MA in Applied Research in Urban Design

Entry requirements: First or second class honours degree or relevant experience 
Full or Part-time: Full-time, Part-time
School: School of Humanities Back to course finder

Social, Economic, and Environmental Value in Designing the Modern City

The Course

This ground-breaking Master’s programme addresses the urban ‘data revolution’ that has transformed our understanding of the associations between ‘built form’ — buildings and how these relate to each other — and happiness, and both mental health and physical health. Urban designers, however, have often struggled to integrate this emerging evidence into their own practice. The principal aim of this Master’s course is to help urban design professionals, civic leaders, developers or investors to better understand this recent research and to apply it to their work.

Urban Design-aerial viewThe course explores ways in which the processes of evidence gathering and community consultation can be integrated successfully into a creative design process – to blend art and science. It will also provide access to a stimulating body of scholarly literature, and to leading researchers and urban thinkers. The course offers a rich exploration of how various research methods can inform better urban design practice. Graduates will learn to be able to assess the quality of research across a range of disciplines, and understand how this evidence is to be interpreted and appropriately applied. Master’s students will achieve improved data literacy (distinguishing, for example, correlation from causation, mediator from moderator) and acquire the skills needed to utilise the insights derived from this research. The course will employ practical case studies to illuminate the process of commissioning and producing reliable and applicable evidence.

The need for applied academic study of these topics is rendered more urgent by the current British demand for a much-increased rate of house building. Given the consistently lower popularity of recently constructed urban space (as compared with most older designs), there is both a desire and a sense of necessity within government and among many involved in urban planning to improve their ability to create urban spaces and buildings that command general support. There is also added pressure to make better policy and planning decisions, reflected in the recent establishment by the UK Government of the ‘What Works Network’ — an initiative to enable government agencies and other organisations to create, share and use high quality evidence for decision-making.

Location of Seminars and Teaching

This programme is London-based and is co-directed by Nicholas Boys Smith, a Senior Research Fellow, director of Create Streets and Government advisor in urban design, Dr Jamie Anderson, a Knowledge Transfer Fellow based at University of Cambridge, and Jonathan Schifferes, an Associate Director at the Royal Society of Arts.  It will start in October 2017.

Urban Design-city with trafficThe Seminar Programme

There are ten seminars held in a central London location. Each will feature internationally distinguished scientists, policy-makers, property researchers and urban designers. The seminars will be held in the early evenings to permit the enrolment of working professionals, and each will be followed by a question session and a working dinner, for those who wish to attend, where there is an opportunity to continue the seminar discussion in an informal environment. Tutorials and meetings with supervisors will take place at the University of Buckingham’s London offices in Bloomsbury: 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ.

In addition to the Course Directors, confirmed lecturers include Sir Anthony Seldon (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and co-founder of Action for Happiness); Dr David Halpern (Chief Executive of the Behavioural Insights Team – founded by the Cabinet Office and better known as ‘The Nudge Unit’); Professor Yolande Barnes (Director of World Research at Savills and visiting professor at UCL); Professor Philip Steadman (UCL Energy Institute); Dr Kai Ruggeri (Affiliated Lecturer in Psychology, Director of Studies, Corpus Christi, Cambridge and Director of the Policy Research Group); David Rudlin (Director of URBED and winner of the Wolfson Economic Prize); Matt Bell (Group Head of External Affairs at Berkeley Group); and Sarah Cary (Head of Sustainable Places at British Land).

The seminar programme will run from October to spring in the course of the academic year. Click on “Teaching & Assessment” for the seminar dates.

Seminar List

Part 1: The ‘science’ and ‘art’ of urban design

Seminar 1: Is urban design an art or a science?

Introduction and overview debate about nature of urban design and the status of the ‘data’ it uses

Seminar 2: The philosophy and history of urban design

How have we designed cities in the past? What has guided this? Information, rules or hunch?

Part 2: What works

Seminar 3: What works, ‘how’ and ‘why’ insight – qualitative and quantitative standpoints

A more detailed introduce to the current evidence and research base, to the different disciplines that generate relevant evidence from environmental psychology and neuroscience to engineering

Seminar 4: Beauty and buildings in the pursuit of happiness

An examination of the links between different aspects of the built environment and stated wellbeing

Seminar 5: What works for environmental sustainability

An examination of the links between different aspects of the built environment and energy consumption

Seminar 6: What works for the ‘bottom line’

An examination of the links between different aspects of the built environment and value

Urban Design-NottinghamPart 3. How to use evidence for urban design

Seminar 7: Leading practitioner example

Applied research in prize-winning urban design

Seminar 8: Leading house-builder example

Applied research by a volume house-builder

Seminar 9: Leading policy-maker examples

Applied research by policy-makers

Part 4: Conducting research

Seminar 10: Correlating or causation?

An introduction to statistics for people interested in cities. Stepping towards causation

Seminar 11: Watching, interviewing, asking – qualitative research for urbanists

Experimental research. How to run interview, observe behaviour, combine datasets, poll preferences

Part 5: Research Projects

This part of the course, in which students will produce their own research projects and case studies by way of two extended essays, will be the subject of a series of additional workshops on writing, structuring and referencing for research purposes. This will take the form of two extended essays: a preliminary essay of around 5,000 words, and a second essay, a research dissertation of 20,000 words. The research dissertation will be based on primary research, conducted under expert supervision. Team work will be possible in some circumstances.

Those wishing to attend the seminars, but not to undertake a dissertation, may join the course as Associate Students at a reduced fee.

For further details contact:
Humanities Research Admissions on +44 (0)1280 827514

Entry requirements

The minimum entry level required for this course is as follows:

  • a first or second-class honours degree from a recognised university or,
  • a recognised professional qualification with relevant work experience

Mature students

Age is no barrier to learning and we welcome all applications from suitably qualified students.

International students

We are happy to consider all international applications and if you are an international student, you may find it useful to visit our international pages for details of entry requirements from your home country.

The University is a UKVI Tier 4 Sponsor.

English levels

If English is not your first language, please check our postgraduate English language requirements. If your English levels don’t meet our minimum requirements, you may be interested in applying for our Pre-sessional English Language Foundation Programmes.

Selection process

Candidates apply online, sending in their supporting documents, and will be assessed on this basis by the Programme Director.  The Programme Director or Admissions Assistant will be happy to answer any enquiries.

Maria Floyd

Maria Floyd

Humanities Research Institute Admissions Assistant (London Programmes)

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Terms and conditions for prospective students

When you are offered a place at the University you will be notified of the terms and conditions between the University and students on our courses of study. When you accept an offer of a place on the course at the University a legal contract is formed between you and the University on the basis of the terms and conditions outlined in your offer letter. Your offer letter and the terms and conditions contain important information which you should read carefully before accepting any offer. Read the admissions terms and conditions > >

Teaching methods

The MA does not offer systematic instruction; instead, the emphasis is on independent research and one-to-one supervision. Students write a preliminary essay of around 5,000 words and  a research dissertation of 20,000 words. The research dissertation will be based on primary research, conducted under expert supervision. Tutorials and meetings with supervisors will take place at the University of Buckingham’s London offices in Bloomsbury: 51 Gower Street, London, WC1E 6HJ.

The provisional dates for the seminars and dinners will be available soon. At the post-seminar dinners there will be an opportunity to continue the discussion in an informal environment. Attendance at these dinners is entirely at the choice of the student, and their cost is not covered by the tuition fee.

Graduate employment

We have a high graduate employment rate, The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) ranked Buckingham top for graduate employability with 98.1% in July 2015.

Our graduate prospects are excellentOur graduates have gone on to further study at most of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, London, Oxford and Cambridge and secured jobs in senior positions around the world. Among our alumni we have a graduate who became the head of his country’s civil service and one who became a leading Formula One motor-racing driver. Another secured a position as the Minister of Sabah and one female law graduate became the first British lawyer to become a French Advocate.

The tuition fees quoted are for the degree (e.g. if you start a degree at Buckingham in January 2017, you will pay the same termly fee for the duration of your degree – you will not be affected by the price increase in September 2017). Fees are normally paid in termly instalments.

Postgraduate loan scheme

A new system of postgraduate loans for Masters degrees in the UK will be introduced from 1 August 2016 with support from the UK Government. The loan will provide up to £10,000 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. The loans can be used for tuition fees, living expenses or both.  Find out more >>

Postgraduate first class scholarship

From July 2015 a first class scholarship will be available to both home and international students following a taught postgraduate degree at the University. The scholarship will reduce tuition fees by 33%. The scholarship will be automatically awarded to applicants who already have a first class honours degree that is recognised to UK standard.

Details of other scholarships can be found on our main Bursaries and Scholarships page. You should make an application to study at the University and receive an offer letter confirming our acceptance of your application before applying for a scholarship.

You may also find it useful to visit our External Funding page.

Due to the mode of study on this course you will not normally need a room in University accommodation during your degree.

However, if you require short-term accommodation in Buckingham we would be happy to provide a list of local bed and breakfast or hotel accommodation. Alternatively, please contact our Accommodation Office for advice.