MSc Urban Strategies and Design

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. Semester one is taught at Heriot-Watt University, and Semester two is taught at the University of Edinburgh. 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.

September 2024 entry

The deadline for applications from UK students is 30 August 2024. For EU and overseas applicants, we guarantee to consider applications submitted by 2 August 2024.

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
  • Spatial Planning
  • Urban Design Theory
  • Strategic Spatial Vision Project
  • Urban Design for Health and Wellbeing
  • Urban Project (core)
  • Students choose from a selection of elective courses on offer at the University of Edinburgh, including Emergent Cities, Cultural Landscapes and many others.

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.

Spatial Planning

Semester 1 (mandatory)

This course aims to help students to develop a critical understanding of: spatial planning agendas; sectoral and spatial policy frameworks at national, strategic and local levels; legal and ethical frameworks; implementation mechanisms; development management issues; relationships between land and property and planning, including development rights and property rights. The syllabus includes the following subjects: 

Reasons for Planning; Development Planning; Urbanisation and Urban Development; Development and Property Rights; Development Management; Environmental Assessment; Conservation and Globalisation and Urban Transitions.

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.

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