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Planning Built Environments - MA

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....

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.  Information about the arrangements the University has put in place for the 2021/22 academic year in response to Covid-19 and the emerging variants can be found here.


Should the impact of Covid-19 continue in subsequent years of your course, any additional and/or alternative arrangements put in place by the University in response will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

  • Level Postgraduate Taught
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time
  • Location City Centre
  • School School of Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Faculty Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment

Course overview

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. The MA Planning Built Environments course applies theory through practice-based learning, on a campus surrounded by exciting new developments, with excellent industry links.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this 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 built environment course will also 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?

  • Accredited course - Accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
  • High graduate employability rate - 96% of our graduates find work or further study within six months (DLHE 2016/17).
  • Draws upon expertise across the sector – The course integrates 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.
  • Interdisciplinary approach to teaching - Content and topics explore the environmental, economic, social, political and administrative contexts to planning and development.
  • Strong local and industry links - Students have the chance to meet Birmingham City Council staff throughout the programme. Assessments are mostly based on live planning issues and/or local development sites that we can visit.
  • Study at the heart of Birmingham’s regeneration - Your base at the University’s City Centre campus is at the heart of the city’s redevelopment activities.

Entry Requirements

Essential Requirements
Essential

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

Desirable

Practical experience is favoured.

Additional information for EU/International students
Essential

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.

Fees & How to Apply

  • International students

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 12 months
  • £7,700 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months with Professional Placement*
  • £8,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 20 months
  • £3,900 per year

Award: MA

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 12 months
  • £13,200 per year
  • Full Time
  • 18 months with Professional Placement*
  • £14,520 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.

Access to computer equipment

You will require use of a laptop, and most students do prefer to have their own. However, you can borrow a laptop from the university or use one of our shared computer rooms.

Printing

You will receive £5 print credit in each year of your course, available after enrolment.

Field trips

All essential field trips and associated travel costs will be included in your course fees.

Access to Microsoft Office 365

Every student at the University can download a free copy of Microsoft Office 365 to use whilst at university and for 18 months after graduation.

Key Software

You will be able to download SPSS and NVivo to your home computer to support with your studies and research.

Key subscriptions

Subscriptions to key journals and websites are available through our library.

Free access to Rosetta Stone

All students can sign up to the online learning language platform for free through the Graduate+ scheme.

Memberships

Free student membership to the Royal Town Institute of Planning (RTPI) is provided on this course.

Media consumable items (mandatory)

This course requires the use of consumables.

Excess printing (optional)

Once you have spent your £5 credit, additional printing on campus costs from 5p per sheet.

Project materials (mandatory)

This course includes project work that requires you to develop and produce a portfolio or collection. You'll be expected to provide the materials for use in your individual major projects; costs will vary depending on the materials selected.

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.

Professional Placement option*

The Professional Placement option will allow you to complete a credit bearing, 20 week Professional Placement as an integral part of your Master’s Degree. The purpose of the Professional Placement is to improve your employability skills which will, through the placement experience, allow you to evidence your professional skills, attitudes and behaviours at the point of entry to the postgraduate job market.  Furthermore, by completing the Professional Placement, you will be able to develop and enhance your understanding of the professional work environment, relevant to your chosen field of study, and reflect critically on your own professional skills development within the workplace.

You will be responsible for finding and securing your own placement.  The University, however, will draw on its extensive network of local, regional and national employers to support you in finding a suitable placement to complement your chosen area of study.  You will also benefit from support sessions delivered by Careers+ as well as advice and guidance from your School. 

Placements will only be confirmed following a competitive, employer-led selection process, therefore the University will not be able to guarantee placements for students who have registered for the ‘with Professional Placement’ course.  All students who do not find a suitable placement or do not pass the competitive selection process will be automatically transferred back to the standard, non-placement version of the course.

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.

Course in Depth

Module

In order to complete this course a student must successfully complete all the following CORE modules (totalling 180 credits):

This module introduces you to the building blocks of spatial planning as viewed through the economic, social and environmental foundations, and its response to contemporary agendas. It contributes to the formation of personal and professional ethics and values and to your lifelong appreciation of how the core values of planning apply in changing circumstances. Through these different foundations we examine the way in which planning has evolved, and consider the assumptions which underpin planning practice. The module asks critical questions about the role and purpose of planning.

This module introduces you to the role of governance within planning and decision making, including legal issues, rights, and stakeholder/participation-related issues. It explores multi-level and multi-scalar decision making that can be both formal and informal, and addresses the skills needed for planners and planning lawyers to facilitate this process. Key environmental issues, such as climate change, sustainable energy and water management are used as examples with which to explore these issues, as are other planning issues such as transport and protective designations.

This module therefore helps you to understand how to translate the theories of environmental governance into practical solutions for the way forward.

This integrative module enables you to apply knowledge gained in modules throughout the programme to a “real life” practical scenario based assessment. It will provide an understanding of the factors influencing development decisions and how to evaluate possible development solutions in the context of client requirements. You will work in interdisciplinary teams to meet the requirements of your client. The module encourages you to develop competence in evaluating information and will extend your communication and problem solving skills. These are all vitally important in a professional practice situation.

This module will be delivered to Masters programmes in Building Surveying, Real Estate Management and Planning.

Valuation is central to the work of many built environment professionals, especially real estate surveyors, property developers and planners. Valuation expertise is used in a wide range of real estate contexts including investment, asset management, property development and maintenance management.

This module introduces the theory, regulatory environment and practice of valuation. It then builds on these foundations to allow you to develop skills and expertise in advanced valuation methods. The module presents a series of true to life applications and encourages you to consider the wide range of purposes behind valuations. This module aims to provide you with the necessary knowledge, skills and expertise to facilitate your development into a leading real estate professional.

This module will develop your understanding of spatial planning through engagement with the ideas about the creation and management of ‘place’ in different economic, environmental, historical and social contexts. Placemaking is a holistic and global concept that applies to built and natural environments, and it is central to successful spatial planning. Placemaking relates to ‘urban design’, but has also a wider theoretical focus less design and more geography based.This module will allow you to appreciate, at first hand, the processes that contribute to create high quality and inclusive places. The assignments will enableyou to work on a placemaking project in answer to a client brief. Where possible, this will be a real-life project.

The module enables you to understand the importance of working within the boundaries of established professional best practice. It focuses on the skills and competencies that are required in practice to meet professional standards and expectations. This includes ethics; stakeholder analysis; business presentation skills; negotiation; conflict management, team working; reflexivity etc. The module is designed to encourage action research and develop your capacity to address the changing needs of the built environment professions and the wider industry, giving you currency within the market.

The purpose of the module is to enable you to undertake a sustained, in-depth and research-informed Level 7 project exploring an area that is of personal interest to you. In agreement with your supervisor, you will decide upon your topic which will take the form of a practical outcome (artefact) with accompanying contextual material. The main consideration when choosing your topic is that it must be aligned to the programme you are studying and informed by the research strategy of your school, and you should consider the relevance of this topic to your future academic or professional development.

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).

Employability

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

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.

International Students

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:

Facilities and Staff


Our Facilities

The School of the Built Environment provides the best possible equipment and facilities for all students. Our gallery below showcases the Built Environment’s learning spaces, civil engineering lab and state of the art computer aided design labs.

The facilities on offer to our students reflect the work environment you will enter as you start your career. We ensure that you are equipped to participate fully and possessed with the equipment needed to support your studies.

Computer Assisted Taking Off (CATO)

In offices today, much of the pen and paper approach to quantity surveying has been replaced by the use of specialised software systems. Here at Birmingham City University you will make use of commercial software as part of your assessment. Work is carried out in well-equipped and air-conditioned laboratories.

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.

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 and Measuring tapes

Computer-generated virtual site

The use of a virtual building site will help you to appreciate the surroundings of a typical construction site and experience some of the challenges you will face in practice.

Built Environment live sites

Birmingham is undergoing huge regeneration. One of the city's two new HS2 stations will be built right outside our City Centre campus and there will be many opportunities, now and in the future, for those with built environment qualifications.

Our staff

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.

More about Beck

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. Poignant areas 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) DT-Uni – Design Thinking Approach for an Interdisciplinary University project under the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union; (ii) development of PARTICIPOLOGY, a resource to engage people in participative planning, decision-making and training using a board game format; (iii) 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 (ivii) 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 claudia.carter@bcu.ac.uk.

More about Claudia

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.

More about Amanda