Course specification and structure
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PMARCURB - MA Architecture and Urbanism

Course Specification

Validation status Validated
Highest award Master of Arts Level Masters
Possible interim awards Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate, Advanced Diploma in Professional Development
Total credits for course 180
Awarding institution London Metropolitan University
Teaching institutions London Metropolitan University
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Subject Area Architecture
Attendance options
Option Minimum duration Maximum duration
Full-time 1 YEARS  
Part-time 2 YEARS  
Course leader  

About the course and its strategy towards teaching and learning and towards blended learning/e-learning

MA Architecture and Urbanism is focused on problem-based learning, situated in urban contexts, with extensive discursive interactions between students and staff. In these interactions we define urban, social, economic and policy problems and use spatial design both as a research tool to explore possible solutions, and as a container to situate and analyse other types of research knowledge. Assessment by portfolio exemplifies Cass strategy, allowing evolution and development of students’ work over the academic year. Teaching is flexible and responsive. It takes place in the studio, on walks, in seminars, workshops, presentations, exhibitions, using social media and other online communication tools, and this range of teaching methods allows tutors to adapt constantly as students’ needs change through the year. The course is taught by contemporary urban practitioners/researchers, with numerous guests and commentators invited to participate, so students begin to build a network of relevant contacts, as well of keeping abreast of all the latest developments in urban design and planning. The course is very responsive to market demand because sites, case studies and examples are updated yearly, and sometimes more frequently, to reflect locations at the forefront of urban change. The course is very distinctive, in that students learn how to use the tools of urban design and urban research in an activist, promotional way, to effect real change in whatever specialism they pursue.

The course is designed for:

• practising planners, architects and other design professionals wishing to specialise in urban design and urban design practitioners who require knowledge of spatial planning;
• graduates with relevant degrees wishing to obtain a postgraduate qualification in planning or urban design;
• students obtaining relevant London Metropolitan University first degrees, especially architecture degrees, wishing to progress into the above professions. This will include a diverse range of students, including students with backgrounds who generally do not progress into spatial planning or urban design positions;
• MArch students who wish to gain a planning qualification in addition to RIBA Part 2.

Course aims

The course aims to:

a) provide a substantial knowledge of current local and international spatial planning and urban design policies and practices;
b) question these processes and policies in order to test and develop new and innovative approaches to complex urban contexts through design;
c) establish the ground to synthesise and critique these parallel components in a manner that will allow the student to continue to develop their interests in professional practice or through further academic research;
d) work in collaboration with local, regional and international agencies on live projects;
e) enable students from architecture and design disciplines to develop skills and employ their knowledge in developing complex socially, environmentally and economically sustainable urban and planning strategies;
f) use spatial planning and design thinking as a critical, interrogative process through which explore the broader parameters of the research within a particular situation or environment.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students will, through their academic portfolio, demonstrate that they have achieved the following course learning outcomes.

11(a) Knowledge and Understanding

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. have knowledge of, understand and utilise processes of investigative and speculative research and design methodologies drawn from multidisciplinary sources within the built environment [CA10(a), CA10(c), CA10(e)];
2. acquire a deeper knowledge and critical understanding of historical and theoretical frameworks and complex cultural traditions relevant to the discipline of urbanism, and the various and diverse forms of architectural and urban practice [CA10(a), CA10(b)3, CA10(f)];
3. acquire and develop a specific set of interests in urban design and the built environment that can be described as 'specialist'. The vehicle for these specialisms is the focus of the design unit and could include some of the following for example: community regeneration; the suburbs; landscape and housing infrastructures; third world development and sustainability [CA10(d), CA10(e)3, CA10(f)].

11(b) Cognitive Skills/Intellectual Skills

By the end of the course, the student is expected to develop higher order skills that are reflected in their ability to:

1. develop urban design ability through an iterative process that tests, communicates and negotiates ideas and propositions through critical and self-reflective processes of evaluation [CA10(b), CA10(e), CA10(f)];
2. formulate and communicate clear and well-founded conceptual frameworks that underpin urban design proposals [CA10(a), CA10(b), CA10(c)];
3. construct effective design processes that can be used to test concepts against practical and theoretical criteria relevant to the built environment [CA10(c), CA10(f)];
4. critically reflect on implications of design propositions [CA10(b), CA10(f)];
5. advocate an urban design scheme that responds convincingly to complex cultural conditions; that navigates a route through ethical issues whether social, environmental, or economic [CA10(d), CA10(e), CA10(f)];
6. clearly formulate a critical framework of ideas through appropriate models of representation or written argument [CA10(c), CA10(d), CA10(f)].

11(c) Practical Skills

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. collate, document and present sophisticated and complex research material to produce cogent schemes/documents [CA10(c), CA10(e)];
2. direct and manage a design process to achieve a convincing and well-worked proposition [CA10(e), CA10(f)];
3. communicate, in an ambitious and effective way, the ideas and intentions behind a design proposal through an appropriate range of representational techniques (which may include drawing, CAD, model making, collage, diagrams) [CA10(e), CA10(f)];
4. give verbal presentations of the above to an appropriate standard [CA10(d), CA10(e)];
5. produce a cogent document of professional interest [CA10(a), CA10(e)];
6. express oneself effectively in prose [CA10(a), CA10(e)];
7. develop effective means of group or team working [CA10(d), CA10(e)].

11(d) Key/Transferable Skills

By the end of the course, the student is expected to:

1. communicate effectively in writing and representational drawn techniques and in oral presentation of complex design concepts and propositions [CA10(c), CA10(d), CA10(e)];
2. apply research and design skills appropriately and be able to transfer techniques from one field of architecture and urbanism to another [CA10(d), CA10(e), CA10(f)];
3. work as a member of a team [CA10(c), CA10(e), CA10(f)];
4. manage time and resources [CA10(c), CA10(d), CA10(e)];
5. learn independently, with open mindedness and in the spirit of critical enquiry [CA10(b), CA10(e), CA10(f)].

Additionally, the course will typically equip the student with an advanced understanding and knowledge of the indicative learning outcomes as set in section 6.8 of the RTPI’s Policy statement on Initial Planning Education:

• generate visionary and imaginative responses to spatial planning challenges that are realistic and derive from substantial investigation and analysis of relevant data and other evidence;
• articulate such responses through coherent and integrated strategies, plans or programmes that take account of relevant institutional frameworks and combine creative direction for the future with credible means of implementation;
• demonstrate the ability to reach decisions or to make recommendations in which the significance of such strategies, plans or programmes is balanced with other relevant factors that ought to be taken into account;
• demonstrate effective research and appraisal skills, evident in data sourcing, collection, investigation, quantitative and qualitative analysis, weighing evidence and reaching sound conclusions;
• recognise the role in the planning process of such skills as negotiation, mediation, and advocacy and the importance of team-working, often with other professionals, in an inter-disciplinary context;
• appreciate the importance of resource issues (especially human and financial resources) and organisational management processes and initiatives in helping to deliver effective spatial planning, together with the need for personal management skills and development, and knowing how and when to seek input from others;
• recognise the political nature of decision-making in planning, and understand the need for all planners to develop the ability to work effectively within democratic decision-making structures, including the capacity to explain such ‘process’ matters clearly to a wide range of stakeholders;
• appreciate the importance of time in the planning process, realising how the short-term and longer-term consequences of planning decisions may impact differentially on those affected;
• appreciate the importance and process of design in creating high quality places and enhancing the public realm for the benefit of all in society, and evaluate the effectiveness of alternative design approaches in achieving this;
• evaluate the case for and against spatial planning and particular forms of spatial planning and assess what can be learnt from past experiences of spatial planning in different socio- economic, cultural and political contexts;
• demonstrate understanding of the natural environment, its values to society, and its underpinning of economic development;
• debate the relationships between environmental processes and social, economic and political events, and appreciate the potential of planning to exert a positive influence on the changes that arise from these interactions;
• understand the relationship between market processes, built form, different development models and patterns of movement, evaluate the economic and financial implications of alternative development the wider community;
• acknowledge that development decisions have differing impacts on different people, and develop the capacity to identify and explain these impacts so that they can be properly taken into account in planning decision-making;
• appreciate and respect diversity of cultures, views and ideologies, and understand how that respect can be applied in planning systems through the pursuit of equal opportunity, social inclusion and non-discrimination (on the grounds of wealth, gender, age, race, disability, religion and culture);
• acknowledge the values underlying interpretations of sustainability, and explore what sustainability implies about the role of planning in promoting social and economic development, while conserving environmental, social and cultural heritages for transmission to future generations;
• understand the concept of rights, including the balance between individual and collective rights, and the legal and practical implications of representing rights in planning decision frameworks;
• recognise the importance of stakeholder involvement and public participation in the planning process and of engaging and communicating with (by appropriate and varied means) a diverse range of interests, including local residents and community groups, business people, commercial developers, politicians and protest groups;
• appreciate the meaning of professionalism, including probity and adherence to independent informed judgement; the identification of clients and the duties owed to them; the concept of conflict of interests; and the importance of a commitment to lifelong learning to maintain and expand professional competence.

Course learning outcomes / Module cross reference

Module Title Module Code
Urban Design and Spatial Planning AR7009
Urban Practice AR7010
Planning and Urban Theory AR7070
Economics of Place AR7071
Design Thesis AR7P18

Learning Outcomes 1 - 7

Principle QAA benchmark statements

A key Benchmark is: QAA Masters Degree characteristics (2015). Regarding the Subject Benchmark, there is no specific QAA Statement for Urban Design. Relevant related QAA Subject Benchmark Statements relevant to the JACS subject code K190 (Architecture with Urban Planning) include:

• Subject Benchmark Statement Town and Country Planning (April 2016);
• Subject Benchmark Statement Landscape Architecture (July 2016)

• Subject Benchmark Statement Land, Construction, Real Estate and Surveying (Oct 2016)

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is 100% coursework, split across portfolios, reports, case studies, exhibitions, presentations and written work both academic and informal, to reflect the skillset required in the professional and activist world of urban change and spatial planning. Briefs are developed discursively between students and staff in response to co-authored problematizing of urban contexts, guided by the staff’s expertise and experience. Staff and students engage in dialogue to promote a shared understanding of the basis on which academic judgements are made and processes for marking assessments and for moderating marks are clearly articulated and consistently operated by those involved in the assessment process. Summative assessment of portfolio takes place at the end of the academic year (portfolio) and at the end of the Summer Studies Period (Design Thesis). Summative assessment of the autumn module takes place at the end of Semester 1. Throughout the year are weekly formative feedback opportunities at tutorials, workshops, critiques, exhibitions and presentations, giving students opportunities for reflection and supporting them in developing for summative assessment. Feedback on formative assessments is timely, constructive and developmental, delivered both verbally and/or recorded, and in written form, so students can access it easily. Students are thus provided with opportunities to develop an understanding of, and the necessary skills to demonstrate, good academic practice. Professional practice, and subject-specific and educational scholarship are taken into account through the incorporation of planning professionals into the feedback team, both permanent staff and invited guests, including the external examiner. The volume, timing and nature of assessment enable students to demonstrate the extent to which they have achieved the intended learning outcomes throughout the formative stage of the course, and again at final submission at the end.

Course specific regulations

The course will undertake a formal academic review of student performance at the end of each semester. Students performing below threshold standard will be recommended and/or required to revise their programme of study.

Level 7: In order to qualify for the award of MA Architecture & Urbanism students must have completed and passed each Level 7 module at 50% or above.

In part-time mode, the duration of study for a 180-credit degree will be two years. The prescribed pattern of study in this instance shall be:
Year 1 – AR7009 & AR7010
Year 2 – AR7070, AR7071 & AR7P18

Modules required for interim awards

Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits):
Urban Design and Spatial Planning (40) or Urban Practice (40) plus either Planning and Urban Theory (20) or Economics of Place (20)

Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits):
Urban Design and Spatial Planning (40), Urban Practice (40), Planning and Urban Theory (20), and Economics of Place (20)

Masters (180 credits):
Design Thesis (60), Urban Design and Spatial Planning (40), Urban Practice (40), Planning and Urban Theory (20), and Economics of Place (20)

Arrangements for promoting reflective learning and personal development

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected and have the opportunity to continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The courses utilise the University’s blended learning platform, as well as social media and other online communication tools, to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through informal and formal formative feedback points such as critiques and weekly tutorials that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the course, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The practice-focused learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able to engage and challenge the intellectual and professional environment of their discipline, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Other external links providing expertise and experience

RTPI Policy Statement on Initial Planning Education:
QAA Honours Degree Benchmark Statements:
Architecture (2010)

Career, employability and opportunities for continuing professional development

Students from MA Architecture and Urbanism progress onto a range of careers, supported by the graphic, interpersonal and critical skills, as well as their deep understanding of places, urban change and planning processes they gain on the course:
• in planning departments;
• as urban and planning specialists in architecture and urban design practices;
• many graduates take an activist role in their chosen specialism.

Career opportunities

The course is designed for practicing planners and architects wishing to specialise in urban design, as well as urban design practitioners who require knowledge of spatial planning. It is also suitable for graduates with relevant degrees who wish to obtain a postgraduate qualification in planning or urban design. Graduates of this course have gone on to become urban designers and freelance consultants.

If you are a student who has already obtained a relevant London Met first degree, especially in architecture, and wish to progress into the above professions, then we recommend you consider this MA course. Even if you come from a background that doesn't generally progress into spatial planning or urban design positions, this course will be of advantage to you in your career.

Entry requirements

You will be required to:

  • have a minimum upper second class honours degree in architecture, spatial planning or landscape architecture (other relevant professional qualifications or extensive professional experience will also be considered)

demonstrate your design talent through the presentation of a portfolio
All applicants must be able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language. Applicants who require a Tier 4 student visa may need to provide a Secure English Language Test (SELT) such as Academic IELTS. For more information about English qualifications please see our English language requirements.

Official use and codes

Approved to run from 2018/19 Specification version 1 Specification status Validated
Original validation date 20 Jun 2018 Last validation date 20 Jun 2018  
JACS codes
Route code ARCURB

Course Structure

Stage 1 Level 07 September start Not currently offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
AR7009 Urban Design and Spatial Planning Core 40        
AR7010 Urban Practice Core 40        
AR7070 Planning and Urban Theory Core 20        
AR7071 Economics of Place Core 20        
AR7P18 Design Thesis Core 60        

Stage 1 Level 07 January start Not currently offered

Code Module title Info Type Credits Location Period Day Time
AR7009 Urban Design and Spatial Planning Core 40        
AR7010 Urban Practice Core 40        
AR7070 Planning and Urban Theory Core 20        
AR7071 Economics of Place Core 20        
AR7P18 Design Thesis Core 60