APL Banner

Urban Design (MA, Diploma)

Newcastle University’s well established Master of Arts in Urban Design is a truly multidisciplinary programme drawing on expertise from the three disciplines represented in the School; Architecture, Planning and Landscape. This also reflects the educational backgrounds of our student cohorts. The course aims to strike an important balance between skills and techniques in contextual design drawing upon an in depth understanding of the built environment as well as theories and methods in social sciences. This approach gives the urban design programme at the University a unique character among similar programmes in the UK. The course is also characterised by strong links to both public and private sector agencies in the North East region and student involvement in live projects including varied participatory activities is strongly fostered.

The programme is taught through a series of projects developing skills, methods and techniques in urban design. Design modules involve and make links between social theory and practice. Lecture and seminar modules also support these projects with core knowledge on classic and contemporary urban design issues. The course bolsters a strong studio environment and skills sharing through group work. It also prides itself on significant exposure and inputs from a number of professionals from a variety of relevant disciplines.

"Students were very complimentary about the programme, and could list many things that they enjoyed and appreciated. This was very welcome, and should be enjoyed by the course director and teaching team. This is a healthy programme with very engaged students who care about this course and what they have learnt. There is a continuous commitment to design work throughout the year. Evidence of a thorough academic grounding in design theory/thinking which really engages the students and is a distinctive feature of this programme. The emphasis on community involvement is innovative and well managed."

(Mike Biddulph, Senior Lecturer in Urban Design at Cardiff University, External Examiner, MA Urban Design, 2014)

The course is also offered as a Diploma option or part-time.

The MA is particularly recommended for students wishing to pursue urban design as the core of their future career. Students with an established career in a related field, for example, landscape architecture, who wish to add urban design to their CV of design skills may feel a Diploma is sufficient.

The key aim of the course is not only to produce students who demonstrate a wide range of knowledge and skill development in the field of urban design but who are:

  • creative and innovative
  • environmentally aware and supportive of sustainable practices
  • open minded and embracing cultural diversity
  • professionally responsible, collaborative and inclusive

For information about careers in urban design see the Urban Design Group website.

Student apprenticeships

Our ongoing engagement with the region has culminated in our students being offered fixed term apprentices with two local authorities: Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council. We have been approached by our contacts in these local authorities, who are often actively involved in our project work, based on the quality of our work and the calibre of our students. The candidates have undergone the formal process of applying and being interviewed for these positions before being offered the placements. Our students are very enthusiastic about this opportunity and we consider this an excellent indication of our ongoing efforts to connect with the places and the people we work with and enrich the teaching with local expertise. We are also aiming to continuously offer our students an excellent and learning experience but also deploy our skills and passion to support the region and its communities. The School and the local authorities envision this opportunity growing into an ongoing working relationship.

Key Projects

Skills in Urban Regeneration Project: The first urban design project of the MA course aims to familiarise students with the process of urban design in urban regeneration as well as design principles, skills and graphic techniques for urban designers. The sites selected are usually complex inner city areas including issues of heritage, movement complicities, and unlocking opportunity sites. The project addresses socioeconomic context issues and benefits from a variety of professional inputs. The briefs are realistic and developed in collaboration with local authorities and other stakeholders. The projects also include elements of public realm design.

Housing Alternatives: This project explores options for living to suit contemporary needs and lifestyles through the masterplanning process of a large scale site. Issues such as intentional communities, sustainable housing, healthy environments and design coding, form aspects of the brief and are explored through a series of seminars by academics and practitioners. Selected sites are often edge of city centre brownfields or urban extension sites with complexities of existing stock and communities to be rehomed.  

Cities and Culture Project: This module aims to lead to an understanding of urban design in the context of another European country and to encourage innovative engagement within a different culture and place of study. Students are asked to map out the locality at hand from both the physical perspective and that of the social tissue. The projects often focus on the public domain as a place of exchange, and work across the disciplines and cultures represented by the diverse groups of students who are called to challenge their perceptions and generate new collective ways of working.

The module involves a 5 day trip to the study area which is a city in Europe, changing every couple of years in collaboration with local universities and other academics/practitioners. Some of the project is developed on site and is followed by a number of design tutorials and interim presentations back home, culminating in a book/digital publication comprising of the work of the student groups and texts by key people involved.

Modules List

Semester 1

  • TCP8090 Principles and Practice of Urban Design
  • TCP8052 Urban Design Seminars
  • ARC8046 Skills in Urban Regeneration
Semester 2
  • ARC8040 Cities and Buildings: Contemporary Issues in Urban Design
  • ARC8069 Housing Alternatives
  • ARC8065 Cities and Culture
  • ARC8096 Independent Research

Semester 3

  • ARC8097 Design Thesis

Entry Requirements

A 2:1 or above or its equivalent in a related discipline is required and a portfolio of work must be submitted as part of the application. This does not necessarily need to be relevant to the built environment but should demonstrate some design ability. The portfolio should contain images from a variety of projects using a range of different media; those most relevant to urban design should take priority.  It is important to provide some explanatory text alongside images but please keep this to a minimum. Portfolios should be submitted as one PDF document, containing a maximum of 15 pages.  Portfolios should be attached as supporting evidence to your on-line application or can be emailed to the postgraduate admissions team.

Please note we do not accept hard copy portfolios, only electronic submissions will be progressed.  Applicants should be aware, that portfolios will not be returned after review. If in doubt about the content or format of the portfolio please contact the School.

Please accompany your application with a personal statement of a maximum of 500 words. Please outline your core experience and skills that would make you a suitable candidate for this MA as well as your drive for wanting to be accepted. Be concise and to the point.

Most students coming to the course already hold a first degree or equivalent qualification in architecture, planning or landscape; these students want to add urban design knowledge and skills to their existing portfolio of expertise. Some students do come from less directly related subjects, however, for example other design degrees, fine art, or geography where students are looking to change career directions. Lower qualificatons may be considered if the applicant can demonstrate significant experience and expertise in the field.
Students applying to the MA from non-traditional backgrounds may be offered the Diploma, with a possibility to transfer to Masters subject to performance.

More Information

A course description is also available on the University’s online prospectus.