MA Urban Design and Planning


The specialist accredited MA Urban Design and Planning is a 12 month course and jointly delivered with the School of Architecture, and accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute as a Specialist Planning Programme. This innovative one-year masters will give you a head start for a career in the planning and urban design professions, the course also includes opportunities to learn about development and design issues faced in the Global South. You'll develop knowledge of the factors that shape cities and rural areas, along with research, policy making and design skills, an understanding of the application of research in public policy-making and evaluation, and a deeper knowledge of a selected specialist aspect of planning.

Working across Architecture and Planning allows you to develop a distinctive approach to urban design and development which is ideally suited to the challenge of managing rapid urban growth and change.

Key Features of this programme

Virtual Reality Headset

Holistic, interdisciplinary focus developing skills in urban design and urban planning, and developing understanding of real estate development processes. International focus - with opportunities to develop skills in analysing, designing, and managing rapidly urbanising areas whilst also learning from the UK urban experience. There are a wide range of engaging elective modules, allowing you to develop specialist knowledge in planning, architecture and design, or real estate. Plus there's a fully supervised Thesis Design Project or Research Dissertation allowing you to combine your knowledge and skills in design, planning, and property development. You'll be taught by experts in their field, based in two of UK's leading schools of Architecture and Planning, giving you a truly interdisciplinary experience.

Driven by innovation in both research and teaching, we equip students with the principles, techniques and skills required to harness new and emerging technologies for design visualisation. By integrating Virtual and Augmented Reality into learning and teaching, we ensure that our students are given the best preparation for a career in urban design in the 21st century.

A Portfolio is not required for admission to this course. Programme Director Bobby Nisha also runs a dedicated blog for Urban Design and Planning.

To know more about our research-led teaching in Virtual reality visit: Urban Design with Virtual Reality.

An example of students' work

"We engage with the cognitive, affective and experiential domains of learning by examining the existing similarities, commonalities and differences between Planning, Design Theory and Space.

"These ideas will become the foundation of your ability to think spatially, solve problems and communicate visually throughout your education and into your professional career."

Dr Bobby Nisha, Programme Director
Course Structure

Please note, this is an indicative selection of our option modules and availability varies each year.

Autumn Semester

The first semester provides you with an introduction and foundation in urban design and urban planning. An additional option module provides you with the scope to focus on either planning in the UK or in rapidly urbanising cities outside Europe, or on issues of conservation and regeneration in Architecture. The modules bring together the strengths and richness of different design approaches, methods, and the long traditions and experiences in urban design and planning.

You will be given skills training in the main computer software for urban design, including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Computer Aided Design and Sketchup.

All students will take the following modules:

TRP6402 Perspectives on Spatial Planning & Development (15 credits)

Focuses on the diverse economic, social and geographical contexts in which planning operates. This will be developed through group and individual work focusing on understanding the diverse contexts in which planners make policies and strategies within a 'real-life' sub-region of the UK.

TRP6404 Research Methods (15 credits)

Develops your core skills essential to undertaking and understanding research across different relevant fields within urban design and planning. Includes grounding in quantitative and qualitative research methods as well as helping understand the types of research carried out and used in professional practice.

TRP6423 Principals of Urban Design (15 credits)

Introduces the essential design components, principles and theories that inform urban design practice and examines the core components that make up urban spaces and how they can be analysed. Producing a portfolio will enable you to develop a critical understanding of the core principles and key theories involved in evaluating and designing urban spaces.


A choice of one of the following modules (at 15 credits each):

TRP631 Urban Development in the Global South
TRP6401 Spatial Planning Systems

Spring Semester

The second semester allows you to choose between two core routes, both bringing together your design and planning skills in practical urban planning projects. You also have the flexibility to tailor your studies to your chosen areas of interest through choosing two specialist option modules in planning, design, architecture or real estate.

Students will choose a core route. The core routes are as follows:

TRP6405 Integrated Project (30 credits)

This will help apply your recently-acquired knowledge and skills to a real-life planning issue. The project will develop your skills in urban design, policy-making and property development and help you apply these to a real-life scenario. You will be working alongside students from our MA in Property as well as planning professionals to develop your response to a planning problem.


TRP000 Contemporary Urbanism (15 credits) and TRP614 International Field Class* (15 credits)

Contemporary Urbanism, which is directly linked to the international field class below, enables students to develop core skills in site appraisal and urban design in the context of developing country cities. Building on your understanding of planning and international development acquired in autumn, it will introduce you to urban design skills and tools for application during the international field class.

Through the field class the project will develop your skills in site analysis, urban design and policy-making and help you to apply these to real-life urban development and design scenarios. The project will also give you direct contact with academics and students from a partner institution as you develop your understanding of and responses to planning and development problems.

*The costs for the field trip are not covered in the tuition fee. You can expect a cost of approximately £700 - £800 which will include most travel costs, visa, accommodation and a B&B. You will also have to budget for food and some travel during the field trip. The costs, and therefore the estimates given, are entirely dependent on the destination and may vary and be subject to change.


A choice of two modules covering issues in design, planning, architecture and real estate (each at 15 credits):

ARC6874 Conservation and Regeneration: Principles and Approaches
ARC6975 Trajectories in Urban Design Practice
TRP6013 Cities of Diversity
TRP6014 Cities of the South: Planning for Informality
TRP6019 Governance and Participation in the Global South
TRP617 Sustainable Development: A Critical Perspective
TRP618 Transport Planning
TRP621 Advanced GIS Methods
TRP6211 Issues in Housing*
TRP627 GIS for Built Environment Professionals
TRP6280 Public Participation
TRP6306 Planning Law
TRP6408 Advanced Software Skills for Urban Design

*This module has been validated by The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and counts as credit towards Chartered membership (CIHCM).


A choice of dissertation route (each at 60 credits)

TRP6406 Dissertation
TRP6424 Design Dissertation
ARC6982 Urban Design Thesis Project

Choose one of three dissertation modules, each running throughout the whole academic year. If you choose the Urban Design Thesis Project (note: there are strict entry criteria to study this module with the School of Architecture), you will be fully supervised in preparing a design response to a real urban problem through a studio project. If you choose to study the Design Dissertation you will use design as a problem-solving tool to generate solutions to an in-depth topic of your choice. You will have a specialist dedicated dissertation tutor to guide you through the different methodological approaches available to you to follow. If you study the Dissertation, you will have the opportunity to explore an area of interest in depth, through the production of a written piece of work, fully supervised.

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 changes the University will consult and inform students in good time and will take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Admissions Criteria

The normal entry requirement is a good honours degree, normally a First or Upper Second Class degree or its international equivalent related to planning, and/or design in the built environment including architecture, landscape architecture, civil engineering, and urban planning. Students with a degree from a non built environment related course but who have a keen interest in planning and urban design, a commitment to work in the built environment field and strong academic credentials will also be considered. We also welcome applications from those who have significant professional experience in the fields of planning, urban design or development.

A portfolio is not required for admission to this programme.

How to Apply

English language requirements

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

Open Days

Open days allow you to find out more about the course in particular and Sheffield in general and meet staff and students.

Postgraduate Open Days


Read of our interview with the programme Director for Urban Design and Planning Dr Bobby Nisha. 

Dr Bobby NishaWho should be interested in the Urban Design and Planning course?

The MA in Urban Design Planning (MAUDP) does not require a previous design background. We have students from planning, geography and  architecture on the course, but we also have engineers, economists and graphic designers. The University of Sheffield runs two urban design MA’s; the MA in Urban Design is run by Architecture and is mainly for those with a strong background in design and your application will need to include a good quality design portfolio. The MA in Urban Design and Planning is run jointly by Architecture and Planning and we take on students with a broader range of skills and experience. The course is international in outlook and this year we have students from the UK, China, Iran, Vietnam and Serbia.

What does the MAUDP offer?

The MAUDP 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. The MAUDP also includes a strong real estate dimension in order to ensure that urban design training takes account of the economics of development. Overall the MAUDP is intended to offer the sort of ‘integrated’ approach to urban development that is increasingly required by leading consultants and city authorities around the world.

What are the advantages of a course taught jointly by architecture and planning departments?

MAUDP students can select option modules from across the two departments. They also benefit considerably from different course 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 TRP or a conventional written dissertation. The MAUDP is partially accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute which reflects the quality and professional relevance of the course.

What do people do after the course?

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. I expect that some of our graduates will stay on to do PhD as we are a leading centre for doctoral training.


Dr Bobby Nisha
Telephone: 0114 222 6934
Email: b.nisha@sheffield.ac.uk