The Bartlett School of Planning


Vision and principles

Planning is an activity that has an important role to play in delivering key societal goals – environmental sustainability, social equity, cultural diversity and economic prosperity.

Planning needs committed, talented and creative individuals to help deliver its evolving agenda, working across the private, public and voluntary sectors. Major challenges face planning graduates, including:

  • The deterioration of global and local environments and climate change;
  • The regeneration of declining or under-utilised urban and rural assets;
  • The opportunities and threats posed by globalisation and new technologies;
  • Changing living patterns and redistributing populations;
  • The delivery of high quality public and private environments.

Planning generates creative proposals for change, by means of negotiation and advocacy within a complex web of competing interests.  Positive action is at the heart of planning, and it operates within a wide context of environmental, social, economic, legal and governance constraints. Planning can be creative in making use of these constraints and even in influencing their evolution.

As an academic discipline, planning is the study of the way societies plan, design, manage and regulate change in the built and natural environment.  It therefore includes the study of why and how (and with what consequences) societies intervene, shape, organise and change natural and built environments, in order to secure an agreed range of social, economic and environmental objectives or mediate between conflicting demands  These are essentially political decisions and therefore an awareness of political and associated governance agendas is critical.

The academic core of the discipline is the study of the rationale for planning and how it is practised.  This necessarily involves understanding the processes of spatial change in the built and natural environments, the arguments for intervening in these processes and the forms that intervention can take.  It requires an understanding of the operation and outcomes of land, property and development markets from a variety of perspectives, including the economic, financial and legal.  It also requires design skills and understanding, and knowledge about the development of sustainable built and natural environments.

These are complex, multi-objective, multi-dimensional, multi-actor agendas, impacting across space and place at a variety of scales and in many different contexts.  It is the firm belief of the Bartlett School of Planning, that:

  • All those different dimensions of the subject are best taught in an integrated fashion, with the complexity exposed and addressed from the start of planning education;
  • The different objectives, agendas, approaches and limitations of planning can be explored in, and made real through, a variety of problem-solving activities and real life scenarios;
  • Adequate opportunities for debate and reflection on the theory and practice of planning are required;
  • Students should be exposed, as far as possible, to situations where planning problems are addressed as part of a team, and in a collaborative fashion with other built environment professionals;
  • Planning is a discipline concerned with delivering positive physical, social and environmental change, requiring individuals capable of thinking in creative, critical and analytic modes, and course work designed to encourage the development of these aptitudes;
  • Understanding the development process and the operation of real estate markets is an indispensable part of understanding and intervening in changes in the built environment
  • Design is a key component of positive change and design skills are an essential element in the education of planning professionals;
  • Enthusiasm for the subject and its potential, and the drive to carry on learning about it after formal education are more important than the particular sets of skills and knowledge that students leave college with;
  • Students choosing to learn within the setting of a research-led institution such as UCL should also be given the opportunity to engage with, and benefit from, the research specialisations of academic staff, as well as to conduct personal research of their own;
  • Planning education needs to engage with the increasingly international nature of the discipline and of planning theory and practice, and therefore an international perspective in teaching and research and cultural diversity in our student body is to be welcomed;
  • London is one of the greatest World Cities, an exceptionally rich and diverse resource in which to study how local, national and global processes interact and shape each other. Our location gives us the opportunity and the duty to explore that resource to prepare our students for an interconnected world and the challenges this brings to communities, cities and the environment.

In short, the educational philosophy of the Bartlett School of Planning regards planning as both a subject that must necessarily draw broadly from social, economic and policy sciences and a design discipline. We seek to deliver an education along the lines described above, and which ensures that graduates are design-articulate and can link across several disciplines, can understand the social, economic and policy context of places and are capable of formulating and designing proposals that change and shape places. We take full advantage of our London location, and believe that no other UK planning school has such diverse and deep roots in a world city, together with links across – through our international strategy – to other world cities. We prepare graduates to respond to planning challenges at any spatial scale, wherever they may appear.