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International Planning and Urban Design (MSc)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time

Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

This MSc will provide you with a broad education in international planning and a specialism in urban design, enabling you to acquire the knowledge and critical understanding to make a significant contribution to the management and design control processes of cities.


International focus

Concerned with the major planning challenges faced by cities in Asia and the Global South.


Multi-scale exploration

Emphasis on different spatial scales from small plots within existing built fabric to large planned neighbourhoods on underdeveloped land.


Globally connected

Engage with a range of stakeholders and collaborate with organisations, governments and socio-economic sectors around the world.



Develop key urban design skills and competencies alongside robust understanding of the many contexts within which practitioners operate.

The extraordinary effects of urbanisation are now deeply interconnected with many of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Cities around the world recognise that they can no longer ignore the scale of the political, socioeconomic, and environmental problems which often define the urban experience. These impacts – such as the erosion of public spaces, community displacement, traffic congestion, pollution and environmental damage, outdated and failing infrastructure, sharpening inequalities in wealth, health and well-being – are pervasive. Our MSc in International Planning and Urban Design is designed to equip you with the skills needed to analyse, understand, and confront these challenges.

Today, the speed and scope of urbanisation is intertwined with the need for immediate and profound response to the environmental climate crises facing our planet. The work of critical planners and innovative urban designers is now imperative as we seek to overcome the most profound challenges facing humanity: how can we (re)create cities that are responsive to the needs of citizens today whilst ensuring the sustainability of our collective global future?

In response to these immense challenges, national governments, municipal authorities, and communities alike need the help of practitioners of planning and urban design in their quest for the revolutionary reimagining of the possibility of cities. This programme will support you in developing a powerful range of skills and aptitudes for research, design, and critical thinking - tools that are vital for practitioners seeking to engage with communities, developers, politicians, and institutions - to help create healthy, vibrant, and sustainable cities.

We place an emphasis on the theoretical, methodological, and empirical ways of understanding urban problems. You will gain a broad education in international planning and a specialism in urban design, incorporating practical analysis and design skills, techniques for communication and collaboration, and a wide range of essential professional tools. This knowledge and learning experience will empower you with the ambition and confidence to shape a career in urban design and planning as an agent of positive change for our collective future.


Where you'll study

School of Geography and Planning

Join us as we explore and tackle the social, political, economic, development and environmental challenges which affect where and how we live.

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  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4022
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA

Admissions criteria

In order to be considered for an offer for this programme you will need to meet all of the entry requirements. Your application will not be progressed if the information and evidence listed is not provided.

With your online application you will need to provide:

  1. A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts which show you have achieved a 2:2 honours degree in a relevant subject area such as architecture, economics, engineering, geography, planning, politics and history, sociology, or an equivalent international degree. If your degree certificate or result is pending, please upload any interim transcripts or provisional certificates.
  2. A copy of your IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or evidence of an accepted equivalent. Please include the date of your expected test if this qualification is pending. If you have alternative acceptable evidence, such as an undergraduate degree studied in the UK, please supply this in place of an IELTS.

If you do not have a degree in a relevant area, your application may be considered on the basis of your professional experience. A reference must be provided by your employer to evidence that you currently work in an area relevant to the programme. This should be signed, dated and less than six months old at the time you submit your application. 

Application Deadline

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications normally close at the end of August but may close sooner if all places are filled.

Selection process

We will review your application and if you meet all of the entry requirements, we will make you an offer.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

The programme lasts a year. You will take taught modules to the value of 120 credits between October and May, taking 60 credits each semester. On successful completion of the taught stage you will complete a dissertation worth 60 credits between June and September.

The classification of your degree is based on two-thirds of the average grade of the taught modules and one-third of the grade of your dissertation.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/25 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

You will take six taught modules worth 20 credits each. Five of these modules will be core modules. The remaining one will be an optional module from a prescribed list.

You will compete a dissertation based on original research. You will be able to specialise in an area through the optional module and by your dissertation topic, if you wish. You will be advised at the start of the programme on the different specialist areas.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Site Planning, Design and DevelopmentCPT80520 credits
Planning City FuturesCPT86620 credits
Designing CitiesCPT86720 credits
Urban Theory ProvocationsCPT92520 credits
Research MethodsCPT92620 credits
DissertationCPT50860 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.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, seminars, workshops, computer lab and studio work where relevant.

Lectures take a range of forms but generally provide a broad structure for each subject, introduce key concepts, and convey relevant up-to-date information. In seminars you’ll have the opportunity to discuss particular themes or topics, to consolidate and get feedback on your individual learning and to develop skills in oral presentation. In computer lab you will have the opportunity to learn various planning and research methods such as mapping, spatial analysis and statistics depending on the modules you take.

Studio work gives you the opportunity to learn various urban design skills such as site planning, street and neighbourhood level design, preparation and presentation of design boards and the use of urban design software.

You will practise and develop intellectual and presentational skills by participating in diverse learning activities, such as, small-group discussions, debates, oral presentations, independent research tasks and written assignments.  You will also enhance your team-working skills.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed by a combination of coursework (essays and reports), presentations, studio design work, group work and a research dissertation. Each module usually contains more than one piece of assessed work to enable you to develop different academic and professional skills (eg critical writing; report writing; presentation; design; team work).

A typical essay is usually 3000 words in length; a typical report is usually 2000 words in length including analysis; a typical presentation lasts 15-20 minutes. Together, the total written assessment for a module is no more than 4,000 words.

The studio design work typically involves creating A0 size boards and presenting a written or verbal narrative about the design.

The research dissertation is a maximum of 20,000 words.

How will I be supported?

You will be allocated a personal tutor who will help you reflect on your performance on the course and advise you on study techniques, module selection and career planning (in conjunction with the University’s Career Service). They will also provide a first point of contact if you experience any difficulties.

A programme of careers lectures and workshops is delivered within the School

A range of staff are available to provide further support, including a Course Director, Director of Postgraduate Studies, Postgraduate Administrator, specialist IT support and subject librarians. A member of academic staff acts as a designated Disability and Diversity Officer and ensures that reasonable adjustments are made for students with disabilities.

All Modules within the Programme make extensive use of the University’s Virtual Learning Environment, Learning Central, where you can access discussion forums and find course materials including links to teaching and related materials, reading lists and podcasts, and where you submit and access assessed work

There is in-class support for elements of the urban design studio-based teaching

Formative Feedback

Formative feedback is feedback that does not contribute to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of formative feedback is to improve your understanding and learning before you complete your summative assessment. Formative feedback is embedded into all modules and will be provided continuously throughout the year. More specifically, formative feedback helps you to:

  • improve your understanding of the taught material
  • identify your strengths and weaknesses and target areas that need work;
  • help staff to support you and address the problems identified with targeted strategies for improvement.

Summative Feedback

Summative feedback is feedback that contributes to progression or degree classification decisions.  The goal of summative assessment is to indicate how well you have succeeded in meeting the intended learning outcomes of a Module or Programme and will enable you to identify any action required in order to improve. All feedback is directly link to the Module grading / assessment criteria.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On completion of this programme you will demonstrate:

  • a critical understanding of the current and anticipated major problems and challenges faced by global cities and their potential solutions through the planning system and design interventions
  • a critical understanding of theoretical debates, ideological constructions and applications of planning and urban design
  • knowledge of how design fits into the planning process with respect to regulatory and policy frameworks and how this can vary at different spatial scales
  • a critical understanding of planning systems in different countries and taking into account urban dynamics and processes, public policies and regulation, and exploring alternatives and opportunities.

Intellectual Skills:

On completion of this programme you will demonstrate:

  • independent and critical understanding of the multiple interactions between planning, urban design and urban process from a theoretical, methodological and practical point of view
  • advanced skills in independent research and analysis (including formulating and carrying out a critical research agenda)
  • knowledge of quantitative and qualitative methods and associated data management and analysis
  • critical appreciation and interpretation of theoretical debates and empirical data.

Professional Practical Skills:

On completion of this programme you will demonstrate:

  • the ability to analyse the problems of the interface between planning and urban design and begin to identify potential responses and alternatives within policy and regulatory frameworks
  • development in professional and practical skills and competencies in planning and urban design

Transferable/Key Skills:

On completion of this programme you will demonstrate:

  • the ability to organise, analyse and critically present complex ideas and evidence orally and in written form
  • the ability to work independently; the ability to work collaboratively in groups and to plan and conduct empirical research

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £10,700 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £23,450 £2,500

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

Most modules do not come with an additional cost. However, some optional modules may have a compulsory field study visit that you will have to make financial contribution towards. Typical costs in the last year have been around £250 for a UK based trip and around £400 for a European based trip. You will be expected to pay these costs as a requirement of taking the option module. These costs will be made clear at the time at which you select your option modules.

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

What the student should provide:


What the University will provide:

The University will provide access to studio space, materials, computer labs, all the necessary software, printing and copying facilities and library facilities.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.


Master's Scholarships

An award open to UK students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate loans

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2024 or later, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan to support your study at Cardiff University.

Alumni Discount

The alumni discount is available for Cardiff University graduates who are planning to start an eligible master's in 2024/25.

Careers and placements

After the completion of the programme, you will be able to work in a wide range of planning and urban design careers, including jobs in public, private and Third Sector organisations. It can involve policy-making (for instance, on urban and regional planning, urban design, sustainable urban development, housing, transport), consultancy on local and international development, project management, as well as further studies towards an academic career in planning and urban design studies.


You will have the opportunity to base your dissertation research around work place activities, if appropriate. For example, it can be developed in consultancy organisations (e.g. urban design), public authorities or international planning agencies. You are expected to organise placements yourself though we will support you were possible.

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2023 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


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HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.