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Urban Design (MA/PGDip)

Course Description

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.

Course content

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.

Core modules

•Sustainable Cities
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.

MA Students only
•Dissertation/Major Project
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.

•Reflective Practice
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.

Option modules

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
•Master Planning
•Urban Design Summer School

Other option modules
•Conservation Policy and Practice
•Environmental Policy, Assessment and Climate Change
•Housing and Regeneration
•Public Participation and Engaging Communities
•Public Realm: significance, design and experience

Other options may be available but not all options are offered in any one year.

Associated careers

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.


At Westminster, we have always believed that your University experience should be designed to enhance your professional life. Today’s organisations need graduates with both good degrees and employability skills, and we are committed to enhancing your graduate employability by ensuring that career development skills are embedded in all courses.

Opportunities for part-time work, placements and work-related learning activities are widely available, and can provide you with extra cash and help you to demonstrate that you have the skills employers are looking for. In London there is a plentiful supply of part-time work – most students at the University of Westminster work part time (or full time during vacations) to help support their studies.

We continue to widen and strengthen our links with employers, involving them in curriculum design and encouraging their participation in other aspects of career education and guidance. Staff take into account the latest data on labour market trends and employers’ requirements to continually improve the service delivered to students.

Visit the Urban Design (MA/PGDip) page on the University of Westminster website for more details!

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.

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