Planning Built Environments - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2019
£6,100 per year for UK/EU Full Time 2019 entry (view all fees)

The combination of accelerated climate and environmental change, resource pressures and rapidly evolving social, legal and political contexts demand that the planner of the future is better equipped with the science, tools and skills to help shape the high quality multi-functional places we increasingly need. This course applies theory through practice-based learning, on a campus surrounded by exciting new developments, with excellent industry links. 

What's covered in the course?

On this course, you will learn to identify and evaluate the processes, tools and outcomes of planning that lead to more sustainable places across the built environment.

You will learn how to critically assess planning theory and practice and respond to the growing demand for planning practitioners, strategists and consultants to address contemporary and future planning and development challenges within their environmental context.

This course will enable you to understand the development process and the wider linkages with other built environment professions as well as develop the skills required to assess, analyse and offer practical sustainable solutions to spatial planning problems.

You will experience applied and autonomous learning through the use of real problems and case study materials and develop your problem-solving abilities, practical competencies, critical appraisal and written and oral communication skills.

This course also encourages inter-disciplinary working amongst graduates and professionals from a variety of backgrounds employed within a planning and environment context.

This course is about making planners who can respond to a number of integrative challenges, rather than housing/transport/etc. specialists. It will prepare you to face holistic challenges in practice, so you can address them as such, rather than attempting to solve only one part of a problem, and thereby potentially creating perverse outcomes elsewhere. Dr Beck Collins, Programme Leader

Why Choose Us?

  • This course uses our expertise across sustainability, real estate and planning as well as external experts in planning research and practice to address key challenges and opportunities across the built environments.
  • This course is underpinned by an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and topics that explore the environmental, economic, social, political and administrative contexts to planning and development and the relationship between planning and other spatial and non-spatial policy mechanisms.
  • The course has good connections with Birmingham City Council, and students have the chance to meet BCC staff throughout the programme.
  • Birmingham, both the city and the university, is going through an exciting period of redevelopment. You will be based at the University’s City Centre campus, at the heart of redevelopment activities.

This course is open to International students

Speak to an expert

If you’ve got any questions about the course, we’d love to hear from you. Please email the Course Director: Beck Collins.

Email Course Director

Alternatively, you can register for our next postgraduate open day.

RTPI Future Planners Bursary

Students on the MA Planning Built Environments have the opportunity to apply for a £1,000 bursary co-sponsored by the University and the Royal Town Planners’ Institute. 

For more information visit

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)

We are currently in the process of applying for RICS accreditation.

Course Accreditations

This course is accredited by:

Royal Town Planning Institute

Entry Requirements

UK students

A good honours degree (normally at least a Second Class Honours degree or equivalent).


Practical experience is favoured.

International students

You must have an equivalent qualification and have a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.0 or equivalent, with a minimum score of 5.5 in all four skills.

International Students

Entry requirements here

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 FT 12 months £6,100 per year
PT 24 months £3,050 per year

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2019 FT 12 months £12,300 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form and equal opportunities PDF form instead. Fees for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible. The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Course duration

Please note, there are no taught classes over the summer months (June to August) for postgraduate courses, so the total time spent in University for this course is:

  • September start (full-time) 12 months
  • September start (part-time) 20 months

How to apply

Please use the links above to apply online. If you can't access our Online Form for any reason, please complete ourpdf application form.

Personal statement

Students are required to submit a personal statement as part of their application for this course.

Your postgraduate personal statement is going to shine a light on your personal experience, academic success, personal skills and any other factors that will support your application for further study.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Your passion and motivations

Studying a postgraduate course usually means you want to specialise in something. So what’s driving you?

Why this course?

Show that you’ve researched the course offering. What is it about this particular course that appeals to you? Is it the lecturers? The modules? Etc.

What makes you a good postgraduate candidate?

Tutors want to know that you can handle postgraduate study, so show them how your undergraduate experiences or work life has equipped you for a more advanced level of study. Key areas to address are research and group work but this can vary depending on your chosen course.

Relevant academic or work experience

Add anything relevant that relates back to your chosen course and shows how your skills will contribute towards your learning. What extra-curricular activities have you taken part in? What awards have you won? What employment or voluntary experience do you have that has helped you develop transferable skills? How do these specifically relate to the course you are applying for?

You should also mention your future plans and how a postgraduate qualification fits in. Try to look beyond your postgraduate study – do you plan to jump straight into a specific career or follow your studies with a research degree? Lastly, use plain, professional English and, where possible, utilise the language of your chosen industry.

Get more information on writing personal statements


Additional costs

There are no compulsory additional costs or charges associated with studying on this course. While you may choose to purchase personal copies of text books, all our key text books are available from our library or online (subject to normal library loan and online access arrangements). If your course includes a residential study session, the accommodation costs for this are already included in your course fee.

Based on the past experience of our students, you might find it helpful to set aside about £50 for each year of your studies for stationery and study materials. All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Accommodation and living costs

The cost of accommodation and other living costs are not included within your course fees. More information on the cost of accommodation can be found in our accommodation pages.

The additional costs listed here are to be used for indicative purposes only and are based on the additional costs for the 2018/19 academic year. The additional costs for 2019/20 will be published as soon as possible.

Bursaries available

Several bursaries of £1,000 are available from the Royal Town Planning Institute and Birmingham City University for you to apply for if you're a self-funded student (full or part-time) applying for this course.

To be eligible you need to have applied for the course and to produce a 1,000-word response to ONE of the following topics:

  • frontiers
  • resources
  • change
  • catastrophe

The best respondents will be invited to an informal interview. We're looking for high quality ideas, backed by evidence, and clearly expressed in appropriate English.

Applications for the course should be made via the links above, and bursary applications should be made by email to Professor Alister Scott and Professor Peter Larkham.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans


Foundations of Planning
20 credits

This module critically examines the role and purpose of planning, the way in which planning has evolved, and the assumptions which underpin planning practice. You will be introduced to the building blocks of spatial planning and how planning can respond to contemporary agendas, taking into account the relevant economic, social, and environmental considerations. The module will contribute to the formation of your personal and professional ethics and values, and to your lifelong appreciation of how the core values of planning apply in changing circumstances, helping to prepare you for employment.  

Governance in Built and Natural Environments
20 credits

This module will help you to understand the theories of environmental governance, and translate them into practical solutions for built environment projects. You will explore formal and informal decision-making processes for projects across different levels and scales, and you will develop an understanding of how these processes can be applied. Governance issues within the built environment can include legalities, rights, and stakeholder input, as well as practical planning considerations such as transportation and protected buildings. You will examine ways to manage these issues, as well as environmental considerations such as climate change, sustainable energy, and water management. 

Development Project
20 credits

This project will enable to you apply the knowledge gained in modules throughout your course to a ‘real life’ practical scenario-based assessment. It will provide you with an understanding of the factors that influence development decisions, and how to evaluate possible development solutions in the context of client requirements. You will work in interdisciplinary teams to fulfil your brief and meet the requirements of your client. You will be encouraged to develop competence in evaluating information and to extend your communication and problem-solving skills, which are vitally important in a professional practice situation. 

20 credits

This module will explore the process and philosophy of planning, creating and managing public spaces in different economic, environmental, historical, and social contexts. Placemaking is strongly related to urban design, but has a wider theoretical and less design-based focus. You will learn to consider the assets, inspiration, and potential of local communities, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and wellbeing. This module will allow you to appreciate the ingredients, tools, and outcomes that contribute to high-quality and successful places, and the lessons learnt from placemaking experiments, by working on a real-life project in conjunction with a client.


Professional Practice
20 credits

This module will enable you to understand the importance of working within the boundaries of established professional best practice. You will develop the skills and competencies that are required in practice to meet professional standards and expectations, which will include ethics, stakeholder analysis, conflict management and negotiation, team working, and business presentation. The module will encourage active research and you will develop your capacity to address the changing needs of the built environment industry. The module will also prepare you for entry to the appropriate professional body by identifying and addressing the key requirements of professional membership in a supportive environment. 

20 credits

This module introduces the theory, regulatory aspects, and practice of valuation. The skills and expertise you will develop can be used in a wide range of real estate contexts including investment, asset management, property development, and maintenance management. Valuation is central to the work of many built environment professionals, especially real estate surveyors, property developers, and planners. This module presents a series of true-to-life applications such as landlord and tenant valuations, investment valuations, valuation of profit-making entities, and development appraisal. This helps you as a planner to robustly assess the viability of proposed developments.

Individual Master’s Project (Dissertation)
60 credits

This project is the culmination of your Master’s study; using your previous studies and current modules as a foundation, you will carry out research into a practice-based problem, and develop your ability to theorise and conceptualise. This project will allow you to build understanding and expertise in a selected area of specialised study relating to construction and project management, providing you with a good foundation to build a career in the area that most interests you. In the first semester you will explore research methods that will guide your project, and you will then work with your assigned supervisor to develop your ideas.

This course seeks to shape you as a highly competent professional who can continue to develop not only yourself but also the broader sector.

Practice and research-informed learning, teaching and assessment strategies emphasise problem solving, team working and wider appreciation, with functional and procedural knowledge framed within this broader context.

The course will include problem-based enquiry and learning using the environment as an integrative setting, encourage the demonstration of key competencies within a professional, vocational context driven by engagement with practice and prepare you for a future in which the ability to think and change will be key skills.

Broadly speaking, the teaching strategy moves from staff-led during the early stages of the course to student-led towards the end. The early part of the course is intended to provide you with the basic knowledge and skills to understand how the spatial planning system operates and the need to embed the environmental services lens in processes in order to connect planning across different sectors, land uses and scales. This is achieved through staff-led lectures, seminars and workshops.

Later stages of the course are designed to develop your critical and reflective capabilities and make the links between the various spatial dimensions of planning, and between spatial and non-spatial policy intervention. The emphasis is on interactive learning, including student-led workshops, role-plays and simulations to achieve deeper learning and understanding.

We use visiting teachers, field study visits and research informed teaching to engage you with practice and topical issues. The sharing of appropriate modules across courses helps to enrich your educational experience, and expose you to the perspectives, values and attitudes of students from other disciplines.

The assessment strategy for each module reflects the learning outcomes. Modules that seek to test your ability to assimilate basic information and key concepts and reconstitute them without ready access to source material do so through written examinations. Modules that seek to test higher-order problem-solving skills do so through a variety of formative and assessed coursework methods including essays, evaluations, verbal presentations, posters, planning reports, design presentations, group work, role play scenarios or exams.

This course is accredited by the following organisation:

Royal Town Planning Institute
Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

This course is accredited by the professional planning body, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

The course is designed as a fast track to a professional qualification accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Successful completion of this course will lead to Professional Membership after the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

Further study

The University has a range of research (PhD) postgraduate programmes.

RTPI Future Planners Bursary

Students on the MA Planning Built Environments have the opportunity to apply for a £1,000 bursary co-sponsored by the University and the Royal Town Planners’ Institute.

To apply for this bursary you must:

  • Be a UK/EU citizen or have proof of eligibility to work in the UK or Ireland after graduation
  • Have a First or Upper 2nd class undergraduate degree
  • Demonstrate an interest in town planning as a career

For more information visit

Birmingham City University programmes aim to provide graduates with a set of attributes which prepare them for their future careers. The BCU Graduate:

  • is professional and work ready
  • is a creative problem solver
  • is enterprising
  • has a global outlook.

The University has introduced the Birmingham City University Graduate+ programme, which is an extra-curricular awards framework that is designed to augment the subject based skills that you develop through your programme with broader employability skills and techniques that will enhance your employment options when you leave university.

BCU staff have links with planning authorities and consultancies, which provide good links to employment. We are frequently approached by employers looking for good quality graduates, so we can help our students move into appropriate employment quickly after their course. 


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Graduate jobs

Graduates from this course could go on to a range of built and natural environment roles, including:

  • architecture
  • planning
  • building surveying
  • quantity surveying
  • construction.

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Our Facilities

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

Building work on our new Conservatoire began in the summer of 2015 – and is scheduled for completion in summer 2017. This, along with the construction of a new city centre accommodation block, means our students have access to their very own building sites.

We couple this with the more traditional, office-based facilities:

Surveying equipment

Part of your learning activity will be hands-on, including carrying out survey work using a range of equipment, such as levels, theodolites, measuring tapes.

Computer Assisted Design (CAD)

You will be provided with the latest CAD software – free of charge – to enable you to acquire the skills you need in a modern design office.

Our staff

Our academics have worked alongside small, medium and large companies and bring to the table expertise from within the automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, ICT, environmental and health sectors.

Beck Collins

Dr Beck Collins

Senior Lecturer

Dr Beck Collins currently teaches across all undergraduate courses in the School of the Built Environment, as well as MSc Construction Project Management and MA Planning Built Environments.

Beck was awarded her PhD in “Local Projects for Sustainable Energy – Exploring the Nature of Success” in 2014, and is interested in local approaches to installing sustainable energy. This could be as social housing refurbishment projects, community renewable energy projects and so on.  Beck is particularly interested in questions of governance, systems intervention, behaviour change and projects for change, that sustainable energy throws up. 

Beck explores this both in her research and in practice – Beck has worked on local authority energy efficiency programmes and is also a volunteer Director of a Community Energy Company which is looking to install renewable energy in Birmingham.

Beck also brings all these research and practice based insights into the classroom, where she lectures on sustainability and research methods topics.

Claudia Carter

Reader in Environmental Governance / Associate Professor

Environmental Values journal cover Claudia is Associate Professor in the field of interdisciplinary environmental research and environmental governance. Her research relates to climate change and sustainability adopting social-ecological systems thinking/approaches. A poignant area of interest are the opportunities and barriers to 'low-impact' living and the emergence of transition initiatives/towns and degrowth movement. Claudia studied geography and environmental management and for many years worked in academic and applied research on environmental policy and management, environmental values, public and stakeholder engagement, critical evaluation, and interdisciplinary research approaches. She joined Birmingham City University in 2011 as a researcher and lecturer teaching and supervising undergraduate and postgraduate students. Since 2011 she has been Associate Editor (Socio-Economics) of the journal Environmental Values.

Current/recent research projects include (i) development of PARTICIPOLOGY, a resource to engage people in participative planning, decision-making and training using a board game format; (ii) work packages 9 and 10 of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) Follow-On programme focusing on assessing and developing tools to take account of the Ecosystem Approach in decision-making; and (iii) collaboration in the Rural Economy and Land Use programme (RELU) - funded project 'Managing change at the rural-urban fringe'.

Past posts included Project Leader/Social Scientist at the Forestry Commission's Research Agency - Forest Research (Farnham, England; 2006-2011); Researcher in the Socio-Economic Research Group (SERG) of the Macaulay Institute (Aberdeen, Scotland; 2002-2006), Research Associate in the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge (1998-2001). For more information about Claudia's work and current research, please contact her via

Amanda Mundell

Senior Lecturer

Amanda is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and the Built Environment and teaches on post-graduate and undergraduate programmes. Her teaching experience is supported by 2:1 law degree (specialising in Planning and Environmental Law), a post-graduate professional qualification (Legal Practice Course), along with 15 years relevant practical experience with a Local Planning Authority in their Legal and Development Control Sections.