MSc / PGDip in Spatial Planning

Oxford Brookes University, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment

Program Description

MSc / PGDip in Spatial Planning

Oxford Brookes University, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment

MSc / PGDip in Spatial Planning - September 2016

The MSc provides full Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) accreditation. The PGDip must be combined with a specialist MSc dissertation for this full accreditation.

This course is run by the School of the Built Environment

This one-year full-time and two-year part-time MSc programme is the benchmark qualification for those wishing to enter the planning profession and is fully accredited by both the RTPI and RICS.

The MSc in Spatial Planning takes a spatial approach to planning. This requires a much broader level of knowledge and understanding than traditional land-use planning, and today’s planners work alongside other built and natural environment professionals to deliver development that has the concept of sustainable living at its heart.

The course combines core planning education with the development of expertise in specialist areas. Our links with practitioners in both the private and public sectors ensures that the course remains at the cutting edge of practice.

Why choose this course?

  • It is viewed as the first choice for planning training by a range of employers including local authorities, the Environment Agency and major planning consultancies.
  • Frequent guest lectures from industry leaders give you the chance to make important contacts for your future career.
  • Learn more about current developments from professionals and academics through our Planning seminar series.
  • The department is based in the modern and well equipped Abercrombie building, part of an award-winning recent redevelopment of the campus.
  • Access to top-of-the-range facilities including studios, IT suites and computer programs, as well as three libraries and 24/7 online databases which contain all the academic material you require to be successful in their postgraduate studies.
  • Study in the world-famous student city of Oxford, a particularly fascinating place for those interested in cities, transport and sustainability.

Professional accreditation

The MSc in Spatial Planning is fully accredited by both the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This means that on graduation you can complete the Assessment of Professional Competence programmes of these professional bodies and become a full member.

In order to attain full accreditation for both the RTPI and RICS, graduates must combine the Postgraduate Diploma in Spatial Planning with one of our specialist master's programmes. These include: an MSc in Environmental Assessment and Management, an MSc in Historic Conservation, an MSc in Urban Planning: Developing and Transitional Regions, or the MA in Urban Design.

This course in detail

The course is offered at two levels: a master's degree (MSc) and a postgraduate diploma (PGDip).

The MSc course is based on the completion of the following compulsory elements, plus elective specialisations and a 15,000-word master's dissertation.

As courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from what is shown here.

Compulsory elements:

  • Spatial Planning in Context explores the contexts within which the UK planning system needs to be understood: historical, spatial, social, economic, political and international. You will consider the issues that the planning system confronts and manages, and reflect on the range of approaches, historically and between countries, which may be taken to deal with planning issues.
  • Spatial Planning in Action presents an analysis and assessment of the structure, objectives and responsibilities underlying the practice of spatial planning from a UK perspective. The legal basis and administrative aspects of planning decision making are introduced, including development plan making, development control and the appeals process.
  • Place-Making introduces the theories, processes and practice of place making, and evaluates these against their impact on urban form and different sectors of society. The module teaches the development of design alternatives, taking account of political, socio-economic, development, aesthetic and other key factors important in achieving high quality, sustainable public realms.
  • Delivering Sustainable Futures extends understanding of the principles of sustainability, the interpretation and practice of sustainable development, and the changing socio-political and environmental context within which plans are generated and implemented.
  • Contemporary Issues in Planning Practice and Research provides an opportunity to study developing issues in planning practice, particularly the legal aspects of decision making, using examples from areas of current controversy. A hands on exercise is included, such as participating in a mock public inquiry for a real planning case.
  • Research Methods (Public Policy) provides a critical knowledge of methods and skills of research and their application to investigative work that informs public policy.
  • MSc Dissertation is an individual research study of up to 15,000 words. It reveals abilities to define and research an issue or problem of relevance to the discipline of planning and to make a contribution to knowledge in the chosen area of specialisation (see below).

MSc students are offered a high degree of choice and flexibility in terms of their area of specialisation, and (subject to availability and student numbers) these currently include:

Environmental Decision Making

  • Principles of Environmental Assessment and Management sets EIA and SEA in the context of sustainability, environmental policy making and the derivation of environmental values. It addresses the availability and use of environmental resources, reviews methods for conserving these resources, and discusses the aims and interactions of various interest groups, and methods of public participation in environmental decision making.
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment introduces the concept of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), its principles and the status of SEA around the world. The links between SEA, environmental impact assessment, strategic decision making and a wide range of SEA tools and techniques and their advantages and disadvantages in various settings are explored.

Historic Conservation

  • Design for Conservation provides an introduction to the differing philosophies underlying approaches to building in historic places. It examines the role of design guides, design codes and site briefs in securing appropriate development in sensitive historic locations.
  • Conservation Economics is a half unit which provides an introduction to financial and economic aspects specific to the conservation of buildings. The module combines with Historic Conservation in Context, which provides an introduction and critical examination of the legal measures that exist to preserve and enhance the historic environment.

Planning in Developing and Transitional Regions

  • Development and Urbanisation examines the theories, processes and consequences of rapid urbanisation in the developing world within the context of economic development and social change.
  • Urban Land Policy and Urban Management examines the processes of urban land development under conditions of rapid urban growth. The concept and development of land policy is examined.

Tourism Planning

  • Sustainable Tourism Planning examines the growth, development and impact of tourism. It introduces students to the broad issues affecting the planning and development of tourism, providing a baseline understanding of tourism planning and sustainable development. Core elements include a discussion on tourism's impacts (economic, social and environmental), issues of sustainability, carrying capacity, eco-tourism and other alternative forms of tourism.

Urban Design

  • Urban Design Studio I introduces you to advanced methods, techniques and concepts in urban design through the medium of a specific site development project.
  • Urban Design Theory I and II further develops an awareness of client groups, user needs, and professional and legal requirements of the urban environment, placing these in the context of a specific design project on a nominated site.
  • Urban Design Development Seminars provide an opportunity for students to bring the knowledge and skills developed in the other urban design modules together in student led workshops.

Urban and Regional Regeneration

  • Introduction to Regeneration and Economic Development examines the changing context for urban regeneration and sub-national economic development activity, together with associated policy responses. The module begins with a brief historical review, and moves on to assess changes in the nature of the economy and in government policy which localities and regions are facing in the contemporary global, knowledge-based era. It then examines in more detail some of the current policy initiatives and governance forms which are deployed in the pursuit of economic development and urban and regional regeneration.
  • Regeneration and Neighbourhood Planning critically examines key issues in current theory, policy and practice, focusing on neighbourhood renewal, people-based approaches to regeneration and neighbourhood planning. The module makes extensive use of case studies to explore the links between physical and social regeneration.

The PGDip level of the course is based on the completion of the compulsory elements listed above, but replaces the dissertation with a 10,000-word Planning Practice Project. This is a major piece of independent study culminating in the production of a report that analyses the implementation process of a planning policy, a development programme or a major project. The postgraduate diploma can be completed in two semesters full-time or four semesters part-time, and must be combined with an approved specialist planning programme to fulfil the RTPI requirements.

Specialist planning programmes:

  • MSc in Environmental Assessment and Management (EAM) examines the background to EAM, particularly in the context of planning, natural resource management and principles. It develops skills in environmental impact assessment and environmental management.
  • MSc in Historic Conservation examines the principles, procedures and practices of historic conservation within the context of the wider built environment and the planning process. It develops skills and capabilities in practical conservation techniques and evaluation.
  • MA in Urban Design brings together theory and practice from several fields to demonstrate urban design as an integrated discipline. The focus is practical and seeks to engender positive intervention in the production of the public realm.
  • MSc in Urban Planning: Developing and Transitional Regions examines the theory, concepts and practice of urban planning in societies undergoing rapid economic, social, environmental and spatial change.

Teaching and learning

Learning methods include lectures, directed reading, workshops, seminars, and practical and project work. Some modules include site visits and fieldwork.

Teaching is organised on a module-credit basis, involving approximately 200 hours of personal study and approximately 36 hours of staff contact, normally delivered through three-hour teaching blocks over a 12-week period.

Approach to assessment

Each course module is assessed individually, generally on the quality of written or design work, and to some extent on verbal presentations. Assessment methods may include essays, seminar papers, formal written examinations, in-class tests, project work, design and verbal presentations, workshops, simulations and practical exercises.

Field trips

The MSc in Spatial Planning includes a compulsory overseas field trip that is part of the two semester 1 core modules. The field trip is designed to provide students with practical examples and experience of planning in another European country.

The trip usually takes place in mid-November and normally includes three to four nights away from the UK. In the past, this field trip has been to Barcelona, Amsterdam and Lyon. The teaching staff are constantly reviewing new destinations that can best contribute to students' overall planning education.

Other half or full-day field trips often form part of the individual programmes of specialist modules.

Attendance pattern

Teaching is organised on a module-credit basis. Each module involves approximately 200 hours of personal study and approximately 36 hours of staff contact, normally delivered through three-hour teaching blocks over a 12-week period.

In recent years, teaching has been largely concentrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with two modules taught on each day. Generally the first year of the part time course takes place on Thursdays, and the second year on Tuesdays, whilst the full time course has teaching on both these days.

Entry requirements

Spatial Planning attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Applicants are welcome from any academic discipline, as well as from among those in work and seeking continuing professional development. Admission is normally open to those with a good undergraduate honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) or other professional qualification relevant to planning and development, or an appropriate professional background.

The course provides the opportunity to attain formal academic training and qualifications based on a diversity of professional backgrounds. Applications will also be considered from those who have no first degree but have three or more years' professional experience in planning and have completed the University's Certificate in Spatial Planning Studies.

English language requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English must demonstrate that their level of English is appropriate to study at postgraduate level. This course requires IELTS level 6.5 in the academic test, with a minimum score of 6 in reading and writing.

English requirements for visas If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications Preparation courses for International and EU students We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated August 28, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2017
12 - 24 months
Part time
Full time
6,690 GBP
Start date Sept. 2017
United Kingdom Oxford, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 12 - 24 months
Price 6,690 GBP
- UK and EU; £12,870 - Non-EU