teaching and researching urban planning

Annice student profile
Annice Lui
Annice Lui
MPlan Urban Studies and Planning student
MPlan Urban Studies and Planning student Annice discusses her course and what it was like studying at the University of Sheffield International College.

Which course are you currently studying?

I am currently studying my MPlan Urban Studies and Planning, a 4-year course which includes 3 years of a Bachelor’s degree and 1 year of a Master’s degree.

Why did you choose to study this course at the University of Sheffield? 

I studied Biology, Geography and Economics during my secondary school education, which made me passionate about Sustainable Cities. I had also attended a few university open day events in my hometown, where similar undergraduate programmes were introduced to me. This led me to develop a strong interest in the Built Environment field.

There are two reasons why I chose to study Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield. Firstly, the University of Sheffield has a strong reputation for teaching and researching urban planning, with international experts in different fields bringing cutting-edge urban problems, concepts, and projects to introductory lectures. Secondly, the MPlan Urban Studies and Planning course is accredited by three professional bodies: the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). This increases the employability of students, providing them with opportunities to secure internships, placements, and graduate roles.

What are your favourite parts of the course so far?

One of my favourite parts of the course is the supportive atmosphere of the School of Geography and Planning. The 'Open-door' policy encourages students to make an appointment with their lecturers to ask questions related to their assignments and engage in further discussion related to academic topics that interest them. Students are assigned personal tutors each year, creating a platform for sharing daily life and academic problems, seeking professional advice, and expressing opinions on improving current modules. Additionally, the USP Placement Team offers employability support to students through CV and cover letter advisory services, careers fairs, guest speakers, and weekly employability newsletters. I also work with the Placement Team as a Career Peer, volunteering to share my top tips and personal experiences to help my fellow course mates search and secure workplace experiences.

I have really enjoyed the Urban Design module. Before studying the module, I was anxious about urban design because I am not skilled at drawing and lack artistic abilities. However, I learned how to use design software to conduct location analysis and create a layout plan for my proposed design. Although I lacked confidence when seeking advice from my lecturers about my Design Development Portfolio, I was told to be as creative as possible and that there is no right or wrong answer in Urban Design; we only need to ensure that the proposed design fulfils all the design objectives. Taking the Urban Design module encouraged me to be imaginative and innovative, develop an interest and appreciation for urban design, and work on an urban design dissertation in Year 3.

What was your experience like studying at The University of Sheffield International College?

I completed the International Foundation Year at the University of Sheffield International College (USIC). I chose Society and Urban Environment as my pathway in the Business, Social, and Humanities route (formerly known as Architecture, Landscape, and the Urban Environment in the new syllabus). Due to pandemic restrictions, I completed the programme remotely in my hometown. My overall experience studying at USIC was positive. The foundation programme was comprehensive and offered modules on academic English, social science (Sociology, Political Ideas, and Globalisation), and the Urban Environment to ensure that students were well-prepared for the university curriculum. I learned how to manage my time efficiently during the foundation year since there was a time difference between the UK and my hometown. My lectures usually clustered in the late afternoon to evenings, so I needed to plan my activities and tasks for the morning and early afternoon. I remember there was a summative assignment that required students to write a report related to urbanisation. My report aimed to explain the relationship between urbanisation and the ageing population and their living standards. To complete the report, I arranged site visits in the mornings and attended lectures in the evenings. I also applied these time management skills to my university studies as I had part-time jobs and participated in volunteering activities. This helped me achieve a balance between academic studies, extracurricular activities, hobbies, and rest time.

Why did you choose to study at USIC and how did it help you with your academic progression? 

I chose to study at USIC because it is a ‘one-to-one’ Foundation Year Programme, which means that I can progress to any university programmes offered by the university directly if I meet the required average score (remember to be aware that each university programme has a different required average score), and the progression rate for USIC students moving to the University of Sheffield is very high.

USIC monitored my academic performance each term. Academic tutors are assigned to each student per term, a similar function to the level of personal tutor in the university. The Academic tutors evaluate with me my academic performance for each term and provide feedback to ensure I can achieve the required average score and keep it up in the remaining foundation programme. Students are also recommended to choose a backup programme choice in case he/she is unable to meet the progression grade of the original programme choice.

What do you want to do after you finish your course?

Other than academic studies, I have completed a few placements in both urban planning and the real estate fields. Such workplace experiences boost my confidence to pursue my future career to become an urban planner in the urban planning or property development sector.

How do you think your course will prepare you for a job in the future?

The course is a mixture of theoretical and skills approaches, which allows students to gain comprehensive knowledge and background towards urban planning. Most of Year 1 is theoretically based, I have learnt about urban challenges, climate change, making urban changes (to the milestones of city formation) etc. A large proportion of Year 2 is skills-based. I learned how to use ArcGIS for mapping and data analysis, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for urban design, and Excel for development profit and risk valuation. Through the course, I have gained the knowledge and skills necessary to apply my workplace experiences and pursue my future career in urban planning or property development. I can now create more comprehensive and sustainable development proposals for the city.

What skills do you think you have learned from the course/uni experience which will help you in the future?

Modules such as Urban Design, Spatial Analysis, and Planning, Viability and Development equipped me with design and data analysis skills through applying software such as ArcGIS, Excel and Adobe Illustrator. When I did my Easter Internship with a local planning firm, I contacted historical research and planning appraisal for a few projects, which allowed me to apply my knowledge and skills from academic studies to the workplace.

Do you have any tips for students looking to study here?

For prospective Foundation Year students, it is important to decide which university course you want to progress to and then decide which foundation pathway you are going to study. 

For prospective university students and offer holders, Sheffield is a friendly and diverse city, so don’t be nervous to leave your home and explore a whole new chapter here. Also, if you love to cook, the good news is there is a range of international supermarkets which offer a wide range of ingredients, so feel free to cook your home dishes when you are feeling homesick. If you are a foodie, various restaurants are available for you to choose from. If you have problems within or outside academic studies, feel free to contact your tutors and sign up to become a mentee in the Sheffield Mentoring programme. If you are worried about your internship, placement and graduate role opportunities, feel free to contact the USP Placement Team and seek professional advice from the Career Peer!

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