MSc Urban Design & Planning

Graduate Taught (level 9 nfq, credits 90)

Urban design lies at the interface of architecture and urban planning, with both disciplines contributing complementary but contrasting approaches to urban design theory and practice. This Master’s programme is focused on the role of urban design in the context of urban planning, and is delivered with an emphasis on the distinct methodologies, professional perspectives and pedagogies of that discipline. It provides specialist knowledge and skills in urban design theory and practice, urban conservation; nature-based solutions, and the role of research in design. The programme will enable graduates to work as part of a multidisciplinary team to create better places through urban design. Students will also have the opportunity to draw upon the School’s research expertise to place urban design centre stage in tackling a range of pressing environmental and other issues. The programme will appeal to graduates from closely related disciplinary backgrounds wishing to specialise in urban design, including those with qualifications in architecture, landscape architecture, and planning. Applications will also be considered from graduates with other related disciplinary backgrounds (e.g. geography, engineering, property economics, surveying) where the applicant has a particular interest the specialist area of urban design (as opposed to planning more broadly). 

Curricular information is subject to change

Full Time option suitable for:

Domestic(EEA) applicants: Yes
International (Non EEA) applicants currently residing outside of the EEA Region. Yes

The MSc Urban Design and Planning will be delivered via a mix of: traditional lecture formats, seminars, field-based learning, studio-based teaching (intensive, interactive, practice-based labs), student-led seminars, as well as a thesis, and professional development skills training. Planning and architecture practitioners will be involved in the programme delivery (e.g. attending studio presentations, providing ‘real world’ challenges to inform teaching) to maximize relevance for professional skills development.

Indicative modules are listed below.

Core modules in urban design context and theory provide students with foundation knowledge in urban design.

  • Placemaking*
  • Conservation, History Theory and Politics
  • The Urban Environment: Risk, Resilience and Sustainability
  • Economics and Property Markets (option)**
  • Research and Innovation in the Designed Environment (option)**

Three major studio modules will be undertaken by students to ensure the effective application of knowledge to design challenges. The first will focus on developing a strategy for a small to medium-sized town. The second focuses on applying urban design theory in a practical setting to explore design concepts and urban development processes.

  • Interdisciplinary Studio
  • Urban Design Studio
  • Nature-based Solutions

Core modules in research skills are designed to enable students to undertake an effective Masters thesis, to apply research skills to other modules (e.g. studios), and to act as a foundation for students wishing to pursue PhD study. These modules comprise:

  • Geographical Information Systems for Policy and Planning (option)**
  • Research Design and Methods

An MSc thesis will be undertaken over the summer semester. Graduates will have the opportunity to choose either a traditional research thesis, or to complete the thesis element through preparation of a design thesis. The design thesis option involves the application of research in developing an innovative urban design project appropriate to the site and to the specific complex urban design challenge(s) being investigated and addressed.

Continuing Professional Development Skills will be both embedded into modules (e.g. communication, graphic, research skills) and delivered where appropriate in the form of one-off workshops (e.g. interview/job search skills).


*Graduates of the BA Planning, Geography and Environment programme who register for the MSc Urban Design & Planning, and who have already taken the module Placemaking, will take the modules Introduction to Urban Design in its place.

**Students must select from the indicated elective modules to attain a total of 30 credits in semester 1.


The programme seeks to instil values in graduates that are appropriate to a career in urban design and planning, specifically: a critical, reflective and intellectually confident approach to learning, research and practice; self-motivation; an appreciation of evidence-based solutions and social equity in decision-making; respect for the contrasting and complementary contributions of other specialist areas, professions and the role of the wider public; and a recognition of how these values impact upon practice and upon wider society. While the programme will be of interest primarily to graduates from planning, architecture, landscape architecture backgrounds, it is also aimed at those from other related disciplinary backgrounds wishing to specialise in urban design and planning. It aims to train, mentor and support graduates in developing core, transferable and specialist skills and knowledge in urban design, conservation and sustainable and resilient urbanism, as well as social science research methods applied to the built environment, and will enable graduates to work as part of a multidisciplinary team to create better places through urban design. While interactive lectures and seminars introduce students to key concepts, theory and approaches in urban design and planning, design labs provide experience of working with other disciplines to solve complex urban design problems within the wider context of urban planning. Teaching, learning and assessment approaches include debates and discussions, presentations, case studies, graphic communication, as well as group project work.

  • Appreciate the relevance of societal diversity and equality of opportunity in stakeholder involvement, and in urban design policymaking and practice more generally.
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to apply concepts, theory and research skills to generate integrated and evidence-based responses to urban design and planning challenges, including those associated with environmental risks and urban resilience.
  • Demonstrate an appreciation of multidisciplinary research in urban design, planning, environmental policy, and related fields, exhibit skills as autonomous researchers, and recognize the value of research in enhancing urban design policy and practice.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the challenges, responsibilities and diverse consequences of design and development decisions, an openness to critically evaluate, debate and reflect on these, and an appreciation of the importance of values, ethics and professionalism in urban design.
  • Demonstrate effective research, analytical, evaluative and design skills, and the ability to rigorously formulate and propose robust evidence-based strategies and solutions in response to urban design problems at a range of urban spatial scales.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of urban design activity within the context of political, institutional, and legal frameworks, and understand its wider physical, environmental, economic, social, and cultural context, and its relationship with spatial planning in contributing to sustainable urban development.
  • Demonstrate personal and time management skills, and the ability to work effectively both on their own and as part of a team in a multidisciplinary context.
  • Effectively and fluently communicate concepts, knowledge, conclusions and arguments through verbal, written and advanced graphic means, to peers, specialist and non-specialist audiences within a multidisciplinary environment.

The MSc Urban Design and Planning is aimed at graduates from a variety of disciplinary and professional backgrounds wishing to specialise in urban design and planning. The programme is therefore designed to train, mentor and support graduates in developing their specialist knowledge and understanding, along with transferable skills and tools, for careers related to the field. These include roles in the public, private and community sectors, including planning and urban design consultancies, local authorities, development firms, regeneration companies, environmental and other NGOs, as well as research and teaching.

MSc Urban Design & Planning (W332) Full Time
EU          fee per year - € 7885
nonEU    fee per year - € 19900

***Fees are subject to change

Please note that UCD offers a number of graduate scholarships for full-time, self-funding international students, holding an offer of a place on a UCD graduate degree programme. For further information please see

The College of Engineering & Architecture also offer scholarships for non-EU students, for more information see:

This programme is accredited as a specialist qualification by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

  • An honours undergraduate degree (NFQ level 8) with a minimum upper second class honours or international equivalent in planning or cognate discipline, including architecture and landscape architecture. Applications from graduates with a degree in another related subject area will also be considered, including geography, engineering, property economics, and surveying.
  • Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate English language proficiency of IELTS 6.5 (no band less than 6.0 in each element), or equivalent.
  • These are the minimum entry requirements – additional criteria may be requested for some programmes 

Graduate Profile - Christophe Teevan, Cairn PLC

I found the greatest strength of this masters was that it provided a good balance between theoretical and practical learning. The studio modules are a great way of learning how to apply theory to the design process. The course was further enhanced by studio input and guest lectures from practicing planners and architects. UCD is a great learning environment as many of the classes are multidisciplinary and allow for peer to peer learning between planners, architects and landscape architects. There are also a variety of specialties amongst the faculty which is a great asset to the university. I felt this gave me wide range of opportunities when it came to choosing my thesis topic in the final term.

Since graduating I have been working on the planning and design team at a housing development company in Dublin. I would highly recommend this programme to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of urban design and planning while gaining the skills necessary to contribute effectively to a professional design team.

The following entry routes are available:

MSc Urban Design & Planning FT (W332)
1 Years
Full Time
Rolling *

* Courses will remain open until such time as all places have been filled, therefore early application is advised