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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.

We live in a rapidly urbanising world. Over 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in cities and this trend predicted to increase over the next 30 years.

The most rapid growth has been within cities in Asia and the Global South and these cities now face critical urban problems and challenges related to over-crowding, congestion, pollution and environmental damage, poor and failing infrastructure, sharpening inequalities in wealth, health and well-being, and issues associated with privatised governance and non-democratic control. Increasingly, national governments and municipal authorities are turning to professionals and practitioners in urban planning and design to help understand, tackle and address these major problems and challenges.

Urban planning and design is fascinating and tackles the challenges of change in a rapidly urbanising world. Our MSc International Planning and Urban Design explores the major problems and dilemmas of global cities within the context of planning and urban design and presents potential solutions through planning and design interventions. There is strong emphasis upon theoretical, methodological and empirical ways of understanding these problems as well as developing the practical and professional skills and competencies necessary to develop and achieve solution.

You will be provided 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, helping you shape your future career in professional practice.

The course is aimed at those wanting a career in the planning or urban design sector or policy environment (for instance, in the public and private sectors, Third Sector or non-governmental organisations) working on urban problems and solutions in an international context. It is also aimed at those wanting to move onto further academic research in planning and urban design.

Distinctive features

  • An international focus, specifically concerned with the major planning challenges faced by cities in Asia and the Global South
  • An introduction to key urban design skills and competencies. This will not only include practical design skills but also the knowledge and understanding of the often complex interaction between urban planning, regulation, policy and urban design, which urban practitioners have to negotiate.
  • An emphasis on the different spatial scales at which urban designers work, from small plots within the existing built fabric, to large planned neighbourhoods on underdeveloped land at the edge of cities.
  • An opportunity to learn not only how to plan and design a site but also how to work within the planning system to ensure that your plans and designs meet the needs of the city and conform to planning regulations.
  • A chance to engage with a range of stakeholders and apply multiple analytical and interpretative approaches to urban problems, as well as collaborate with organisations, governments and socio-economic sectors in different parts of the world.


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.

  • icon-chatGet in touch
  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4022
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3WA

Admissions criteria

Applicants should normally hold a minimum 2:2 degree in Economics, Geography, Planning, Architecture, Sociology, Engineering, Politics and History or have relevant professional experience.

 IELTS offer: 6.5 overall, with 5.5 in each skill area

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 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 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

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
DissertationCPT50860 credits
Site Planning, Design and DevelopmentCPT80520 credits
Planning City FuturesCPT86620 credits
Designing CitiesCPT86720 credits
Urban Theory ProvocationsCPT92520 credits
Research MethodsCPT92620 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Transport and the CityCPT87720 credits
Debates in Eco-City Planning and DevelopmentCPT88420 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

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

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

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.

EU students entering in 2020/21 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. The Welsh Government has not yet confirmed fees and funding for EU students starting in 2021/22. We will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit

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

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.

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.


Master's Excellence Scholarship

This award worth £3000 is open to UK and EU students intending to study one of our taught master’s degrees.

Postgraduate Master’s Finance

If you’re starting your master’s degree in September 2020 or later, you may be able to apply for postgraduate student finance to support your study at Cardiff University.

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2020 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


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