Urban Design MA
Alternative attendance modes for this course
Courses start in September, unless otherwise stated
View course-specific entry requirements
Applications are invited from graduates with a good Honours degree in architecture, landscape architecture, town planning or another related discipline, together with practical or professional experience in their own field or in urban design. If your first language is not English, you will need an IELTS score of 6.5.
In an increasingly urbanised world, there is growing international demand for urban design graduates. These courses will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to participate in this rapidly expanding profession. Urban design involves shaping the physical setting for life in cities. The pace of urban change, and the challenge of making cities efficient, sustainable and meaningful, demands creative solutions to design and management. The Urban Design courses at Westminster provide a coherent approach to issues that face our cities, combining structured academic study with live design projects, allowing you to develop practical skills, a theoretical understanding and an informed approach to sustainable urban development.
Our Urban Design programme is one of the largest and longest established in the UK. It enjoys an excellent reputation and our graduates are highly respected in the profession. Our students are from a variety of professions and backgrounds, including architecture, landscape architecture and planning, from the UK, Europe, and across the globe. They range from recent graduates seeking to expand their skill base before commencing their career or those considering a shift from an allied profession, to established professionals seeking to specialise or develop a more informed critical approach. Our central London location allows you to interact with a huge variety of practitioners and organisations, as well as drawing on the city's huge range of resources; you will be at the heart of the debate over the future of cities.
The course places a strong emphasis on design, practical outputs and a multidisciplinary approach. While focusing on UK examples, the lessons from the courses are applicable to a wide range of international and economic contexts. This flexible and student-centred approach is highly valued by former graduates and their employers. The course is delivered by staff with many years' experience in practice, education, training, research, and consultancy in the UK and overseas. Outputs from the course combine into a portfolio demonstrating your ability to deal with the complexities of urban design in a practical and informed manner.
The following modules are indicative of what you will study on this course. For more details on course structure and modules, and how you will be taught and assessed, see the full course document.
Core modules (all students)
In this module you will explore the concept of sustainability in urban development in depth. You will examine the role of urban form and land use planning, energy planning, and social and transport infrastructure in developing sustainable cities. You will be introduced to techniques of and undertake a sustainability appraisal. An important aspect of the module is interdisciplinary working and you will examine how different disciplines can contribute to the sustainable development of cities and neighbourhoods.
Urban Design Field Trip
The field trip forms an integral part of the taught course as a whole. It involves a residential field trip normally undertaken over five or six days in a European city. The city has urban forms from a variety of periods and is undergoing growth, enabling the analysis of historic form as well as the investigation of new models. Student feedback over many years has demonstrated that it is a highly valued part of the course.
Urban Design and Development Planning Skills
This is a foundation double module for all postgraduate Urban Design pathways, enabling you to develop the essential skills required in practice. It is built around a site-based exercise with a series of specific tasks relating to various stages of project development. These include area appraisal, strategic framework, design brief, development appraisal and design statement. The module covers urban form, activity and movement, design in the public realm, site planning, development economics and legislative context. Based on practical design projects supported by lectures and workshops, it enables you to gain an insight into the relationship between urban design theory and practice.
Urbanism and Design
In this module you will address the issue of how and why cities look as they do. You will investigate urban form through history, and the module will encourage you to understand how and why particular patterns of development have come into being and why other visionary insights have not. Particular attention is paid to design traditions, philosophies and intentions, past and present. You will be required to critically engage with the topics and to distinguish between the physical manifestations of different types of urbanism.
This module offers you the opportunity to research in-depth topics or issues related to urban design based on primary or desk-based research. The written dissertation is 12-15,000 words in length. Alternatively, you may undertake a major design project that explores a particular issue and is informed by research, including a written report of 5-6,000 words.
In this module you will draw on both formal and informal learning experiences and relate these to practice and professional development. The module complements the research methods module that examines the production of knowledge by looking at the application of knowledge and the role of the expert. The module involves a combination of taught sessions, individual tutorials and group seminars. Sessions will cover: integrating academic study and workplace experience; professional practice and ethical behaviour in the built environment; the concept of reflective practice; thinking critically in workplace situations; and roles, relationships and responsibilities of interdisciplinary teams.
Research Methods and the Built Environment
This module introduces you to research methods and methodologies specific to urban and spatial research, design and planning. You will explore the theory and practice of developing a research framework, with a particular emphasis upon methods, methodologies, and frameworks used within the built environment professions. The module will allow you to begin developing your own research proposal for the Dissertation.
In addition to the core modules, you will choose two option modules, of which at least one must be a subject-specific option module.
Subject-specific option modules
This module provides the opportunity for you to develop strategic proposals formed in the Sustainable Cites module into more fully resolved design propositions. You will explore spatial design and master planning applied, through project-based work, to a large site within the metropolitan or subregional context, and explore in greater detail issues relating to urban design for sustainable development, public realm and transportation. Concepts of building and urban typology are used in the analysis and generation of urban design strategies and the production of detailed planning layouts and design guidelines and codes.
URBAN DESIGN SUMMER SCHOOL
This is a project-based module, organised around a full-time summer school located in a host European city with strong historic and cultural context. The project gives you the opportunity to explore spatial design and master planning applied to a large site within the metropolitan and historic context. You will apply techniques of rapid urban appraisal and generation of urban design strategies. Normally taken by students on the Postgraduate Certificate course, this module is available as an extra cost option to MA and Diploma students.
Other option modules
CONSERVATION POLICY AND PRACTICE
The subjects you will cover include: exploration and evaluation of various planning policy approaches to conservation and enhancement of the built environment; historical and legal background to conservation of the natural and built environments; principle characteristics of building of different periods; the current impact of conservation on planning, tourism regeneration and community development; and the urban morphology of historic built forms in different national contexts.
ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, ASSESSMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE
This module provides you with background knowledge on environmental policy and climate change. It sets out the theoretical framework, and then the international context for sustainable development, energy efficiency and climate change. You will explore the implications for the built environment in a range of development contexts, including analysis of key policy concerns and planning and design responses comparatively across different institutional and cultural contexts. You will also review techniques for assessing the impacts of development, and examine the role that effective environmental strategies and policies in planning and related fields can pursue to reach sustainable development.
HOUSING AND REGENERATION
This module will provide you with an understanding of the relationship between housing, planning and economic development. The module reviews debates about the supply of housing and considers the role of public policy in promoting housing development. You will consider the problems and challenges of concentrations of deprivation, and examine the social, economic, political and environmental factors which shape urban regeneration.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND ENGAGING COMMUNITIES
This module analyses key historical and contemporary debates about participation and community engagement as applied in planning and housing. You will consider the key social science concepts related to community, participation, social capital and governance, and also the legal and procedural powers. The module offers advanced study skills in information selection, referencing, essay planning and critical analysis.
PUBLIC REALM: SIGNIFICANCE, DESIGN AND EXPERIENCE
This module focuses on the public realm from the perspective of urban design and planning. In the module you will have the opportunity to study and write about key theories and debates about public space. These include issues such as inclusion and exclusion, the 'publicness' of public space, identity, experience, movement, green spaces, crime, security and antisocial behaviour and different approaches to management. These are considered in an international context. You will examine practical examples and will undertake a practical project to explore these issues 'on the ground' thereby enhancing your skills in critical evaluation and design appreciation.
Other options may be available but not all options are offered in any one year.
The teaching team includes:
Graduates of this course typically find employment as urban designers in private consultancy or local authorities. Many find the course useful when developing careers in architecture, planning or landscape architecture.
The course gives full RTPI accreditation when combined with an RTPI-accredited spatial planning course.
Length of course
One year full-time; two years part-time
Additional costs information
To check what your tuition fees cover and what you may need to pay for separately, see our What tuition fees cover page.
Urban design has recently emerged as a distinct professional discipline in the United Kingdom and qualified urban designers are in great demand. It overlaps with a number of existing professions and incorporates elements of town planning, architecture, landscape design, urban regeneration, transportation and infrastructure planning. Typically, urban design professionals have initial training in one of these areas and move to the more generalist field of urban design. Postgraduate courses at University of Westminster are designed to support this transition. We seek to help students to respond to the fundamental physical, cultural, social and economic changes that are taking place and to focus on how urban form can best be adapted to our current and future needs.
Our dedicated Career Development Centre is actively working with an ever-expanding network of over 3,000 employers to provide you with exceptional employability support and guidance. As a result we were nominated as finalists for a significant industry award – the NUE Awards Most Improved Commitment to Employability 2016.
We provide our students with work placements and international opportunities to support them in becoming highly employable, globally engaged graduates, and with one million businesses operating within 20 miles of the University of Westminster, over 84% of our students are in work or further study six months after graduation. Our graduates work in a variety of sectors and organisations, from small/medium-sized companies and start-ups to large not-for-profit organisations and corporates.
During your time at Westminster you will be able to use our comprehensive online vacancy service and meet with our experienced careers consultants, providing you with thorough training and support on CV writing, application forms, interview preparation and assessment centres.
In addition to this, you will receive careers support from academic staff and faculty work placement teams, offering targeted course-specific careers advice and assistance in securing a work placement during your time at Westminster. You can find out more about course-specific career opportunities by visiting the Prospects website.
For more details, visit the employability section on our site.
Career Development Centre
Our Career Development Centre can help and support you throughout your study and after graduation.
We can help you to:
- find part-time/vacation, placement and graduate jobs, including voluntary experience
- explore how to develop the skills that employers are looking for
- plan your career development
- identify your career options
- market yourself effectively in CVs, application forms and at interviews
- develop your enterprise skills
We also organise a range of presentations and networking events with employers, professional bodies, alumni and other organisations throughout the year to help you with career planning.
Find out more about the Career Development Centre.
Our Work Placement Teams are based in your Faculty Registry Office and can help you find a suitable placement, as well as support you in making applications, writing CVs and improving your interview technique.
More details on work placements can be found on our Work placements page.
Career options in your subject area
Our team of careers consultants work closely with Faculty departments to deliver tailored employability support, including subject-specific workshops, employer events and careers information, advice and guidance.
Professionally accredited course
The course is recognised by the RTPI as a specialist accredited qualification, allowing those who successfully complete the programme, in addition to an RTPI accredited spatial qualification, to progress towards Chartered Membership of the RTPI.
A flexible professional course
Our urban design our programme is one of the largest and longest established in the UK.
Assessment is 100% coursework. You build a portfolio that demonstrates to future employers your ability across the range of activities undertaken in the profession. Live design project work develops your practical skills for a career in urban design.
The course involves a Field Trip to a European City.
Central London location and contacts
Our central London location provides direct access to professional institutions and practice. The course is informed by current industry priorities.
You will be taught by academic specialists and visiting speakers from practice.
Join a diverse and vibrant student community, with one of the UK's largest international student populations
The practice of urban design is underpinned by a growing knowledge base informed by research. Staff at the University of Westminster are active in expanding this evidence and theory through research and consultancy. This work informs their teaching so you will benefit from the latest developments in the field. Current and recent work include topics such as city identity; public art; the night time economy; sustainable development; urban morphology; uses of the public realm; and community management.
20% of our research in Architecture and the Built Environment was judged as 'World Leading and a further 45% as 'Internationally Excellent' in the Research Excellence Framework 2014. Staff also consult for government, private sector and charitable organisations.
Study at the newly refurbished Marylebone Campus, where a £20million development has provided world-class facilities.
Study in the city
If you study at the University of Westminster, everything that London has to offer is on your doorstep.
Our central London campuses are ideally located for the city's fantastic learning institutions including libraries, archives and museums, as well as opportunities for shopping, eating out, enjoying London's nightlife or just simply relaxing.
After choosing your course, one of your biggest decisions will be where to live, and we aim to make that choice as easy as possible. Whether you want to apply for our Halls of Residence or live in private housing, we can help you to find the right accommodation.
Fees, funding, bursaries and scholarships
In recent years the University of Westminster's scholarship scheme has been the largest university scholarships scheme in the UK, and our Scholarships Department won the Times Higher Education inaugural Award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students.
All students on courses of a year or more and who are registered for more than three modules will be allocated a personal tutor.
Your personal tutor will be there to support you from induction onwards, helping you to integrate into the University, academically and socially, at an early stage. They will be able to give you advice and support on academic and personal matters affecting your study, as well as developmental advice through regular individual and group tutorials.
Polylang is a University-wide programme through which you can study a language as a free choice module.
Personal advice and counselling
While most students overcome any problems with help from friends, family or a personal tutor, the University's free counselling and advice services are there if you need them.
With one of the UK's largest international student populations, the University of Westminster has plenty of experience in giving you the help and support you need to make the most of your time with us.
Study Abroad and Summer School programmes
Westminster's Study Abroad programme has been running for more than 15 years, and is one of the largest in the UK – each year we welcome hundreds of visiting students from universities all over the world.
If you are already studying outside the UK, the programme offers you the opportunity to study with us for one or two semesters, or for a period in the summer.
Sport and recreation
The University has extensive sport and recreation facilities, with a sports hall and gym at Harrow, a state-of-the-art gym at Regent Campus, and the University sports ground by the River Thames at Chiswick.
University of Westminster Students' Union (UWSU) aims to make sure you have the best university experience possible by providing a range of activities and support, from sports clubs to society groups, educational advice and social events.
Darshana Gothi Chauhan
Current employer: London Borough of Hackney
Current job title: Senior Urban Design Officer, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster
Why did you choose to study in the UK?
Many standards used in architecture and planning in India have been adopted from the British system and the prospect of learning these in detail, as well as getting access to a rich source of knowledge and best practices, helped me narrow my search to the UK.
Why did you choose to study at Westminster?
The University of Westminster is a very well established university founded initially as a Polytechnic in 1838. High education standards, a good mix of students from all over the world, prime location in the heart of London, very comfortable accommodation facilities at the University of Westminster, ticked all the boxes.
The University of Westminster has a fantastic scholarship program. My scholarship covered my tuition fees, accommodation, a monthly stipend and flight expenses. Most of all it gave me a life changing opportunity and an international platform to realise my potential.
What did you like about the Urban Design MA course?
The modules offered on the University of Westminster's Urban Design course were a good combination of academic and practical approaches. Study tours to Europe and other parts of the UK were well guided and structured to make the best of outdoor and indoor learning experiences. The tutors at the University made sure that international students were given appropriate support to cover aspects not taught previously in graduate courses in their respective countries.
Nearly half the students on my course were working professionals and came from a variety of nationalities. This opened up the prospect of networking with practising professionals and learning more about different cultures and their experiences.
How did the course at Westminster help you progress in your career?
The course was practical and competitive enough to help get assimilated in the job market in tough times. On graduating, I worked in India and Bhutan for a year. During this time, I utilised work done for my master's dissertation to initiate participatory planning methodologies in Pune while working with an International organisation called INTBAU. This is just an example that even academic work done at the university was of a reasonable standard to take forward in live projects.
What does your current role involve?
After gaining experience in the private sector for a few years, I now work as the Senior Urban Design Officer for a government local authority in London. My current role involves advising on emerging design policies, promoting and negotiating high quality design for major planning applications and working on strategic urban design frameworks for the borough.
I have maintained close links with the University of Westminster as I enjoy teaching on their Masters courses in Urban Design and International Planning. With committed support and funding from the University, I have been successfully running the University of Westminster International Design Competition for the last four years. For the year 2015-16, we have launched the competition brief to over 230 architecture colleges in India as a collective challenge to transform 100 disused public spaces by the first anniversary of the Clean India Mission.
Vikramjit Singh Bharaj
Why did you choose to study at Westminster?
I had completed my Bachelors in Architecture from India and heading for a Masters degree in the West was my dream. Choosing the University of Westminster was not an easy decision. I based this decision on the quality of education being taught on the course. Being from New Delhi, India, I wanted to be sure that the course was relevant and knowledge gained could be "applied" back home.
Another factor of choice was the location of the university in the heart of London .This would give me an opportunity to experience the metropolitan every day and I was very happy with this decision. The UK and India are very different worlds. I had a wonderful time meeting people of different cultures, valuing different things, and it was interesting to see that this feeling was mutual.
What did you like about the Urban Design MA course?
On an academic level, professors were easily approachable and communication was simple. Quality interaction and discussion with my tutors broadened my outlook of the subject. Support for international students was well organised and teachers took extra effort to help.
How did the course at Westminster help you progress in your career?
The course has definitely benefitted me a lot. Not only in securing a good job, but also to have a better sense of the subject. With a professional knowledge and approach, not only have I gained respect in the profession but also am filled with a sense of achievement.
Today's recession-prone working environment demands constant innovation and updating of current professional practices. With this course I could "tap into" the correct sources to gain insights into latest development in my field as I continue to work in the field of architecture and the built environment.
Architecture and Interiors - why Westminster?
Architecture and the Built Environment
We are one of the country's leading centres for the study of Architecture and the Built Environment, covering the core subject areas that address the future shape of our cities.