Curved vertical and intersecting steel structure

MSc Spatial Planning and Real Estate Development

Skip to section

    Key information

    Mode of delivery
    Start date
    September, January


    Contact our enquiries team

    Contact us


    Our MSc Spatial Planning and Real Estate Development course provides the foundation, knowledge and skills needed to work as a development surveyor or planner. On completion, graduates will be able to work either in the public or private sectors, advising on the complexities of property development to occupiers, investors, developers and planning authorities.

    The course is designed to build understanding of the complex interactions and uncertainties of the development process. It provides students with the essential knowledge components of economics, valuation, planning, law, and regeneration and sustainability principles. It also develops an appreciation of the skills and tasks inherent in development projects, including community participation, satisfying the statutory planning considerations, undertaking the necessary financial appraisals, and achieving funding to make it happen.

    Our graduates will be able to:

    • draw on a wide perspective to offer a holistic approach to sustainable development
    • demonstrate sophisticated intellectual and research skills proficient for a professional career
    • evaluate complex problems and formulate solutions associated with planning and development issues
    • have a respect for diversity and an appreciation of social inclusion as a goal of planning
    • have an awareness of the role that values and attitudes play in managing change in the built environment
    • have an interdisciplinary perspective that draws on the range of disciplines that contribute to the course

    Degree duration

    Online Learning: The fastest this MSc can be completed is in 2½ years. The maximum completion timeframe is 8 years. On average, most students complete a MSc in 3-4 years.

    Delivery of online degrees

    Our up-to-date and progressive course materials are made available online through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE links you with our expert academics and course materials through videos, webinars, articles, journals, assessments and discussion boards. Tutors will provide you, by phone, Skype or email, with academic support similar to that received by our on-campus students.

    To find out more about time requirements, support and exams, view our How online learning works pages to find out more.

    Course content

    Year 1

    This course is composed of eight core courses at PgDip level. For those looking to complete the course at MSc level a Masters dissertation is also required. Each taught course represents 150 hours of student effort and the dissertation represents 600 hours.

    Degree structure

    • Real Estate Development
    • Spatial Planning
    • Urban Economy and Property Markets
    • Governance, Participation and Community Planning
    • Environmental Planning
    • Strategic Spatial Vision Project
    • Real Estate Appraisal and Finance
    • Research Dissertation (Urban Studies)
    • Real Estate Management and Sustainability
    • Real Estate Investment Analysis
    • Social Sustainability

    Detailed degree guide

    Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills

    • A thorough understanding, application and evaluation of planning, and development appraisal techniques.
    • An appreciation and working knowledge of occupier, investment and development sectors of commercial and residential markets.
    • An awareness of legal and planning frameworks in the context of the built environment.
    • The complexity inherent in the concept of sustainable development and how planners can try to implement the concept.
    • How social and economic issues underpin the planning process and how planners can influence them.
    • Knowledge about historic and predicted changes in the natural and built environment and consequences for planning, including the importance of conservation and design.

    The Programme provides opportunities for learners to achieve the following outcomes:

    • Demonstrate a solid foundation of knowledge in property development, investment analysis, planning and economics;
    • Apply a wide range of scientific and professional skills in academic or business applications of urban real estate management, investment and development;
    • Understand the values, ethics, responsibilities and rules governing surveying and planning; and
    • Formulate and evaluate intellectual and professional problems relevant to the built environment and construct and test original solutions.

    Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

    • A high level of reports in a variety of styles including technical and lay audiences, including the skills of focusing on key points, synthesising, making decisions, concluding and recommending actions.
    • Identification of complex planning and property issues, problems and aims and critical application of appropriate action, techniques and processes to address them constructively.
    • Appraisal and evaluation (after the event) of planning policies, plans, programmes and proposals.
    • Negotiation between varying interests in a property/planning context.
    • Financial appraisal of complex valuation, investment and development scenarios.
    • Professional conduct and an understanding of ethics in the face of conflicting professional pressures.
    • Advanced qualitative and quantitative research into complex planning issues, applying appropriate methods
    • Critical appraisal, research and evaluation of economic, financial and property market trends

    Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    Class sessions: Class contact time on Campus is normally three hours per week for a single course. Each course uses a variety of teaching methods during that time: lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops including computing programmes, debates, guest lectures and case study scenarios of properties and markets. The School encourages the teaching to be as interactive as possible. In a discipline that combines educational and vocational aims, the teaching and learning is often “hands-on” and practical. The linking of theory and practice is critical on this programme, as well as the focus on best practice. HW Online students have access to the on Campus teaching materials including power point presentations and supporting reading.

    Student-led learning: Outside class, the onus is on students to take initiative and responsibility for themselves. There is considerable emphasis on reading and working on assessments. . For professional practice, the emphasis on the individual as well as the team is crucial. Students come on the programme from a variety of disciplines, backgrounds and cultures. The part-time and distance learning students are normally working in property-related jobs . These students are encouraged both formally through coursework and informally to draw from their work experiences.

    VISION, a Virtual Learning Environment the programme is supported by interactive VLE. This platform is used in conjunction with the on-campus learning and teaching experience although it also offers a self-sufficient resource for HW Online students. The VLE provides an opportunity for students to access materials and information and communicate with course leaders and other students, . All study notes are placed on the VLE for access in particular by distance learning students.

    Assessment Policies

    Typically courses are assessed by a combination of examination and coursework. There is a focus on developing knowledge and skills relevant to professional practice which is assessed by a combination of individual reports, essays, and projects, The dissertation assesses higher level research skills, critical thinking and writing capabilities.

    Fees and funding

    Tuition fees

    Tuition fees
    Status Per course [footnote 1] Dissertation/Project [footnote 1]
    UK / EU / Overseas GBP1480 GBP1910
    1. The tuition fees listed are for courses starting between September 2023 and August 2024. Fees normally increase annually. Find out more about our tuition fees.

    Additional fee information

    Financial support

    Tuition fee loans are available to Scottish distance learning students on some taught postgraduate courses. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

    Scholarships and bursaries

    We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Each year, hundreds of students enhance their educational experience through a variety of Heriot-Watt and externally funded scholarships, including opportunities funded by the University's generous alumni community, based all over the world.

    View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

    Entry requirements

    For MSc level entry applicants must have:

    • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in cognate and semi-cognate subject area. Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered.

    For PG Diploma level entry applicants must have:

    • Third class honours degree in a cognate or semi-cognate subject area PLUS 2 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level completed post qualification.
    • Cognate or semi-cognate ordinary degree PLUS 3-4 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level following graduation.
    • Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Admissions and the number of successful applicants will be restricted.

    There is no entry at PG Certificate level except through exceptional agreement with approved learning partners.

    Recognition of Prior Learning

    We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.

    English language requirements

    If English is not the applicant's first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.

    Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree course. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

    We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters course:

    • 20 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with no skill lower than 4.5)
    • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
    • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
    • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)

    Additional information

    Entry dates

    Online Learning students can choose to start their studies in January or September. The January intake is not available to students studying on-campus.


    The degree is suitable for students with an interest in pursuing a career either as a chartered development surveyor or as a planner with a specialism in land and property markets. Such opportunities are available in a range of employers in the private and public sector, including local development and regeneration agencies.

    With strong professional links and a focus on up-to-date industry-relevant content, this course equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to quickly and effectively contribute to the success of their working environment.

    On completion of this course graduates will be able to have a comprehensive and integrated understanding of the property market context and the nature and theory of spatial planning and sustainable development. Graduates can work in a variety of roles in the private and public sectors, both in the UK and abroad or continue research through completion of PhD study.

    Why Heriot-Watt?

    Ranking (Town & Country Planning and Landscape Design, The Times and Sunday Times Complete University Guide 2024)

    We are ranked 2nd in Scotland and 4th in UK for Town & Country Planning and Landscape by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024.

    Ranking (Town & Country Planning and Landscape Design, Complete University Guide 2023)

    We are ranked 2nd in Scotland and 15th in the UK for Town and Country Planning and Landscape Design in the Complete University Guide 2023.

    Flexibility and affordability

    Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

    Your career

    Employers around the world actively seek out our graduates because they are work-ready. All our degrees are career-focused and relevant to the needs of industry. Around 95% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

    Online events

    We host online events throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to speak to our academic teaching staff, meet students, find out what it is like to study using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and discover how to enrol.

    Lifelong connections

    Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK's oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

    Study options Edinburgh - Spatial Planning and Real Estate Development

    Our MSc in Spatial Planning and Real Estate Development is also available to study at our Edinburgh campus.

    We are accredited by the following organisations

    At Heriot-Watt University we develop degrees that are relevant for the world of work. We work with Professional bodies and Institutes to gain appropriate Accreditations and Professional Memberships for your industry. Find out below how this degree aligns to industry.

    RICS logo

    Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

    This graduate apprenticeship is fully accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) meaning that apprentices are on a pathway to becoming Chartered construction professionals. Depending on the individual's career development, this is most likely to be through the Quantity Surveying and Construction pathway or the Project Management pathway.

    Get degree news and updates

    Subscribe now

    Related programmes