MA-Postgraduate Diploma Town and Country Planning

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  • Objectives
    -To provide a coherent programme of advanced study in spatial planning, firmly underpinned by staff, research, consultancy and scholarship -To provide an inspirational programme of learning, strongly linked to practice, which enables students to become effective, professionally qualified spatial planners -To integrate the core ideas of the 'New Vision for Planning' -To offer varied study pattern opportunities ranging from full-time to flexible part-time modes in order to broaden access -To ensure the programme reflects the needs of those students in employment and is sensitive and responsive to the particular opportunities and difficulties involved in part-time study -To provide for specialised studies in planning at an advanced level, building upon the basis of a general core of planning knowledge and skills and responding to the RTPI's new vision and the policy statement on Initial Planning Education -To provide a programme which encourages students to develop the capacity for independent and critical thought and action – the critical thinking about space and place seen as central to the new vision
  • Entry requirements
    We normally require an honours degree of 2:2 or above. We welcome applications from students without the conventional entrance requirements but who do have substantial relevant work or other experience and whose motivation and skills would enable them to succeed on the course. This course mainly focuses on UK policy and practice, and it may therefore be less suitable for international students intending to return to work in their home countries.
  • Academic title
    MA/Postgraduate Diploma Town and Country Planning
  • Course description

    Planning offers the opportunity for a fascinating career in a field where there is currently a shortage of qualified professionals. This course offers postgraduates the opportunity to gain the required RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) accredited qualification at a long-established centre of recognised teaching excellence in this field.

    This is an intensive postgraduate conversion course.

    The Master's degree comprises 180 credits, and may be completed in 12 months full time or 24 months part time. The MA is recognised by the RTPI as a 'Combined Planning Programme' and it meets all the academic requirements for Corporate Membership (MRTPI). The Postgraduate Diploma is recognised by the RTPI as a 'Spatial Planning Programme' and meets the academic requirements for membership if you have also got an RTPI recognised 'Specialist Planning' Master's.

    There are a number of generous ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) bursaries for full-time students on this course - see below.

    New vision for Planning
    Planning has seldom been higher in the public and Government agendas, and the profession is developing from its current primary role of regulating land-use, to a more strategic role of co-ordinating spatial planning to meet the Government's objective of creating and maintaining 'sustainable communities'. In response to this change, and in concert with the ODPM, the RTPI has developed a 'New Vision for Planning' with four strands:

    Manage the competing uses for space to create places that are valued and have identity.

    Integrate and mediate between the often conflicting objectives of economic development, social justice and inclusion, environmental integrity and integrated transport.


    Consider issues beyond land-use, such as inequalities in health and education, energy policy, urban design and the rural economy.

    Aim to reduce social and spatial inequalities, and meet the expectations and aspirations of communities for greater influence over the impact of development and the quality of the environment. Planning cannot always be achieved through consensus, so clear and equitable decision making is essential.

    Benefits of study at Bristol UWE include:

    -A well established Planning School with highest quality teaching
    -Faculty scholarships may be available to complete the dissertation for students who wish to gain the full MA
    -Opportunities for specialisation, including urban design, transport planning, European planning, and urban and rural regeneration
    -Modern purpose-built accommodation, excellent library, and postgraduate facilities
    -Good public transport and road access to the Frenchay Campus
    -Supportive staff with wide ranging research interests, so that the course is underpinned by the research and consultancy undertaken by the Faculty's Research Centres
    -The opportunity to study either full time or part time, and the flexibility to switch from one to the other

    In short, a stimulating and supportive learning environment.

    The course is arranged around four streams, each of which is covered in two modules:

    -Spatial Change:
    Society and Nature
    Spatial Interactions

    -Policy and Place:
    Planning and Design
    Strategic Planning and Policymaking

    -Planning Process and Theory:
    Planning Law and Decision Process
    Theory and Philosophy of Spatial Planning

    -Research and Specialism - two from:
    Urban Design
    Transport Planning
    Urban and Rural Regeneration
    European Planning

    Spatial change
    Society and Nature establishes the broad context, including the economics of land, the finance of real estate development, processes of social change and natural environmental systems. Spatial Interactions starts to consider the interventions of public policy and spatial planning, looking at activity and land use relationships.

    Policy and Place
    Planning and Design quality looks at intervention in pursuance of quality design. Strategic Planning and Policymaking considers the master planning of major urban areas with particular reference to the integration of transport, land use and design in a sustainable manner.

    Process and Theory
    The first focus of this stream, Planning Law and Decision Process, is on the process side of spatial interactions, policy making and implementation. It has a particular emphasis on development management (control) but also looks at the monitoring and 'quality control' aspects of the public policy process, including 'best value'. The second focus of the stream is in the module Theory and Philosophy of Spatial Planning, which examines the nature of, and justification for, spatial planning. What sort of activity is it (or ought it to be) and is the state justified in such intervention, and if so, what should be the main aims or purposes of spatial planning? This stream helps place the other modules into the context of planning theory and philosophy, because (as set out in the RTPI Policy Statement) 'an understanding of spatial planning should consider planning as an activity of society' seeking to balance various policy objectives such as equity, environmental quality and individual and market aspirations.

    Research and Specialism

    This stream introduces you to the principles and practices of research, 'Research for Policy and Practice', which then provides a platform for study of a specialism option and subsequently the Dissertation based on the specialism. You can choose one specialism option from the following:

    -Urban Design
    -Transport Planning
    -Urban and Rural Regeneration
    -European Planning

    The majority of assessment is by coursework, but there are also some examinations. Overall assessment is by credit for each module, so flexible patterns of studying can be arranged.

    Pattern and duration of study
    Full-time students attend classes for two whole days each week during term time over one year. With tutoring, reading and cross-faculty lectures on top of this, you should realistically expect to be occupied all week with your studies. Full time students will find it hard to combine study with paid work. All students are required to attend the two-day induction sessions at the start of the course. Both full and part-time students will spend the summer term working on their dissertations.

    Part-time students attend classes for two whole days a fortnight during term over two years.

    It is possible to switch your mode of study if your circumstances or commitments change.


    Five of the modules include a project. These are designed to integrate the wide range of subject matter and professional skills within the module, and with the content of other modules as appropriate. The projects address spatial planning at different scales, from strategic down to small or local area. The order in which the modules are studied ensures that you can draw on the knowledge and skills from other modules as appropriate to the project.

    In the first part of the course, you will undertake projects dealing with a mixed use urban development proposal, small area/scale design and the development control process for an individual site proposal. In the second part, projects will focus on the strategic scale of a town or city and its rural hinterland and a city/major urban centre. All projects require you to be aware of the links between context, policy making, implementation and evaluation. However, some of the projects put greater emphasis on the process and implementation of planning (for example in Planning Law and Decision Process). While others have a stronger emphasis on policy making (for example in Planning and Design Quality) or evaluation (for example, in the module Strategic Planning and Policy Making).

    Modules are regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant, so some of them may change before the course starts or whilst you are on it, but the overall aims and broad content of the course will remain the same.

    The Graduate School

    The Faculty's Graduate School was established in 2005. Its main purpose is to foster an active graduate community, encompassing students on postgraduate taught courses and students undertaking research degrees. There are currently around 700 postgraduate students (400 attending and 300 distance learning) on taught courses, and about 40 postgraduate research students. The Graduate School has dedicated space in the Faculty's building on the main campus, with teaching accommodation, a kitchen and informal areas. The work of the Graduate School is based on the Faculty's extensive research programmes, and on the innovativeness and high quality of its teaching. Student advisers for all postgraduate courses are located in the Graduate School Office, and they are your first point of contact if you have any problems or need information. The Student Handbook is also an essential source of information.

    You may also use the well equipped laboratories for concrete and environmental services, environmental physics, earth sciences, spatial analysis (including mapping and Geographical Information Systems) and surveying technology, each with specialist technicians supporting both teaching and research. An audio-visual group provides support for photography, digital imaging, filming and sound recording.

    The Faculty has invested in online and offline computer-based resources to support modules, and especially those offered by distance learning. You also have access to a vast number of journals and databases online through the Bristol UWE library. The library and some computer labs on campus are open 24 hours, and the Faculty's suite of computer rooms supports software for word processing, data analysis, spatial analysis, computer aided design and other specialist software required by our students.

    Bristol Planning Law and Policy Conference - free places
    The Bristol Planning Law and Policy Conference is an important event for planners and lawyers practising in planning law. The organising committee, which comprises the UWE Short Course Programme and the firms Clarke Willmott, Terence O’Rourke, Bryan Smith Associates and King Sturge, have decided to offer a limited number of free places for people who are strongly motivated to attend the conference, but because they are currently studying or have other financial difficulties are unable to attend unless financial assistance is available. If you would like to be considered for a free place, please write to Sandra Manley, Short Course Director, Faculty of Environment and Technology, Bristol UWE, Frenchay Campus, Coldharbour Lane, Bristol, BS16 1QY explaining why you would benefit from attendance at the conference and outlining your circumstances or personal commitments.

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