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    Urban Design and Planning

    School of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Gain specialist skills and understanding of urban design and planning, engage with critical challenges facing cities internationally and prepare for a dynamic career as a chartered planner specialising in urban design in the UK and beyond.
    A student wearing a VR headset on the MA Urban Design and Planning course

    Course description

    Study a course fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) designed to prepare you for a dynamic and rewarding career in urban design and planning in either the public or private sector. 

    Our MA explores the critical role of urban design and planning in solving global challenges and includes opportunities to engage in design and development issues faced across the Global South and Global North. 

    The course will equip you with specialist knowledge, awareness and understanding of the relationship between design and planning in contemporary cities. You'll learn from and engage with academic staff across the department who are at the forefront of their fields internationally, alongside leading practitioners. 

    Learning in our dedicated design studio and immersive design studio, you'll develop practical skills and knowledge of applied urban design through exposure to state-of-the-art technologies including virtual reality and augmented reality and training in professional design software e.g. Adobe Creative Cloud and CAD.

    Urban Studies and Planning Lecturers Dr Bobby Nisha and Dr Michael Martin host a VR design session for students on the Urban Design and Planning Masters at the University of Sheffield.

    Through design studio learning and teaching, the MA will equip you with applied and technical urban design skills and methods that enable you to produce and deliver critical urban analysis, creative design development and comprehensive design proposals for real sites at multiple scales – from site level to masterplans.

    On completion you will be able to produce professional graphics and visualisations of your design ideas and solutions.

    Supported by drawing and 3D model-making facilities, specialist design software and new and emerging technologies we offer an integrated approach to urban design and planning required by leading consultants and city authorities around the world

    The course includes opportunities to explore development viability and the financial appraisal of design projects. Through optional modules, you will be able to tailor the MA to suit your professional interests. 

    This course does not require you to have a previous background in design. Our MA cohorts feature students from planning, geography and architecture, as well as engineers, economists and graphic designers. We take students with a broad range of skills and experience. Our course is international, and we welcome students from around the world.


    This MA is fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). By completing an accredited programme you will benefit from full eligibility to become a chartered planning professional – opening up a wide range of future career opportunities. The accreditation enables graduates to apply to become a Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute (MRTPI), which will give you the professional title of Chartered Town Planner.


    Learning in our dedicated studio environment, take core urban design studio modules, core planning modules and engaging electives.

    Elective modules enable you to tailor the programme to your professional interests, allowing you to develop knowledge, understanding and competencies across a range of built environment specialisms including planning, architecture, GIS, or real estate.

    The course includes a supervised design dissertation project or research dissertation project facilitating you with a unique opportunity to combine your knowledge and skills in urban design, planning, and property development to explore an innovative research-led project shaped by you.

    A selection of modules are available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Together these Autumn semester modules provide core and contextual subject coverage and key skills. Please note the Professional Skills Development module runs throughout the full academic year.

    Core modules:

    Planning Place and Design Studio

    An introduction to the essential design components, principles and theories that inform urban design practice today. The module covers key theoretical, analytical, applied, and technical aspects of urban design to develop core skills and knowledge in design and spatial planning. 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. The ethics of professional practice in urban design are explored, including through consideration of equity and inclusivity in design practice. Teaching will draw on practical examples, using student teaching, lectures, design panel presentations, student site visits and virtual reality to develop skills in analysis and evaluation of urban spaces and their design.

    30 credits
    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
    Employability and Professional Skills

    This module aims to provide a range of supporting skills for home and international students, which will help you get the most out of your learning in Sheffield, and to prepare you for professional employment and career development at the end of your studies. The module has two elements: 1. Cultures of Learning and Professional Skills - understanding how we teach at Sheffield, how to get the most out of your study and how to develop key generic professional/soft skills 2. Employability Skills - preparing you for careers within planning, design, real estate, GIS and related professional areas.

    Optional modules - one from:

    Urban Development in the Global South

    This module explores 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 module 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
    Globalising Cities

    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
    Spatial Planning Systems

    This module provides an introduction to state-led planning and the key principles that underpin how spatial planning systems seek to shape the built environment. 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 module will focus around work to understand how spatial planning systems are constructed and contested by different actors. It will use practical scenarios to explore action surrounding development, the ways in which the state is talked about and organised, as well as the means by which the state makes and implements planning policies.

    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.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    1 year full-time


    We'll teach you to be an independent, critical thinker who can act as a reflective practitioner and deliver positive professional contributions across the built environment.

    Your learning is informed by the cutting-edge research of our academic staff to ensure your knowledge and understanding of contemporary design and urbanism issues is based on the latest international thinking and evidence. 

    Our course is taught across our new dedicated urban design studio, our drawing studio and  our immersive studio, which is used for projects involving virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

    Sessions comprise a mix of applied studio-based learning, small group workshops, design crits, seminars, computer workshops and tutorials as well as lectures.

    You'll benefit from our dedicated immersive design equipment in VR and AR to help explore, analyse and design urban environments as well as 3D printers to create massing models and print/plotting facilities to present your work professionally.

    MA students will have priority use of our studio spaces. All students receive a licence for Adobe Creative Cloud software, including Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign for your personal computer to work on design projects at any time throughout your degree.

    We work with professional practitioners across the programme who bring their experience of cutting-edge practice to our teaching and learning environment.


    The MA prioritises portfolio development with a range of coursework assessment methods and types that enable you to produce a professional design portfolio on completion of the programme. 

    All design-focused work linked with studio modules is presented at A1 and will include studio critiques, peer-review, presentations, and 3D physical model making using our 3D printing equipment. 

    Other modes of assessment on planning and elective modules will include essays, reports, presentations, and portfolios.

    Finally, you will complete a design dissertation or research dissertation which is assessed in the form of an 8,000 word design portfolio or 12,500 word research essay. Modules typically feature some elements of assessed group work as well as a larger weighted individual submission.

    Your career

    The MA will equip you for professional practice in urban design and planning in the UK and internationally. Past graduates have been well placed for jobs globally, particularly in East Asia and India as well as more locally across the UK. Further study for a PhD in our leading centre for doctoral training and research is another common route for our graduates.

    MA Urban Design and Planning graduates are popular with employers in both the private and public sectors, particularly in consultancy as well as in government departments and agencies, and third sector organisations.

    Our graduates have developed successful careers across the built environment sector including, in urban design, planning, real estate development, urban policy, central and local government, international development, non-governmental organisation, and research. 

    Our graduates are employed by a range of organisations including Lichfields, Savills, ARUP, Arcadis, Transport for London, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Crowley Associates, DLP Planning, and local government and city councils.

    All students will develop an urban design portfolio to enhance their employment prospects demonstrating their competencies in urban analysis, design codes and policy, technical skills in software and drawing, and applied design on real world sites. We offer dedicated portfolio sessions delivered by professional practitioners to support this. 

    The course will teach you a wide range of transferable skills which are attractive to a broad spectrum of employers beyond the built environment sector including analytical skills, problem-solving, strategic thinking, teamwork, creativity, design competencies and communication.. 

    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 course design. We'll prepare you for employment after graduation and have a dedicated Employability Manager to support you.

    How we'll help you prepare for your future career


    School of Geography and Planning

    Geography and Planning building
    Geography and Planning building

    We have an intellectual reputation for theoretical strength, especially in the fields of urban inequalities and social justice. Study with us and become part of a new and exciting group of urban professionals and change makers.

    As a student at Sheffield, you'll develop the knowledge and skills to build a successful career in planning and related urban and environmental professions. You'll be taught by world-leading academics whose cutting-edge research feeds directly into the seminar room. You'll learn using the latest technology in our dedicated teaching spaces; visualising complex data through Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software and using virtual and augmented reality to explore how people interact with urban spaces.

    You'll be at the heart of a vibrant academic community and will benefit from an excellent staff-student ratio, resulting in a genuinely friendly and inclusive academic environment. Our open-door policy means you can drop in on your lecturers at any time during their office hours, without an appointment. We believe this will help with your wellbeing and encourage your intellectual curiosity.

    We work with national governments, international bodies such as the UN, research councils, private business, the voluntary sector, and local communities to shape policy and inspire change in urban environments. Join us to explore the pathways to creating fair, just and sustainable places.

    Student profiles

    Mengjie Li

    Sheffield has taught me the importance of scientific and objective research methods

    Mengjie Li MA Urban Design and Planning

    After completing a masters in Urban Design and Planning, Mengjie Li now works on urban renewal projects for a think tank based in Shenzhen.

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree.

    We may also consider your application if you do not meet the standard academic requirements but you have relevant professional experience.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    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.

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

    Fees and funding

    Additional costs

    Costs for field classes are not included in the tuition fee.



    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 6900

    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.