Urban Studies and Planning MPlan

MPlan Jpeg

UCAS code: K400
Duration: 4 years


Course overview

RTPI LogoOur MPlan Urban Studies and Planning course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and provides a route to a professionally recognised town planning qualification. The course allows you to develop your knowledge of planning and urban issues, your practical planning and generic skills, and specialised knowledge of particular areas.

The first year covers core ideas that influence planning and urban development and the skills planners need, including urban design. It includes a field trip to Edinburgh.

The second year develops your understanding of concepts and practices in town planning. There is a residential field trip, currently to the Netherlands. Before you begin your third year, you'll have a period of work experience in a local planning office or private sector planning consultancy, looking at how plans are made.

The third year focuses on how planning ideas and planning practice interact. You'll have a further period of work experience in a local planning office or private sector planning consultancy, during the Easter vacation.

Your final year prepares you for professional practice and allows you to develop your knowledge and expertise through specialist options. You can spend part of the year studying in Denmark, Italy or France under the Socrates-Erasmus programme.

RTPI Membership

On successful completion of the 4-year MPlan course you will have the academic qualification required to become a Chartered Town Planner. You will be eligible to become a Royal Town Planning Institute Licentiate member on graduation, and able to apply to become a full Chartered Town Planner after two years full-time relevant planning experience. You will receive full guidance on becoming a member of the RTPI during the course.



Each year you will take 120 credits, including all core modules. Modules are assessed by a variety of methods, which include coursework, project work and exams.

Level one

In your first year, you'll be introduced to some of the core ideas influencing planning and you'll look at how urban living and planning have developed up to the present day.

You'll be introduced to some of the skills planners need, such as working in teams and graphic design. You have a free choice of one full module in the first year. Assessment for the modules in this year is by means of unseen examinations and by coursework.

Core modules currently include:

Autumn Semester

The Making of Urban Places

You will be introduced to the history of urbanisation and the development of systems of town planning. The first part of the module covers the history of urbanisation from the very first settlements to the present day. Though much of this part focuses on urban development in Europe, it also covers American urbanisation and the problems of urbanisation in the developing world. The second part of the module deals with the emergence of measures to regulate urban development from the middle ages to the 20th century. It ends with the passing of the 1947 Town & Country Planning Act.

Planning Project

This module aims to help you develop an understanding of what a planning problem looks like, and how to understand planning dilemmas in a real-life project context. The module will develop your skills of analysis for urban places and gain a basic knowledge of planning tools to address urban issues. You will also develop basic design and drawing skills.

Information and Communication Skills

You will develop the skills needed to be able to find, summarise and critically evaluate information. These are all vital to success in an undergraduate degree programme, and are also key transferable skills. This module will provide training in a wide range of methods for information handling and communication. The teaching is largely in workshops, with students expected to take more responsibility for their own learning as the module progresses. Lectures provide basic tuition in skills, whilst workshops and a range of exercises are used to develop these skills.

Welfare Politics and the State

This module addresses the question - 'What are social problems and how do societies deal with them?'. You will consider collective responses to social problems, both historic and contemporary, and the effects of social change on welfare policies in economically advanced countries.

Spring Semester

Development, Planning and the State

The module provides an introduction to state intervention into land and property development and to current planning law and practice. Having considered land-use patterns within an unrestrained market economy, the first part of the module covers the development of state machinery in the nineteenth century and the current structure of national, regional and local government. The central part of the module introduces the British planning system as an administrative tool and the final third of the module explores its application to matters of current concern including the accomodation of new housebuilding at the sub-regional scale, and urban conservation.

Economics for Spatial Planning

This module provides an overview of both theoretical economics and the structure of the UK economy. The first part of the module will consider a number of perspectives on the way an economy operates. Particular attention will be given to market exchange, as modelled by orthodox economic analysis as well as looking at a number of alternative views of economic behaviour; for example, institutional economics and socioeconomics. The second part of the module will examine key characteristics of the UK economy, including issues such as economic cycles, unemployment, land markets and the role of the public and voluntary sectors. Where appropriate, geographical and social differences in economic opportunities and outcomes will be highlighted.

The Environmental Challenge

Environmental and ecological challenges are becoming increasingly important in socio-spatial regulation. This module introduces students to the main concepts and theories that underpin environmental policy-making with particular reference to the issues and examples at local, national and global scales. This module has four main aims: to examine the key environmental challenges facing human societies; to explore past, present and possible future responses to those challenges; to provide students with a range of conceptual and analytical tools for analysing political and regulatory responses to environmental conflict and to provide students with knowledge and understanding to assist in confronting environmental challenges.

Data Analysis and Presentation

This module will serve as an introduction to quantitative research methods, with a specific focus on data sources, analysis methods and presentation techniques for policy analysis in social science. It will expose students to a wide variety of substantive issues surrounding the use of data in practice and enhance their understanding of methods used in the real world policy settings. Students will access and use a range of different datasets, covering demographics, property, and land use. They will be required to demonstrate competence in accessing, analysing and presenting such data in order to gain a deeper understanding of key issues.

Picture of students taking part in the Achieve More challengeAchieve More

Achieve More is an exciting new addition to the Faculty of Social Sciences' curriculum and involves all first year students. It's your chance to work alongside students from other disciplines developing potential solutions for a range of real-life global problems.

You will use your knowledge, develop new skills, encounter new ideas and as a result, showcase yourself to future prospective employers. Each Faculty within the University has developed its own challenge for its first year students.

As a student within the Faculty, you will take part in The State of Sheffield Challenge.The State of Sheffield is about introducing students to what it means to be a social scientist at the University of Sheffield. It’s about giving students the time, space and freedom to think about how the world should be and to experiment with how their chosen course fits with the other social sciences subjects. It's also a chance to really get to know Sheffield, the city you've chosen to study in for the next few years, in a very different way.

Find out more

Level two

In your second year the aim is to develop an understanding of key ideas and practices underpinning planning and the environment within which planners operate.

You will learn further skills including information management and research methods, extend your skills and understanding in urban design and social analysis, and apply your knowledge in an integrated master planning project for an area of Sheffield. Assessment at Level 2 is almost entirely by means of coursework. There is also a 4 day residential field trip, currently to the Netherlands.

Core modules currently include:

Autumn Semester

Urban Theory and Politics

The aims are to develop knowledge and understanding of contemporary and historical urban theories and politics, to enhance critical thinking about urban issues and policy, to expand awareness of the assumptions, values and ideas underlying current theories and policies for cities, to engender awareness and critical thinking regarding equal opportunities to develop knowledge regarding urban governance, urban economic change and contemporary urban social problems. The course is in two parts: Part one focuses on the development of urban theory, drawing on explanations of urban growth and change from the 19th C to the present. Part two considers the contemporary city economy, urban politics, urban social problems and equal opportunities issues.

Urban Design and Place-making

This module provides grounding in the theory and practice of urban design, focusing particularly on conceptual and practical issues in place-making. The module is arranged in three parts: environmental issues in site planning, including energy, infrastructure, site servicing and sustainability; urban design theory and the relationship between architecture and urban design;  local planning, including site planning, housing, commercial development and conservation.

Spatial Analysis

This module equips students with the knowledge, skills and experience to understand how the analysis of socio-economic datasets can be used to understand planning problems. In particular, the module focuses on the application a broad range of spatial analytical techniques to these data. Students learn how to use a Geographic Information System (GIS) to understand spatial patterns and to produce maps that effectively communicate these.

Spring Semester

European Urban Field Class

This module will involve a thematic focus on flood management and coastal defence. This topic has been selected because it is a real and present threat in many countries and (urban) areas that border rivers, seas and oceans and hence requires active planning. Students taking the module will consider this theme through a variety of relevant topics and active field investigation.

Profit, Planning and Context

The module explores the relationship between the activities of profit-seeking business, the use and development of land and the planning activity. It provides an elementary introduction to understanding company performance and to the economics of land and property development and explores how these pressures interact with lifestyle choices to shape the use of land and property and the implication for public planning. The first part provides a brief introduction to measuring the performance of businesses and investments. The remainder of the module looks first at the use of land and property for housing, retail, leisure, and employment uses in ‘urban’ contexts and subsequently linking contexts.

The Development Process

This module is about the design and development processes within their property market and planning / regulatory contexts and will develop student’s understanding of the property development process, particularly the determinants of development profitability, the physical dimension of planning and urban design and the interactions of the above two factors in the production of the built environment.

Study Skills for Urban Studies and Planning

The aim of this module is 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 at the end of your studies.

Level three

In the summer before you begin your third year you'll be expected to undertake two weeks of work experience in a planning office.

You'll have a second period of work experience when you will spend a minimum of two weeks in a local planning office during the Easter vacation, looking at development control practice. The department will arrange the placements in consultation with you.

The theme of the third year is how planning ideas and planning practice interface with each other in the urban and rural environment. In this year you will develop further specialised knowledge and you'll write a dissertation, drawing upon your specialised study to date. Assessment of these modules is again almost entirely through coursework.

Core modules currently include:

Autumn Semester

Development Planning

This course gives an overview of the critical task of planning for future development. Much of this work involves making plans and strategies and there will be a focus on these activities during the course of this module. However, it is also vitally important to understand the contexts in which plans are made and implemented, and this module will seek to examine the diverse environments in which plans are made. Part of this task will be achieved through students reflecting on the contexts in which their placements were located. The module considers not only the different forms of plans in the English planning system, but also aims to critically examine some of the key issues facing planners, including organising public involvement in plan-making, seeking consensus between conflicting interests in development and the implementation of policy.

Environmental Policy and Governance

This module provides an overview of principal elements of contemporary environmental and nature conservation policy, and institutional frameworks for their delivery. Following an elaboration of key concepts of environmental sustainability and environmental integration, it addresses key issues in policy development and implementation, focusing on the contested and complex nature of the policy environment, and the role of the public and specific interests. The aim is to develop a critical understanding of the opportunities to integrate environmental and nature conservation concerns into policy making. Substantive content includes international and European conventions, policies and instruments; designated areas; and integration in the planning system.

Dissertation in Urban Studies and Planning

This all-year module allows students to develop and manage an individual research project that investigates an agreed topic of interest related to Urban Studies and/or Planning. The module aims to develop students knowledge of research methods, skills in identifying and scoping an appropriate research problem; and the ability to design and undertake a feasible programme of research. The module will contribute to a deeper understanding of the role of research in relation to theoretical and practical dimensions of planning practice and will allow students to deepen their own knowledge in a chosen field of specialist planning concern.

Spring Semester

Values, Theory and Ethics in Spatial Planning

This course explores the interrelationships between theoretical debates within spatial planning and everyday practice. The aim is to provide an introduction to the theoretical debates in planning with particular focus on the values and ethical dilemmas underlying spatial planning practice in Britain. It should be noted that the planning activity provides the focus for the course but that the issues and concerns are also linked to the work of other built environment professionals.

Planning Law and Development Control

The aims are to develop a knowledge of the legal framework for planning; develop understanding of development control procedures and policy; and develop skills in analysing development control problems. The course covers nature and purpose of development control; applications; decisions; redress; enforcement; European directives; design control; effectiveness of development control.

Level four

The aim of the fourth year is to develop the key professional planning ability to utilise knowledge of planning ideas, theories and skills and to apply them to practical planning issues and problems within a clear framework of values.

Study in depth is completed through a series of specialised study option modules taken in the spring semester that are based upon the research expertise of the academic staff in the department.

Core modules currently include:

Autumn Semester

Critical Perspectives on Planning Practices

Working closely with your dissertation supervisor, you will undertake a research project, on a topic of your own choosing. In this you will develop your skills as a social researcher, and demonstrate how you can use the theoretical frameworks and methodological tools of the discipline to investigate and report on a significant social or sociological issue.

Local Action Planning Project

This module provides an overview of principal elements of contemporary environmental and nature conservation policy, and institutional frameworks for their delivery. Following an elaboration of key concepts of environmental sustainability and environmental integration, it addresses key issues in policy development and implementation, focusing on the contested and complex nature of the policy environment, and the role of the public and specific interests. The aim is to develop a critical understanding of the opportunities to integrate environmental and nature conservation concerns into policy making. Substantive content includes international and European conventions, policies and instruments; designated areas; and integration in the planning system.

Spring Semester

Four Specialised Study Options

Specialised study options include:

  • Issues in Housing
  • Public Participation
  • Local and Regional Economic Policy
  • Regional Constructs, Actors and Policies
  • The Political Ecology of the countryside and natural resource planning
  • Cities of Diversity
  • Justice, Judgement and Planning
  • Cities of the South: Planning for Informality
  • Sustainable Development: A critical investigation
Planning in Europe (Aalborg, Milan, or Lyon)

Alternatively you may, if you wish, spend the first part of the Spring semester studying town planning at one of our partner departments at the University of Aalborg in Denmark, at the University of Milan in Italy or at the University of Lyon II in France. This period counts as equivalent to the specialised study options.

The example course structure listed above is based on the 2016-17 academic year and may be subject to change in future years.

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.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

We do not specify that your qualifications must be in particular subjects for entry to our courses. What is more important is that you show a genuine interest in planning in your application. However social science subjects, such as geography, politics, economics, psychology, etc, are ideal. We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry, including overseas qualifications.

We treat each application on its own merits and the below are not blanket thresholds – we look at a range of factors when deciding on an offer of a place on one of our courses. If you have any questions about your qualifications or about any other aspect of the admissions process, please contact our Undergraduate Admissions Team.

Qualification Grades
 A-Levels  BBB
A Levels + Extended Project Qualification BBC + B. The Extended Project should be in a relevant subject
International Baccalaureate 32
BTEC DDM in a relevant subject
Cambridge Pre-U M2 M2 M2
Scottish Highers AABBB
Welsh Baccalaureate + 2 A Levels B+BB
Access to HE Entry requirements for mature students
Other qualifications

Other UK qualifications

Other EU/international qualifications

Other requirements

  • GCSE Maths grade 4 or grade C
  • International students need an overall IELTS grade of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or an equivalent English Language qualification
  • Equivalent English language qualifications
How to apply

How to apply

We welcome all applications to our courses, which must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). We particularly welcome applications from women, mature students, those with disabilities and from ethnic minorities. These groups are under-represented in the planning profession.

Each application is dealt with promptly when it arrives in the department. If we make you an offer we will invite you to visit the department for an Open Day to meet staff and students and to help you decide whether to accept our offer.

We have a quota of places to fill every year, so if the qualifications you achieve fall slightly short of what we have asked for, your place on the course may still be confirmed if we cannot fill our places from students who have met our offer.

Improve your application

  • Visit the University of Sheffield on University and Departmental Open Days
  • Speak to planners and other built environment professionals.
  • Look out for planning, regeneration and environmental stories in the local and national media.
  • Think about planning issues in your local area.
  • Think about your strengths with regard to our courses.

Get in touch

Contact our undergraduate admissions team.

Study abroad

Study Abroad

Katie Milnes Study Abroad studentStudying abroad gives you the opportunity to broaden your experience and knowledge of other countries and their planning systems. Exchange agreements enable a number of Sheffield students to spend the whole of their second academic year studying in the US, Australia, Hong Kong and Canada. Students study modules which are equivalent to those which they would take in their second year in Sheffield and the overall course content during levels 2 and 3, therefore, remains very similar.

Where applicable, the agreement has been approved by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) so that the professional status of the students' degrees and diplomas is safeguarded. Students do not pay any fees to the host institution and normally only pay half fees to the University of Sheffield for the year abroad. 

Study Abroad is very competitive and there are only a limited number of places available. However the centrally located International Exchanges Unit and staff within our department will do their very best to place you and support your application.

Study abroad options for MPlan students currently include:

  • Griffith University, Australia
  • Waterloo University, Canada
  • City University, Hong Kong
  • University of Illinois and Urbana-Champaign, USA
  • University of Queensland, Australia


For students taking the four year MPlan there are also exchange arrangements with Denmark (Aalborg), France (Lyon) and Italy (Milan) for the spring semester of the fourth year. You do not need to be a Danish or Italian speaker to take the Denmark or Italian options, though a basic knowledge of Italian would be useful for the Milan and a working knowledge of French is required for Lyon. The University runs a range of Italian and French classes each year and it may be possible to take some of these classes as part of your degree. Funding will be available to support your travel for Erasmus exchange.

Erasmus is the European Commission's exchange programme that enables students in 33 European countries to study, work or teach for part of their degree in another country.

Erasmus is a great opportunity to spend between 3 and 12 months in another European country, and have it count towards your degree. You get to experience another culture and a new way of looking at your subject. At Sheffield we are comitted to helping you grow as an indivdual, by taking Erasmus you can start a new network of friends and collegues in different country.

The Erasmus programme is open to all undergraduates. Erasmus is open to the majority of disciplines, but opportunities will depend on the agreements our department has made and what degree programme you are on.

Careers in planning

Careers in Urban Studies and Planning


Our graduate employment record is excellent, with 95% of our graduates finding jobs quickly after graduation, and often before in the case of MPlan students.

Our graduates go on to a wide range of planning and planning-related destinations, including:

  • Local authority planning departments (development control, forward planning, urban design, heritage and conservation)
  • Private sector planning consultancies
  • Urban design consultancies
  • Transport planning
  • Regeneration
  • Regional Development Agencies
  • Pressure Groups
  • PhD study

University of Sheffield planning graduates can be found at the highest levels of planning practice. Our graduates don't just work in the UK many of our students work internationally in the planning field, we currently have graduates working for UN HABITAT and Oxfam.

The next 5-10 years will be an excellent time to be a planning graduate. Already, our graduates have a number of choices of destination, and this is likely to increase in the future.

For further information on careers in planning including information for Planners on the skills gained through their degree, what graduates do, case studies and links to vacancy websites see the University of Sheffield's Careers Service.

What our graduates say

Hannah Wright

"The course at Sheffield was particularly valuable as it took an integrated and critical approach to planning issues, providing us with the skills we need to be employable. I realised after leaving university, that the Masters in Urban Studies and Planning from Sheffield is well known amongst fellow graduates and prospective employers; many of my colleagues also went to the University of Sheffield!"

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Mark Leitner Murphy

"The MPlan course seemed to be broad enough to cover a variety of urban issues whilst also having a focus on career prospects and professional development. The MPlan is RTPI accredited and this was very appealing, considering all those looking to work in the field of planning must become members it provided a smooth route to chartership.

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Phil Wright

"The MPlan course is so good because it's broad in what covers from social to historical aspects of urban studies and planning. As we've gone on we've learnt more theoretical background knowledge and are able to apply this to practical situations in everyday planning." 

Watch Phil.

Laura Elias

There were courses all around country but this Department is the top planning school in the UK and the University also has such high ratings. Following my application I came to an open day and found that Sheffield was a great city that was very contained and a real contrast to London where I’m from. I liked the contrast of the post industrial city and the older heritage sites such as the old conversions it adds to the sense of place and the city has a wonderful character.

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