Laura Shorney

Environmental and Spatial Planning MA

When Laura moved to the UK from Germany, she quickly had to learn how different the two countries planning systems were, while sharing her time between studying and working. After having the opportunity to study at BCU as part of an exchange programme, Laura arrived back in Birmingham to complete her MA. After making the most out of her postgraduate studies, Laura was offered a job before she had even graduated and worked her way up from an intern to a Planning Consultant. Nowadays, she is excelling in her career as a Principal Officer.

“As I’m originally from Germany, I studied my undergraduate degree in Spatial Planning at Technical University Dortmund. Whilst there, I was able to take part in the Erasmus exchange program, spending six months at BCU. I felt so welcome by all staff and students and had a lovely time.

When I finished my degree the following year, I was keen to return to the UK and improve my language skills and knowledge of the planning system in the UK. It was always my plan to go back to university, and I was specifically looking for a master's course which was accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute, to obtain member status following completion of the course, which I did in 2018, opening up a lot of new opportunities.

The Environmental and Spatial Planning course at BCU offered this accreditation and considering the close distance to my work and home, as well as my previous positive experience as part of my Erasmus semester, BCU was always my first choice.

Moving from Germany to the UK on a permanent basis was a challenge, having to leave my family and friends behind, but I was lucky that I still had so many good contacts in Birmingham and felt at home very quickly. I also left a part-time position at a planning practice in Germany to move to the UK, where I had to learn quickly how different the UK planning system was in comparison to Germany’s.

Shortly after I finished my Erasmus semester and just before starting my master's degree, I did a four-week internship with The Tyler Parkes Partnership Ltd, a private planning consultancy in Shirley. After the work experience, they offered me a position as an Assistant Planner and whilst I was doing my master's degree on a part-time basis, I worked the rest of the week as a Planner with them. During the four and a half years working for them, I was also promoted to Planning Consultant.

In January 2019, I moved from private to public sector and started as a Senior Planning Officer with Birmingham City Council, and the next year, I was promoted to Principal Planning Officer, where I am currently still working in this role.

With my move from private sector to public sector, I have widened my experience in the field of planning. My current role allows me to deal with a wide variety of planning matters and a variety of people which will inevitably strengthen my future career should I consider moving on.

My responsibilities range from reviewing and handling various planning applications to providing pre-application advice and responding to enforcement matters. As a Principal Officer, I also assist Junior Officers with their workload, discuss recommendations and sign off their minor applications.

I am now much more confident in knowing what I want for my future and in making decisions. I have gained so much additional knowledge about planning and development in the UK and feel I have really settled here and found my place.

My advice to students studying planning would be to enjoy student life, while still trying to get as much practical experience as possible. Figure out what areas you are really interested in and how you could build on that and speak to people working in the field and find out how they got to the place where they are now and what has helped them.

I am very proud of my entire BCU journey, considering I completed a master's degree whilst working part-time which can be very challenging, but it opened up so many opportunities and provided me with important insight into the practice.

To me, I AM BCU means being part of a community, knowing there is always someone you can turn to for help and advice.”