School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MSc Planning

Do you want to pursue a career in shaping the built environment to promote sustainable development and climate change adaptation? Through policy formulation and the management of development in local areas, spatial planners play a key role in the delivery of sustainable development and climate change action in the built and natural environments. Our fully accredited postgraduate pathway will prepare you to develop or enhance your career as a chartered town planner in a rapidly changing world.

Postgraduate opportunities – virtual drop-in session

Find out more about postgraduate study in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at our virtual drop-in session.

Careers with this subject

Careers in spatial planning
MSc Planning is a springboard to a diverse range of careers in the planning sector, including the public sector (such as local authorities, national parks, the Environment Agency and Natural England); the private sector (such as planning consultancies) and the third sector (such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the National Trust). Our graduates have secured professional positions with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Planning Inspectorate, Plymouth City Council, Cornwall Council, Arup, Lichfields, Savills and WSP amongst others.

Key features

  • Develop broad-based, multidisciplinary and cross-professional approaches to place making and the planning and management of the built and physical environment for sustainable development.
  • Deepen your understanding through specialist options.
  • Explore planning issues of particular relevance to south-west England, set within the context of national and international experience.
  • Expand your skills through applied and experiential learning, including fieldwork, practicals, case studies, role play, debates and engagement with professional practitioners.
  • Benefit from a supportive learning environment with an emphasis on small-group teaching and high levels of staff-student interaction.
  • Fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).
  • Develop the key skills and professionalism to prepare you for an effective contribution to the workplace, including lifelong learning and preparation for the RTPI’s Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).
  • A diverse and respectful place in which to work and study is fundamental to everything we do. Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science.

Course details

  • Year 1

  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge of planning, enabling critical evaluation of evidence from a range of perspectives related to the natural and built environment. As an RTPI fully accredited postgraduate pathway, core modules cover the general foundation of spatial planning (including urban design), and specialisms reflect planning issues relevant to south-west England and existing strengths within the University. Our programme will enable you to develop a professional career in planning in the public, private or voluntary sector. We offer a supportive learning environment with small-group teaching and extensive interaction with our staff, emphasising the critical skills necessary for professional effectiveness in planning-related careers.
    Students must complete all core modules plus one specialism module from either PLG508 Coastal Urban Regeneration or PLG513 Rural Planning. Your dissertation will also need to be in the subject area of this specialism module.

    Core modules

    • Issues and Values in Planning Practice (PLG501)

      This module provides an understanding of the history and development of planning with a focus on the underlying theories and associated skills.

    • Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development (PLG502)

      The purpose of this module is to provide a strategic understanding of the role of planning in delivering sustainable development and mitigating and adapting to the challenge of climate change.

    • Environmental knowledge: from field to stakeholder (PLG503)

      This module reviews research methods relevant to professional and academic investigations in the field of policy-making, planning, management and consultancy in the built and natural environments. It encompasses the complete lifecycle of research (design, planning, data collection, knowledge dissemination and application), including stakeholder engagement across these stages.

    • Development Management and Delivery (PLG504)

      This module evaluates the delivery of development through the planning system, with a focus on the development management system, planning law, urban design and development economics.

    • Urban Design: theories, methodologies and practice (PLG505)

      The aim of this module is to understand the way in which different qualities of the urban space affect how it is experienced and inhabited and how this understanding can be utilised in the formulation of urban design initiatives, place-making and planning policy at the wider urban scale.

    Optional modules

    • Coastal Urban Regeneration (PLG508)

      This module examines planning processes in coastal settlement regeneration in a number of contrasting urban environments: namely coastal and market towns, seaside resorts and post-defence and port sites.

    • Dissertation (full-time route) (PLG510)

      The dissertation project is an opportunity for candidates to undertake an original research investigation within the field of spatial planning. The topic must relate to their chosen specialist options. Students will be advised by an academic member of staff and are asked to submit a Master's thesis of up to 15,000 words.

    • Dissertation (part-time route) (PLG511)

      The dissertation project is an opportunity for candidates to undertake an original research investigation within the field of spatial planning. The topic must relate to their chosen specialist options. Students will be advised by an academic member of staff and are asked to submit a master's thesis of up to 15,000 words.

    • Rural Planning (PLG513)

      This module examines the theories and practices of planning in and for rural areas. It considers how planning policies reflect and affect rural economy, environment and society. Rural governance and decision-making are critically evaluated. The module is supported with local, national and international examples.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Planning Programme Specification September 2024 4023

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

You require the minimum of a second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline (planning, geography, architecture, engineering, sociology or environmental science). Other subject areas considered.
If you have no formal qualifications but do have relevant work experience, you may still be considered and are encouraged to enquire about your suitability.
If you are an overseas applicant, you can check the comparability of your qualifications with the UK equivalent through Ecctis, who provide an advisory service.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary. 
If your first language is not English, then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying. For further advice on the appropriateness of overseas qualification and proficiency in the use of English, please contact our International Office. 
The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5 (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element).

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,950 £10,400
International £16,800 £17,600
Part time (Home) £550 £580
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Part-time students 

The programme is also offered as a part-time route over 2.5 years (although students in receipt of a postgraduate loan from the Student Loan Company will be required to complete within two years).

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students 
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance. 
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page). 
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

A Level 7 Chartered Town Planner Degree Apprenticeship (MSc Town Planning) is also available for practitioners employed by an organisation paying an Apprenticeship Levy. Visit for more information.

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2022*

The University of Plymouth has been named among the top 5% of universities globally in 2022 for its contribution to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals*, in particular, work on marine issues and on climate change. In the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, sustainability is at the heart of our research and teaching. From sustainable cities, affordable and clean energy, to climate policy, biodiversity, and natural hazards, our academic staff work with partners locally and overseas to help understand, communicate and solve fundamental and pressing sustainability challenges.

The Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) 2023

We are extremely proud of our outstanding results in the latest Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) 2023. The MSc Planning degree received 100% overall satisfaction for course quality, assessment and feedback, dissertation, resources and support. These results place our master’s degree significantly above the sector benchmark. 100% of students responding to the survey agreed that staff are good at explaining things, were happy with the learning support received from staff, had sufficient contact time to support effective learning, assessments and marking had been fair and had been encouraged to think about what skills needed to be developed for their career in the sector. 

Staff profiles

Dr Stephen Essex

Dr Stephen Essex’s research has included the formulation and effectiveness of planning policy, the planning and implementation of mega events such as the Olympic Games, and the role of local authorities in sustainable tourism. Dr Essex is Associate Professor (Reader) in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and a researcher in urban and rural planning.
Learn more about Dr Essex

Dr Stephen Essex

Dr Olivia Wilson

Dr Olivia Wilson is a lecturer on the MSc Planning programme. She brings 13 years of practitioner experience as a planner at Plymouth City Council, together with 13 years of teaching experience in higher education at De Montfort, Kingston and Otago Universities. Her specialisms are in policy and development management, especially in relation to coastal urban regeneration and rural planning.

Find out more about Dr Olivia Wilson

MSc Planning - Olivia WIlson