Urban Design

MA or PGDip or PGCert

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Start dates: September 2024 / September 2025

Full time: MA: 12 months, PGDip: 8 months, PGCert: 4 months. The full-time route is delivered 2 days per week.

Part time: MA: 24 months, PGDip: 20 months, PGCert: 8 month. The part-time route is delivered 1 day per week.

Location: Headington

Department(s): School of the Built Environment

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Many of the world’s problems can only be solved by designing better cities. From protecting the green belt to minimising travel times, urban designers have a huge role to play in creating a sustainable future for our communities. Join us at Oxford Brookes to discover how.

You’ll look at design at all levels, from individual building scale to master plans of entire conurbations. You’ll address the whole spectrum of urban environments, from village to megacity. And you’ll test your ideas in a challenging international project anywhere from Manhattan to Mumbai.

We start by looking at housing in the UK. By Semester 2 you could be speaking to a local expert in Dubai, asking how climate change affects people there. Or analysing population data for Hong Kong, looking for ways to sustainably develop high intensity housing.

Our huge range of topics enable you to develop the skills to tackle urban design challenges worldwide. We can’t promise you’ll solve every challenge but we’ll give you every opportunity to develop your creativity and understand issues from a diverse range of perspectives.

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

Student using specialist computer software

Why Oxford Brookes University?

  • Diverse community

    On global challenges like these, international perspectives are vital. Meet staff and other students from a wide range of countries.

  • International projects

    Each year we select 6 cities around the world for our projects. You’ll learn their unique challenges and work out how to solve them.

  • The full spectrum of cities

    Understand how increasing populations affect small towns as well as global megacities.

  • Work around your schedule

    Classes are held the same days each week (2 days a week full time, 1 day a week part time) so you can study alongside other commitments.

  • Career opportunities

    Our graduates are very attractive to employers and often find work before they finish the course.

  • Accreditation(s)

    Accredited by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

    • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors

Course details

Course structure

The combination of theory and practice on this course will be valuable in a wide range of careers. It is suitable for spatial planners, architecture students, working professionals, even scientists looking at solving environmental issues.

We’ll begin with the theory to give you a solid grounding in the principles of urban design. Topics will include everything from affordable housing to biodiversity.

Later in the course, we’ll begin to look at urban design in challenging contexts. For this, you’ll take part in one of 6 projects around the world. Exploring the unique challenges the city is facing, whether that’s transport infrastructure, flooding, or homelessness. And consulting with local experts while gaining new perspectives from your international peers.

While each project and location is different, there’s one common question you’ll ask: if we increase the population, how do we maintain the quality of living?

Student creating a wall display

Learning and teaching

We use a range of activities to deliver theoretical and practice-based content:

  • peer-learning through group work and critical assessment of individual projects
  • studio set-up and design based learning to mirror real environments in practice
  • merged theory and practice modules which are applied in Design studio projects
  • problem based learning to gain in depth understanding of urban issues and proposed solutions
  • international projects to expose you to different cultures and urban phenomena
  • independent research to develop critical thinking and creative approaches to problem solving; you will focus on a specific area of research interest
  • use of multi-media for developing skills for communicating
  • field trips and site visits to gain a live-in experience and sense of scale for spatial forms.

For full time students, all teaching takes place on two days. This allows the rest of the week for independent studio project development.

Part time attendance is one day per week.


Assessment combines group work and individual projects and can include:

  • reports
  • design posters
  • videos
  • oral and visual presentations.

You will engage with studio tutors and professional practitioners when delivering your assessed work. This process allows for professional quality output.

Field Trips

UK field studios

London provides a rich field resource for understanding the sense of scale, new interventions and the live-in quality of the public realm. Field studios become teaching references for the design process as well as a means for testing urban theories.

International field trip

This is organised yearly to expose you to specific urban qualities such as:

  • housing and social equity
  • regeneration
  • creative cities and economic rise
  • participation
  • planning.

Cities visited have included Amsterdam, Lisbon, Rotterdam.

Study modules

The programme consists of 4 x 30 credit modules together with research methods and the dissertation or major project. The modules listed below are for the master's award. For the PGDip and PGCert awards your module choices may be different. Please contact us for more details.

Taught Modules

Compulsory modules

  • Contemporary approaches to Urban Design (30 credits)

    This module brings together theory and practice to support analytical development for use in problem-based learning design studios. The theoretical approaches establish a common intellectual and professional vocabulary across current socio-spatial, political, economic, environmental and ecological urban debates. Practice sessions develop skills and tools for critical analysis and design of frameworks for site assessment, morphology, graphics for communicating, as well as economic costs of development. For use in the design of public realm, practice sessions cover place-making strategies on streets to places, townscape (buildings, energy efficiency, sensory richness), and streetscape modelling.

  • Urban Design Masterplan to Public Realm (30 credits)

    This design studio offers a live design site where the application of theory and practice can be tested. Skills, tools and critical analysis for designing across the range of morphological layers are covered in this module. Theory and practice are learned through application of design to produce professional quality master planning strategies. You’ll be supported in this work by a series of tutorials with academic staff and professionals in practice.

  • International Urban Design Theories for Design and Planning (30 credits)

    This module equips participants with a broad understanding of the theory and practice needed for the design and planning of cities within a globalising world. Tools for critical evaluation of contemporary and future urban problems are covered in lectures on the history and theory of urbanism as well as contemporary debates and developments. This module includes; environment and climate change, technological innovations, socio-economic movements, spatial and physical shifts and innovations.

  • Urban Design in Challenging Contexts (30 credits)

    This module provides a vehicle for students to engage in future-proofing their urban design and planning practice. The aim of this module is to develop students’ group and individual skills and knowledge of concepts, techniques and applications of urban design in challenging local and international contexts. The specific case studies used will vary from year to year to reflect developments in current concerns, and will include for example, dealing with high-density development, coding and briefing for local identity, community design involvement, designing for distinctiveness and applying good urban design in relation to climatic management.

  • Research methods in Design (10 credits)

    This module advances students' knowledge and understanding of research methods available to urban designers, planners and architects. It engages with a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods and provides a forum for debate about research as well as giving students the opportunity to gain practical research skills. General research strategies are complemented by a focus on urban design specific research techniques based on current practice. Through employing live case study research undertaken within the School, students' abilities to evaluate research and the role of research are developed.

Final project

Compulsory modules

  • Design Dissertation or Major Project (50 credits)

    In the dissertation module students develop the ability to conduct either an independent research project/thesis, or a critical evaluation of a proposed scheme related to the urban context (within the realms of design, planning and architecture).

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.


Our teaching staff provide support for student research. They are actively involved in the following areas of research:

For more information visit Land Design and Development (LDD)


Many of our graduates find jobs before the course is over. That’s because they have extremely valuable skills in a growing area and are able to apply their knowledge to projects anywhere in the world.

Past students are working at organisations like:

  • Arup
  • WSP
  • DLA
  • EdgeUD
  • Allies and Morrisson
  • many UK city councils.

Some students decide to start their own companies, such as EcoResponsive Environments, founded by Oxford Brookes graduates. Others decide to apply their new skills in their current industry or continue their research at PhD level.

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
£9,800 (Masters); £8,800 (Diploma); £4,900 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time
£1,090 per single module

International full time

Home (UK) full time
£10,300 (Masters); £9,300 (Diploma); £5,150 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time
£1,140 per single module

International full time

Questions about fees?

Contact Student Finance on:

Tuition fees

2023 / 24
Home (UK) full time
£9,800 (Masters); £8,800 (Diploma); £4,900 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time
£1,090 per single module

International full time

2024 / 25
Home (UK) full time
£10,300 (Masters); £9,300 (Diploma); £5,150 (Certificate)

Home (UK) part time
£1,140 per single module

International full 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

Note for part time students: The per module fee relates to a twenty credit module. The programme consists of four thirty credit modules so the charge per module will be higher.

Financial support and scholarships

For general sources of financial support, see our Fees and funding pages.

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.

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.