Bird's eye view of Glasgow

MSc/PgDip/PgCertUrban Design

Why this course?

Recent data and predictions on the forthcoming rate of urbanisation make cities the most common living environment now and in the future. What kind of life will it be for the seven billion people who will live in existing or developing cities? Cities hold tremendous potential, but at the same time are sources of stress, inequalities and pollution.

In 2015, the United Nations recognised this through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Goal 11 is dedicated to urban settlements, with the aim to 'Make Cities Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable'.

This means that getting the design of cities right has never been so important. The questions are: what kind of design should we adopt, and who should be in charge? Our course explicitly addresses these questions, and teaches how to design responsive, resilient, sustainable cities for all their inhabitants, thus preparing socially responsible urban design professionals of the future.

Designed for both students and practitioners, the course treats the city as a complex, dynamic system.

Find out what our staff and students say about this course:



The course is closely linked to the Urban Design Studies Unit research agenda. Everything taught in classes and the studio is based on our excellent research record and helps advance it.

You’ll study

Your course is delivered through studio work, lectures, seminars and a research project.


The major topic of studio is the design of the resilient city. We will address this at all scales, from the metropolitan to the neighbourhood with all its special places. We normally work on a authentic client commission, therefore the work is real; you will work against deadlines, and in multidisciplinary teams, employing professional methods. Your designs will be based on UDSU’s approach to city design called ‘Masterplanning for Change’.

Taught classes

Taught classes give you the theoretical grounding for everything you do in studio and inform the next phase of research. They take you through the history and theory of ideas that shaped cities up to the present day. They illustrate the current challenges faced by cities, with all the approaches available to tackle them This culminates with the very unique principles behind our Masterplanning for Change approach to the design of the city. These classes also aim to provide you with the basic skills to develop and express urban design ideas at best. Finally, they provide you with an understanding of the political, economic and practical realms of urban design.


The Masters thesis is a substantial piece of student-led work on a topic of particular personal interest, or suggested by staff to advance the Urban Design Studies Unit agenda. It is the completion of this piece that grants students the RTPI accreditation.



There are two fully-networked design studios; one dedicated to student self-study, the other to interactive design teaching.


In addition to the main University library, we have our own, on-site, reference library. Our collection is developed in direct response to the teaching delivered in the department.


A full range of hand and portable power tools are available (complete with instruction).

We offer plotter printing, scanning and laser cutting services.

Faculty of Engineering Excellence Scholarship.


The course receives Specialist Accreditation from the Royal Town Planning Institute, an important professional recognition from one of the largest planning bodies in the World.

Our department works in a joint Partnership Board with Glasgow University’s Department of Urban Studies, a world-class department whose renowned teachers and researchers contribute real estate and policy and practice teaching to our course.

Student competitions

Students have previously won:

  • The Urban Design Group Award – students from the course are regular finalists in the Urban Design Group National Student Award and have have won it three times since 2011
  • The RTPI Scotland Chapter Award
  • The Urbanpromo International Jury Design 1st Prize

David Rudlin, Urban Designer As a result of winning the UDG Practice award I was invited to judge the 2015 awards including the student awards. The students from Strathclyde were producing a very different level of work ...this relates to the plot-based approach to masterplanning that comes out of Strathclyde's research agenda. In my view this is important work in its own right. However it also seems that, as a process, it allows students of all abilities to produce a much higher standard of masterplan than is to be found in other schools.

David Rudlin, URBED

Student project

Take a look at a Living Neighbourhood for Drumchapel, a student project by three of our 2017/18 students.

Course content


Taught classes take place over Semesters 1 and 2, and include compulsory and optional choices. Compulsory classes will teach you the basic principles of what makes a sustainable and resilient city. Urban Design History and Urban Theory provide a historic overview of all major changes in the form of cities, with a focus on their social, political and economic contexts. The principles and theories of Sustainability are explored as well as the role of Development Processes and the practice and policy of Urban Design (theory) on the shape and density of cities

Optional classes offer you the chance to specialise in an area of interest. These include Urban Landscape Design, Urban Design Representation and other classes which you might find useful from the wider Faculty of Engineering offering.

The course director helps each student build up their curriculum on the basis of their background and interests.

Compulsory classes


We generally use Glasgow as a living laboratory for our studio project. Our City is an example of  a European metropolis experiencing change and globalisation,. You will learn to develop appropriate strategies for resilient sustainable urban development, encompassing social, political, economic, environmental, architectural, aesthetic and psychological aspects. You'll work on the design of a complex urban area, generally on commission of a real client (local authority, housing association, community group or private developer). In addition you'll work at the interconnected levels of the entire city, the neighbourhood and the individual public space defined by urban architecture.

Studio meets once a week in Semesters 1 and 2 with design development work taking place between sessions. You'll work in multidisciplinary teams of architects, planners, geographers and economists, in the same way you'll do in practice. Work is fast-paced but also in-depth. You'll have considerable responsibility (ie presenting to clients and organising public events), but it is also a lot of fun.

Urban Design History

The class covers how elements such as streets, squares, urban blocks have changed through time and what factors shaped them.

Development Process

This class looks at the economic, policy and implementation aspects of urban design, studied through theory and practical examples.

Urban Theory

You'll look at how urban ideas, theories and approaches have responded to contextual conditions in time and how they have shaped human lives and the environment for generations to come. Also explored is the current urban challenges and the fit of current urban design tools and approaches.


We'll cover the impact of growth on social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Elective classes

Cultural and Behavioural Factors in Architecture and Urbanism
This class introduces students to the field of environment-behaviour studies looking at cultural, social, and psychological issues in architecture and urban design.
Urban Landscape Design

You'll look at the impact of the urban landscape on human wellbeing and perception and the role of ecological networks as an integral part of urban form.

Urban Design Representation

Key tools for the effective representation and visual communication of urban design ideas, strategies, projects.


MSc students only

Dissertation Project

On completion of Semesters 1 and 2, you will undertake a written thesis over the third semester. In previous years, students have produced exceptional work including the study and comparison of urban form, the role of urban design in disaster scenarios, the design and management of infrastructure, and informal urbanism. The production of the thesis results in innovative outlooks which combine the students’ interests to the Unit’s very special take on urban design. The tutoring team is open and supportive, always ready to nurture new ideas and to share its current work.

Learning & teaching

Courses are taught through lectures, seminars and studio work as well as a piece of research (MSc students only).

Lectures and seminars are delivered through a variety of modes including short intensive sessions to allow for flexible booking by CPD and part-time students. There's also occasional site visits. 

The taught element of the course starts from a solid grounding in urban design history and theory. It then concentrates on current urban challenges, from climate change to the pressures for development in both developed and developing countries. It culminates with the research work carried out in the Urban Design Studies Unit and teaches you the unit’s ethos and approach to urbanism. 

Guest lectures

The Urban Design Studies Unit has a fantastic international network of collaborators that often come and visit to give lectures and take part in debates. Students on the course are always invited to these exciting events  In the past speakers have included included environmental Psychologist Professor Robert Gifford, UN Habitat Salvatore Scellato, Urban Designers Robert Adam, George Soeters, DPZ Director Andres Duany, URBED Director Ravid Rudlin, authors and urbanists Andy Cameron (WSP), Chuck Wolfe, Besim Hakim, Kelvin Campbell.

Our students often organise series of events themselves, and are able to attract excellent speakers for lectures or debates on the nature and roles of urban design (eg Robert Adam and Malcom Fraser).


Assessment criteria are linked to the learning outcomes set for each individual class and these are published in the modules descriptors which are available to students. The criteria is also explained by staff at the start of each class, to make sure that you're comfortable and clear with what is expected of you.

The assessment of studio work is developed collaboratively between staff and students. Learning outcomes are linked to criteria and performances. This increases your sense of ownership of the learning process and is integral to the course.

On successful completion of studio and classes you’ll be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma. If you complete an additional research element you’ll receive an MSc in Urban Design.

Entry requirements

An Honours degree, or equivalent, in a discipline related to the built environment and the city (eg architecture, planning, engineering, and other built environment disciplines). Candidates with alternative professional experience may also be considered.

The course is open to students with various backgrounds related to the built and natural environment. If you come from design-based disciplines (ie. Architecture, landscape architecture), please submit a portfolio of design work, to illustrate the range of scales and variety of projects you've been involved in, as well as your graphic skills. 

If you come from a non-design based discipline, please explain in your Statement of Purpose where your interest in urbanism comes from, and try and give us an overview of your knowledge in the area. We would be delighted to review a portfolio, if you have one, of any work you might have collected relevant to the subject of the course.

Pre-Masters preparation course

The Pre-Masters Programme is a preparation course held at the University of Strathclyde International Study Centre, for international students (non EU/UK) who do not meet the academic entry requirements for a Masters degree at University of Strathclyde. The Pre-Masters programme provides progression to a number of degree options.

Upon successful completion, you will be able to progress to this degree course at the University of Strathclyde.

Fees & funding


All fees quoted are for full-time courses and per academic year unless stated otherwise.


  • £8,100

Rest of UK

  • £9,250


  • £16,800

How can I fund my course?

Scholarship search

Faculty of Engineering Excellence Scholarship (FEES) for International Students

If you're applying for an MSc course you'll be eligible to apply for a Faculty of Engineering Excellence Scholarship offering up to £3,000 towards your tuition fees.

The scholarship is available for application to all self-funded, new international (non-EU) fee paying students holding an offer of study for an MSc programme in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Strathclyde. Please note you must have an offer of study for a full-time course at Strathclyde before applying.

You must start your full-time MSc programme at Strathclyde in the coming academic year (2019-20).

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

International students

We have a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Please note

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.


Graduates leave us with a detailed knowledge and innovative skills in an area now in great demand. Past graduates are now working in:

  • large practices (i.e. Rogers and Associates, Llewelyn & Davies)
  • government
  • academia, as teachers and researchers
  • local non-governmental organisations
  • local authorities
  • their own practices

Job titles include:

  • Senior Street Design Officer
  • Lecturer
  • Researcher
  • Community Engagement Officer

Employers include:

  • Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners
  • Llewelyn and Davies
  • Architecture and Design Scotland
  • Glasgow City Council
  • University of Buffalo
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Anderson Bell and Christie
  • Edinburgh Council
  • TCV Scotland
  • The Highland Council
  • Transco

Contact us


Urban Design

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

Urban Design

Qualification: PG Diploma, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

Urban Design

Qualification: MSc, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Urban Design

Qualification: PG Diploma, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Urban Design

Qualification: PG Certificate, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, part-time

Urban Design

Qualification: PG Certificate, Start date: Sep 2020, Mode of delivery: attendance, full-time

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