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MSc Infrastructure and Sustainable Development

MSc / PGDip / PGCert

School of the Built Environment

The MSc is seeking full accreditation with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

This MSc is one of the few globally to focus on equipping professionals to lead on the planning of infrastructure to support inclusive and sustainable development in rapidly growing cities of middle and low income countries. The programme offers a new approach to studying infrastructure planning and delivery and is designed to make the step change needed to meet the sustainability challenges of the 21st century. On this programme you will engage with new and innovative thinking on infrastructure, responding to the imperatives of rapidly growing cities to achieve poverty alleviation, ecological sustainability and local economic growth within increasingly complex and uncertain environments.  

The core teaching on governance, human development, ecological sustainability, finance and programme/project planning offers a unique combination of theoretical perspectives and practical skills delivered by an inter-disciplinary team of academics and practitioners. This prepares participants to engage with more holistic approaches to decision making and problem solving to deliver infrastructure that provides for both inclusive and sustainable development.

The MSc employs an innovative teaching structure that is integrated with Brookes’ Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This offers a flexible programme of study that can be taken over one year full-time or two years in distance learning mode.

The course is targeted at those with, or seeking a career in government, the private sector, NGOs or multilateral and bilateral development agencies working in the field of infrastructure planning and international development.

The image above is courtesy of Jorge Láscar. Title: Metrocable - Reaching the least developed suburban areas of Medellín, via Stockpholio (license).

Available start dates

January 2019 / September 2019 / January 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus / Distance learning

Course length

  • Full time: 1 year
  • Part time: up to 5 years

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • In the QS World University Rankings, Oxford Brookes University is considered to be amongst the world's top Universities for the Built Environment.
  • We offer a highly flexible programme of study that is available both as a full-time one year programme and in open-learning mode (distance learning) taken over two years with options to attend campus based intensive study periods and an international field trip.
  • The programme is delivered in collaboration with industry professionals and practitioners providing participants with a highly relevant and authentic learning experience.
  • Teaching is provided by an interdisciplinary team including members of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD), one of the largest research institutions in the UK dedicated to sustainable development.
  • We offer a combination of both theoretical learning and practical skills including and a strong core practice based module in which participants put their theoretical learning and skills development into practice.
  • The programme makes use of Problem Based Learning ('PBL') to support participants in developing skills in problem solving and decision making in complex situations.
  • Extensive online learning material is provided to all participants via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - our own intranet site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

There are two modes of delivery for the MSc Infrastructure and Sustainable Development: full-time on campus or open learning (distance learning). The course consists of four core modules, plus research methods and a final dissertation. The modules are entirely self-contained so that participants may enter the program either in September or January.

Teaching takes place at our Oxford based Headington campus for full-time participants and online for our open learning participants through a series of webinars, recorded lectures, discussion forums and other activities. Extensive online learning material is provided to all participants via our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the course is assessed by 100% coursework submitted via the VLE.

All participants have the option to participate in one international field trip and four intensive study periods (one per module). The international field trip take place at the end of the Spring semester each year and the intensive periods take place at our Oxford campus in week 6 of each semester for three days. Please note that, although subsidized by the University, there are additional costs associated with the international field trip and intensive study periods to reflect the fact that some students prefer not to take up these options.

Module Outlines

Sustainable Development explores the relationships between urban infrastructure delivery, pro-poor development, environmental change and local economic growth. This provides the grounding for a more holistic approach to infrastructure planning. A key element to this is the teaching of new ways of thinking about infrastructure delivery that draw on emerging global thinking based on systems theory; circular models, decentralised approaches; collaboration and accountability.

Urban Governance and Political Economy aims to provide participants with a firm understanding of governance and decision-making processes involved in the planning and delivery of different types of infrastructure. It is informed by political economy and institutional frameworks and grounded in theories and practices of different methods for addressing broader societal impacts that arise from infrastructure delivery. It will explore different approaches to participation of stakeholders to enable more informed and inclusive decision-making based on optimum compromises for infrastructure delivery that is to the benefit of the local and wider urban communities.

Infrastructure Finance takes a problem based learning approach to equip participants with the grounded understanding of the theory and practice of financing the development, renewal, repair and maintenance of infrastructure. It examines how infrastructure is financed as well as alternative funding models, cost recovery options, and sources of finance. The module also examines the roles of key actors and reviews the approaches, methods and tools used for decision making in a variety of different contexts and under conditions of uncertainty.

Development in Practice: The aims of this module are to develop participants' understanding of the role of infrastructure in development, and to equip them with a working knowledge of the key frameworks and approaches used to design and implement local development programmes and projects. The module allows participants to experiment with bringing together their broad knowledge base and skills and applying it to an actual project. Participants begin by learning how to research and critically assess a development context using participatory and other approaches. This critical analysis is then used to design an infrastructure project which takes into account development goals and addresses the challenges of infrastructure delivery on the project site.

Applied Research Methods provides participants with the fundamentals of research design highlighting the difference between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms and demonstrates how data can be both gathered and analysed and how deductive arguments can be used to produce valid generalisations from data. It also provides participants with an overview of particular research techniques such that they can choose and develop those tools most appropriate to their Dissertation.

The Dissertation follows on from Applied Research Methods and aims not only to generate new knowledge or insights, but also to develop participants' capacities to undertake rigorous research, to plan and execute an extended project and to communicate complex ideas effectively in words and graphically. Each participant will work with a supervisor from within the School to produce an original piece of work of publishable quality, generally, through conducting their own primary research and presenting their findings in a professional manner.

Teaching and learning

The learning and teaching on this MSc include a variety of activities that enable us to support you to develop the knowledge and skills needed to engage in professional practice. Methods include lectures, webinars, online discussion forums, skills workshops, seminars, and practical and project work. The programme makes particular use of problem-based learning (PBL) which encourages students to learn by applying theoretical principles in appropriate case studies. PBL leads to a more challenging and industry relevant experience than the traditional lecture approach. Learning takes place through groups of students working through problems, often adapted from real situations with much of the complexity and context intact, using published resources, or reference to practitioners who are available to offer advice.

As a full-time participant, in a typical week, your time will be divided between attending two 2 hourly sessions per week for each of the two core modules (usually a mixture of lectures, seminars or workshops) and one 1½ hour session for research methods in your first semester (reduced to approximately two, 2 hourly sessions in the second semester). Outside the module contact hours, you will undertake independent learning (for example, library visits, research, review of online material and online individual and group collaborative learning) to construct and develop your coursework assignments.

As an open learner in a typical week, your time will be divided between: attending online seminars (approximately fortnightly); participating in 'Question and Answer' sessions (approximately once a week); engaging in on online discussion forums; collaborating online with peers for assessments and independent study. Your independent study is guided by a number of formative online exercises including online quizzes and academic support through discussion forums and the regular 'Question and Answer' sessions.

All participants also have the opportunity to participate in an optional international field trip. This will involve evaluating the governance processes on an actual infrastructure development project engaging with a wide range of stakeholders and learning about the challenges of working in different social, cultural and regulatory contexts. All participants are also invited to take part in four three-day on-campus intensive study sessions. Again, these are not compulsory but participants find them enjoyable and useful.

Approach to assessment

Our approach to assessment aims for rigor, variety and the support of learning. Due to the “problem solving” nature of our teaching, there are no examinations, instead we use coursework to help promote a deep learning approach.

A variety of coursework types is used so that students can develop and practice different skills. Examples include: report writing, verbal presentations, essays, reflective work (journal entries and essays), quizzes to test knowledge and collaborative group assignments. All coursework is submitted online via the Virtual Learning Environment.

Field trips

The International Field Trip takes place during the Oxford Brookes Easter break. This is a great learning opportunity which we anticipate will be attended by the majority of the class. The field trip is partially subsidized by the University but participants need to cover the cost of their travel to the destination and make a contribution to the accommodation and and food costs. These costs are additional to the programme fee to reflect the fact that some students prefer not to take up this option. The total additional cost will be in the region of £600-800 but may vary depending on flight and visa costs from the participant's location to the destination.

Intensive Study Periods

Twice a year open-learners are invited to join the full-time students on campus for a three-day intensive study period. Open-learners must find their own accommodation and need to cover expenses for:

  • Travel
  • Accommodation (to give an indication of the cost- the University's Scott House offers single en suite rooms with self-catering facilities at £50.40 per night subject to availability (2018 rates). Alternatively, B&B accommodation or rooms in Oxford University Colleges can be found starting from approximately £40 per night or hotel accommodation starting from approximately £100 per night.
  • Food

Attendance pattern

This has been addressed above under Teaching and Learning. 

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £7,790 2020/21 £9,000

Home/EU - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £4,220 2020/21 £4,500

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,520 2020/21 £15,100

International - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £6,600 2020/21 £7,550

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by up to 4% each year.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

The course is open to applicants who hold a 2.1 undergraduate honours degree (or international equivalent).

We will actively consider applications from candidates with lower degrees, who can effectively portray suitable credentials, and usually have an appropriate professional background.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you will require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 overall with 6.0 in all components.


An equivalent English language qualification acceptable to the University.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

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.

How to apply

There is no formal application deadline (recruitment closes when teaching capacity is reached). However, we advise applying in good advance to secure places, and allow sufficient time for applications to be reviewed. 
Applicants should also factor any time needed to meet offer conditions, arrange accommodation, and obtain a UK Tier 4 visa (if applicable).

Distance-Learning study requires additional Faculty preparation - therefore this mode can sometimes close sooner than on-campus study.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

This programme is designed to develop transferable skills, critical knowledge and understanding in infrastructure appraisal and planning, skills which are highly sought after by industry. The long-standing reputation of the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes in producing highly skilled, enthusiastic and very capable professional planners aids the employability of our graduates. We are the first port of call for many employers when they are seeking new graduate planners.

The School runs its own careers fair dedicated to employers which operate in the built environment sector. Guest lectures and the international field trip organised by the School also expose participants to different professionals in the field. Sometimes these initial contacts result in career opportunities.

Full-time students in the School have the opportunity to make contact with our open-learning students, who are often in full-time employment in the field. All students are encouraged to become part of our virtual alumni network which is hosted on LinkedIn.

Today alumni of the School can be found in senior positions in some of the largest international planning, construction, development and environmental consultancies, in government agencies, in bilateral and multilateral development agencies, large NGOs and campaigning organisations. 


Graduates of the School of the Built Environment have an outstanding employment record. To provide an example, usually 100% of the graduates of the MSc Project Management in the Built Environment are in employment within six months after graduation.

Local, national and international planning consultancies, construction companies, developers, project management consultancies, bilateral and multilateral development agencies and large NGOs all recruit our graduates.

Many of these organisations visit the School regularly to meet students for graduate positions. Our graduates are recognised as having an excellent level of communication, presentation and problem-solving skills.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

We work closely with our International Centre to help students whose first language is not English. All international students are registered on appropriate courses during the first semester so that they can develop their academic writing skills. They then take extra classes on dissertation writing in the second semester.

Continuous assessment and feedback are other means through which we support our students. The modules are designed so that our students have the opportunity to learn from the feedback that they receive in order to improve their academic performance.

You will be assigned an academic adviser who will help guide your academic development. In addition we provide specialist subject librarians to help you find the right material for your coursework and other learning support staff to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.
In addition to your academic advisor, you will have access to student support coordinators who are there to provide pastoral care.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

The School of the Built Environment has an impressive list of funders and clients covering UK and EU government, research funding councils and industry. Links with universities worldwide provide exciting opportunities for collaborative research, exchanges and overseas study. Key areas of expertise and scholarship in the school form the research groups listed below and comprise substantial research arms of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD).

Research areas and clusters

Impact Assessment Group

The IAG is a designated EC Europa Centre of Excellence in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which brings together one of the largest teams of expertise in this field worldwide. Through collaborative and interdisciplinary working, the IAU seeks to enhance the understanding globally of the wider sphere of impact appraisal theory and practice. It does this by conducting research, undertaking consultancy and providing knowledge exchange opportunities through professional development training. Our clients include, among others, the European Commission, UK Government/Agencies, local government and the commercial sector.

Infrastructure and energy continue to be a key focus as they are the essential components of a rapidly urbanising world. Assessing their environmental impact is vital to ensure a balance in the environmental, social and economic impacts of future urban environments to ensure there is equity and quality of life for all.

Spatial Planning Group

SPG brings together a wide range of intellectual and policy concerns within spatial planning and cognate fields, both nationally and internationally. SPG reflects a commitment to recognise and build on cross-cutting and multidisciplinary interests within the broad remit of spatial planning, as well as advancing more established research strengths in specific fields. SPG members have a strong track record in research funding, including: ESRC, EPSRC, DCLG (ODPM), NESTA, JRF, British Academy, EIB, RTPI, and SEEDA.

Construction Project Management Group

The group brings together an international team of experts in different fields of construction. A primary focus is on application of intelligent knowledge-based decision support and knowledge creation and diffusion techniques in the industry.

We are also developing a major new area of work in sustainable construction and green jobs creation. The group undertakes both fundamental and applied research that provides the construction industry and policy makers with innovative decision making tools and solutions for planning, procuring and delivering construction projects and services that maximise economic, social and environmental benefits to society.

Real Estate and Land Policy Group

The School of the Built Environment is a major international centre for research in real estate and construction offering a vibrant environment for students, visiting scholars and researchers. The School is highly regarded in the field of property and construction research in areas such as sustainable real estate, international land and property markets, land policy and sustainable urban development, building information modelling and construction and project management.

Urban Design Group

This is one of the largest UK providers of research expertise in urban design and conservation matters. Our clients include, amongst others, UK Government/Agencies, local government, the commercial sector and a number of international agencies, governments and research councils.


The School of the Built Environment has links with universities worldwide, including Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and most EU member states. There are exciting opportunities for collaborative research, exchanges and study overseas.