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Urban Design MA

MA / PGDip / PGCert

School of the Built Environment

Accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) when combined with the PGDip in Spatial Planning.

Our unique approach: Create great places anywhere in the world

This course enables students from planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and other backgrounds to engage with the practice of urban design as a means of addressing the future. A practice that brings together the form production processes of place as well as the socio-economic drivers that shape the urban realm. 

This design methodology linking theory, practice and the urban experience is applied to worldwide locations facing contemporary global issues. 

Available start dates

September 2019 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • 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 months. The part-time route is delivered 1 day per week.

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

The course brings together theory and design practice to develop urban design skills which are applicable to a spectrum of locations and the issues they face in creating liveable places for tomorrow. 

  • The method you learn is comprehensive and robust allowing graduates to become part of the global dialogue on the future of cities and employable in a wide range of professions.
  • Design: Strong urban form production methodology applicable to a range of settlement scales, cultures, typologies and projects from master-planning of design frameworks, codes, design and access statements, down to the scale of plot-based design, public realm experience and improvements and through the delivery of vitality via events and pop-up urbanism.
  • Theory: Engages with contemporary and future urban issues – intensification and population growth, climate change, cultural context of design, biodiversity and landscape urbanism, affordable housing, urban public realm in the digital age.
  • Practice: Work with professional practitioners, international student cohort, and research tutors in design studios which mirrors future professional workplaces.
  • Research: Innovative, relevant and current research topics developed independently by students.
  • Career options: Opens up opportunities in a range of fields related to the growth and liveability of cities; acquire an enhanced ability to research, design and evaluate places and proposals; graduate with either a Certificate, Diploma or MA in UD with the essential knowledge, skills, techniques and methods to create great places anywhere in the world. 

Semester 1 – PGCert awarded upon completion of modules

  • Design Studio: Contemporary approaches to master-planning and the design of the public realm applied to a live site. As in practice, master-planning engages group discussions, negotiations and a communal effort to produce. This progresses to individual design projects for detailing the public realm of a section of the masterplan.
  • Theory: Current theories on the shaping of urban form are integrated and tested in the design proposal:
  • Practice: Tools for critical and reflective analysis are introduced and used in the design process:
  • Output: This stage produces portfolio quality masterplans which address contemporary issues of concern across a range of settlement types and scales. It integrates theories and practical tools for the production of urban form which are applied in the professional field. The individual projects allow for the detailed design of a public realm taking the masterplan a stage further and in a different design scale.

See 'Intensification of Huangpu' by Thomas Jephson, Syafiqa Hanim Sharuddin, Savini Rajapakse, Ye Lu, Rakesh Muthah, Sujai Chandira Sekaran

See 'Dobson Square Oxpens' by Owen Reading


Semester 2 – PGDip awarded upon completion of modules

  • Design Studio: Urban form in challenging context. This studio expands urban design to the international and future context of settlements focusing on urban intensification. Cities from all over the world are analysed for qualities and principles that deliver good places when undergoing intensification. The group masterplan tests urban form undergoing a range of densities and is analysed for the threshold for urban quality and intensity. Individual public realm design projects are worked on at the level of street detailing and the building scale.
  • Theory: International urban theories for design and planning:
  • Research: Methods for engaging in urban design research:
  • Output: Masterplan and public realm design of an international or UK site addressing urban intensification; essay covering international theories on urban form applied to your city or issues of choice; design project focusing on advanced theories of urban form; research proposal for dissertation stage.

See 'Mexico Masterplan' by Alec Parcell, Charis Boulton, Ciaran Gallen, Farissa Salmanzadeh, Mikel Spooner, Snehal Oswal

See 'Beirut Masterplan' by Lucas Docherty, Siddartha Thomas, Robert Cresswell, Isabel Raad, Sarju Patel

See 'Vertical Public Space' by Petya Tsokovan


Summer Term – MA in Urban Design awarded upon completion of dissertation

  • Dissertation – Research by advancing and testing design studio project OR your own selected topic or urban issue which can be located in any country or city of choice.

See 'Access to Nature and the Extinction of Experience' by Matthew Laidman


Teaching and learning

The MA in UD includes a variety of activities that enable us to deliver theoretical and practice-based content to develop your knowledge and skills for engaging in dialogues of urban futures for a range of professional practices including architecture and planning.

  • Peer-learning is encouraged through group work and the critical assessment of individual projects
  • Studio set-up and design based learning which engages a mixed group of students from different backgrounds, cultures and professional affiliations mirrors real environment in practice
  • Theory and Practice modules are merged and applied in the Design studio projects
  • Problem based learning allow an in depth understanding of urban issues and proposed solutions
  • International projects as well as the diverse international student cohort provides exposure to a range of different cultures and urban phenomena
  • Independent research to develop critical thinking and creative approach to problem solving; focus on specific area of research interest
  • Use of multi-media for developing skills for communicating and work on strengths of individuals
  • Field trips and site visits provides a live-in experience and sense of scale for spatial forms

For full time students, all teaching is delivered in two days which allows the rest of the week for independent studio project development. Part time attendance is one day per week.

Approach to assessment

Assessment combines group work and individual projects with a range of mediums to include reports, design posters, videos, oral and visual presentations. Studio tutors and professional practitioners engage with the students in the process of delivering 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 becoming teaching references for the design process as well as a means for testing urban theories.

International field trip – organised yearly to expose students to specific urban qualities such as housing and social equity, regeneration, creative cities and economic rise, participation and planning. Cities visited have included Amsterdam, Lisbon, Rotterdam.

Additional costs

Please note that whilst we try to keep costs to a minimum, you will be required to pay for materials and printing associated with course work.  These should amount to no more than £150 over the programme.

No specific equipment is required, although a reasonable laptop may be useful to undertake assignments off campus.

Attendance pattern

For students taking the full-time programme, normally two full days of attendance is required during semester time; and for the Masters stage, fortnightly or equivalent tutorials with the dissertation supervisor.
For part-time students, attendance is normally one day a week during the teaching semesters.

In addition, students are expected to attend for a three day induction spread over the week prior to the start of teaching and the first week of semester one.

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: £7,630 (Masters) £6,100 (Diploma) £2,580 (Certificate) 2020/21: £8,000 (Masters) £7,000 (Diploma) £4,000 (Certificate)

Home/EU - part time fee: 2019/20: £860 per single module 2020/21: £890 per single module

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,000 2020/21: £14,700

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) in a related design & planning discipline.

We will actively consider applications from candidates with lower degrees or an alternative subject, who can provide a suitable portfolio and/or evidence relevant work experience.

Mid-career professional candidates with practice experience are also encouraged to apply.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you will require a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 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).

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.


Our graduates have very high success rates in gaining employment and have secured posts in the public sector, private consultancy, the voluntary sector, and research and teaching areas.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

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 areas and clusters

After completing the taught programme, research students are able to formulate their independent research proposals which cover a wide range of topics relevant to the future dialogue on urban transformation. The teaching staff are instrumental in supervising the final stages of the research degree. Successful research dissertation topics include:

The urban design teaching staff are involved in active research which provides support for student research 

For more information visit Urban Design at Oxford Brookes.