Urban Studies BA

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UCAS code: L722
Duration: 3 years


Our Urban Studies BA offers you a core of interdisciplinary modules for understanding cities and how they work, both in the UK and abroad, before providing scope for you to branch out and specialise in the aspects of the subject that most interest you. The course is designed to allow for maximum flexibility and personalisation of your course, while ensuring that you gain key analytical and practical skills for the workplace.

Graduates of the course move into careers in a range of professions relating to making better urban places - including urban planning, environmental management and conservation, real estate, housing, property surveying, regeneration, urban government, urban design, and international development - as well as other areas of policymaking, media and the arts.

The course will appeal to students interested in the urban dimensions of human geography or the other social sciences. The degree also provides a good basis for our range of one-year Masters programmes, which develop further specialist skills and can provide professional accreditation. Our housing modules are also accredited by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Our campus and how we use it

We timetable teaching across the whole of our campus, the details of which can be found on our campus map. Teaching may take place in a student’s home department, but may also be timetabled to take place within other departments or central teaching space.


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 Urban Studies and will look at how urban living and planning have developed up to the present day. As well as modules introducing you to the basic economic, social, environmental and governance challenges facing cities, you'll be introduced to some key skills needed for urban analysis and planning, including working in teams, graphic design and analysing data.

This year has been structured to allow maximum compatibility with the MPlan in Urban Studies and Planning, allowing you (subject to agreement) to transfer to the MPlan course and the end of your second year if you decide a career in planning is for you. You also have a free choice of one full module in the first year, and will go on a local residential field trip, which is included in your course fees. 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.

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.

Urban Analytics

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.

Full academic year

Professional Skills Development (L1)

This module seeks to deliver a range of study and employability skills through a series of sessions over the academic year, tailored to each student cohort. The module combines careers events, study skills workshops, library induction and other skills events and is designed as an opportunity for all undergraduate students in Town and Regional Planning to improve their student experience through enhanced skills development. Through a series of lectures from visiting practitioners, the careers service and academic staff along with seminars discussing key skills development, students will develop an understanding of the skills required to succeed both in academic life and in the workplace.

Plus 20 credits of unrestricted modules, subject to departmental approval.

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, included in your course fees.

Core modules currently include:

European Urban Field Class

Level Two study of urban design, urban management, social research methods and the distinctiveness of place is enhanced by the experience of field research in a European city. Students taking this module will consider various topics, such as the impact of planning policy, urban ethnicity and social segregation, housing developments, or issues in the use of public space, through field investigation. These projects will involve the use of a range of qualitative and quantitative research skills and techniques, as well as interpretative methods. The course will require students to undertake designated field excursions to contrasting districts, landmark sites, museums, galleries and key archives.

Professional Skills Development (L2)

This module seeks to deliver a range of employability skills through a series of sessions over the academic year, tailored to each student cohort. The module combines careers eventsplacement preparation lectures and workshops and is designed as an opportunity for all undergraduate students in Urban Studies and Planning to improve their student experience through enhanced employabilityskills development. Through a series of lectures from visiting practitioners, the careers service and academic staff along with seminars discussing key skills development, students will develop an understanding of the skills required to make effective application and succeed in the workplace.

And 60 credits from this group (20 credits each):

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: (i) environmental issues in site planning, including energy, infrastructure, site servicing and sustainability; (ii) urban design theory and the relationship between architecture and urban design; (iii) local planning, including site planning, housing, commercial development and conservation.

Spatial Analysis

The aims of the module are to provide students with a broad introduction to the basic concepts of GIS and how they can be used for the spatial analysis of a wide range of data for planning purposes. The assessments will (a) test students' individual understanding of key concepts and their ability to think about the potentials and limitations of using spatial analysis to solve planning related problems; and (b) assess students' skills in the practical application of GIS and spatial analysis to a contemporary planning-related problem.

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 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 at the use of land and property for housing, retail, leisure, employment and transport uses in 'urban' contexts

Urban Theory

This module aims to develop student¿s imaginative engagement with the nature of urban life and human settlement. Urban Theory introduces a range of ideas and key concepts in urban studies with a view to understanding how cities have developed and how they `work¿ in broad terms. The module considers a range of thinkers, ideas and problematics and asks how issues of power, economy, society and problems are generated and shaped by cities.

Design and Development Project

The course explores the interrelationship between planning, design and development profitability. It considers the property market, property developers and the property development process. It also provides an introduction to the physical dimension of planning and to urban design. It considers the design process and proposals for the improvement of urban space; and factors that affect development profitability and the techniques used by developers to decide whether to pursue particular schemes. The course therefore includes coverage of: market analysis, development appraisal, development finance, the design process, the use of urban space and infrastructure design.

And 40 credits from unrestricted Geography, Landscape, Politics, Sociological Studies and Urban Studies and Planning modules, subject to departmental approval.

Level three

Core modules:

Professional Skills Development (L3)

This module seeks to deliver a range of employability skills through a series of sessions over the academic year, tailored to each student cohort. The module combines careers events, placement preparation lectures and, study skills workshopsand is designed as an opportunity for all undergraduate students in Urban Studies and Planning to improve their student experience through enhanced employabilityskills development. Through a series of lectures from visiting practitioners, the careers service and academic staff along with seminars discussing key skills development, students will develop an understanding of the skills required to make effective applications and succeed in the workplace.


This 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 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.

In your third year of an Urban Studies degree, you have maximum flexibility to build on the topics that have most interested you in your study so far. There is the opportunity for you to select your modules not only from a range in our own department but in select other departments within the Faculty of Social Science and beyond. This allows you to broaden your knowledge and gain access to new insights into urban issues. Assessment for this year will be largely by coursework, and a BA (Hons) Urban Studies is awarded to successful students at the end of Year 3.

The choice of unrestricted modules can be made from those available in Town and Regional Planning listed for Urban Studies and Planning and approved modules offered in Geography, Landscape, Politics, Sociological Studies and Urban Studies and Planning, subject to departmental approval.

Learning and Assessment

The central course pages contain figures which give an indication of how you'll learn and be assessed.

The example course structure listed above is based on the 2019-20 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

Or see below for our foundation year

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

Urban Studies BA with Foundation Year

Our foundation year is designed to give mature students without standard entry qualifications the best possible preparation for success on the degree course of their choice.

More information

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

International Pathway Programmes

Our International College provides international students with pathway programmes for progression to degree study at the University.

International Foundation Year

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.

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 students currently include:

  • Griffith University, Australia
  • University of Western Australia
  • Waterloo University, Canada
  • National University of Singapore
  • City University, Hong Kong
  • University of Adelaide, Australia
  • 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


88% of Urban Studies BA graduates are in graduate-level employment or further study six months after graduation (DLHE survey 2016/2017).

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

Katie Milnes

"You get to cover a broad variety of things such as inequality and housing, history of planning"

Watch Katie.