Urban Design and Planning
Department of Urban Studies and Planning,
Faculty of Social Sciences
School of Architecture,
Faculty of Social Sciences
This innovative one-year masters is run jointly by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the School of Architecture. The course will prepare you for a career in the planning and urban design professions and includes opportunities to learn about development and design issues faced in the Global South.
You'll learn about the factors that shape cities and rural areas, and gain a deeper knowledge of a selected specialist aspect of planning. The course will develop your research, policy making and design skills, and your understanding of how to apply research to public policy making and evaluation.
The course draws on leading teaching and research at the University, combining the urban design expertise of the School of Architecture and the international planning expertise of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. This interdisciplinary approach enables you to develop a distinctive approach to urban design and development that is ideally suited to the challenge of managing rapid urban growth and change.
Driven by innovation in both research and teaching, the course will help you learn the principles, techniques and skills required to harness new and emerging technologies for design visualisation. We integrate virtual and augmented reality into our learning and teaching in order to fully prepare you for a career in urban design in the 21st century. These technologies will allow you to create immersive visualisations of designs, viewed through virtual reality headsets, to accurately simulate solutions for real life planning issues.
This course does not require you to have a previous design background. We have students from planning, geography and architecture on the course, but we also have engineers, economists and graphic designers. We take on students with a broader range of skills and experience. The course is international in outlook and we welcome students from around the world.
This MA is intended to provide the core skills and knowledge required for a career in urban design. This includes basic training in the main software packages, including CAAD, Photoshop and Illustrator. Working across Architecture and Planning allows students to develop a distinctive approach to urban design and development which is ideally suited to the challenge of managing rapid urban growth and change. We offer an ‘integrated’ approach to urban development that is increasingly required by leading consultants and city authorities around the world. The course also includes a strong real estate dimension in order to ensure that urban design training takes account of the economics of development.
The course is recognised as a Specialist Planning Programme and partially accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute. This means that the course is accredited by the RTPI but once you've graduated you will need to complete further spatial study and/or gain requisite professional experience before you can become a chartered planner.
There are a wide range of engaging elective modules, allowing you to develop specialist knowledge in planning, architecture and design, or real estate. The programme includes a fully supervised thesis design project or research dissertation allowing you to combine your knowledge and skills in design, planning, and property development.
Students can select optional modules from across the two departments. You will benefit from inputs across planning, architecture and real estate. For the extended dissertation project students can choose the thesis design studio option run by Architecture, a design thesis in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, or a conventional written dissertation.
- Perspectives on Spatial Planning and Development
This module is seen as core in developing initial knowledge and understanding of planning and urban development. It critically explores the role of spatial ideas in planning policy and practice and plays a key part in developing critical skills and understanding of different contexts and environments relevant to that practice. The module covers urbanisation in a range of contexts and examines how spatial planning seeks to respond to key economic, environmental and social challenges.15 credits
- Research Methods
This module aims to develop core knowledge and skills required to undertake research in planning, housing, urban design and real estate. It provides grounding in the design of research projects, linking this to both underlying principles (intellectual and ethical) and the choice of methods for data collection and analysis. The emphasis is on engendering an understanding of the research design process, rather than on training in specific methods, and so forms a critically important part of the initial preparation for the Masters dissertation.15 credits
- Principles of Urban Design
An introduction to the essential design components, principles and theories that inform urban design practice today. This module examines the core components that make up urban spaces and how they can be analysed. The key objectives that inform many urban design practices are also explored, including legibility, diversity, safety and sustainable design. Teaching will draw on practical examples, using seminars, lectures and student site visits and virtual reality to develop skills in analysis and evaluation of urban spaces and their design.15 credits
Optional modules - one from:
- Urban Development in the Global South
This module looks at the challenges of urban planning and development in the global South: how are conflicting imperatives of ecological sustainability, social inclusion and economic competitiveness being balanced by practitioners, and what implications does this have for those living there? The unit will develop understanding of how urban planning systems are constructed and mediated by different actors. The unit will use a series of scenarios representing some of the diversity of conditions that exist in the global South to develop understandings of how planning systems shape and are shaped by the contexts in which they operate.15 credits
- Spatial Planning Systems
This unit provides an introduction to state-led planning. It considers the administrative, legal and political contexts in which planning decisions are made and the role of different groups in mediating land-use development. The unit will focus around work to understand how spatial planning systems are constructed and mediated by different actors. The unit will use practical scenarios to explore how action surrounding development might be organised, the ways in which the state is talked about and how it is organised, as well as the means by which the state makes planning policies and implements these.15 credits
- Politics, Planning and the State
Understanding how cities function is central to the role of planners, urban policy advisers, and other built environment professionals. Drawing on cities from different national contexts, this unit provides an introduction to the administrative, legal and political contexts in which decisions are made about planning, regeneration and development and the role different groups play in mediating and affecting development. The module explores how practitioners approach urban development challenges, define problems and frame policy interventions. Conceptual and practice-based perspectives are employed to encourage students to think critically about the tensions and trade-offs that confront those involved in planning and managing cities.15 credits
- Integrated Project
This module draws together skills and knowledge gained during the first semester and applies these to the specific problem of planning for an area of Sheffield. The module will use an in-depth project to explore the problems and potential of a site in inner Sheffield. In doing so, the project will develop skills and knowledge in policy making and evaluation, design and property financing. The over-riding objective of this module is not to view each of these three topics as separate, but to understand the inter-connected nature of these topics in order to respond to complex urban problems in an innovative and sensitive manner. Through this module you will develop skills and knowledge in policy appraisal and formulation, analysis of sites and urban areas, urban design and financial and development appraisal. These skills and forms of knowledge will be drawn together in the form of a site-specific planning brief and design-sketch scheme, a final scheme including financial and development appraisal and a reflective report. The module will also develop presentational skills and inter-disciplinary working.30 credits
The overall aim of the module is to develop knowledge and skills acquired in the first semester of the programme through their application to an actual planning problem by drawing together three critical themes: policy-making and evaluation, design and property financing.
Optional modules - two from:
Governance and Participation in the Global South (details to be confirmed)
- Cities of Diversity
Acknowledging diversity within cities is increasingly regarded as central to successful planning, urban development and city making and is a very hotly debated issue currently, particularly with #MeToo, Brexit and Trump! But what do we mean by diversity and what theories exist to help us understand it? This module will focus on various aspects of diversity in the form of differing social identities (such as age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability and gender – including focusing on masculinity within cities) but also critically explore the ways in which diversity is understood by policy makers and city managers. The module will focus on cities in both the global South and North and consider the significance of migration in relation to diversity in both contexts. The module will rely on a critical engagement with literature from the discipline of geography, planning, urban studies and development studies.15 credits
- Planning for Informality
The overall aim of this module is to critically examine informality, with a particular but not exclusive focus on cities of the Global South. The module relies on a mixture of lectures, seminars and student-led group work, with the latter focusing on an in-depth case study of a selected city. It explores patterns and causes of informality and discusses the strengths and limitations of a range of theoretical approaches. It also analyses the success of different real-world urban planning responses (understood in broad terms), including government-led, donor-led and community-focused ones, in addressing key urban issues in the context of informality.15 credits
- Mega Urban Projects
In many cities nowadays, mega urban projects such as mega events like the Olympic Games or Central Business Districts like Canary Wharf are seen as an effective means to boost the local economy and to promote the city on a global scale. However, many of them often fail to contribute to the local economy whilst having detrimental impacts on local residents and the wider society. This module offers an in-depth understanding of the development processes and outcomes of large-scale urban projects by exploring aspects of why such projects are developed, how they are governed and their socio-economic impacts.15 credits
- Transport Planning
This module will provide students with an introduction to transport planning and policy. The module develops students' ability to think critically about the framing of transport policy using UK transport planning as an example. It will focus on how planners in localities give shape to effective transport strategies, which balance a range of environmental, social and economic objectives.15 credits
- Transport and Connectivity
This module provides students with an introduction to GIS network and connectivity analysis as it applies to debates in the field of transport planning. The module develops students' ability to apply geospatial techniques to transport and network connectivity challenges and to think critically about how these techniques can be used to understand spatial mobility in complex urban environments. The module is taught in a series of lectures and inter-related computer workshops focusing on real-world data and policy problem scenarios.15 credits
- Issues in Housing
The aims of the module are twofold: to build both on substantive knowledge, theory and skills about housing gained in earlier parts of both the UG and PG courses, with an emphasis on policy analysis; and to look more closely at the links between housing and planning (in its widest sense) at the local and regional level.15 credits
- Sustainable development: a critical investigation
This module provides critical, in-depth analysis of a concept which is central to planning and development, yet is notoriously ambiguous and impossible to define in an uncontested way. Students will explore and debate the contestable nature of sustainability through the innovative use of computer gaming technology. Using a city-building game (Cities: Skylines) to develop a `sustainable¿ virtual city and then `deconstructing it¿ intellectually, the aim is to provide students with the understanding and conceptual tools to approach their own and others¿ claims to deliver `sustainable development¿ in a constructively critical way.15 credits
- Health, Wellbeing and the Built Environment
This module explores the built environment as a determinant of health and well-being and examines how planning and urban design can contribute to improvements in health. Beginning with an exploration of the historic relationship between planning and public health, the module focuses on how the built environment supports or undermines health in relation to mental health, ageing, obesity, air quality and noise pollution. The module also introduces the notion of health impact assessment and further reflects on the contribution of planning to environmental justice and the reduction of inequalities in health.15 credits
- Planning Law
The course is intended to give students an expertise in the legal framework for the planning system and to set that legal framework within the wider context of law in the United Kingdom. It considers the origins of planning law and seeks to provide explanations for the powers that the law confers on decision makers. The course focuses particularly on the development control aspects of planning law and looks at the rights and duties of applicants, local authorities and the Secretary of State in making and determining planning applications. It considers the criteria for decision making and the possibilities for the redress of grievance. It considers planning law in the light of wider discussions about human rights and planning gain.15 credits
- International Real Estate Market Analysis
This module will provide a comprehensive introduction to key concepts and approaches to the analysis of international real estate markets. This module makes a simple operational distinction between mature, emergent and transitional markets as a first step towards a systematic framework for analysis. It gives an introduction to specific real estate markets and the ways in which they function, and offers generalizable conclusions about the wider operation of global real estate markets. Students will develop knowledge and understanding of global political economy as a context for interpreting real estate markets.15 credits
- GIS for Built Environment Professionals
This module aims to introduce key Geographical Information Systems (GIS) principles and techniques to students in fields where GIS is becoming an increasingly relevant tool. The focus is on enabling students to develop an understanding of the potential of GIS and some fundamental GIS skills, through a series of workshops using a range of common software. Assessment is through a written report incorporating visualisations and analysis.15 credits
- Advanced GIS Methods
This unit is aimed at students who already have a good degree of knowledge in ArcGIS. The module aims to develop in students a high degree of competence in relation to advanced spatial analysis, understanding spatial approaches to problem solving, and the theories and precepts which underlie software applications in GIS. The module is taught in a series of inter-related computer workshops focusing on real-world data and problem scenarios. The assessment for this module is based on a multiple choice exam and a 2,000 word advanced methods report.15 credits
- Advanced Software Skills in Urban Design
This option module will provide students with the opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge of key 2D, 3D and immersive technology (Virtual reality and augmented reality) design software packages which are increasingly required to visually communicate development proposals and ideas within the urban design and planning professions. The module will equip students with a broad understanding of different methods of communicating urban design ideas using digital technologies, and a critical appreciation of the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of design software packages enabling the effective selection and utilisation of appropriate software in order to perform a range of different urban design tasks.15 credits
- Conservation and Regeneration Principles and Approaches
This module introduces a range of theoretical and practical approaches to architectural design interventions in the historic built environment. It will explore conceptual and philosophical debates within architectural conservation and heritage studies, addressing the conflicting and complementary approaches that have historically been employed. You will be encouraged to develop a critical understanding of conservation and built heritage issues and to evaluate the role of architectural conservation in historical rural and urban regeneration.15 credits
- Trajectories in Urban Design Practice
This unit focuses on exploring the emergent and potential roles of Urban Design practitioners, and on relating them to students¿ own Urban Design experience, both within practice and within the School of Architecture. The unit will be broad ranging, looking at the unprecedented scale and complexity of conditions that are shaping the urban environment globally, creating the need for a critical evaluation of the methods, tools, and design culture that surrounds the practice of Urban Design. The module will discuss the consequences of these conditions on the practice of Urban Design, and will invite students to speculate about the potential trajectories that they could take in the future as Urban Design practitioners. Assessments will be based on a reflection on student¿s individual experiences and future aspirations.This unit is also suitable for those students taking a part-time route whilst continuing to work in practice. It is also suitable an option module for the MArch course. It will also be offered as CPD module.15 credits
For the extended dissertation project you can choose the thesis design studio option run by Architecture, a design thesis in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, or a conventional written dissertation.
Dissertation - one from:
This is a core module which allows students to develop and manage an individual research project. The module aims to help students to develop and apply research skills and an appreciation of the issues involved in managing a research project; to develop an understanding of the role of research in relation to theoretical and practical dimensions of the chosen discipline; and to further and deepen knowledge in their chosen field of planning, real estate, urban design, development, or related interests.60 credits
- Design Dissertation
This module is a major research project that offers the opportunity for students to develop and manage an individual research informed site-based urban design project. The module aims to develop: research design skills, site analysis and development skills, and visual communication skills; an appreciation of the issues involved in managing a research project; an understanding of the role of research in gaining a detailed understanding of site and developing contextually appropriate site design solutions; to further and deepen knowledge and experience in a chosen field of urban design or planning.60 credits
The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. We are no longer offering unrestricted module choice. If your course included unrestricted modules, your department will provide a list of modules from their own and other subject areas that you can choose from.
You'll be taught by experts in their field, based in two of the country's leading schools in architecture and planning, giving you a truly interdisciplinary experience.
1 year full-time
The UK has a shortage of trained urban designers and there are significant opportunities for urban designers around the world. Past planning graduates with a design interest have been well placed for jobs around the world, and particularly in China where there is a strong demand for the integrated approach offered by the MAUDP. Some of our graduates stay on to do PhDs, as we are a leading centre for doctoral training and research.
The employability of our graduates is of paramount importance to us. The development of skills, knowledge and personal attributes that enhance your career underpins our programme design. We have a dedicated Employability Manager, Amy Woolley, to support you. We’ll prepare you for employment after graduation.
I chose to study at Sheffield because of its good international rankings and the scholarship I was awarded. After completing my MA I would like to stay in the UK to acquire professional experience and then return to work in my home country. Urban studies is all about social research, I see myself working with communities to improve the physical and social conditions of urban areas.
For UK students, the usual entry requirement is a 2:1 degree or evidence of equivalent achievement (for example, a professional qualification combined with work experience).
We will consider your application if you have a 2.2 degree but we would expect you to have evidence of work experience or other relevant activity.
Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.
If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.
Fees and funding
Costs for field classes are not included in the tuition fee.
You can apply for postgraduate study using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.
+44 114 222 6900
+44 114 222 0349
Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.
Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.