MSc Planning and Urban Leadership (Distance Learning)

Entry year
Course code
School of Architecture and Environment
One year full-time; two years part-time
Distance Learning full-time and part-time; September start
Programme leader
Dr Amir Gohar

This course is open for applications

Page last updated 7 December 2023


UWE Bristol's MSc Planning and Urban Leadership is a fully-accredited planning qualification, delivered through distance learning, which allows you to choose when and where you learn.

Accreditations and partnerships:

The course is about creating planning professionals who are visionary, innovative and confident in leading projects and teams. Whether you're looking to make a start in planning-related fields or you already work in the profession, the MSc Planning and Urban Leadership is designed to provide the core planning education and specialism expertise you need to make your mark in these growing sectors.



The course covers a broad range of issues critical to planning. We explore measures for tackling climate change, promoting greater health and wellbeing, smart cities and the role for planning data as well as delivering high quality design. We use case studies from around the globe to illustrate and examine these issues, and promote best practice responses to them.

Students will study the following modules:

Plan Making (30 credits)*

  • Plan Making: An Historical and International Perspective
  • Preparing Plans at Different Spatial Scales
  • Visioning and the Setting of Strategic Goals and Objectives
  • The Role of Evidence in Plan Making 
  • Using Scenarios and Forecasts to Make Plans
  • Identifying and Testing Alternatives Impact Assessment and the Testing of Plan Policies
  • Developing Plans and Proposals Collaboratively
  • Assessing the Deliverability of Plans
  • Testing Plans through relevant Legal Frameworks and Public Examination
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Plans and their Policies.

 Implementation and Design Quality (30 credits)*

  • Decision-Making Processes and Implementation
  • Legislative Context and Obtaining Planning Permission
  • Consultation, Participation and Engagement
  • Development Viability: Collecting and Understanding Market Data, Financing of Development, Appraisal Techniques, Contributions and Obligations
  • Professional Skills: Negotiation, Project Management, Understanding and Creating Plans, and Viability
  • Appeals: Written Statements, Hearings and Inquiries; the Role of the Planning Inspectorate; Understanding how to Produce Evidence and Justify Argument.
  • Understanding and Delivering Good Design

Leading Urban Change (30 credits)*

  • Introduction to Planning as a Profession
  • The Institutional and Legal Frameworks of Planning
  • Delivering Planning in Different Contexts and at a Range of Spatial Scales
  • Governance and Leadership in Planning, including Place-based Leadership for Delivering Urban Change at Different Scales
  • Skills and Competencies for Delivering Effective Urban Leadership - Barriers and Challenges
  • Stakeholders, Sectors and the Role of Other Professional Ggroups in Leading Urban Change
  • Urban Challenges by Global Region
  • The Global City Today, Population Growth and Spatial Development and Promoting Healthier Lifestyles
  • Urban Leadership in Promoting City Resilience and Tackling Climate Change
  • Technology and Innovation in Smarter City Growth - Big Data and the Role for Urban Analytics.

Planning Major Projects (15 credits)

  • Defining Major Development and Nationally-Significant Infrastructure Projects
  • Consenting Major Planning Projects in the UK and Internationally
  • Managing Major Development and Preparing Proposals
  • Assessing the Impact of Major Development
  • Examining and Testing Major Projects
  • Stakeholder and Community Engagement at the Major Project Scale
  • Political Engagement and Leadership
  • Leadership Skills in Delivering Major Development (thereby providing the context to Leading Major Projects).

Leading Major Projects (30 credits)

Two integrated projects will collectively cover:

  • Strategic Site Appraisal / Selection
  • Business Justifications for Major Development
  • Planning Justifications for Major Development
  • Political and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Project Delivery and Financial Viability
  • Project Risk and Delivery
  • Risk Mitigation and Project Management

Strategic Growth and Infrastructure (15 credits)

  • Terminology, Concepts, Definitions and Justifications associated with Strategic Planning
  • Strategic Spatial Planning across Europe: a Comparative Insight
  • Strategic Planning in the UK: Past and Present Perspectives and Attitudes; the Need for Infrastructure
  • Planning and Delivering Large-Scale Housing: Demand and Supply Considerations; Strategic Spatial Options
  • Appraising Strategic Options for Housing Development: Strategic Environmental Assessment
  • Stakeholder Perspectives for Planning and Delivery
  • Delivery tools and Practices for Implementation
  • Regulatory Tools and Procedures for Delivering Nationally Significant Infrastructure.

Dissertation (30 credits)

  • Undertaking a Significant Piece of Individual in-depth Research
  • Define or Select a Research Question and/or Hypothesis 
  • Design an Appropriate Research Strategy to Examine the Chosen Question(s) and/or Hypothesis,
  • Critical Awareness of Methodological Problems
  • Collection, Analysis and Synthesis of Evidence and/or Data
  • Present and Communicate Ideas and Conclusions in a Clear and Accessible Manner
  • Explore and Understand theIssues of Ethics, Validity, Trustworthiness and Reliability in Research.

*These modules will constitute year one for part-time students.

The University continually enhances our offer by responding to feedback from our students and other stakeholders, ensuring the curriculum is kept up to date and our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the real world. This may result in changes to the course. If changes to your course are approved we will inform you.

Learning and Teaching

Our course is delivered entirely online. All of the learning materials you need are available online through our delivery platform, Blackboard, which is linked to the extensive resources in the UWE Bristol Library. You don't need to physically come to our Bristol campus, although you're welcome to to visit us.

As the course is delivered entirely through distance learning, you'll be able to fit your studies around other commitments. You don't even need to live locally as your learning and assessment will take place online. We'll provide you learning materials and you'll have the chance to interact with your course peers on a weekly basis, but you have the flexibility to choose when you want to interact.

Your learning experience will be enhanced by a number of technologies, so that it's as effective and rewarding as traditionally taught courses. We use a Virtual Learning Environment for online interaction and collaboration, and lecture capture is enabled through Panopto meaning you can watch lectures and engage in discussion when you choose to.

The interactive nature of the course means you'll be part of an online community, able to develop ideas and share experiences with your course colleagues, wherever they are in the world.

Skills and practical learning

Our course will support you to develop your skills and knowledge in planning and property practice, including plan and policy creation, planning implementation, decision making, development finance, design, governance, and community engagement. 

Plus, the course includes a number of specialist aspects. You'll  focus on planning for major projects, delivering infrastructure, creating new communities and managing strategic change. This creates a distinctive and valuable specialism for you to take forward into practice.

See our full glossary of learning and teaching terms.

Study time

The course can be studied either full-time (over one year) or part-time (over two years).

Each 30 credit module consists of approximately 300 hours of study time. For part-time students, the dissertation is spread over two years (although you'll start it formally at the beginning of your second year). So, if you study the part-time course, this equals 1,050 hours per year (300 + 300 + 300 + 150). If you study full-time, this will be 2,100 hours. This includes time spent on coursework, directed self-study, and your dissertation.

Studying part-time allows you to combine study with work, although being in work is not a requirement of our course. Our full-time version is an intensive, yet cost-effective way, of accelerating your studies. If you opt to study with us full-time, any accompanying job that you hold should not exceed 16-hours per week to allow you enough time to study.


We'll assess you through a range of methods including real-world practice scenarios to give you hands-on experience of the situations you'll face in practice. The course materials embed professional skills including report writing, argumentation, communication, negotiation, and technical competences. You will have the opportunity to practice these skills and to develop your own approaches to effectively communicating your ideas to others.

Your dissertation allows you to carry out in-depth research, focusing on a specific planning-related aspect that is of interest to you. You'll be supported on your learning journey by an individual tutor who can advise on matters such as research techniques, application of theory, and write-up structure.

See our full glossary of assessment terms.


Professional accreditation

This course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) as a 'combined' degree, meaning that it satisfies the full educational requirements of the institute and graduates can become licentiate members and progress towards becoming chartered members of the RTPI.

The course is delivered by an accredited Planning School, with a broad range of staff, the majority of whom are professional members of the institute with both practice and academic backgrounds. You'll be taught by widely-published academics, who'll bring the benefit of their own industry experience as well as feeding the latest research directly into your learning.

More information about planning is available from:


You'll have the opportunity to take part in field trips during the year alongside students from other UWE Bristol Planning courses. In recent years the Planning School has visited: Amsterdam, Dublin, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nantes, and Copenhagen, as well as cities in the UK: Cardiff; Bath; London; Birmingham; Edinburgh; and Liverpool. You'll need to cover travel and accommodation expenses yourself.

Study facilities

As a UWE Bristol student, you'll benefit from full access to IT support and online resources, including our learning platform Blackboard, which incorporates lecture capture software (Panopto) and webinar/tutorial opportunities (Collaborate).

You'll also be able to enhance your learning through the vast number of professional and academic journals and databases available online through the UWE Bristol library.

Learn more about UWE Bristol's facilities and resources.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Planning facilities and see what's on offer here for you.


Postgraduate support

Our support includes access to fantastic facilities, study tools and career consultants, plus practical help to access everything from funding to childcare.


A stunning city for student living with all the qualities to make you want to stay.

Sports, societies and activities

There is more to your experience here than study. Choose to make the most of it and try new things.

Health and Wellbeing

We provide support in the way you need it.

Campus and facilities

Discover our campuses and the wealth of facilities provided for our students.


Careers / Further study

The need for planners is growing across the UK as well as globally. The knowledge and skills that you acquire through this course will open-up careers across the planning- related professions, whether in the public, private or third sector. You may also find related opportunities in areas such as housing, development, conservation, environmental management and governance.

Past graduates from the Planning School are now working in a wide range of organisations, including:

  • Aecom
  • Arup
  • Avison Young
  • Crest Nicholson
  • Local Planning Authorities
  • Peter Brett Associates
  • Persimmon
  • Planning Inspectorate
  • Savills
  • Stantec
  • Turley Associates
  • Terence O'Rourke
  • WSP

Get inspired

Our award-winning careers service will develop your employment potential through careers coaching and help you find graduate jobs, placements and global opportunities.

We can also help find local volunteering and community opportunities, provide support for entrepreneurial activity and get you access to employer events. Visit our employability pages to learn more about careers, employers and what our students are doing six months after graduating.


Supplementary fee information

See our funding pages for more information.


Entry requirements

We normally require an honours degree of 2.2 or above.

If you do not meet the above grade requirements but have at least 12 months relevant professional experience and/ or equivalent qualifications, we will consider you on an individual basis.

UWE Bristol's International College

International students who don't meet the academic or English language requirements to study this course can qualify by taking a course to prepare them at our International College.

English Language Requirement

If English is not your first language, you'll need to meet the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and University's minimum English Language requirements such as the International English Language Test (IELTS) overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in each component.

Further details of our English language requirements.

English language support

If you meet the academic requirements, but require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend one of our Pre-Sessional English courses. If you successfully complete the Pre-Sessional course, you can progress onto your chosen degree course without re-taking an IELTS or equivalent.

Read more about our Pre-Sessional English Programme.

How to apply

Read more about postgraduate applications.  

Read more about international applications and key international deadline dates.

For further information

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