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MA in Applied Research in Urban Design by Research

Course Description

This ground-breaking Master’s programme addresses the urban ‘data revolution’ that has transformed our understanding of the associations between ‘built form’ — buildings and how these relate to each other — and happiness, and both mental health and physical health. Urban designers, however, have often struggled to integrate this emerging evidence into their own practice. The principal aim of this Master’s course is to help urban design professionals, civic leaders, developers or investors to better understand this recent research and to apply it to their work.

The course explores ways in which the processes of evidence gathering and community consultation can be integrated successfully into a creative design process – to blend art and science. It will also provide access to a stimulating body of scholarly literature, and to leading researchers and urban thinkers. The course offers a rich exploration of how various research methods can inform better urban design practice. Graduates will learn to be able to assess the quality of research across a range of disciplines, and understand how this evidence is to be interpreted and appropriately applied. Master’s students will achieve improved data literacy (distinguishing, for example, correlation from causation, mediator from moderator) and acquire the skills needed to utilise the insights derived from this research. The course will employ practical case studies to illuminate the process of commissioning and producing reliable and applicable evidence.

The need for applied academic study of these topics is rendered more urgent by the current British demand for a much-increased rate of house building. Given the consistently lower popularity of recently constructed urban space (as compared with most older designs), there is both a desire and a sense of necessity within government and among many involved in urban planning to improve their ability to create urban spaces and buildings that command general support. There is also added pressure to make better policy and planning decisions, reflected in the recent establishment by the UK Government of the ‘What Works Network’ — an initiative to enable government agencies and other organisations to create, share and use high quality evidence for decision-making.

Location of Seminars and Teaching

This programme is London-based and is co-directed by Nicholas Boys Smith, a Senior Research Fellow, director of Create Streets and Government advisor in urban design, Dr Jamie Anderson, a Knowledge Transfer Fellow based at University of Cambridge, and Jonathan Schifferes, an Associate Director at the Royal Society of Arts.

The Seminar Programme

There are ten seminars held in a central London location. Each will feature internationally distinguished scientists, policy-makers, property researchers and urban designers. The seminars will be held in the early evenings to permit the enrolment of working professionals, and each will be followed by a question session and a working dinner, for those who wish to attend, where there is an opportunity to continue the seminar discussion in an informal environment. Tutorials and meetings with supervisors will take place at the University of Buckingham’s London offices in Bloomsbury: 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ.

In addition to the Course Directors, confirmed lecturers include Sir Anthony Seldon (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and co-founder of Action for Happiness); Dr David Halpern (Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team – founded by the Cabinet Office and better known as ‘The Nudge Unit’); Professor Yolande Barnes (Director of World Research at Savills and visiting professor at UCL); Professor Philip Steadman (UCL Energy Institute); Dr Kai Ruggeri (Affiliated Lecturer in Psychology, Director of Studies, Corpus Christi, Cambridge and Director of the Policy Research Group); and David Rudlin (Director of URBED and winner of the Wolfson Economic Prize).

The seminar programme will run from October to spring in the course of the academic year. Click on “Teaching & Assessment” for the seminar dates.

Visit the MA in Applied Research in Urban Design by Research page on the University of Buckingham website for more details!

Student Profiles

Postgraduate first class scholarship - No. of awards TBC

A first class scholarship is available to both home and international students following a taught postgraduate degree at the University. The scholarship will reduce tuition fees by 33%.

Value of Scholarship(s)

% discount


The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who already have a first class honours degree that is recognised to UK standard.

Application Procedure

The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who meet the criteria.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience.

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Recipient: University of Buckingham
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