MSc Planning Major Projects

Entry year
Course code
Geography and Environmental Management
One year
Full-time; individual modules can be taken as CPD
Programme leader
Nicholas Smith

Please note that new student recruitment to this course has been suspended for the September 2020 intake. Applications for 2021 should be made from October 2020. If you would like information about our alternative courses, please visit our Geography and Environmental Management page.

Page last updated 16 July 2020


A unique course that develops skills and knowledge in the planning, design and delivery of major development and infrastructure projects through a programme that is flexible and outward looking.

Accreditations and partnerships:

As the population of the UK continues to expand, it is becoming necessary for towns and cities to make ambitious plans for delivering both growth and infrastructure.  This course explores the transition of these strategic goals into the planning, design and appraisal of major projects. These projects encompass all development sectors and include projects relating to transport, energy, utilities, and the environment. They also extend to encompass the type of large-scale housing, commercial and retail projects that environments are increasingly having to support.

By applying theory to practice, the course provides an opportunity to develop a strong understanding of the innovations and practices that are necessary to take a project from idea to reality. The course explores the key consenting regimes that projects have to pass through and the steps that urban planners, developers and examining teams have to consider. As such, you will gain extended knowledge of procedures surrounding environmental appraisal, political and community engagement, and design review.

You will gain an appreciation of the policy context surrounding urban development and infrastructure across the UK and beyond. Additionally, you will acquire specialist knowledge, skills and competencies to help with the facilitation of development projects in a sector that is expanding.

Specialist skills for today's world

Large-scale projects tend to be long-term, complex and often contentious. The industry expects professionals to have the skills, confidence and vision to make thesemajor projects happen. This course will equip you with these skills, fromcommunication and leadership to negotiation and project management, enabling you to be ready to take on the industry's challenges.

The course is suitable for graduates keen to explore, and develop a specialism, in the major projects sector. It is particularly suited to those who have studied, or are practising, urban planning. However, the breadth of the course also makes it suitable for graduates from other degree paths and will provide opportunities for individual interests to be pursued (for example: from the application of good design to environmental protection).

Some of the modules will be offered individually as units of CPD which will be beneficial for people in related areas who have a need to understand the field more fully, such as marketing professionals and environmental assessors.

Engaging with Bristol's rich planning sector

The course will use development case studies throughout to identify and explore some of the major projects that are being designed and delivered today. Learning material will require you to study a selection of projects in depth, thereby helping to draw out, and encourage reflection, on key areas of innovation and best practice (such as the application of sustainable building design). Your experience will be enhanced by site visits, real-life project briefs and presentations from experts in the field.

Bristol is the home of the Planning Inspectorate that has a considerable stake in the appraisal of plans and projects, and the urban planning sector, more generally. The course is therefore well positioned to take advantage of the considerable body of knowledge and expertise that exists in the city. The course also benefits from Bristol's rich urban planning sector that has a highly developed network of consultancies covering each of the key stages of project planning. Many of these companies have international portfolios, providing specialist advice in planning and development, environmental law, public relations, design and marketing.

The city is host to a number of bodies that initiate major projects as well as a range of development and engineering companies, which creates potential opportunities for graduates of the MSc Planning Major Projects. Example companies include Burges Salmon, Arup, Atkins, Aecom, Barton Wilmore, Land Use Consultants and the PPS Group.

The course will work with other key partners associated with project delivery, such as the Planning Advice Service and the Homes and Communities Agency. In addition, you will also focus on the wide-range of major projects underway in Bristol, a city that is renowned for its green and innovative ambitions. Current projects include a metro bus and rail system, the development of Hinkley Point, railine electrification, a new reservoir at Cheddar, and a series of large scale housing projects.



You will complete the following compulsory modules:

  • Strategic Growth and Infrastructure
  • Planning Major Projects
  • Implementation and Design Quality
  • Leading Major Projects
  • Dissertation.

Plus one optional module from:

  • Agency Project B
  • International Planning Study Trip.

The optional modules listed are those that are most likely to be available, but they may be subject to change.

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

This Masters degree will adopt a mixed approach to learning and will comprise of both taught and distance learning elements. There will be a strong emphasis on project work, with much of this being based in the Bristol region, using live briefs where possible.

Throughout the course you will be encouraged to collaborate with a range of students to share ideas and practices. This will be key in project work although assessment will largely be undertaken independently. Fieldwork will be an important feature of the course with opportunities to explore projects in the UK and beyond.

The course is taught by academics who have strong links with key professional bodies, such as the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

See our glossary of teaching and learning terms.

Study time

This course is offered as a one-year full time course. Modules can also be taken individually to create a flexible, part-time programme or for specific CPD purposes. Core face-to-face teaching is structured into a single day of attendance across two semesters. The Major Projects Studio is delivered entirely online. The Agency Project places you in a relevant work environment for six weeks, or throughout the year if this fits better with personal circumstances. The International Planning Study Trip provides an alternative to learn about major projects in an international context. Online learning and project work is incorporated throughout.


Assessment throughout the programme is varied and has an applied focus. You will be asked to prepare reports, deliver presentations, and participate in debates and role plays. The programme also requires you to prepare podcasts and prepare an e-portfolio. Many of the assignments allow for personal interests to be pursued and will require you to engage with practice. Each assignment will target particular learning outcomes and will help to develop a range of transferable skills.

See our full glossary of assessment terms.


Professional accreditation

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


The course will incorporate a range of field trip opportunities to notable development sites across the region. As well as giving you experience of projects in action, this will give you the chance to connect with professionals across the urban planning sector and beyond. These experiences will enable you to supplement the learning developed in class and online and will help to create some key contacts for the benefit of future career development.

Study facilities

The course will be taught in modern accommodation at Frenchay campus. Teaching rooms will vary depending on the nature of the session, with video-capture being used in most to offer greater flexibility to the learning experience. Facilities are open and available all year; module and associated reading material will be available online.

Learn more about UWE Bristol's facilities and resources.

This course draws from expertise from across UWE Bristol. Contributing staff come from two principal research centres, the Centre for Transport and Society and the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments.


Careers / Further study

On graduation, you will be equipped to work within the major projects and infrastructure sector in a variety of areas, from consenting to project appraisal.

If you have studied a degree in urban planning at undergraduate level that was accredited as a spatial planning course by the RTPI, you will be able to proceed in becoming a professional planner. This will involve you following a structured programme of work experience (for two years) under the RTPI's Assessment of Professional Competence. If you are successful in this, you will be able to become a chartered planner and use the letters 'MRTPI' after your name.

If you have not studied planning before, or your previous planning studies were not formally accredited by the RTPI, you can still become a professional planner through a programme of experience. After two years of relevant planning experience you will be able to apply to become an Associate Member of the RTPI. This will allow you to use the letters AssocRTPI after your name. Undertaking a further two yeras of experience will allow you to make an application for full chartered membership. If you are successful you will be able to use the letters 'MRTPI' after your name.

There is significant activity in the urban planning sector across Bristol and the wider area. With established links to many local companies and organisations, the course enables you to make contacts and explore potential employment paths.

Although the course will focus predominantly on UK law and practice, the skills and knowledge you will gain can be applied universally, allowing you to step into roles further afield. Many of the organisations actively involved in the planning of major projects tend to have an international profile, with UK professionals tending to be sought to help on projects across the world.


Supplementary fee information

See our funding pages for more information. 


Entry requirements

We normally require an honours degree of 2.2 or above. This course is suitable for graduates of a broad range of degrees, including planning, architecture, geography and other social sciences.

We can consider applicants who do not meet the normal entry requirements, but who do have relevant professional experience or qualifications. In your application, you should describe in detail your professional experience and qualifications.

UWE Bristol's International College
International students who do not meet the academic or English language requirements to study this course can qualify by completing preparatory study at our International College.

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. Students who successfully complete the pre-sessional course can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking an IELTS or equivalent.

Read more about our Pre-Sessional English Programme.

For further information