MA in Urban Design

University of Westminster - Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment

Program Description

MA in Urban Design

University of Westminster - Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment

In an increasingly urbanised world, there is growing international demand for urban design graduates. These courses will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to participate in this rapidly expanding profession. Urban design involves shaping the physical setting for life in cities. The pace of urban change, and the challenge of making cities efficient, sustainable and meaningful, demands creative solutions to design and management. The Urban Design courses at Westminster provide a coherent approach to issues that face our cities, combining structured academic study with live design projects, allowing you to develop practical skills, a theoretical understanding and an informed approach to sustainable urban development.

Our Urban Design programme is one of the largest and longest established in the UK. It enjoys an excellent reputation and our graduates are highly respected in the profession. Our students are from a variety of professions and backgrounds, including architecture, landscape architecture and planning, from the UK, Europe, and across the globe. They range from recent graduates seeking to expand their skill base before commencing their career or those considering a shift from an allied profession, to established professionals seeking to specialise or develop a more informed critical approach. Our central London location allows you to interact with a huge variety of practitioners and organisations, as well as drawing on the city's huge range of resources; you will be at the heart of the debate over the future of cities.

Course content

The course places a strong emphasis on design, practical outputs and a multidisciplinary approach. While focusing on UK examples, the lessons from the courses are applicable to a wide range of international and economic contexts. This flexible and student-centred approach is highly valued by former graduates and their employers. The course is delivered by staff with many years' experience in practice, education, training, research, and consultancy in the UK and overseas. Outputs from the course combine into a portfolio demonstrating your ability to deal with the complexities of urban design in a practical and informed manner.


The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course.

Core modules (all students)

Dissertation/Major Project

This module offers you the opportunity to research in-depth topics or issues related to urban design based on primary or desk-based research. The written dissertation is 12-15,000 words in length. Alternatively, you may undertake a major design project that explores a particular issue and is informed by research, including a written report of 5-6,000 words.

Reflective Practice

In this module you will draw on both formal and informal learning experiences and relate these to practice and professional development. The module complements the research methods module that examines the production of knowledge by looking at the application of knowledge and the role of the expert. The module involves a combination of taught sessions, individual tutorials and group seminars. Sessions will cover: integrating academic study and workplace experience; professional practice and ethical behaviour in the built environment; the concept of reflective practice; thinking critically in workplace situations; and roles, relationships and responsibilities of interdisciplinary teams.

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.

Sustainable Cities

In this module you will explore the concept of sustainability in urban development in depth. You will examine the role of urban form and land use planning, energy planning, and social and transport infrastructure in developing sustainable cities. You will be introduced to techniques of and undertake a sustainability appraisal. An important aspect of the module is interdisciplinary working and you will examine how different disciplines can contribute to the sustainable development of cities and neighbourhoods.

Urbanism and Design

In this module you will address the issue of how and why cities look as they do. You will investigate urban form through history, and the module will encourage you to understand how and why particular patterns of development have come into being and why other visionary insights have not. Particular attention is paid to design traditions, philosophies and intentions, past and present. You will be required to critically engage with the topics and to distinguish between the physical manifestations of different types of urbanism.

Urban Design and Development Planning Skills

This is a foundation double module for all postgraduate Urban Design pathways, enabling you to develop the essential skills required in practice. It is built around a site-based exercise with a series of specific tasks relating to various stages of project development. These include area appraisal, strategic framework, design brief, development appraisal and design statement. The module covers urban form, activity and movement, design in the public realm, site planning, development economics and legislative context. Based on practical design projects supported by lectures and workshops, it enables you to gain an insight into the relationship between urban design theory and practice.

Urban Design Field Trip

The field trip forms an integral part of the taught course as a whole. It involves a residential field trip normally undertaken over five or six days in a European city. The city has urban forms from a variety of periods and is undergoing growth, enabling the analysis of historic form as well as the investigation of new models. Student feedback over many years has demonstrated that it is a highly valued part of the course.

Option modules

In addition to the core modules, you will choose two option modules, of which at least one must be a subject-specific option module.

Subject-specific option modules


This module provides the opportunity for you to develop strategic proposals formed in the Sustainable Cites module into more fully resolved design propositions. You will explore spatial design and master planning applied, through project-based work, to a large site within the metropolitan or subregional context, and explore in greater detail issues relating to urban design for sustainable development, public realm and transportation. Concepts of building and urban typology are used in the analysis and generation of urban design strategies and the production of detailed planning layouts and design guidelines and codes.


This is a project-based module, organised around a full-time summer school located in a host European city with strong historic and cultural context. The project gives you the opportunity to explore spatial design and master planning applied to a large site within the metropolitan and historic context. You will apply techniques of rapid urban appraisal and generation of urban design strategies. Normally taken by students on the Postgraduate Certificate course, this module is available as an extra cost option to MA and Diploma students.

Other option modules


The subjects you will cover include: exploration and evaluation of various planning policy approaches to conservation and enhancement of the built environment; historical and legal background to conservation of the natural and built environments; principle characteristics of building of different periods; the current impact of conservation on planning, tourism regeneration and community development; and the urban morphology of historic built forms in different national contexts.


This module provides you with background knowledge on environmental policy and climate change. It sets out the theoretical framework, and then the international context for sustainable development, energy efficiency and climate change. You will explore the implications for the built environment in a range of development contexts, including analysis of key policy concerns and planning and design responses comparatively across different institutional and cultural contexts. You will also review techniques for assessing the impacts of development, and examine the role that effective environmental strategies and policies in planning and related fields can pursue to reach sustainable development.


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.


This module analyses 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.


This module focuses on the public realm from the perspective of urban design and planning. In the module you will have the opportunity to study and write about key theories and debates about public space. These include issues such as inclusion and exclusion, the 'publicness' of public space, identity, experience, movement, green spaces, crime, security and antisocial behaviour and different approaches to management. These are considered in an international context. You will examine practical examples and will undertake a practical project to explore these issues 'on the ground' thereby enhancing your skills in critical evaluation and design appreciation.

Other options may be available but not all options are offered in any one year.

Associated careers

Graduates of this course typically find employment as urban designers in private consultancy or local authorities. Many find the course useful when developing careers in architecture, planning or landscape architecture.

Professional accreditation

The course gives full RTPI accreditation when combined with an RTPI-accredited spatial planning course.

This school offers programs in:
  • English

Last updated January 3, 2018
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Sept. 2019
1 - 2 years
Part time
Full time
6,500 GBP
Home/EU: £6,500 - Overseas: £11,500
United Kingdom - London, England
Start date : Sept. 2019
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Sept. 2019
United Kingdom - London, England
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info