The Bartlett School of Planning


City Planning MPlan

The City Planning MPlan is a two-year course offering an in-depth, academically informed introduction to the professional practice of city planning.

About the course

The City Planning MPlan is a two-year taught full-time master's degree. Our course explores both domestic and international planning practice and culture, and offers students opportunities to further embed learning in a term in practice, or at an international partner institution.

Our course offers home and international students who are graduates of any undergraduate discipline an in-depth, an academically informed introduction to the professional practice of planning, with modules responding to the key themes of planning systems and cultures, the pillars of planning, space, place and design, independent research, and the opportunity to further specialise through elective modules. 

Course highlights

The City Planning MPlan:

  • Provides students with an academically based vocational education in city planning;
  • Equips students with the knowledge, theory, skills and values required to become effective professional planners both in the UK and internationally;
  • Offers specialist courses based on the research expertise of the staff in the department;
  • Offers a principle and theory driven course, which gives students both conceptual understanding, and the skills needed to tackle practical problems; and
  • Emphasises the importance of a spatial and comparative perspective to city planning, the need for integrated solutions to planning problems for planning cities and regions, and the need for creative and research based solutions to the management of our built and natural environments.


The City Planning MPlan is fully accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Further information on accreditation and routes to membership can be obtained from the RICS website.

Embedded learning

Our core modules provide an introduction to key knowledge in planning and design, and our optional modules allow you to tailor your studies and specialise in subjects specific to your interests.

In the second term of year two on the MPlan, you will have the option to study outside of the UK in one of our partner universities, with high-quality planning departments and schools in a range of universities around the world, where you will take a number of modules in planning and urban studies to the amount of 45 UCL credits. Alternatively, you can choose to embed your learning by taking up a work placement in the UK.

Specialise in a subject area relating to city planning

Through your optional modules, you can choose to specialise in an subject area offered by The Bartlett School of Planning, including:

  • Infrastructure planning
  • Investigating Urban Transformation in Historic Cities
  • Planning for Housing
  • Planning for Sustainability, Climate Change and Inclusion Planning for Urban Design
  • Planning for Urban Design
  • Smart City Theory and Practice
  • Sustainable Development Themes and Goals
  • Urban Regeneration

Why choose to study city planning at The Bartlett?

We offer:

  • A course that draws on UCL's position as a leading research-led university.
  • An opportunity to acquire a broad range of skills and knowledge, while setting foot on the path towards specialisation.
  • A principle- and theory-driven course giving both conceptual understanding and the skills needed to tackle practical problems.

Who should apply?

We welcome graduates who wish to make a career in planning, related fields (such as housing, urban regeneration, transport planning or urban design), or teaching and/or research.

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Course structure

Completing the City Planning MPlan amounts to a total of 300 UCL credits and has a modular structure comprising seven compulsory core modules, two optional modules (modules which must be chosen from a prescribed list of four modules), and two elective modules (an open choice from modules offered by the School of Planning, or Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis, both within the UCL Faculty of the Built Environment).

The following diagram illustrates the structure of the City Planning MPlan:

City Planning MPlan course structure

The course is designed around a number of key themes which run through the modular structure:

  • Planning systems and cultures – Students will gain an understanding of the history, culture and practice of city and regional planning in both the UK and in international comparative context;
  • The pillars of planning – Students will gain an understanding of the key social science pillars of planning knowledge, namely environment, society, economy and politics, and an appreciation of law and legal regulation and rights in relation to the environment and sustainability;
  • Space, place and design – Students will understand planning’s role in place making, the importance of good urban design and the practicalities of spatial plan making; Independent study – student research skills will be enhanced though methods workshops and an in-depth dissertation or major project of 15,000 words; and,
  • Specialisation – The course allows students to pick two 15 credit modules whilst at UCL from a wide choice of modules offered by both the School of Planning and the Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis (CASA) relating to various planning specialisms or urban analytics.

All of these themes continue throughout term two, year two when students will either spend the entire term studying abroad at an international partner institution or in a work placement.

Field trips

Our course also includes a residential field trip during which themes relevant to the course are explored in different place contexts. This is an opportunity for our students to consider built environment issues in real world settings and network as a course community. The cost of travel and accommodation for the field trip are covered by UCL although students will need to cover meals and other personal expenses.

Study abroad or spend a year in industry

A core principle of the course is that term two of the second year will either be spent undertaking scholarly study on a masters level planning course at an international partner institution, developing and embedding their theoretical and contextual planning knowledge learnt through the period of prior study at UCL via international comparison, whilst living in a foreign city for a three month or four month period. Alternatively, our students have the option to undertake applied research as part of an industry work placement with appropriate planning organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors in and around Greater London, helping them to develop and embed the theoretical and contextual planning knowledge learnt through the period of prior study at UCL via reflective practice experience.

Read more about our core modules

Planning Systems and Cultures

  • Spatial Planning: Concepts and Context (15 credits) 
  • Planning Practice (15 credits) 
  • Comparative Planning Systems and Cultures (15 credits) 

Pillars of Planning

  • Pillars of Planning (30 credits)
  • Land Use, Sustainability and Environmental Justice (15 credits) 

Space, Place and Design

  • Urban Design: Place making (15 credits) 
  • Plan Making Studio I (15 credits) 
  • Plan Making Studio II (15 credits)

Independent Research

  • Dissertation in City Planning (90 credits) 

Embedded Understanding

  • Study Abroad in City Planning (45 credits) OR
  • Work Placement in City Planning (45 credits)
Read more about our topics to help you specialise through your studies

In addition to the range of optional modules on offer across The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment (subject to availability), you can use your optional modules to specialise in subject areas offered by the The Bartlett school of Planning in more depth. Our specialisms operate best in module pairs, but many of these modules can also be taken as standalone units. 

Our specialism topics at The Bartlett School of Planning include:

Infrastructure Planning:

This specialism consists of two modules addressing the question 'what constitutes a successful infrastructure project, programme or plan'. The first module 'Infrastructures as Agents of Change' defines the characteristics of infrastructure projects, programmes and plans of various kinds and examines their roles as agents of change. It encompasses an understanding of past perspectives of the role of such investments and investigates 21st century perspectives in a context of global interdependencies of economic growth and environmental impacts as sustainability concerns loom large as key challenges. The second module 'Critical Issues in Infrastructures Funding, Finance and Investment' focuses on issues that cross all infrastructure sectors in the developed and developing world. It examines challenges seen to be critical to sustainable investments. While not exhaustive, the module examines the: role of PPPs, impacts of corruption, ‘Section 106 & Community Infrastructure Levy, Property value uplift and Tax Incremental Financing and impact of fiscal devolution.

Investigating Urban Transformation in Historic Cities: 

This specialism provides interdisciplinary theoretical and practical tools to investigate the context and dynamics of urban transformation in historic cities. The two modules, 'Planning Discourses for Historic Cities' and 'Planning Practices in Historic Cities', analyse planning processes - both discourses and practices - used to conceptualise and regulate the rate and direction of physical change in historic urban environments. The specialism is open to students from different backgrounds and Masters programmes who are passionate about querying the complexities of urban conservation and development from different perspectives (research, policy, design and practice).

Planning for Housing: 

This specialism examines the context for and process of residential development in the UK and is divided into lecture-based and project-based components. The lecture-based component, 'Planning for Housing: Process', begins by looking at the drivers of residential development including the demographics of growth. It considers who provides housing and at the evolution of the UK policy context and its current objectives. The component then looks at the residential development process from strategic and development planning, land acquisition to the occupation of homes under different tenure arrangements. The lecture programme is divided into three parts: concerned firstly with broad perspectives on housing growth, policy and planning; secondly, with housing providers, processes and delivery; and thirdly, with critical debates and outcomes today. The project-based component, 'Planning for Housing: Project, challenges students to apply and extend their knowledge of development drivers, actors and practices to real-life housing development opportunities in London. Via small group organisation, students will co-ordinate the completion of a comprehensive feasibility study and housing development brief for a specific site. Groups will be allocated strategic mandates reflecting the current policy context and objectives explored in 'Planning for Housing: Process' and will then plan, design and initiate the implementation of a development scheme from a selected development actor perspective, reflecting tenure, design, and organisational intentions. Schemes will be collectively proposed and managed and then presented by each team to an audience of peers, staff and relevant experts in the field.

Planning for Sustainability, Climate Change and Inclusion Planning for Urban Design:

This specialism looks at the inter-related themes of sustainability and inclusion. In the term one module 'Planning for Sustainability and Inclusion', a variety of conceptual issues surrounding the governing process for achieving urban sustainability are examined alongside the challenges involved in defining and achieving inclusion in the planning process. Students then have a choice in term two. If they wish to focus more on environmental sustainability and, in particular, the climate emergence, they can take 'Sustainability, Resilience and Climate Change'. If they wish to delve further into the problematics of inclusionary planning, they can take the 'Participatory Urban Planning Project'. Both of the term two modules take the form of a project, pursued through teamwork and in collaboration with external stakeholders.

Planning for Urban Design:

This specialism considers design across a range of different scales of operation, from those dealing with settlement form, to those dealing with land use mix, to those concerned with detailed design and individual site layout and comprises 'Urban Design: Density and Form' and 'Urban Design Governance'. To that extent planning is undoubtedly a design discipline and planners need to be aware of, and be concerned with, the design consequences of their decisions on the ground. To explore this role, the Urban Design Specialism is divided into two parts, reflecting the two primary means through which planners engage in urban design – first as members of collaborative design teams, who critique and advise on design proposals, and second as policy and guidance writers. Part one examines the design process through analysis, critique and the generation of alternatives for site-specific design projects. Part two addresses the process of design guidance writing and implementation.

Smart City Theory and Practice:

Run by UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), these modules give you an introduction to the theory and science of cities, and technological perspectives on ‘smart cities’. Term one deals with more general perspectives on cities developed by urban researchers, systems theorists, complexity theorists, urban planners, geographers and transport engineers will be considered, such as spatial interactions and transport models, urban economic theories, scaling laws and the central place theory for systems of cities, etc. Term two then looks more specifically at the development of smart cities through a history of computing, networks and communications, of applications of smart technologies, ranging from science parks and technopoles to transport based on ICT. The course will cover a wide range of approaches, from concepts of The Universal Machine, to Wired Cities and sensing techniques, spatio-temporal real time data applications, smart energy, virtual reality and social media in the smart city, to name a few. Overall, students will develop a critical approach to more technological and quantitative understandings of the development and management of cities.

Sustainable Development Themes and Goals:

This pair of modules is concerned with sustainable development in relation to the theory of urban development and spatial planning practice in cities associated with sustainable development goals. The first module 'Sustainable Urban Development: Key Themes' focuses on sustainability debates and literature, with a specific focus on cities. The second, 'Sustainable Development Goals and Spatial Planning', explores how the Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are implemented at the local or municipal level in cities.

Urban Regeneration:

This specialism is concerned with innovation, urban and regional economic development and regeneration and comprises two modules – 'Urban Regeneration: Urban Problems and Problematics' (term 1) and 'Delivering Regeneration Projects II' (term 2). The issues are analysed in the context of development economics, the new space economy, the agglomeration of innovative high-technology industries, the concepts of the innovative and creative milieu and emerging forms of urban governance. These analyses are brought to bear on project work, which allows for the examination of the relationship between those broad trends and specific local contexts and processes. The specialism comprises 2 modules: the first focuses on the theoretical framework for the understanding of the spatial and socio-economic dynamics of contemporary cities, the second is structured around a project in which students are invited to apply the theory and develop their own strategies for the regeneration of a locality.

You can also choose an optional module offered by the UCL Centre for Applied Spatial Analysis (CASA), subject to availability.

More details of these modules can be found in the UCL module catalogue.

Please note that the course structure and list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change.

Careers and employability

Students who graduate from The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment have been very successful in gaining subsequent employment. At present, there is a growing demand for our Masters’ graduates from a wide range of both public and private employers, in the UK and internationally, and the City Planning MPlan offers students a unique ability to appeal to a wide range of employment opportunities. 


Programme Director

Dr Michael Short
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Module coordinators and teaching staff for core modules

Dr. Yasminah Beebeejaun
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Professor Matthew Carmona
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Dr Ben Clifford
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Dr Jessica Ferm
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Professor Jane Holder
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Dr Susan Moore
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Dr Michael Short
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Dr Jung Won Sonn
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Professor John Tomaney
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Dr Fangzhu Zhang
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