The course

Full-time, Part-time
Course type
Entry date


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The postgraduate course in Urban Strategies and Design is delivered jointly by the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) of the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University.

This course addresses the current need for interdisciplinary knowledge. It encourages the adoption of a comprehensive approach towards the delivery of socially-sustainable urban transformation, from local-specific to strategic metropolitan and regional interventions. Students study the wide and diverse range of social, economic, and political processes that determine the contemporary urban environment, and acquire the tools and skills to propose urban projects of diverse scales and specificities.

The City of Edinburgh offers an urban laboratory for project- and site visit-based exploration of current urban design issues in the UK. Furthermore, the city’s historic 'Geddesian' planning links, and contemporary international links with urban-focused institutions and bodies provide a strong platform from which to support student-led, location-based research projects.

All applications for this course are processed by the University of Edinburgh. Details on how to apply are available through ESALA.

Programme duration

The Urban Strategies and Design course can be studied full-time or part-time. The full-time mode consists of a 12-month course, comprising two taught semesters, and a summer supervised dissertation period. The part-time mode comprises, four taught semesters, undertaken over 24 months, with a summer supervised dissertation period taking place after the fourth taught semester.

Course content

Programme Leader:  Dr Harry Smith

Students will study the courses below. MSc students will complete a Masters dissertation in semester 3.

Semester 1 Semester 2
  • Sustainable Design and Development
  • Urban Design Theory
  • Strategic Spatial Vision Project
  • Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing
  • Urban Project (core)
  • Students choose three courses from a selection of elective courses:
    • African Cities
    • Latin American Cities
    • Planning Law and Development
    • Landscape Science: Ecology
    • History of Landscape Architecture
    • Urban Conservation
    • College of Humanities and Social Science Option (UoE)

Course descriptions

You will find details below on what you will study in each course. For more information, please contact the Programme Leader, Dr Harry Smith.

Sustainable Design and Development

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course 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 gain professional knowledge about urban design principles and practice, including sustainability issues. Subjects in the syllabus include:

Introduction to urban design and housing quality; Critical understanding of the development process including stages in the development process and appreciation of different stakeholder perspectives; Sustainable design, housing quality, place identity and character; Climate, aspect, safety, planting, management; Conservation areas and listed buildings; Market and needs analysis; Developer’s budget, cashflow and financial appraisal; Risk analysis.

Urban Design Theory

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the complexity of urban design principles and processes based on a general awareness of the range of theories which support the discipline of urban design.

The course is based on student reading and presentation of key texts on urban design covering socio-economic perspectives, ecological perspectives, spatial perspectives and imagery. This is complemented by exercises which allow students to develop a more detailed understanding of urban spatial structure and perception of urban space. Through these exercises students will explore the elements which make up the urban structure, and typologies of built form and open space; as well as ideas used in environmental perception including cognition, phenomenology, and spatial analysis techniques such as space syntax.

Strategic Spatial Vision Project

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course is designed to give you skills and knowledge of the complex factors that need to be evaluated when planning the strategic development of an area or region. You will be required to critically study a selected area in depth, to develop a vision for this area and put forward alternative development policies.

In the course you will learn about the meaning and scope of spatial visions and strategies, including their aims and rationale, and their form and content; the notion of the city region as a locus for spatial visions and strategies; the national and international policy context for spatial visions and strategies; the relationships between housing markets, local economies, the role of town centres, transport and accessibility issues, and urban form at city region level; and the development of policies to implement spatial strategies.

Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course 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.

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, will cover the following themes from the perspective of urban design:

Entry requirements

Applications to this programme are managed by the University of Edinburgh.

Get more information on entry requirements.


Additional fees information

Fees for this course can be found through the University of Edinburgh website