Urban Planning refers to the academic and professional field of planning, design, regulation of the use of space, and the social impacts of the activities within that specific environment. The past, present, and future are scrutinized through interrelated disciplines and factors.
Universities all over the world are offering this course through their undergraduate and graduate programs. This article has compiled the best schools in the world for future urban planners.
Is Urban Planning Worth Studying?
Urban planning is an important field of study that is worth pursuing. With the world’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, urbanization is becoming an increasingly pressing issue. Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and this number is projected to increase further. Considering that, there is a growing need for urban planners who can design and manage cities for sustainability and livability.
Additionally, urban planning can also have a significant economic impact. From increased investments, and by extension, property values, jobs, and economic growth, becoming an urban planner means you’ll be a significant player in these improvements. And in case you’re wondering about potential earnings, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has a $78,500 annual average for Urban Planners.
Check Also: Best Countries to Study Urban Planning
Top Urban Planning Schools in the World
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is known as one of the top universities in the United States and worldwide, as it has played an important role in the development of science and modern technology.
With MIT being one of the best urban planning schools in the world, its Urban Planning Department offers undergraduate and graduate programs for students. For the undergraduate degree, MIT offers a Bachelor of Science in Planning. The program focuses on laying a foundation for students to know about political science, economics, policy analysis, and urban design to help develop and solve the social and environmental problems in the world.
MIT offers more graduate programs that include a Master in City Planning, a Master of Science, and a Ph.D. Here is what each specialization aims for:
- Master in City Planning – This two-year program aids the students to master the tools that are necessary for practice once they go on a career path in the public or private sectors. It is focused on developing the skills for institutional intervention and policy analysis.
- Master of Science in Urban Studies and Planning – This program is intended for those professionals who already have experience but are seeking a one-year Master of Science degree.
- Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Studies and Planning – This program is focused on building a solid foundation for those who want to pursue further research or teach in the areas of applied social research and planning.
2. University College London (UCL)
The University College London is one of the most prestigious public research universities in the world and is recognized for its excellent academic standards and massive impact on the world stage.
UCL created The Barlette School of Planning and it has become one of the leading research-led schools in Europe. Barlette offers undergraduate and graduate programs in Urban Planning and all its programs are accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors or the Royal Town Planning Institute.
The Barlette School has three Bachelor of Science programs that focus on the expansion of knowledge regarding urban change and challenges, pro-active engagement through live project work, and many more. While its graduate programs, consisting of 13 Masters and a Ph.D., are focused on further developing the knowledge of students regarding panning and its disciplines as well as preparing for a career in teaching or research.
3. The University of California, Berkeley (UC)
UC Berkeley is the first campus in the University of California system and it is ranked as the top public school in the United States and fourth-best overall in the world. It’s known for its excellent academic standards and the amazing opportunities it can provide students.
The university has undergraduate and graduate programs under its City and Regional Planning department. A Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Urban Studies is offered to students of this top-notch urban planning school to develop their knowledge about liberal arts in connection with urban planning. The course offers a deep understanding of cultural imagination and economic development.
UC Berkeley also offers a Master of City Planning which is a two-year program that focuses on enhancing the students’ analytical and research skills. A Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning is a very competitive program that aims to provide students the training in advanced research, the practice of planning, and urban and planning theory.
4. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
ETH Zurich is a public research university founded by the Swiss Federal Government in 1854. The focus of the university is to develop knowledge regarding mathematics, engineering, science, and technology.
Undergraduate and graduate degrees are offered through the Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development. The university has a Bachelor of Science focused on seven courses such as Environmental Planning and Site Management. The Master’s program has more subjects to learn from such as Regional Economics and Project Development. All programs are subjected to be finished with a thesis to prove that students can create a scientifically structured work.
5. Harvard University
Harvard University is an Ivy League school and is one of the most, if not the most, known universities in the world. It’s known for its excellent academic programs and the prestige it gives its students.
The university only offers Master’s degrees at the moment, however, Harvard University is still considered a top urban planning university. The graduate programs are as follows:
- Master in Urban Planning – This is a two-year program that aims to develop and enhance the built environment and the factors that affect it.
- Master of Architecture in Urban Design/Master of Landscape Architecture in Land Design – This is for students who have a strong desire to engage with the practice and theory of contemporary urbanism.
Learn More: Harvard University Admission Process and Tips
6. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
It is the oldest public university in the United States and is globally recognized for its innovative teaching. It is considered a Public Ivy since it offers academic standards and environments that are similar to Ivy League universities.
Through its Department of City and Regional Planning, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is known for being one of the best urban planning universities in the world. It offers a minor in urban studies to students enrolled in an undergraduate program at the university. It helps in providing a strong foundation for students who wish to get a graduate degree in planning or related fields.
The university also has graduate programs to offer namely a Master of City and Regional Planning with four courses and four specializations. The Ph.D. program is divided into three phases to further enhance the skills and knowledge of the students to prepare them for their chosen careers.
7. Politecnico di Milano
It is the oldest university in Milan and the largest technical university in Italy. It aims to provide world-class and excellent standards in education through its research and innovative programs.
Being an excellent urban planning institution, Politecnico di Milano, through its School of Urban Planning, offers Laurea Programmes (Bachelor’s), Laurea Magistrale Programmes (Master’s), and a Ph.D. program. Students can also have the option to choose Internal Double Degrees, Specializing in Masters, and other courses.
8. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) is one of the top research institutions in the United States. One of its leading programs is its urban planning course. USC has consistently ranked in national rankings for urban policy, and many of its alumni serve the community as leaders in private, public, and non-profit sectors.
USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, previously known as the School of Policy, Planning, and Development, has continued to develop its study courses and research. To improve the quality of life for communities, USC Price ties itself to doing rigorous coursework and practice experience.
The Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis of USC Price plans programs where students get to learn modern, data-oriented tools to fit with emerging technology and society. With a great program and its bold faculty, USC also strongly advocates social justice in its curriculum.
9. University of Michigan
Hailed as one of the top public research universities in America, the University of Michigan (UMich) is an institution with a beautiful massive campus, diverse student body, accomplished faculty, and most importantly, high-quality academics. UMich is also regarded as an Ivy League by the public, a feat that calls for another praise.
The A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning also referred to as Taubman College, of UMich, provides its students with access and exposure to interdisciplinary resources, travel grants, partnerships, and research that are unique to the school. With this, the university can train students and produce graduates who can lead in planning and designing better-built environments for the benefit of communities.
10. Manchester School of Architecture
Another excellent school that offers urban planning programs is the Manchester School of Architecture (MSA). An innovative collaboration between Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester, this institute has been recognized among the consistently top urban planning schools in the world and one of the highest-ranked universities in the UK. Graduates of its urban planning program are working in leading architectural, urbanism, and town planning practices both nationally and internationally. The school is a wise choice for those planning to get an urban planning degree and specialization.
11. Delft University of Technology
The oldest and largest Dutch public technical university, Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) is a highly recognized engineering, technology, and architecture university in the world. The urban planning course offered by this institute was also placed second in the world in the university rankings. It has continued to maintain its reputable performance in its programs and research.
TU Delft offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in urban planning or urbanism. Students in this course are educated in the Dutch tradition of combining landscape architecture, spatial planning, urban design, and engineering. The school also integrates cultural, social, economic, and political perspectives to effectively plan for sustainable development in the community and environment they will serve.
The Urbanism and Landscape Architecture of TU Delft has a very active community of students with plenty of activities organized throughout the school year including a meet and greet with the student body, buddy system, debates, study trips, and an Urbanism and Landscape Week.
12. University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne has become the number one university in Australia. It has consistently ranked as a leading university globally for its programs, research, and teaching. Like most schools offering urban planning courses, this institute aims to create and develop physical settings for life in urban areas. The school also tackles global issues that impact the environment, like climate change and societal problems in inequality and governance.
This university prepares its students to become the next leaders of society in the many fields their urban planning studies can take them. Some potential career paths are becoming a building and planning officer, policy developer, economics and social advisory consultant, statutory planner, development support officer, and research analyst. Coming from a top university in Australia will give students an advantage in getting opportunities.
13. University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research institution located in Manchester, England. This university, a member of the Russell Group, is renowned for its superior academic and research programs. There are now 25 Nobel Prize winners among the current and previous faculty, staff, and students at the University of Manchester, and over 90% of graduates from Manchester can enter the workforce or pursue further education easily.
This prestigious institution also offers an urban planning program for undergraduate and graduate students. The course is appropriate for social development specialists working in the nonprofit, for-profit, or public sectors who want to expand their knowledge of urban concerns.
The Global Urban Research Center (GURC) of the school also offers an interdisciplinary course that draws the advanced expertise of staff from the School of Environment, Education and Development, the Alliance Manchester Business School, the Global Development Institute (GDI), Planning and Environmental Management, Geography, and Architecture departments. The program equips students with skills and knowledge that can improve their understanding of global urban development issues and help resolve problems relating to informality and inequality, poverty, climate change, insecurity, and lack of social cohesion.
14. Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgia Institute of Technology is known for having the best engineering and computing colleges in the country. It has a wide variety of technologically-focused majors and minors that consistently top rankings nationwide. While the school has established its specialty course, it does not diminish but also excels in business, sciences, liberal arts, and design.
Georgia Tech’s graduate degree in City and Regional Planning (MCRP) is one of the best in the nation, and its bachelor’s program in urban planning is in the top 15%. Its School of City and Regional Planning aims to develop crafting communities that are resilient, sustainable, healthy, just, and inclusive. Georgia Tech also prides itself on its advanced technological resources and cutting-edge research to educate its students and address urban, environmental, economic, and community development issues. With its values, resources, and education, Georgia Tech is a great choice for urban planning majors.
15. University of New South Wales
The University of New South Wales, also known as UNSW Sydney, is an Australian public research university located in Sydney. UNSW is known for Graduate Employability ranking second in Australia and 27th in the world.
For those who want to get a degree in urban planning, UNSW makes for a great choice. The institute has Australia’s leading City Futures Research Center, accreditation with the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA), and a network with the PIA Young Planners. The university also has a high ranking in national and international scores for its urban planning course.
Find Out: How to Study in Australia for Free
16. University of Pennsylvania
Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world. The institute is the fourth-oldest higher education facility in the United States and belongs to the list of private Ivy League research universities.
UPenn also offers urban planning programs under its Stuart Weitzman School of Design. This department aims to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues. This top urban planning school in the world also offers online training in urban planning to accommodate the diversity of learners in this global age.
17. University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong, familiarly known to its community as HKU, is the oldest tertiary education institution in Hong Kong. It evolved from the Faculty of Medicine founded in 1887 and officially opened in 1912 with Arts, Engineering, and Medicine as its first faculties. Since then, the university has become one of the most respected comprehensive research-led universities across the globe.
The Urban Planning and Design Department of HKU offers undergraduate studies that equip its students with knowledge of the dynamics of cities and systems of cities and other important topics related to urban planning. HKU also offers graduate studies in Urban Analytics, Urban Design, Transport Policy and Planning, and Housing Management.
Urban planning is a promising and relevant field of study, especially with the increasing need for sustainable and livable cities. Pursuing a degree in this field can lead to significant personal gains, in addition to the opportunity to contribute to the development of cities for the benefit of their residents. After choosing from one of these best schools to study Urban Planning, check out our list of Fully Funded Scholarships to learn more about how you can study at top universities without worrying about your finances.
We hope this article on the world’s best urban planning schools was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs for International Students!