The Bartlett School of Planning


International City Planning MSc

The International City Planning MSc provides students with an international perspective on planning systems and cultures.

About the course

The International City Planning MSc provides students with an international perspective on planning systems and cultures, as well as a critical appreciation of the commonalities and differences among a variety of national planning approaches and systems, and an enhanced understanding of planning as a culturally specific, context-dependent activity. 

The main difference between this course and its sister programme, the Spatial Planning MSc at The Bartlett School of Planning, is our strong international and comparative focus. The international scope of our course primarily includes Europe, North America, Australia, South Africa and the Far East, and increasingly China and Southeast Asia.

Course highlights

The International City Planning MSc provides:

  • A course dealing with real places and the role of planning in place-making
  • Lecture- and seminar-based modules, project work, site visits and the preparation of a 10,000 word dissertation
  • Opportunities to study the planning system, policies and practices of a particular country in depth through an international planning project.


The International City Planning MSc is fully accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Specialise in a subject area relating to international 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 international city planning at The Bartlett?

We offer:

  • A course that draws on UCL's position as a leading research-led university.
  • Opportunities for you to acquire a broad range of skills and knowledge, while also working towards a specialisation.
  • A principle- and theory-driven course that provides both conceptual understanding of theories and the practical skills needed to tackle real world problems.

Who should apply?

We welcome applicants from propsective students who want an international perspective on planning systems and cultures, and propsective students who are likely to work outside the UK prior to or after completing your studies.

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Course structure 

The following diagram illustrates the structure of the International City Planning MSc while studying on a one-year full time basis:

Course structure of the International City Planning MSc

Field trips

Our course also includes a residential field trip which is typically based in a European city and covers a range of sptial planning themes linked to the 'International Planning Project' module during term two. 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.

Flexible study

We also offer our students the opportunity to study flexibly, in which case students typically complete modules marked 'PT 1' (for part-time 1) in the course structure diagram before moving onto modules marked 'PT 2' (for part-time 2). Students studying flexibly have between two and five years to complete the course.

Read more about our core modules
  • Pillars of planning (30 credits)
  • Urban design: Place making (15 credits)
  • Comparative planning systems and cultures (15 credits)
  • International Planning: Project (15 credits)
  • Critical Debates in International Planning (15 credits)
  • Dissertation in planning (60 credits)
Read more about our topics to help you specialise through your studies

Students of the International City Planning MSc must must select two linked specialist modules to fulfil the requirements of RTPI accreditation. 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.

Please note: The International City Planning MSc places less of an emphasis on developing countries of the Global South (for example Africa and Latin America). If you’re interested in planning in the Global South, please apply for master's or MPhil/PhD course offered by The Bartlett Development Planning Unit.

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 School of Planning have been very successful in gaining subsequent employment. There is growing demand for our masters' graduates from a wide range of both public and private employers. In a 2018 study, 98.5% of those graduating from The Bartlett School of Planning's master's courses that year were in graduate level employment within six months of leaving us. 

While the majority of students who graduate from the Spatial Planning MSc are employed in local government and central government planning, and in planning-related consultancy, our graduates also work in:

  • Housing and transport sectors
  • Planning, urban regeneration and environmental agencies
  • Public and private utility companies
  • Teaching and research
  • Public policy.

What our alumni say

I found the interactive studio sessions and our field trip to Barcelona for the Strategic Planning project exciting. Our studio groups mixed students from different educational backgrounds and cultures. The staff are highly supportive with knowledge of multiple subject areas. They tailor the subject areas to the understanding of the wider spectrum of students, and guide you individually as necessary.
Post my graduation, I am working as a Masterplanner at Atkins where I ‘Plan & Design’ cities and neighbourhoods internationally, combining my background in Architecture with Urban Planning and Design. I use my knowledge of various planning systems and urban theories from the programme in my projects. As part of the programme, I specialised in Sustainable Urbanism, which helps me propose masterplans with a focus on holistic sustainability.

Alex Long

Read about Alex's experiences studying on our International City Planning MSc after 10 years working in the urban sustainability field in Canada.


Programme Director

Dr Sonia Arbaci
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Teaching staff

Professor Matthew Carmona
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Professor Ben Clifford
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Professor Nick Phelps

Dr Jung Won Sonn
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Professor John Tomaney
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Professor Fulong Wu
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Dr Fangzhu Zhang
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More information

  • For key information on how to apply to the course, visit the UCL graduate propsectus.
  • Can't find what you're looking for? Contact the International City Planning MSc course team via email: