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TCP3054 : Planning Theory and Politics

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Professor Simin Davoudi
  • Lecturer: Dr Andrew Law, Dr Georgiana Varna
  • Owning School: Architecture, Planning & Landscape
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


This module examines the ways in which the practice of planning has been imagined, explained and justified. It addresses the ideological, political and ethical dimensions of planning practice through the lens of various social, urban and planning theories. It considers the distributional aspects of planning and a range of political and organisational rationalities that shape and constrain planning practices. The module aims to develop a constructive critique of planning practice, to engender greater reflexivity in students about the position of planners in urban change. The module also provides an introduction to various theoretical frameworks which can guide the students’ dissertations in semester 2.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus covers the following themes. The order may change according to staff availability.

- Introduction to the Module and the Assignment
- What is theory for, what sets theories apart from each other, why use theory in practice?
- Positivism and rationalism
- Marxism and structuralism
- Modernism, postmodernism, post-structuralism
- Pragmatism
- Aggregative, deliberative and agonistic political theories
- Complexity and actor-network theory
- Knowledge, power, facts and values in evidence-based planning
- Deep uncertainty and resilience thinking
- Imagination, spatial imaginaries, and utopian planning

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture112:0022:00Lectures covering the themes of the module. Backed up with podcasts & Power Points on Canvas
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion173:0073:00Writing up of written assignment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials152:0030:00Selected reading and other materials complementing lectures and workshops
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading322:0064:00Reading an research to support learning and preparatory work for the assignment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops42:008:00Interactive workshops to apply theory to practice. 3 parallel groups facilitated by staff.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery13:003:00Tutorial support towards learning and assessment & opportunity for asking questions & feedbacks.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module uses blended teaching and learning.

Lectures are intended to provide overviews of various social urban and planning planning theories, covering different schools of thoughts and their critiques. They include introductions to a number of influential theories (mentioned in the module outline) as well as introduction to the four cases from real world planning cases practice.

Workshops are intended to give the students the opportunity to apply a theoretical perspective to a planning case and provide a constructive critique while engaging in group discussions. They enable students to make better links between theory and practice in planning.

Suggested readings and a diverse range other resources are provided for more in-depth engagement.

Drop in Q&A session is intended to provide further guidance about the assignment and gain feedbacks from the students.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M90An individual essay, 3000 words (exc. refs) on a critical review of a theory discussed in the lectures and its application to a planning case discussed in the workshops.
Oral Presentation1M10Active participation in the 4 scheduled workshops.
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay along with active participation in 4 workshops test the ability of the students to think creatively and critically about planning practice and applying one of the theories introduced in lectures as well as the knowledge acquired in earlier stages of the programme.

The assessment meets three key objectives:
1.       To prepare students to become aware of various planning thoughts and the political nature of planning
2.       To alert students to multiple perspectives on the nature and purpose of planning
3.       To encourage students to develop critical thinking and professional reflexivity

To complete the essay, students need to actively participate in workshops, familiarize themselves with a planning theory and a planning practice case that has been discussed in the workshops. They need to know the main features of that theory and be able to use it to assess their selected planning case. They also need to deploy their own critical thinking and argumentation skills to provide a robust and compelling assessment of their selected case.

Please note that the Essay assessment must be passed outright in order to pass the module overall.

Reading Lists