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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.

This course will enable students from planning, architecture and other backgrounds to engage with the practice of urban design as a means of addressing the future of cities. 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 which links theory, practice and the urban experience is applied to cities facing contemporary issues both in the global north and the developing world. 

Available start dates

September 2018 / September 2019

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.

UCAS Postgraduate code


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

The course brings together theory and design practice to develop urban skills which are applicable to a spectrum of cities and the issues they face for creating liveable cities 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 city scales, cultures, typologies. 
  • 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 growth and liveability of cities. 

The Masters in Urban Design is offered as a linked PGCert/PGDip/MA. The aim of the PGCert and PGDip stages is to provide a framework of current knowledge and skills in urban design and masterplanning.

The PGCert stage of the course focuses on the basic concepts and theory of urban design, establishing a solid grounding in the practical realisation of design qualities in a case site situation.

The PGDip stage increases the emphasis placed on the application of more specific design skills in differing contexts, through live projects and a more in-depth examination of design history. Theory and new research are provided through a series of history and theory lectures and seminars.

The aim of the MA stage is to provide an opportunity for developing urban design research skills through individually selected topics in theoretical and practical fields of study in urban design. 

The MA dissertation gives students the opportunity to explore in depth a subject related to urban design, and to integrate the various elements of the course. Past topics for the MA include local identity, transport and design, public art and urban design, urban coding, environmental design, digital cities, and eco-towns.

The course is structured around nine modules.

Please note: as courses are reviewed regularly as part of our quality assurance framework, the module lists you choose from may vary from the ones shown here.

The PGCert stage of the course consists of the following compulsory modules and is worth 60 level 7 credits:

  • Urban Design Studio I is a studio project-based module in which you apply the theoretical and operational concepts of urban design to a 'live' study site. You work in groups to produce design policy, site analysis, site proposals at appropriate scales and design rationales for the site in question. Ideas are tested through a public exhibition of work in the locality under study and through feedback from local experts. You are supported in this work by a series of tutorials with academic staff and professionals in practice.
  • Urban Design Theory I is a lecture and seminar based module in which you are introduced to the theoretical concepts underpinning current urban design practice approaches. The module includes the history and theory of urban design, the introduction of design approaches, and urban morphology. You are made aware of how urban form is produced and consumed and of the political and economic context of development. Subsequent lectures and seminars also cover urban movement frameworks looking at competition between different users of public space, and building typologies, density and character.
  • Urban Design Practice I and II are workshop-based modules that introduce you to the essential skills required by urban design professionals. The workshop content includes communication skills (design graphic production, design rationale production, techniques for carrying out consultation, personal presentation skills) using Space Syntax as a design tool, producing economic feasibility studies and using spreadsheets as a design tool, sun path analysis and techniques for group working.
  • Urban Design Studio II is a studio project-based module in which you continue to apply the theoretical and operational concepts of urban design to a case study site. You work on your own to produce site proposals at appropriate scales, 3D renderings,  financial feasibility studies, sun angle analysis and individual design rationales for the site in question, based on the master plan produced in Urban Design Studio I. You are supported in this work by a series of tutorials with academic staff and professionals in practice.

The PGDip stage of the course consists of the following compulsory modules and is worth 120 level 7 credits:

  • Urban Design Theory II is structured around a core compulsory lecture series and a set of optional seminars from which you choose to attend two. Following the module Urban Design Theory I, this lecture and seminar-based module presents more detailed urban design theory and method. The module covers design for the sensory experience of space, problematic building types and mixed use, density issues, regeneration, guiding, and theory and practice. You are presented with a generic and contemporary issue. Working in a group, you then refine the issue and define terms of reference and methods of working. The specific topic varies from year to year reflecting current concerns, but could include cover coding and briefing for local identity, community design involvement, designing for distinctiveness or applying good urban design in relation to modern economic practice. The methods identified in this module are carried over for application in Urban Design Issues II.
  • Urban Design Issues II is a continuation of the issues and methods defined and identified in Urban Design Issues I. The specific topic covered reflects current concerns, but could include coding and briefing for local identity, community design involvement, designing for distinctiveness or applying good urban design in relation to modern economic practice. This module will normally involve an overseas and/or UK field visit. You will produce a group report that addresses the issue(s) and uses the methods identified in the module Urban Design Issues I. The group report will contain individual student inputs in the form of individual chapters or papers as part of the overall group report. You will receive both a group and an individual mark.
  • Urban Design Development Seminars consists of a set of specialist topic seminars. The topics will vary, but will normally cover such subjects as coding and briefing, issues of local identity, urban landscape design, movement and mobility, and globalisation and design.
  • Research Methods in Design aims to advance your knowledge and understanding of research methods available to architects and urban designers. It presents illustrations of a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methods and provides a forum for debate about research as well as giving you the opportunity to gain practical research skills. General research strategies are complemented by a focus on urban design specific techniques based on current practice. Through the use of live research within the department, your abilities to evaluate research and the role of research are developed.

The MA stage of the course consists of the following compulsory module:

  • Master's Dissertation comprises a substantial piece of individual research on a topic selected by you and which is appropriate to the field of urban design, and the production of a major dissertation. Building on work carried out during the postgraduate diploma stage, this module will encourage you to develop an enhanced awareness of the importance of an independent and rigorous approach to urban design theory and practice . The dissertation can include a significant design element if appropriate.

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning methods reflect the wide variety of topics and techniques associated with urban design in practice. 

Lectures provide the framework, essential background and knowledge base for the course, while you are encouraged to probe deeper into different topics by further reading and review. 

Analysis, synthesis and application of material introduced in lectures are demonstrated through studio sessions, workshops, seminars and practical project work. Site visits and a fieldwork component are an important component.

Approach to assessment

Modules are assessed by methods that include essays, seminar papers, project work and presentations, workshops and simulations. All the assessment is based on coursework. The assessment methods aim to test not only knowledge but also skills in, for example, research, analysis, specification and design.

Field trips

Alongside field visits to live site for project work, from time to time visits to places of interest to urban design are arranged; if there is sufficient demand, we also organise an international field visit to a city of interest elsewhere in Europe.

In addition, the Society of Urban Design Students (SUDS), also organises ad hoc visits.

Aside from the visits linked to the design modules, all visits are optional, and would be in addition to the main course fee.

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: 2017/18: £7,200 2018/19: £7,340

Home/EU - part time fee: 2017/18: £810 per single module 2018/19: £825 per single module

International - full time: 2017/18: £13,200 2018/19: £13,460

Where part time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by approximately 2% 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

Mid-career candidates with practice experience are encouraged to apply; but the course is open to anyone with a relevant first degree at 2.1 (Hons).  Strong candidates with a lower degree, or no degree but substantial relevant practice experience can also be considered.

Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

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

You apply for this course through UCAS Postgraduate.

Through UCAS Postgraduate, you should use the UKPASS portal to make your application, which will then be forwarded directly to our Admissions Office. You should send supporting documentation to us directly using the email addresses on the UKPASS application form.

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.

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

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.

Research areas and clusters

Staff are engaged in world-leading research which feeds directly into the teaching and studio work. Recent topics include:

  • place-identity
  • heritage led regeneration
  • sustainable cities
  • place-making
  • aesthetic appreciation of buildings, streets and open spaces
  • retrofitting cities
  • community engagement
  • new pedagogy of teaching urban design
  • urban resilience
  • townscape methods
For more information visit Urban Design at Oxford Brookes.