Urban Design (MA)

Run in conjunction with the Welsh School of Architecture, this course enables students to learn by deploying design, theory, and development and design control practices, which inform urban design processes.

MA in Urban Design

The MA Urban Design will enable you to learn through design, gain familiarity with theory, undertake research and study development and design control processes, all of which are intrinsic to the discipline of urban design.

Urban design is a discipline that sits between a number of built environment areas of knowledge including urban policy, architectural design, landscape design and property valuation.

Designed to be policy-relevant and practice-related, the course allows you to develop close links with organisations involved in the design and regeneration of our urban areas and practitioners will assist you through tutoring, presentations and as key sources in your research work. These organisations include leading urban design practices in the UK and beyond, Design Commission for Wales, and Local authorities. These links are also helpful bridges for your understanding of the range of possible urban design career opportunities.

Studio teaching is built around development sites in real contexts to develop creative, practical and sustainable solutions to a range of urban design problems.

Distinctive features

  • The course is taught via lectures, workshops and design studios, by staff drawn from both the architecture and planning schools, who are leading experts in their fields. Design Tutors include leading practitioners who bring their experience of cutting edge practice to the core of design studio work.
  • The course is recognised by the Royal Town Planning Institute as a 'specialist' masters for those who have completed at least a three year RTPI recognised undergraduate spatial planning degree, allowing completion of the RTPI's educational requirements for membership. For further details visit the Royal Town Planning Institute website.
  • Accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), allowing completion of the educational requirement for RICS membership.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration1 year
Admission Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

Academic Criteria: A First or Second Class Honours degree, or equivalent, in an appropriate subject is usually required. We welcome applications from those with degrees in design, architecture, planning, landscape architecture, civil engineering. However, where qualifications are 2:1 and above (or equivalent), other subjects will also be considered.

English Language Requirements: For students whose first language is not English, a minimum standard in English language of either IELTS total score 6.5 (no sub-score may be below 5.5) or the equivalent.

Pre-course English Language tuition is available.

If your offer to study at Cardiff University is conditional on IELTS, we recommend that you take the ‘IELTS for UKVI’ test at an approved centre. This will give you greater flexibility regarding how to meet the English Language conditions of your offer. Please note that ‘IELTS for UKVI’ is the only test outside the UK that can be accepted for entry to Pre-sessional English Language programmes.

Personal Statement

The application form requires you to write a personal statement in support of your application. It is very important to us that you provide the reasons for wanting to study urban design, and what your experience of urban design is.

  • Tell us why you want to study urban design.
  • Tell us whether and how you have dealt with urban design issues within your previous studies.
  • Tell us about any work experience that you have.

If you don't tell us why you want to study urban design in particular it is unlikely that your application will be successful.

Reference Letters

You should submit one reference letter.

This is a one year full-time degree.

The course is structured to provide a set of three lecture-based modules and three studio-based design modules, followed by a dissertation in the form of a research-based design project. The three lecture-based modules run in parallel with studio-based design projects which enable you to put theoretical knowledge into practice.

Your research-based design project is the culmination of your studies. You will be required to prepare a design relating to a chosen site, demonstrating an understanding of all aspects of urban design through a set of drawings and written commentary. This will be carried out as a studio-based activity.

You will have between 2-3 days of contact time each week, working between the design studio and your module lectures/seminars. 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by July 2017.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Urban Design ThinkersCPT77120 credits
Urban Design FoundationCPT85210 credits
Research Methods and TechniquesCPT85310 credits
Development ManagementCPT89720 credits
Autumn StudioCPT91030 credits
Spring StudioCPT91130 credits
Research Based Design ProjectCPT85460 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

Teaching takes place in new light-filled studio spaces in the centre of the City. You will also have access to the latest modelling and workshop facilities in the Architecture School.

This programme enables you to learn by deploying design, theory, development, and design control practices, all of which inform urban design processes.

Studio teaching is built around development sites in real contexts to develop creative, practical and sustainable solutions to a range of typical urban design problems.

Urban design is a discipline that sits between a number of built environment areas of knowledge including urban policy, architectural design, landscape design and property valuation.

This MA is taught via lectures, workshops and design studios, by a teaching team who are experts in their fields, which include the areas mentioned above. Design Tutors are often leading practitioners who bring their experience of cutting edge practice to the core of design studio work.

How will I be supported?

You will have one-to-one weekly tutorials and guidance sessions with your allocated design tutor, and module leaders will also be available to provide advice. Group and individual tutorials are also used extensively for the non-design modules.

For the dissertation module and the core module that informs this, you will be required to select a choice of research topic and/or a site for executing a design on. You will be supported throughout by the module leader and by the wider dissertation supervision team.


We offer many and frequent feedback opportunities. Apart from essays and reports, there are seminars where you will be are required to present and discuss what you have learnt, and design review sessions, where design work is pinned up and presented by students, which is then discussed by guest critics, tutors and peers. Within the design modules, you will meet your design tutor every week to discuss progress, usually in one-to-one meetings. 

You will also have access to an allocated personal tutor, module leaders and the Course Director. Our teaching team takes a proactive approach to monitoring student progress.

How will I be assessed?

Non-design modules provide the foundations for developing understandings of urban design. These are assessed through:

  • Essays
  • Reports
  • Presentations

Most of these provide the opportunities for summative assessment. However, tutorials, and a number of essays provide the opportunities for formative assessment.

Summative assessment is conducted at the end of each module. Formative assessment elements include design reviews, usually one or two per design module, and weekly tutorials also provide an opportunity for this.

Other forms of assessment include:

  • Drawings
  • Sketchbooks
  • Viva voce examination of the dissertation
  • Reports

What skills will I practise and develop?

You can expect to deepen your knowledge and understanding of urban economics and politics, and the role of an urban designer, as well as develop the range of relevant skills to begin or further a career in urban design.

These skills are in the areas of: built environment design at a number of scales, graphic communication, urban research, policy research and development, property valuation and community consultation.

Generic skills include those in the areas of:

  • Effective team working
  • Negotiation
  • Time management

Graduates from this programme will be able to:

  • Think three-dimensionally and creatively manipulate space at the intermediate scale between architecture and planning.
  • Analyse the qualities of localities and places and respond to complex and often contradictory community aspirations.
  • Critically appraise development (built and proposed) and make suggestions for improvement, and develop improved policy and control practices.
  • Conceptualise and draw development proposals at the settlement, neighbourhood and block scales.
  • Be able to recognise and add quality in all development situations.
  • Test developments for their sustainability, economic viability and constituency.
  • Understand how to approach implementation through inter-professional and inter-agency collaboration and consensus building.

Graduates move onto careers as urban designers, or in urban design related work. Most of these careers are to be found within the wider areas of architecture, urban planning, property or public policy. These may be within the public, private or voluntary sectors. Some of our graduates continue to higher research degrees.

Guidance and mentoring on careers are provided during the year.

Master's Excellence Scholarships

Scholarships available worth £3,000 each for UK/EU students starting a master’s degree in September 2017.

Find out more

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

What you will need to provide:


Your own laptop/desktop should have the following installed:

  • Autocad or Autocad Map 3D free from Autodesk
  • If Autocad then download free ArcGIS for Autocad
  • Sketchup (free)
  • CityCAD (free)
  • Adobe creative suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) via the Adobe website for students – InDesign allows Photoshop and illustrator types of tasks so minimum mandatory requirement is InDesign.
  • SDNA free from http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/sdna/

Optional software includes Autodesk Revit (BIM) and CityEngine from ESRI.

Drawing equipment

You must have:

  • A4 sketchbook containing good paper
  • Scale rule
  • Fine black felt tip pens (nib sizes from 0.10 upwards)
  • Pencils
  • Tracing paper
  • Butter / layout paper (rolls are good if you can get them).

Useful to have:

  • Coloured markers – most common ones made by Letraset, and are called ‘tria’ markers
  • Craft knife.

What we provide:

  • Two dedicated studio rooms
  • Semi-dedicated lecture room
  • A print room with laptop lockers.

You will have 24-hour access to both the Glamorgan Building and Bute Building.

Computers and printing facilities

  • Dedicated computers located in the studio rooms
  • Large format plotter (A0) and A4/A3 laser printer in a dedicated print room
  • Software installed on computer lab and studio computers includes Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign); Autocad and Autocad Map 3D; Sketchup; and CityCad.

Laser cutter

The Laser Cutter has a queuing system in place. You will need to prepare your files and then submit an appointment request on the FabLab website. It is open to any Architecture School student from 2nd year onwards.


This is equipped with several bench mounted electrical tools including two belt sanders, two disc sanders, two bandsaws, a scroll saw and a pillar drill.

A number of portable electric tools include three drills, a belt sander, orbital sander, planer and router. All these items of equipment may be used by students after induction by the workshop craftsman and a short period of training, which includes specific training in health and safety. There is also a foam cutter.

As part of your studies you will take a field study visit within a UK city or a city in mainland Europe, which is fully funded within the advertised fees.

Study visits are an intrinsic part of this programme. Where your experience during the visits inform assessed assignments in required core modules, the visits are compulsory.

These field study visits are compulsory since experiences of urban design ‘in the field’ are required for completing some assignments. However, modified versions of the field trips may be allowed at the discretion of the Course Director.

The trip will require you to move around the city and make observations and presentations during these journeys. Every effort will be made to accommodate students with disabilities. It is advisable to speak to the Course Director about the possibility of adjustments before enrolling.