Urban Studies BA

2025-26 entry
School of Geography and Planning

Study the past, present and future of urban and built environments using cutting-edge theories and practices in politics, economics, design, sociology, environmental studies and geography.

Key details

Explore this course:

    Course description

    A student sketches in front of a river bridge

    Study urban and built environments using cutting-edge theories and practices to anticipate and shape the future of the built environment.

    Explore cutting edge interdisciplinary theory and practice, and think creatively about how cities and urban spaces work on our BA Urban Studies course.

    From core knowledge and skills, to key issues such as climate change and urban inequalities, this three year course gives you a practical grounding and a broad intellectual understanding of concepts and practices in urbanism, spatial change and planning.

    With a blend of academic and live project work, field trips and site visits, this course encourages you to develop specialist interests through optional modules whilst giving you key analytical skills to prepare for your future career.  You’ll have the flexibility to transfer to the MPlan Urban Studies and Planning (subject to criteria), plus the opportunity to spend a semester studying abroad in Europe, or spend a year further afield at one of our partner institutions.

    Why study this course?

    • Dedicated employability team - based in the department, they support you to get placements, bring in alumni to give guest lectures, work with industry to ensure our students develop the most in-demand skills, and support students with career planning and CV workshops.
    • Professional skills modules - running through all three years of the course, these modules prepare you for professional employment or higher-level study and cover skills like project management, teamwork and negotiation. They will encourage you to reflect on the skills you’ve developed during your degree and will enable you to articulate and professionally present your skills and strengths (eg in a job interview).
    • Research and impact - our department is the UK’s top accredited planning school for research and impact, with more than 95% of our research considered world leading or internationally excellent, according to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.

    Modules

    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.

    Choose a year to see modules for a level of study:

    Title: Urban Studies BA course structure
    UCAS code: L722
    Years: 2024, 2025
    First year

    Core modules:

    Information and Communication Skills

    The skills needed to be able to find, evaluate, summarise and critically evaluate information are all vital to success in an undergraduate degree programme, and are also key transferable skills. This module provides basic knowledge of a range of methods for information-gathering and forms of communication. The teaching is delivered through a mix of lectures, tutorials and seminars, with students expected to take more responsibility for their own learning as the module progresses. Lectures provide basic knowledge on method for information gathering and forms of communication, whilst seminars, tutorials and a range of exercises are used to develop these skills

    10 credits
    Contemporary urban challenges

    This module will address the range of challenges contained within the Sustainable Development Goals for cities attempting to transition towards sustainable urban development. You will be introduced to sustainability challenges and the planning and urban professional response to these in a range of specific cities. You will then conduct your own research on one of these case study cities to evaluate its response, and the wider lessons to be learned from it about transitions towards sustainable development.

    10 credits
    Cities, Places and People

    The aim of this module is to provide students with an introduction to Sheffield with a particular focus on place, people, the local economy and urban change. You will be introduced to some of the theories, techniques and data  that planners use in their efforts to understand and create better places and the module will develop your skills of analysis for assessing the social, economic and environmental qualities of urban places. Through a series of site visits, students will gain an understanding of several different areas in Sheffield so that they develop a broader appreciation of the city's strengths and some of the contemporary challenges that it faces.

    10 credits
    The Making of Urban Places

    This module will introduce you to cities and urbanisation, from the very first settlements to contemporary metropolises, using examples throughout history from across the world. The module focuses on thinking about the role of cities within societies and civilisations throughout history, and how planning ideas and practice have developed in response. It explores the histories of urbanisation, from the earliest urban settlements to the megacities of the twentieth century, looking at how various forces have shaped cities, and the outcomes of urbanisation for cities and their populations. It highlights influential ideas which have changed our thinking about cities, looks at how urban governments and planners have sought to respond to the challenges of urbanisation, and discusses critical debates around these. The module takes a global focus, drawing on different cases and examples from around the world.

    20 credits
    Climate Action

    Humans are altering the climate, with significant impacts on livelihoods, wellbeing, equality, and the environment across the globe.  While international organisations and governments are crucial in mitigating and adapting to these threats, individual and small group collective action are also essential in creatively exploring how the necessary changes can be realistically and equitably implemented.

     

    This module uses the community linked to the University as a Living Lab.  Focusing on one aspect of daily life in which there is potential for more mitigation or better adaptation, you will identify and plan an investigation or intervention (a 'project') to take a step towards more or better climate action.  You will need to justify your choices by elaborating what you would consider success, how you would deliver it, as well as assessing the impact of its wider implementation.

    10 credits
    Urban Economics

    This module provides an introduction to economic concepts and theories and to the way in which they are applied to the analysis of property markets and policy challenges. The module seeks to offer an economic perspective on planning issues by focusing on land market and urban development. The overall aim of the module is to develop students' understanding of the economic environment within which planners and other urban professions operate and to enhance understanding of economic theory and the property market in general.

    10 credits
    Cities, space and urban design

    The module will explore the fundamentals of urban design and its role in the mediation, analysis and design of space. This module introduces the core principles of reading, representing, and interpreting the physical organisation of space in cities, and examines the core components of the spatial environment and how they can be analysed. The module will equip students with analytical skills to explore, make sense of and develop spatial urban design data and foundational orthographic projection drawing (a means of representing a three-dimensional object in two dimensions).  Students will also learn the fundamentals of visual/graphical communication via posters. Teaching will draw on practical examples, using workshops, lectures, context-based study and student-led site visits to develop skills in the analysis of urban spaces and their design.

    10 credits
    Development, Planning and the State

    The module provides an introduction to spatial planning in theory and practice, exploring arguments for and against spatial planning and the rationale for state intervention into land and property development. The first part of the module covers key debates on the purposes of planning, the historical development of planning as a state activity and the current structure of national, regional and local government. The central part of the module introduces key aspects of the English planning system and key debates about its role and purpose. The final third of the module explores how spatial planning responds to major societal challenges.

    20 credits
    Professional Skills Development (L1)

    * A foundation to articulate the skills-based nature of study in USP. * An opportunity to recognise the importance of, and your responsibility for, the development of key professional and employability-related skills. * A series of support sessions to help you get the most out of your learning experience and prepare you for professional employment at the end of your studies. This module seeks to deliver a range of professional and employability-related skills over the academic year, tailored to each student cohort, to introduce skills development and to tailor support towards the final stages of study. It also seeks to develop team working skills including project and meeting management as well as negotiation and persuasion within a team.

    Optional modules (20 credits from a range of modules including):

    Education, Power and Society: Introduction to the Sociology of Education

    This module explores the relationship between educational institutions/cultures/systems and social inequalities. We focus on class, gender, ethnicity and disability and look at the ways in which education systems serve to tackle or reproduce patterns of inequality and relations of power. The module also evaluates different policy frameworks and goals. For example, whether the focus of education policy should be placed on nurturing active citizenship (and what this would look like) or whether the main priority should be to serve the needs of the economy (and how this might be achieved).

    20 credits
    Introducing Criminology

    Crime is a major social problem in virtually all societies. In this module, sociological understandings of crime are discussed, often with reference to their implications for policy. The module will introduce you to major research about crime in contemporary Britain and help you to understand the contribution of sociology to its analysis. This module will be of value to anyone thinking about a career in the criminal justice services, journalism, public service, the voluntary sector and anyone interested in understanding the significance of crime in contemporary British society

    10 credits
    Housing and Home

    Issues relating to housing, homes, streets and neighbourhoods that we live in are in the news every day. Whether this is over concerns about housing shortages, affordability, housing bubbles, 'generation rent', social housing, housing evictions, Covid lockdown, city-centre housing, DIY and 'grand designs', or debates about the domestic sphere, 'home as a haven', 'benefit streets', flooding and shack settlements, housing is often at the centre of social science research. This module aims to introduce students to this broad and diverse subject by drawing on the expertise of staff who research across these multiple themes. The module focuses on contemporary concerns, while maintaining an appreciation of the impact of historical trends (e.g. the Global Financial Crisis of 2007/8). The module will make use of cases from the UK and abroad to illustrate trends, arguments and challenges. The module introduced students to various concepts and debates relating to housing, as well as indicating the linkages to housing and urban policy.

    10 credits
    Politics, Economy and Society in China

    This module explores what it means to study China at university level, and considers how 'area studies' research on China fits within disciplines such as political economy, international relations, anthropology, sociology and geography. We will work on a combination of new and established research to explore core topics in contemporary China: including how Chinese society has changed; how researchers use different conceptual frameworks and types of primary evidence to understand change and its wider impact; and, how to use the different types of work published in the field and evaluate competing arguments in key debates. You will finish this module with a deeper understanding of our core topic and the disciplinary approaches that frame it, and a foundation in critical research and writing skills that you can apply and develop in further study.

    20 credits
    Gender, Sexuality and Society

    This unit intends to address the following questions regarding gender and sexuality and their interaction with society: What do we mean by gender and sexuality? How do we do gender and sexuality? How do we see gender and sexuality? How do we control gender and sexuality?

    10 credits
    Introduction to Media and Communication in Society

    This module examines the relationship between media and society. It examines the nature of influence and persuasion, representation, ownership, and identity in contemporary media environments.

    10 credits
    Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

    Whether you're a journalist writing stories for the public, or a social research analyst working in government, you need to be able to understand, use and present data. This 10 credit module aims to demystify data and encourage critical thinking on statistics; often wrongly used, and sometimes in very misleading ways. The module will equip you with the knowledge and skills you'll need to become a discerning data user, through engaging teaching, active learning and examples from the news media. The module is comprised of a mix of lectures and computer workshops and is assessed through a multiple choice exam.

    10 credits
    Cities and Inequality

    The main aim of Cities and Inequality  is to introduce you to our urban condition in a global context, with particular attention to the multiple forms of inequality that pervade urban life. Drawing on a wide range of expertise within the Department, we will introduce you to a range of key issues in contemporary urban studies and help you to understand more about the roots of urban problems and questions of social differentiation and injustice in a range of global urban contexts. The course also aims to develop students' capacity for comparative urban analysis

    10 credits
    Living with Environmental Change

    This module will introduce students to a wide range of critical environmental issues facing the world today from physical science and social science perspectives. Using a range of environmental problems evident in the Global North and Global South (such as climate change, habitat loss, water resources, land-use change, agriculture), the physical and social processes implicated will be examined. Drawing on a range of examples, students will critically explore the causes, consequences, management and solutions to environmental issues and learn how to question assumptions about environmental processes.

    20 credits
    Why Geography Matters

    Geography helps us plan for the future by investigating social and physical processes as they interconnect from the past through to the present. Geographers actively contribute to contemporary debates across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.  We address some of the most pressing issues facing the modern world linking to social justice and environmental change.  Serving as a bridge between the general introductory modules, and the more specialist modules taught at levels 2 and 3, this module provides an opportunity for students to engage with topical issues in contemporary human and physical geography led by academics actively engaged in cutting edge research who are informing real world policy and practice.  The module provides a challenging but accessible insight into the origins of the discipline and how these translate into the cutting edge of contemporary geographical research, and how this helps us understand and contribute to our changing world.  The module will also begin to highlight for students how knowledge is always produced and reflective of those who produce it in ways that reinforce the positionality of some and silence others.

    The following particular skills will be achieved in this module: exchanging knowledge; networking; emotional intelligence; inclusivity; positive mindset; innovation; commercial awareness.

    20 credits
    Earth, Wind, Ice and Fire

    This module introduces the general principles of physical geography for students with diverse backgrounds.  The module seeks to develop a holistic understanding of how the Earth functions as a system, focusing in particular on the functioning of key elements of this system - notably the operation of the geosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere - and how these elements interact to influence the evolution of the system as a whole. Consideration of the latter aspect will include discussion of the impacts and consequences of alterations to the operation of different parts of the system, such as those caused by past and present climatic change. Finally, we consider how the form of Earth's surface reflects current and past geosphere, atmosphere and cryosphere processes at a range of spatial scales, from small-scale fluvial, aeolian and glacial landforms, to the evolution of continents and large mountain ranges.

    20 credits
    Exploring Human Geographies

    The module provides an introduction to key principles, relations and processes that contribute to a diverse array of social, cultural, economic and environmental aspects of human geography.  It looks at spatial patterns of power, inequality and interdependence produced by economic and cultural globalisation, how we experience these at the local scale and and how they have changed over time.  It outlines key concepts and current debates shaping how human geographers approach these issues by drawing on examples from around the world and at a variety of geographical scales.  It highlights the value of a geographical perspective on the world we live in.

    20 credits
    Social Psychology I

    This module will provide an overview of the fundamentals of social psychology. The module will introduce and explain key theories and research, and their application, for understanding social psychological phenomena. Content is organised around two themes: How people think, and how people feel and behave. The module will include lectures that will provide opportunities to learn how to critically evaluate social psychological research and theories, as well as to describe how social psychology theory can be applied to address real world issues.

    20 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.

    Learning and assessment

    Learning

    In order to help you develop the practical skills you will need as an urban professional, we typically offer a core field class in your second year. You will also have the option to spend a part of your degree studying at one of our overseas partner universities.

    We invest to create the right environment for you. That means outstanding facilities, study spaces and support, including 24/7 online access to our online library service.

    Study spaces and computers are available to offer you choice and flexibility for your study. Our five library sites give you access to over 1.3 million books and periodicals. You can access your library account and our rich digital collections from anywhere on or off campus. Other library services include study skills training to improve your grades, and tailored advice from experts in your subject.

    Learning support facilities and library opening hours

    All our teaching is research-led. Our teaching staff are world-leading researchers and experts in their field: in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), the Department of Urban Studies and Planning was ranked as the #1 RTPI-accredited planning school in the UK.

    Our expertise ranges from UK and international planning to real estate, geographical information systems (GIS) and global urban development.

    Assessment

    You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams. The proportions of these will vary depending on the modules you choose.

    Coursework may include essays and reports, policy briefs, case studies, proposed planning interventions and visual media such as academic posters and design portfolios.

    Our diverse range of assessments ensures that you develop transferable skills and attributes that are prized by employers.

    As a graduate you will be able to confidently and creatively interpret, present and communicate complex information to a variety of audiences.

    Programme specification

    This tells you the aims and learning outcomes of this course and how these will be achieved and assessed.

    Find programme specification for this course

    Entry requirements

    With Access Sheffield, you could qualify for additional consideration or an alternative offer - find out if you're eligible.

    Standard offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    ABB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    BBB + B in a social science related EPQ; BBB + B in Core Maths
    International Baccalaureate
    33
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDD in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + B at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    AAABB
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + AB at A Level
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 30 at Distinction and 15 at Merit
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    Access Sheffield offer

    The A Level entry requirements for this course are:
    BBB

    A Levels + a fourth Level 3 qualification
    BBB + B in a social science related EPQ; BBB + B in Core Maths
    International Baccalaureate
    32
    BTEC Extended Diploma
    DDM in a relevant subject
    BTEC Diploma
    DD + B at A Level
    Scottish Highers
    AABBB
    Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels
    B + BB at A Level
    Access to HE Diploma
    Award of Access to HE Diploma in a relevant subject, with 45 credits at Level 3, including 24 at Distinction and 21 at Merit
    Other requirements
    • GCSE Maths grade 4/C

    English language requirements

    You must demonstrate that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course. For this course, we require: GCSE English Language at grade 4/C; IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component; or an alternative acceptable English language qualification

    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 an International Foundation Year 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.

    Graduate careers

    School of Geography and Planning

    Our Placements, Employability and External Relations team maintains close links with external organisations to ensure that you have access to the world of work. This supports you in gaining an insight into many different professions.

    A dedicated Professional Skills module will help develop your career plans and can support you in finding work experience and completing a placement year, which will help you gain practical experience in the workplace.

    Most of our graduates go on to work in planning or a related career in the built environment professions, including housing, transport planning, real estate, development control, forward planning, regeneration, urban design, heritage and conservation.

    Recent graduates have gone on to work for public and private sector organisations such as AECOM, Arup, CBRE, Deloitte, Harrow London Borough Council, Sheffield City Council, Leicester City Council, North Somerset Council, and the Peak District National Park Authority. More than half of our graduate planners take up posts with planning consultancies and several are employed by major global built environment firms.

    Our alumni frequently return to the school to give talks on cutting-edge planning topics. Several alumni sit on our Liaison Board, ensuring our courses are in tune with the needs of employers. Many alumni work at organisations which can offer work placements, or deliver guest lectures within our modules and attend other events.

    Urban studies and planning careers support

    School of Geography and Planning

    No 2 for construction, surveying and planning

    Guardian University Guide 2024

    No 2 for town and country planning and landscape design

    Complete University Guide 2025

    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.

    While studying with us, your home will be our award-winning building which sits in the beautiful surroundings of Weston Park, alongside one of the main University libraries.

    Facilities

    Urban studies and planning students at Sheffield enjoy exclusive access to their own flexible study space, including high-spec networked computers with the latest specialist design and mapping software.

    You'll be able to access course-related software such as geographic information systems (GIS), as well as cutting edge facilities including our virtual reality (VR) studio.

    School of Geography and Planning

    University rankings

      Number one in the Russell Group
    National Student Survey 2023 (based on aggregate responses)

      University of the Year and best for Student Life 
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024

      92 per cent of our research is rated as world-leading or internationally excellent
    Research Excellence Framework 2021

      Top 50 in the most international universities rankings
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023

      Number one Students' Union in the UK
    Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2024, 2023, 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017

      Number one for teaching quality, Students' Union and clubs/societies
    StudentCrowd 2023 University Awards

      A top 20 university targeted by employers
    The Graduate Market in 2023, High Fliers report

    Student profiles

    Aislinn O’Toole profile photo

    I use the skills I gained from my degree in Urban Studies from the University of Sheffield, to promote climate action and democratic engagement

    Aislinn O’Toole BA Urban Studies

    My name is Aislinn and I'm currently working as an Engagement Officer at a climate communication and democratic engagement charity called Hope for the Future (HFTF), based here in Sheffield.

    USP alumni Xuanye Hua

    The University of Sheffield has an outstanding reputation in the field of urban planning, which is why I chose to study here

    Xuanye Hua BA Urban Studies

    Xuanye Hua reflects on her experience as an undergraduate in the department, and discusses her dissertation topic and future plans.

    Owen Thomas- UG USP student

    What it means to join our Green Impact Team

    Owen Thomas BA Urban Studies

    Owen has joined the department's Green Impact Team - helping implement, achieve and promote our sustainability targets while studying BA Urban Studies in Sheffield.

    Fees and funding

    Fees

    Additional costs

    The annual fee for your course includes a number of items in addition to your tuition. If an item or activity is classed as a compulsory element for your course, it will normally be included in your tuition fee. There are also other costs which you may need to consider.

    Examples of what’s included and excluded

    Funding your study

    Depending on your circumstances, you may qualify for a bursary, scholarship or loan to help fund your study and enhance your learning experience.

    Use our Student Funding Calculator to work out what you’re eligible for.

    Placements and study abroad

    Placement

    You may have the opportunity to add an optional placement year as part of your course, converting the three year course to a four-year Degree with Placement Year. 

    A placement year will help you to:

    • gain an insight into possible careers
    • develop a range of transferable skills
    • build a professional network
    • get a feel for what you do and don’t like doing
    • add valuable work experience to your CV
    • gain experience of applying for jobs and interview practice
    • apply elements of academic learning in the workplace

    Study abroad 

    Spending time abroad during your degree is a great way to explore different cultures, gain a new perspective and experience a life-changing opportunity that you will never forget. 

    You can apply to extend this course with a year abroad, usually between the second and third year. We have over 250 University partners worldwide. Popular destinations include Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. 

    Find out more on the Global Opportunities website.

    Visit

    University open days

    We host five open days each year, usually in June, July, September, October and November. You can talk to staff and students, tour the campus and see inside the accommodation.

    Open days: book your place

    Subject tasters

    If you’re considering your post-16 options, our interactive subject tasters are for you. There are a wide range of subjects to choose from and you can attend sessions online or on campus.

    Upcoming taster sessions

    Offer holder days

    If you've received an offer to study with us, we'll invite you to one of our offer holder days, which take place between February and April. These open days have a strong school focus and give you the chance to really explore student life here, even if you've visited us before.

    Campus tours

    Our weekly guided tours show you what Sheffield has to offer - both on campus and beyond. You can extend your visit with tours of our city, accommodation or sport facilities.

    Campus tour: book your place

    Apply

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    The awarding body for this course is the University of Sheffield.

    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.

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

    Our student protection plan

    Terms and Conditions upon Acceptance of an Offer

    2025-2026

    Make sure you've done everything you need to do before you apply.

    How to apply When you're ready to apply, see the UCAS website:
    www.ucas.com

    Not ready to apply yet? You can also register your interest in this course.

    Study the past, present and future of urban and built environments using cutting-edge theories and practices in politics, economics, design, sociology, environmental studies and geography.