This course is aimed at built environment professionals and others with a relevant background who wish to gain an in-depth understanding of planning and sustainable development, whether to improve career prospects in their country or enter international practice. Through the course, you will examine the growing problems of sustainable development facing cities, regions and communities in a rapidly urbanising world, subject to growing climate change and other environmental, economic and social pressures and risks.
Based in London, you will have access to the internationally recognised experience of spatial planning for sustainable development, and explore contemporary theories, public policy thinking and good practice in planning in both the developed and developing worlds. The University of Westminster is the UK's first Habitat Partner University. We work with UN-HABITAT and like-minded institutions to promote the socially and environmentally sustainable development of towns, cities and regions, in accordance with the UN Millennium Development Goals.
The course is primarily for full-time international, UK and EU students, but it is also open to part-time UK-based students who want to explore an international pathway for their career development. The MA course is fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as a "combined planning programme". Those offered a place are eligible for postgraduate scholarships offered by the University. Read more about our scholarships.
If you are unable to study for a full Master's, we also offer an International Planning and Sustainable Development Postgraduate Diploma and an International Planning and Sustainable Development Postgraduate Certificate. Please scroll to the bottom of this page to find out about these courses. Alternatively, you can study a single module(s) from the International Planning and Sustainable Development MA course as a stand-alone short course.
This course addresses the growing problems of sustainable development facing cities and communities in a rapidly urbanising world. It explores contemporary theories, public policy thinking and good practice in planning that spans both developed and developing world contexts, and offers you the opportunity to explore one area of specialism in a related field in some depth.
There are two RTPI-accredited pathways through the course. The Spatial Planning Pathway has a strong urban design component and an emphasis on the development planning process. The Urban Resilience Pathway provides a sustainable development-focused route with a core emphasis on climate change mitigation and adaptation planning. Both pathways cover all these aspects to some degree.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.
Core modules for both pathways
Dissertation or Major Project
This module offers you the opportunity to research in depth a spatial planning or related topic through primary or desk-based research. The Dissertation is 12-15,000 words in length. You may undertake a Major Project on a similar topic, producing a written report of a similar length, or a report combining planning or design proposals, or data presented in other formats, with a written analytical report of 5-10,000 words.
International Spatial Planning Practice
Through the exploration of theoretical models of sustainable urban form and practical exercises, you will explore the principles, methods and techniques of land use, transport and infrastructure planning for new and existing towns and cities and their regions. The module examines strategic spatial planning policy and managing development in the context of rapid urbanisation and the challenge of urban governance in the developing world.
Planning in a Globalising World
This module explores urban issues such as impacts of economic globalisation and sustainability in a range of development contexts (developed and developing worlds, and high, middle and low-income countries) using a comparative planning systems approach. You will analyse key urban policy concerns, debates, dynamics of urban change and planning responses comparatively and internationally, across different regional and historical contexts.
Research Methods and the Built Environment
This module introduces you to research methods and methodologies specific to urban and spatial research, design and planning. You will explore the theory and practice of developing a research framework, with a particular emphasis upon methods, methodologies and frameworks used within the built environment professions. The module will allow you to begin developing your own research proposal for the Dissertation.
Skills for Planning Practice
This module introduces you to a range of planning skills not covered elsewhere in core modules. You will cover core planning skills, appraisal techniques and technical skills including project management and communications. The module introduces assessments of need and capacity (for example retail, housing, leisure, transport) and tools and techniques to assist with these assessments, such as impact assessment, GIS, effective project management and engagement techniques.
Sustainable Cities and Neighbourhoods
In this module you will explore 'next generation' cities, investigating critical issues relating to climate change and other large-scale environmental threats and challenges. The module adopts a cross-disciplinary perspective, at a range of scales from the global to the local. Using a UK-based case study and hands-on sustainability appraisal, planning and urban design exercises, you will develop a critical understanding of the concept of sustainability, encompassing notions of resource conservation, environmental, social and economic impact, and quality of life.
Sustainable Neighbourhood Development and Management
In this module, you will address the range of social sustainability concerns including housing and livelihoods. As well as introducing you to techniques such as participatory planning and community asset management, this module is concerned with local neighbourhood planning and introducing conceptual frameworks for understanding localised social and governance structures.
Core module for Spatial Planning Pathway
Urban Design and Planning Skills
In this module, you will examine place-making in the context of the UK development process. Based on practical design projects supported by lectures and workshops, it enables students to gain an insight into the relationship between urban design theory and practice. The module is built around a site-based design project with a series of specific tasks relating to various stages of project development including area appraisal, strategic framework and design brief.
Core module for Urban Resilience Pathway
Planning for Urban Risk and Resilience
You will explore spatial planning for risk management, including reducing vulnerability and building urban resilience as it relates to the built environment, urban governance and long-term climate change and development needs. The module integrates sustainable development and climate change mitigation and adaptation planning concerns with disaster and hazards risk management in an international urban context.
Environmental Policy, Assessment and Climate Change
In this module, you will examine the role that effective environmental strategies and policies in planning and related fields can pursue to reach sustainable development. The module sets out the theoretical framework, and the international context for sustainable development, energy efficiency and climate change. In the module, you will explore the implications for the built environment in a range of development contexts. The module includes analysis of key policy concerns and planning and design responses comparatively across different institutional and cultural contexts and reviews techniques for assessing the impacts of development.
Housing and Regeneration
This module will provide you with an understanding of the relationship between housing, planning and economic development. The module reviews debates about the supply of housing and considers the role of public policy in promoting housing development. You will consider the problems and challenges of concentrations of deprivation, and examine the social, economic, political and environmental factors which shape urban regeneration.
Public Participation and Engaging Communities
In this module, you will analyse key historical and contemporary debates about participation and community engagement as applied in planning and housing. You will consider the key social science concepts related to community, participation, social capital and governance, and also the legal and procedural powers. The module offers advanced study skills in information selection, referencing, essay planning and critical analysis.
Public Realm: Significance, Design, Experience
In this module, you will focus on the public realm from the perspective of urban design and planning. You will have the opportunity to study and write about key theories and debates about public space in an international context. These include issues such as inclusion and exclusion, the 'publicness' of public space, identity, experience, movement, green spaces, crime, security and anti-social behaviour, and different approaches to management. In the module you will undertake a practical project to explore these issues 'on the ground', thereby enhancing your skills in critical evaluation and design appreciation.
Other modules will course-related learning outcomes may be taken subject to timetabling constraints and the agreement of the Course and Module Leaders.
The MA course is fully accredited by the royal town planning institute (RTPI) as a 'combined planning programme'.
Students on the course are most likely to be working in a relevant built environment or sustainable development-related profession. Overseas students may be receiving a government bursary. Graduates from the course may secure promotion within their existing or a new related area of work, or move onto more responsible positions within 18 months of completing their studies. This may include management posts or the responsibility for project or policy development. It is expected that graduates will enhance their potential to be considered for development positions outside their home country.
Graduates from this course can expect to find employment as planners or urban designers, urban regeneration or environmental management specialists in private consultancy, local and national government, and non-governmental sectors in their own country or internationally, including international development agencies.
This school offers programs in:
Last updated January 2, 2018