The Bartlett School of Planning


Urban Design and City Planning MSc/Dip

The Urban Design and City Planning MSc/Dip is a unique course covering both theory and practice within urban design and city planning.

About the course

The Urban Design and City Planning MSc/Dip has a unique focus on urban design as a creative planning tool, and presents an interface between urban design and city planning, and the key dimensions of planning, real estate and sustainability.

In our course, we emphasise the importance of planning as a positive and propositional force for good, and we advocate for urban design as a discipline within which the physical shaping of places is accompanied by an equal concern for economic, social and environmental well-being.

Course highlights

The Urban Design and City Planning MSc/Dip:

  • Cultivates our students' understanding of and exposure to urban design theory and practice.
  • Aims to help students develop an understanding of the quality and diversity of design products and plan-making processes.
  • Develops students' abilities to think in critical, creative and analytical ways across different dimensions of the city.
  • Develops students' capacities to engage with project work across scales and practice in the fields of urban design and city planning.


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

The postgraduate diploma, Urban Design and City Planning PGDip, is also accredited by RTPI, but only for students who have completed an RTPI accredited undergraduate degree in Planning in the UK.

Specialise in a subject area relating to infrastructure planning appraisal and development

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 urban design and city planning at The Bartlett?

We offer:

  • A course with a unique focus on urban design as a creative planning tool.
  • A long-term urban design research specialisation.
  • An inter-disciplinary course that integrates various social science disciplines.
  • An international focus, drawing on comparative studies and experiences from other European, North American and Asian countries.

Who should apply?

We welcome graduates who wish to further their professional careers to specialise in urban design and to engage deeply with both theoretical debates and practical methodologies.

Apply now

Course structure

To draw on the relationship between urban design (in particular, 'urban place-making by design') and aspects of governance, real estate, and sustainability, we integrate the following areas in our students' learning:

  • City planning, with a focus on spatial planning.
  • Integrative thinking, with a focus on place-making (including neighbourhood scale masterplanning and open space design) and critical debates, offering students a deeper knowledge of forms, practices and theories associated with urban design.
  • Delivering quality, which integrates the curricula of urban design, real estate, and sustainability.
  • Planning for quality, with a focus on the understanding of the various types of urban design products and the complexity of their delivery processes, as well as the understanding and delivery of urban design tools for guidance, incentive and control.

The structure of the course is illustrated in the following diagram:

Urban Design and City Planning MSc/Dip course structure

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.

Read more about our core modules
  • City Planning (15 credits)
  • Collaborative Planning Project (15 credits)
  • Urban Design: Place Making* (15 credits)
  • Critical Debates in Urban Design (15 credits)
  • Design and Real Estate (15 credits)
  • Sustainable Futures by Design (15 credits)
  • Urban Design: Density and Form (15 credits) 
  • Urban Design Governance (15 credits)
  • Dissertation or Research by Design Project (60 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.

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.


Examples of previous dissertation titles include:

  • 'Natural disasters as cultural catalysts for city branding and tourism development: based on the case study of Tangshan'
  • 'A study of academic perceptions of private management in public-private space: How have the Private Management methods of BIDs in Central London affected their public usage?'
  • 'Privately owned, publically accessible space: Is there a best practice model?'

Careers and employability

Relationship to the urban design and planning practice industry

Our course draws on established links with planning and urban design practices. Each year, practitioners are invited each year to lecture, deliver seminars and workshops for the students, and supervise project work as part of several core modules and the final major research project component. Our course frequently receives input from organisations such as Urban Initiatives Studio, Terry Farrell, MacCreanor & Lavington Architects, Croydon and Camden Council, Great London Authority (GLA) – Design for London, Urban Movement, East Landscape Architects, Colin Buchanan, Urban Design Skills, Just Space Network, and others.


A number of our graduates from the course are employed in urban design, planning or in planning-related jobs, with their employers ranging from private consultancies to local authorities. An increasing proportion (over a third) of our graduates enter consultancy work, whilst others go on to work in either the development and transport sectors, the public sector, or non-profit organisations. A smaller number choose to continue higher degree studies and PhD research.

Our course strives to maintain a good connection with graduates working in urban design and planning practice in public and private offices in both the UK and abroad. Employers of graduates from The Bartlett School of Planning include: ARUP, Populous, Croydon Council, WYG Planning & Environment, Gallions Housing Association, Bioregional, Foster and Partners, Urban Initiatives and Movement, and many more.


UCL boasts a dynamic alumni network of more than 150,000 members. In addition to the UCL network, once you graduate from the Urban Design and City Planning MSc you will have the opportunity to join The Bartlett School and Bartlett Planning's alumni networks on LinkedIn and Facebook. These platforms allow our students to stay in touch, connect with their peers and preceding graduates before, and attend events specially organised by these groups.


Programme Director

Dr Pablo Sendra
Associate Professor in Planning and Urban Design
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Admissions Tutor

Dr Juliana Martins
Associate Professor (teaching) in Planning

Teaching staff

Elena Besussi
Teaching Fellow in Plan Making
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Professor Matthew Carmona
Professor of Planning and Urban Design
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Colin Haylock
Visiting Lecturer

Dr Stephen Marshall
Reader in Urban Morphology and Planning
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Professor Peter Rees
Professor of Places and City Planning
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Dr Richard Simmons
Visiting Lecturer

Dr Michael Short
Senior Teaching Fellow in Planning
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Dr Filipa Wunderlich
Lecturer in Urban Design
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More information

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