The course

Full-time, Part-time, Distance learning
Course type
Edinburgh, Online
Entry date

Our Urban and Regional Planning degree is designed to equip you with the knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a professional planner.



Planning guides the future development and use of land. It is about where development should happen, where it should not and how it affects the quality of our surroundings. Urban and regional planning strives to design and deliver equitable, inclusive and sustainable communities where people can live, work and enjoy their leisure time. This involves promoting and facilitating development while
protecting and enhancing the natural and built environment.

Our Urban and Regional Planning degree is designed to equip you with the knowledge and practical skills needed to work as a professional planner. You will develop the ability to ask the right questions and find creative solutions to the challenges facing communities and the built environment.

Flexible study options

This course can be studied full-time, part-time or via Independent Distance Learning (IDL), ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family.

Mode of study Duration Start date
Full-time 1 year September
Part-time 2 years September
Independent Distance Learning (IDL) 2-7 years* January/September

*On average, our Diploma courses studied via IDL are completed in 2-3 years, while the MSc is completed in 2.5-7 years. Most students intend to complete their studies via IDL within 2-3 years.

Career opportunities

This course equips you with the knowledge and skills to work as a professional planner. Our strong links to practitioners and employers are a vital part of developing these skills as well as your network of connections.

Students have the opportunity to engage with industry through guest lecturers, site visits and on research and coursework projects:

  • All students are given the opportunity to have an external mentor who is a local practitioner that provides career guidance and advice.
  • Previous companies who have provided guest lecturers include:
  • Students are given the opportunity to go on a tour of Scotland’s central belt visiting Bo’ness, Helix Park and Stirling. Industry experts attend the tour and share their wealth of knowledge and expertise.
  • Staff and lecturers are actively engaged in a variety of research projects relating to building design, specification, management and operation and have extension knowledge to share.

Industry links

Royal Academy of Engineering This course is delivered by the Royal Academy of Engineering  Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. One of only four Centres established at UK universities and the only one in Scotland, forming a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for the sustainable built environment.

Our students and graduates

6 months after graduation in 2016, 100% of students surveyed from MSc Urban and Regional Planning have secured graduate level jobs across the UK, German and Nigeria.

Employers include:

Hear from some of our graduates:


This course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute which offers excellence links with local employers through their Partnership Board.

Course content

   Detailed course guide

Programme lead: Dr Chris McWilliams

Semester 1: September – December, 3 mandatory modules and one optional module
Semester 2: January – April, 4 mandatory modules and site trip
Semester 3: May – August, Dissertation (MSc students only)

Students are assessed through a combination of examination and coursework:
60% examination
40% coursework

Semester 1 Semester 2

Mandatory modules:

  • Spatial Planning
  • Sustainable Design and Development
  • Planning Theories

Mandatory modules:

  • Strategic Spatial Vision Project
  • Governance Participation and Community Planning
  • Environmental Planning (site trip)
  • Social Sustainability
Optional modules (students will choose one):
  • Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing
  • Technical Networks and Urban Resilience
  • Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation
  • UK and International Housing Policy
  • Real Estate Economics

Semester 1

Spatial Planning


This module introduces concepts of spatial planning at different spatial scales and reflection on the implementation and impact of planning policies.

Sustainable Design and Development


This module aims to help students develop a critical understanding of the complexity of urban and housing design and development, including the importance of people and process. The course will help students to gain professional knowledge about urban design principles and practice, including sustainability issues.

Planning Theories


This module offers critical exploration of the key intellectual debates about planning theory and practice.

Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing


This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the range of social, economic and environmental issues that need to be considered by urban design in order to provide the basis for health and wellbeing. The course addresses issues which build an understanding of what constitutes health in urban environments and what urban design processes and approaches contribute to providing the conditions for health and wellbeing. It covers a range of issues related to socio-economic, community, psychological and physical health.

Delivered through a series of two-week long sessions presenting key fundamental principles and examples of these issues, delivered by experts in each field illustrated with examples.

Technical Networks and Urban Resilience


Students will develop a critical understanding of the governance of urban technical networks (water, energy, waste, transport, information) and their social, spatial and environmental impacts.

Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation


This module will introduce students to issues relating to climate science and future predictions, in addition to legislative requirements and government initiatives to combat climate change. The concepts of carbon, energy and water footprints, environmental impact analyses will be explored, and interests surrounding energy and carbon mitigation, and current thinking in adaptation strategies will also be covered. The use of case studies and/or site visits will be used throughout the course to demonstrate principles and current practice.

UK and International Housing Policy


This module is intended to allow students to develop a broad understanding of and ability to analyse the way that the contemporary housing systems operate both in the UK and internationally.

Real Estate Economics


This module aims to introduce students to an economic analysis of real estate markets. The course will help students to understand land and property markets from an economic perspective; to examine land and property as a set of linked markets and to consider regulatory constraints on real estate in economic terms including planning.

Semester 2

Strategic Spatial Vision Project


This module aims to develop advanced understanding of, and skills in, the preparation and evaluation of spatial visions and strategies and to develop competence in the professional skills of analysis, evaluation and prescription of policy in an urban context.

Governance, Participation and Community Planning


This module aims to develop critical knowledge and understanding of contemporary governance and community planning and the advantages of user participation in the development and delivery of services.

Environmental Planning


This module provides students with an understanding of environmental management within planning systems both in the UK and internationally, within a context of climate change and improving the environmental and social sustainability of cities.

Site trip

Part of the Environmental Planning module, students are given the opportunity to explore numerous locations around Scotland’s Central belt and hear from industry experts The one day trip consists of various stops investigating the environmental planning and impacts on wildlife, quality greenspace and social sustainability and housing. The class are taken on a tour visiting the following locations:

Example of industry experts who you will hear from on the tour:

Read more about the tour in our Storify

Social Sustainability


This course introduces a range of ways of thinking about sustainability and equity spatially and across economies.


Students are assessed through a combination of examination and coursework.

60% examination
40% coursework

PG Diploma students may choose to transfer to the MSc if they meet the following progression standards: average mark of 50% or higher and no course marks below 40%.

Additional programme information

Students are expected to develop through their coursework and dissertation in depth knowledge in one of the following specialisms:

  • Environmental policy and management
  • Urban Design
  • Land and property markets

The course also places importance on the preparation of a personal development plan (PDP) which links the learning experience to wider skills and employability of each student. The PDP is as an integral part of the course.