2022 start September 

Urban Design

School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Sciences

Our design-based course has a strong emphasis on community participation, and addressing the challenges of uneven urban development, both locally and internationally.
Urban Design postgraduates working on a project in the community

Course description

Urban design professionals are in demand. We'll help you develop design skills that relate to a broader social, environmental and economic context, so that you can link individual architectural projects with overall planning strategies.

We’ll encourage you to critically examine the key urban development challenges that cities are facing today. You’ll explore local urban areas in Sheffield and compare these areas with other UK and international contexts in Europe as well as in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. You'll also investigate the role of designers and citizens in the processes of city making.

Central to the course is a design studio project, and core modules on urban design theory and practice. You can explore a range of themes through optional modules and you’ll take part in study trips and thematic workshops.

We’re one of the UK's top architecture schools. Our international research projects shape policy and address public and professional needs. As a Sheffield student you’ll engage with real issues affecting the built environment. You’ll be encouraged to provide social and environmental solutions to the challenges of our time.

Applying for this course

We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

What to include with your application

Apply now


The modules listed below are examples from the last academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course. For the very latest module information, check with the department directly.

Core modules:

Urban Design Project 1

This unit is one in a sequence of studio based modules. It introduces students to the specific skills and design knowledge required for urban design in combination with design research methodologies and allows them to be developed through studio-based urban design projects.

15 credits
Urban Design Project 2

This unit is the second in a sequence of three which are studio based. It develops the students' urban design skills that have been introduced in Urban Project 1 and put an emphasis on combining these skills with participatory design techniques.

30 credits
Urban Design Project 3: Thesis Project

This unit is the third in a sequence of three which are studio based. It allows students to develop their own urban design project with participatory approaches. The project is based on individual research themes and combines knowledge and skills gained from all previous units required for the programme. It is the equivalent to the thesis dissertation in a non-studio based Masters.

60 credits
Participation in Architecture and Urban Design

The unit introduces the history, theory and application of participation in architecture and urban design. Based on a critical analysis of precedents, students will be expected to develop their own participatory methods for use in urban design

15 credits
History and Theory of Urban Design

This unit provides an introduction to the main concepts, theories and practices of urban design, illustrated by local, national and international examples from different historical, political, geographical and environmental periods and areas. Using a themed rather than a chronological approach, the course explores how similar urban forms have been used and reused, reinterpreted, adapted and challenged by different social, economic and political groups in different parts of the world to meet differing (real and imagined) needs, behaviours and rituals. The emphasis is on design and on the end product of the design process ¿ the visual and physical form of the urban environment.

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
Urban Design Tools and Methods

This unit is one in a sequence of studio based modules. It introduces students to the specific skills, tools and design knowledge required for urban design in combination with design research methodologies and allows them to be developed through studio-based urban design projects.

15 credits

Optional modules:

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
Critical Spatial Writing

Critical spatial writing understands space as an entanglement of exchanges, conflicts, and negotiations. The sites of architecture, whether a city, frontier, room or encounter, are viewed both as both subjects of research and spaces for intervention. With readings, lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical spatial writing through an exploration of contemporary arts, architectures and urban interventions with particular attention to issues such as difference and diversity, decolonisation, ecology and intersectional feminism. It will examine different forms of writing about architecture and how we might write about space critically, creatively and relationally. Each session is organised around a number of set texts for lecture delivery, and student-led writing / discussion.

15 credits
Power, Space, Society

The unit focuses on socio-political, economical, ideological and cultural factors shaping and influencing buildings and cities. In a tradition of critical theory, this module analyses hidden aspects of built environment causing social exclusion / inclusion and oppression / emancipation. Through lectures and group seminars, the module will provide an introduction to critical analyses of built environment in a global context. Each session is organised around a particular issue analysed in diverse contexts.

15 credits
Reflections on Architectural Education

This module is for those students taking the MArch in Architecture or other Masters programmes offered by the Departments. It aims to explore the wider context of architectural education as well as studying current thinking on the techniques for tutoring and reviewing in the design studio. Students undertaking this module would gain first hand experience of these techniques through assisting in the teaching of undergraduate students within the department. Assessment will take the form of a self reflective essay about their experience of helping ot teach undergraduate architectural students, with reference to appropriate literature.

15 credits
Behaviour in the Built Environment

The urban/built environment influences the behaviour of people; equally, people’s behaviour can shape the environment. Understanding the interaction between people and their environment promotes the design of spaces and buildings that meet the needs of the people who occupy them. This module will discuss principles of behavioural and environmental psychology in the context of the design and management of indoor and outdoor spaces, including the application and interpretation of behavioural research methods. A key objective is for students to be better equipped to deliver a sustainable environment that meets user requirements.

15 credits
Advanced Simulation for Modelling Adaptive Architecture

This module introduces the concepts, principles, approaches and examples of how requirement and performance of adaptive architecture can be modelled through computer-based simulation. Simulation is seen and practised as a form of experiment performed on models. Adaptive Architecture (AA) is broadly defined as built environments that can change over time in response to changing user and/or environmental conditions while maintaining the architectural characteristic and performance designed. This module contains (a) a lecture series introducing various types of models developed to perform simulation of AA; (b) students¿ undertaking a group project to propose scenarios of adaptation informed by advanced simulation; and (c) an individual essay discussing the benefit and limitation of computer-based simulation.

15 credits
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

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.


Studio-based design work with individual and group tutorials, block seminars, workshops and traditional lecture modules.


You’ll be assessed on course assignments and a final design thesis or written dissertation.


  • 1 year full-time
  • 2 years part-time

Student profiles

The MA in Urban Design has given me a good understanding of the context of development and it introduced me to the economical, political, social and environmental landscape which we all live and work in. The course has made me appreciate what’s around me, and the way space is designed has such a big impact on the way it is used.

Becky Knighton
MA Urban Design

Entry requirements

You’ll need a 2:1 honours degree or an equivalent qualification related to design in the built environment, such as architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. We’d also like to see your portfolio. 

Your degree doesn’t have to be design-based. If you have a lot of professional design experience we’ll consider your application.

What to include with your application

Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

Pathway programme for international students

If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

We also accept a range of other UK qualifications and other EU/international qualifications.

If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.

Apply now

+44 114 222 0349

Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

Our student protection plan

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.

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