• Urban Planning Developing and Trans Regions Banner.jpg

Urban Planning - Developing and Transitional Regions

MSc / PGDip / PGCert

School of the Built Environment

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

The MSc in Urban Planning: Developing and Transitional Regions is concerned with the theory and practice of urban planning in societies undergoing rapid economic, social, technological, environmental and spatial change.

The emphasis of the course is on institutional aspects of planning and management interventions in the urban sector and the scope of various policy instruments and planning modes to manage the emerging spatial patterns, impacts and processes of urban growth.

The MSc is RICS- and RTPI-accredited.

Available start dates

September 2018 / January 2019 / September 2019

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: 12 months, concentrated with modules delivered on two days per week contingent on electives. Compulsory modules are delivered on two days per week.
  • Part time: 24 months, delivered on day-release over two years.

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

  • It is a fully accredited RTPI and RICS course which is viewed as the first choice for urban and development planning training by a range of employers throughout the world - especially governments, local authorities, development and planning consultancies.
  • Benefit from the success of our courses in delivering highly skilled professionals. Our graduates get employment in the private and public sector, international development institutions, NGOs, research institutions and consultancy.
  • Engage with and benefit from teaching staff who are active in research and practice; drawn primarily from the Department of Planning but with some contributions from the wider university community. In REF 2014 69% of our research was rated as either world leading or internationally excellent.
  • Visiting speakers from business and industry, local government, and consultancies and research bodies provide a major contribution to the teaching programme.
  • Study in our newly redeveloped Headington campus, ultra modern spaces and facilities in Abercrombie building and John Henry Brookes building; access to top of the range studios, IT suites and computer programs, library and 24/7 online databases.
  • As well as being one of the world's most famous centres for learning, Oxford is a city with a great urban heritage and is within easy reach of London and other urban centres. Its excellent transport links make it a convenient place to take up a day release part-time course.

Professional accreditation

The MSc Urban Planning: Developing and Transitional Regions is fully accredited by:

  • the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
  • the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). This means that on successful completion of the MSc, graduates can register for the Assessment of Professional Competence procedures of RICS and RTPI and work towards becoming full members.

The course is offered as a master's degree (MSc), a postgraduate diploma (PGDip) or a postgraduate certificate (PGCert).

The MSc course is based on the completion of the following compulsory modules, plus elective specialisations and a 15,000-word master's dissertation.

As courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown below.

Compulsory element (indicative modules):

  • Development and Urbanisation examines the theories, processes and consequences of rapid urbanisation in the developing world within the context of economic development and social change. You will explore the changing paradigms of development - modernisation, growth with equity, market enablement. The emerging spatial distribution of cities and the city-building process is considered, including rural-urban migration and social transformation, and contrasting processes of production and the informal sector in the urban economy. The module reviews concepts such as dependency, basic needs and equity, institutional access and resource distribution, labelling and target groups, urban vulnerability, and gender issues in development. You will also look at the role of the state in development and governance and the role of civil society in new forms of urban management and decentralisation. You will undertake a project involving the preparation of an urbanisation profile for selected countries to explore the practical outcomes of these processes.
  • Urban Land Policy and Urban Management examines the processes of urban land development under conditions of rapid urban growth. The concept and development of land policy are examined. You will address major issues including the development of urban land markets and 'sub-market'/informal processes particularly in relation to low-income housing group needs, land availability and land supply, tenure options, land management, planning and co-ordination, investment recovery, and private sector development. These factors will be considered in the context of the options available to provide affordable and satisfactory housing. Urban management and planning policies, and resources to support rapid urban development, are explored alongside an exploration of new approaches to urban planning. Emphasis is placed on the institutional frameworks.
  • Globalisation: Environment and Development examines globalisation  and global environmental problems and their relationship with the development process. The module reviews theories of globalisation and the structure of the global system; global population growth, global urbanisation and industrialisation trends and policies; the globalisation of trade, aid, investment and debt; the revolution in global transport and communications; the changing role of global institutions; the emerging geopolitics of the post-Cold War era; and a range of global environmental issues. The policy aspects of these various issues will also be examined.
  • Urban Policy in Practice: Programme and Project Implementation provides a practice-based exploration of urban projects and programmes. It covers aspects such as urban policy analysis, feasibility studies, the project cycle, project and programme evaluation (particularly in relation to the housing needs of low-income groups), and implementation resources, together with an understanding of institutional capacity building, community-based organisations and the development of community-led sustainable solutions to the needs of the urban poor, and concepts of affordability and cost recovery.
  • Research Methods develops your knowledge of research methods and methodology. It provides a forum for debate about research as well as giving students the opportunity to gain practical skills. These general research issues are complemented by a focus on policy research. Through the use of examples of ongoing research in the department, your ability to critically evaluate research and the role of researchers is developed. Within the course structure you are able to explore and gain support in research and research design within your own area of specialisation. The module forms an introduction to the dissertation.

MSc students are offered choice and flexibility in terms of specialist elective modules, of which two must be chosen from the following indicative list:

  • Armed Conflict and International Humanitarianism
  • Principles of Environmental Assessment
  • Environmental Management Systems
  • Designing the City
  • World of Refugees
  • International Transport Planning
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment
  • GIS and Environmental Modeling
  • Designing the Neighbourhood
  • Global Institutions
  • Delivering Sustainable Futures
  • Destination and Event Development
  • Statistical Research Using SPSS
  • Independent Study.

Please note that not all electives may be available in any given year.

The PGDip course is based on the completion of the following compulsory modules as in the MSc programme:

  • Development and Urbanisation
  • Urban Land Policy and Urban Management
  • Globalisation: Environment and Development
  • Urban Policy in Practice: Programme and Project Implementation.

A similar choice of two elective modules from the same options as the MSc course is required.

The PGCert is based on the completion of the following compulsory modules as in the MSc course:

  • Development and Urbanisation
  • Urban Land Policy and Urban Management or Independent Study
  • Globalisation: Environment and Development or Independent Study.

Teaching and learning

Learning methods include lectures, directed reading, workshops, seminars, and practical and project work. Some modules include site visits and fieldwork, which provide you with direct experience of practical and current issues.

Teaching is organised on a module-credit basis, each module involving approximately 200 hours of student input and approximately 36 hours of staff contact, normally delivered through three-hour teaching blocks over a 12-week period.

Approach to assessment

Each course module is assessed individually, generally on the quality of written or design work, and to some extent on verbal presentations. Assessment methods may include essays, seminar papers, formal written examinations, in-class tests, project work, design and verbal presentations, workshops, simulations and practical exercises.

Field trips

Field trips include an international field trip to Europe in the autumn plus a range of national and local site and institutional visits especially to London throughout the academic year. Please note that the cost of field trips is not included in the course fees.

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: £3,670 2018/19: £3,740

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

International - part time fee: 2017/18: £6,730 2018/19: £6,860

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 attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities. Applicants are welcome from any relevant academic discipline, and from among those in work and seeking continuing professional development. 

Admission is normally open to those with a good undergraduate honours degree (2.1 or equivalent) or other professional qualifications relevant to planning and development, or an appropriate professional background.

The course provides the opportunity to attain formal academic training and qualifications based on a diversity of professional backgrounds. Applications will also be considered from those who seek to formalise their prior experiential learning or qualifications.

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 6.5 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

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

Not only is the MSc Urban Planning: Developing and Transitional Regions a RICS and RTPI professionally recognised qualification, it is also widely regarded as providing the transferable skills, critical knowledge and understanding necessary in many fields of work in the built and natural environment.

The long-standing reputation of the Department of Planning 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.


Today our alumni can be found in senior positions in some of the largest international planning and environmental consultancies, in government agencies, in large NGOs and campaigning organisations across the globe.

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 highlights

With more than 600 students engaging a wide range of research topics in our undergraduate, postgraduate and research degree programmes, including master's by research, the department is widely recognised as a leading educator in environment, design and development subjects. With a complement of over 60 teaching, administrative, technical and research staff, the department performs a leading role in research and consultancy, with clients and projects covering subjects from local concerns to multinational organisations, government and industry.

Research areas and clusters

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):

Impact Assessment Group: The Impact Assessment Group 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. Our clients include, amongst others, the European Commission, UK Government/Agencies, local government and the commercial sector. (Director: Dr Graham Wood)

Spatial Planning Group: The Spatial Planning Group brings together a wide range of intellectual and policy concerns within spatial planning and cognate fields, both nationally and internationally. Much of its work falls under the heading of sustainable development, with a particular focus on three major areas of study: Planning Thought and Governance; Economic Development, Innovation and Regeneration; and Accessibility, Transportation and Migration. The group 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. (Director: Dr Dave Valler)

Urban Design Group: 
The Urban Design Group is one of the largest UK providers of research expertise in urban design and conservation matters. Our research activity was assessed as being excellent in the 2008 Higher Education Funding Council for England Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). Our clients include, amongst others, UK Government/Agencies, local government, the commercial sector and a number of international agencies, governments and research councils. (Director: Professor Georgia Butina-Watson)

The Department of Planning has 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. There are exciting opportunities for collaborative research, exchanges and study overseas. The department has an impressive list of funders and clients covering UK and EU government, research funding councils, industry and local government.