Spatial Planning


Start dates: January 2024 / September 2024 / January 2025 / September 2025

Full time: 12 months (Sept start), 17 months (Jan start)

Part time: 24 months (Sept start), 29 months (Jan start). Distance learning: 24 months (Sept start), 29 months (Jan start)

Location: Headington, Distance learning

Department(s): School of the Built Environment

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The built environment is facing a whole host of challenges, from urbanisation to climate change. Not to mention the increasing demand for housing, pressure on transport systems, and changes to the way we work which has left many offices empty.

Designed with support from industry, our MSc Spatial Planning will help you take your first step towards chartership with RTIP and becoming the planner society needs. You’ll get insights from our researchers working on diverse projects in key areas like the urban planning concept of the 15-minute city, healthy cities, urban sustainability, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), transportation, community development, strategic planning and many more.

The flexibility of the course means you won’t have to put your career on hold while you level up your skills. As well as recent graduates, we accept professionals without traditional qualifications. We’ll look at your portfolio and help you decide if the course is the right step for you.

Attend an open day or webinar Ask a question Order a prospectus

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Why Oxford Brookes University?

  • Global recognition
    We are proud to offer a renowned course that ranks highly, both in the UK and globally, in building and town and country planning.
  • Industry-focused
    We’ve designed this course with support from professional experts and society, so you’ll develop the skills sought after by employers in the public and private sectors.
  • Diverse perspectives
    The team consists of researchers, lecturers with domestic and international experience in practice and academics who are global leaders in planning theory and urban studies.
  • Flexible timetable
    We’ve structured this course to suit students already working in industry who want to commute to campus or study online.
  • Opportunity to specialise
    Our optional modules give you the chance to develop expertise in areas like sustainable development, EIA, urban design, and urban regeneration.
  • Accreditation(s)

    Fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

    • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
    • The Royal Town Planning Institute

Course details

Course structure

Taught by experienced practitioners and high-profile academics, the curriculum is at the cutting edge of practice. Everything we cover is designed to help you develop an international perspective and localised skills on spatial planning.

Our 3 core modules cover a combination of design and planning skills, as well as knowledge about sustainable development. You’ll also pick an optional module which aligns with your interests. What you choose will probably link to your plans for your dissertation.

The course includes an overseas field trip to expose you to practical examples of planning issues and approaches in another European country. Past destinations have included Barcelona, Frieburg, Amsterdam and Lyon (the field trip carries an additional cost).

Your final project will be a chance to explore the area that interests you. Many students decide to link this to their current role or have been asked by their employers to investigate a specific challenge.

Female student studying on a laptop with headphones on

Learning and teaching

This course has been designed to develop your professional skills and knowledge of the sector to allow you to succeed in your career ambitions. We use a variety of teaching and learning approaches to deliver a theoretically informed and practice-focused programme. These include workshops, seminars, design studios, lectures and online discussion forums.

All students have access to the course’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to gain access to teaching and learning materials, and discussion forums, at times that best suit you.

Throughout the programme, you’ll have the opportunity to interact and work with students from across the course. You’ll also have the chance to work alongside students in other courses in your specialisation module.


There are no examinations in the MSc Spatial Planning course and you will be assessed solely by coursework. Assessment methods used in the course include:

  • written reports
  • essays
  • verbal presentations
  • practical/project based work
  • debates
  • reflective journals
  • dissertation.

Reflecting the nature of professional planning practice, many assessment tasks in the course involve collaborative group work.

Field Trips

The course includes an overseas field trip that is part of the Planning Frameworks: Law, Policy and Professional Practice core module. The field trip is designed to expose you to practical examples of planning issues and approaches in another European country. Field trip attendance is not compulsory for distance learning students, but all students are encouraged to attend wherever possible.

The trip is usually three to four nights. Our teaching staff continually review the field trip destination, past destinations have included Barcelona, Amsterdam and Lyon. The field trip carries an additional cost. Please see the Additional costs section of this page for details.

Start this course in January

You have the option to start this course in January. You will study a range of modules between January and May. During the summer months of June, July and August you will study further modules and begin work on your dissertation. Between September and December you will complete your final modules and focus on your dissertation.

Study modules

Taught Modules

Compulsory modules

  • Place Making (30 credits)

    This module develops an appreciation of the role of urban design and place making in the creation and protection of high quality urban environments. Centring on a ‘live’ site with significant redevelopment potential, the module equips students with the knowledge and skills they need to appraise the character and quality of a place, and to generate imaginative and integrative visions for its future.

  • Planning for Sustainable Futures: Environment, Health and Society (30 credits)

    This module builds understanding of the concept and principles of sustainability, including the various dimensions of sustainability that are integral to spatial planning and the interconnections between them. It develops skills in the interpretation and practice of sustainable development and understanding of the changing socio-political and environmental context within which spatial plans are generated and implemented.

  • Planning Frameworks: Law, Policy and Professional Practice (30 credits)

    This module familiarises students with the legal, governance and professional contexts in and through which planning systems operate, as well as developing the core knowledge, skills and behaviours that planners need in professional practice. While special reference is made to planning frameworks and approaches in England and the UK, the module has an integral comparative dimension and various other planning systems internationally are  considered throughout.

  • Research Methods (10 credits)

    This module provides students with a practical knowledge of the key research methods and skills applicable to spatial planning and related fields. The module develops a critical awareness and core understanding of different research philosophies, approaches and methods, in order to promote the design and delivery of effective research projects. On completion of the module, students will have developed the knowledge and skills needed to perform effectively as an independent researcher, a professional responsible for commissioning research and as a critical consumer of research.

Optional modules

Contemporary Approaches to Urban Design (30 credits)

The aim of this module is to provide the theoretical, practical and applied skills to enable the emerging professional to critically assess and develop urban design interventions. Theory and practice merge to become essential tools and perspectives for evaluating urban conditions in relation to place making. In this module, students learn to shape theory and practice to develop an urban design framework for critical analysis, evaluation as well as a coherent means for creating design interventions and understanding its impact.

Effective and Proportionate Environmental Impact Assessment (30 credits)

This module explores the systematic process of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) / Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and the conceptual foundations of effectiveness in order to promote understanding of the development planning and design cycles where EIA / ESIA has greatest potential to shape sustainable outcomes. UK and international legislation and different sector guidance are examined to establish key dimensions of best practice. The module stresses the importance of EIA / ESIA scoping and impact mitigation across a range of biophysical and social components of the environment. Risk reduction strategies and the challenge of uncertainty are considered, along with approaches to assess and manage the cumulative effects of development. Reflecting notions of EIA / ESIA as an on-going management tool, the module considers the role of post-consent monitoring and evaluation. Issues of EIA / ESIA quality and expert competency within professional practice are examined. 

Sustainable Development (30 credits)

The challenge of sustainable development in the current global juncture is to eradicate poverty whilst rebuilding the ecosystems and natural resources that we depend on. This requires a step change in our approach to urban infrastructure – both the building of new infrastructure and the maintenance and upgrading of existing systems. The aim of this module is to provide participants with the knowledge and skills to respond to this challenge in cities, facilitating 12 infrastructure strategies which integrate concerns for social equity, ecological sustainability and local economic growth. The module draws particular attention to the role of infrastructure in the achievement of sustainable urban development and the opportunities for innovation in infrastructure delivery. A key element to this is the teaching of new ways of thinking about infrastructure delivery that draw on emerging global action norms based on systems thinking.

Urban Regeneration and Historic Conservation (30 credits)

This module locates conservation practice in the context of strategies for physical, cultural and social regeneration. It introduces students to key conservation and regeneration principles, strategies and impacts, exposes them to case studies from around the world, and develops their ability to think critically about the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to regeneration and conservation. A major focus is on the delivery of conservation/regeneration projects and the skills and issues involved, including finance and economics, community paritcipation, and the linking of physical with social regeneration. The module brings these aspects together through coursework that involves drawing up a regeneration proposal for an historic site at the local scale.

Note: The Urban Regeneration and Historic Conservation specialisation option will be available from 2022 onwards.

Final project

Compulsory modules

  • Dissertation (50 credits)

    This module follows on from Research Methods and involves students undertaking
    and writing up a significant piece of independent research. The topic and focus of the
    dissertation will have been established through Assignment 2 in the Research Methods module,
    and should be related to the student’s area of specialisation earlier in the programme. The
    detailed research proposal submitted by students as part of Research Methods provides much of the
    direction needed to complete the dissertation in terms of research scope and programme. With
    this as a basis, each student works with an academic supervisor to produce an original piece of
    work through conducting their own primary research and reporting the findings and implications.

Please note: As our courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the modules you can choose from may vary from those shown here. The structure of the course may also mean some modules are not available to you.


The School of the Built Environment is widely recognised as a leading educator in environment, design and development subjects. We perform a leading role in research and consultancy, with clients and projects covering subjects from local concerns to multi-national organisations, government and industry.

Key areas of expertise and scholarship in the department form the research groups and units listed below. These research groups and units also comprise a substantial part of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD):

We have links with universities worldwide, including Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Ghana, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Taiwan, Romanian, Serbia, Slovenia, Hungary, Poland and most EU member states.


Our graduates work in a wide range of government roles, both in the UK and abroad, as well as in private sector planning and related fields such as design and property development.

Local authorities are facing a shortage of planners, so you shouldn’t struggle to find opportunities when you finish the course. There are also private sector planning firms who will be searching for people with your skillset.

Many graduates use this course as a stepping stone to chartership, while others work in related fields such as property development, design, or housing. We have also had graduates secure roles with organisations like UN-Habitat which is the United Nations’ programme for human settlements and sustainable urban development.

Whatever you decide to do, you’ll graduate with a degree that meets industry needs. You’ll boast your own network of connections, thanks to our range of professional networking opportunities. Tell us what you want to achieve, and we’ll help you get there.

Our Staff

Professor Dave Valler

Dave is a Reader and Research Lead in Planning in the School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes. He also coordinates the School's Spatial Planning Group, and a member of the Faculty's Research Grants Committee.

Read more about Dave

Entry requirements

International qualifications and equivalences

How to apply

Application process

We advise applying in advance to secure places, and allow sufficient time for applications to be reviewed.

There is no formal application deadline (recruitment closes when teaching capacity is reached).

Applicants should also factor any time needed to meet offer conditions, arrange accommodation, and obtain a UK Student visa (if applicable).

Tuition fees

Please see the fees note
Home (UK) full time

Home (UK) part time

Home (UK) distance learning part time

International full time

International distance learning part time

Home (UK) full time

Home (UK) part time

Home (UK) distance learning part time

International full time

International distance learning part time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2024 / 25
Home (UK) full time

Home (UK) part time

Home (UK) distance learning part time

International full time

International distance learning part time

2025 / 26
Home (UK) full time

Home (UK) part time

Home (UK) distance learning part time

International full time

International distance learning part time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

+44 (0)1865 534400

Fees quoted are for the first year only. If you are studying a course that lasts longer than one year, your fees will increase each year.

The following factors will be taken into account by the University when it is setting the annual fees: inflationary measures such as the retail price indices, projected increases in University costs, changes in the level of funding received from Government sources, admissions statistics and access considerations including the availability of student support.

How and when to pay

Tuition fee instalments for the semester are due by the Monday of week 1 of each semester. Students are not liable for full fees for that semester if they leave before week 4. If the leaving date is after week 4, full fees for the semester are payable.

  • For information on payment methods please see our Make a Payment page.
  • For information about refunds please visit our Refund policy page

Additional costs

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course are detailed below.

Additional costs may arise for the international field trip if students wish to travel independently whether from the UK or outside. The students will be responsible for covering any additional costs.

Funding your studies

Financial support and scholarships

Featured funding opportunities available for this course.

All financial support and scholarships

View all funding opportunities for this course

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.