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Urban Planning

Urban Planning


  • School of Urban Planning
  • Macdonald Harrington Building, Room 400
  • 815 Sherbrooke Street West
  • Montreal QC H3A 0C2
  • Canada

About Urban Planning

Urban planning is the process by which a community shapes its environment to meet its needs and realize its aspirations. Urban planning is also the profession of those who facilitate this process. While the practice of planning is as old as the cities themselves, the Urban Planning profession is only about a century old. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, architects, landscape architects, engineers, government reformers, lawyers, public health specialists, and others joined forces to tackle the serious social and environmental problems of the industrial city. They created new techniques and institutions to improve living conditions and decision-making processes, with an eye to improving cities in terms of health, safety, efficiency, equity, beauty, identity, etc. Today, people who enter the profession come from diverse backgrounds as well, including the design professions, engineering and applied sciences, environmental and social studies, and other fields. Their challenge is to reinvent tools and procedures to meet new challenges in making cities socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. A key feature of planning education is learning to view issues in a multidisciplinary way, to manage processes of collaboration and of conflict, and to generate equitable and efficient solutions to complex problems of urban development.

McGill University was the first institution in Canada to offer a full-time planning program starting in 1947. In 1972, the School of Urban Planning was created as a separate academic unit within the Faculty of Engineering. It shares a heritage building with the School of Architecture, right on the main open space of McGill’s Downtown campus. The primary objective of the Master of Urban Planning program is to educate professional urban planners for leadership in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors. This happens in large part through project-based learning. The program also puts great emphasis on students doing policy-relevant research.

The School prepares doctoral students for high-level research and teaching positions. The doctoral program is an Ad hoc program—in which students are subject to the University’s regulations in terms of supervision and progress—that welcomes a small number of students, both local and international, who hold a master’s degree and apply on the basis of their own research interests. Prospective applicants should consult www.mcgill.ca/urbanplanning.

The School’s teaching and research activities, for both master’s and Ph.D. students, pertain primarily to community planning; environmental policy and planning; international development planning; land-use planning and regulation; transportation and infrastructure planning; and urban design. These activities, which are conducted for the purpose of promoting better decision-making and improving human environments, often take place in partnership with other McGill departments (notably Architecture, Civil Engineering, Geography, and Law) and with units at other institutions in Montreal, across Canada, and abroad. The School uses Montreal and its region as its main teaching laboratory.

McGill's School of Urban Planning has a strong track record of contributing to the community and to the profession. It works with civil society as well as with government, at home and abroad, to understand urban challenges and to formulate policies and plans to meet them.

Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.) Program

The Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.) program is a two-year course of study that attracts students from Quebec, Canada, the U.S., and overseas. It is recognized by the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec (OUQ) and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP). Graduates may become full members of the OUQ and other provincial planning associations by completing their respective internship and examination requirements. Similar requirements must be met for admission to the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and other such organizations.

The M.U.P. program was designed with a strong emphasis on project-based learning, in particular through practical work done in teams in three planning studios. Approximately half of the curriculum is devoted to required courses that teach basic knowledge and skills in urban planning; the other half enables students to select courses or research projects that match their particular interests. Students participate actively in professors’ research programs or define their individual research objectives, sometimes with their own research funding from major agencies (e.g., SSHRC, NSERC, FQRSC, FQRNT).

The core program provides a general education in spatial planning in its functional, environmental, and social dimensions. A formal specialization is available in Transportation Planning. M.U.P. students in the core program may also participate in the Barbados Field Study Semester, which focuses on global environmental issues. Details concerning these concentrations are available at www.mcgill.ca/urbanplanning/programs and www.mcgill.ca/bfss respectively. Students wishing to specialize in urban design, as in other subfields of planning, can do so within the core program. In all cases, electives, the summer internship, and the Supervised Research Project allow for individual concentration on a particular topic.

Graduates of the M.U.P. program work as planners, designers and policy analysts, as researchers, advocates and mediators, and they do so at various levels of government, in civil-society organizations, and with private consulting firms. Although their area of expertise varies, they devote their efforts in increasing numbers to sustainable development in its environmental, social, and economic dimensions.

Ph.D. (Ad Hoc)

The School of Urban Planning also offers the possibility of enrolling in a Ph.D. program managed under university regulations. Students can be admitted directly into the program if they hold a master’s degree. Exceptional students from the M.U.P. program can be admitted into the program as well. The Ph.D. program requires the equivalent of a year of course work and a year of preparation for examinations on the student’s field(s) of specialization and dissertation proposal. Work on the dissertation, which may be a monograph or a series of articles, takes two or more additional years.

Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.); Urban Planning (Non-Thesis) (66 credits)
The M.U.P. program requires two years of study, including a three-month summer internship in a professional setting. Upon completion of the program, graduates are expected to have acquired basic planning skills, a broad understanding of urban issues, and specialized knowledge in a field of their own choice.
Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.); Urban Planning (Non-Thesis) — Transportation Planning (66 credits)
Note: The Transportation Planning option is not being offered in 2014-2015. Students will be able to take some courses in this area and devote their Internship and Supervised Research Project to transportation-related topic, but a formal concentration will not be available.
The Transportation Planning concentration enables students to specialize in this field as part of their course of study for the M.U.P. degree. A number of core courses and electives, the summer internship, and the Supervised Research Project must be devoted to the acquisition of skills (including in quantitative analysis) necessary to work as a transportation planner. Admission into the concentration is based on a competitive selection process at the end of the first year of study in the M.U.P. program.
Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.); Urban Planning (Non-Thesis) — Urban Design (66 credits)
Note: The Urban Design option is being suspended. Students interested in Urban Design are able to specialize in this field of practice as part of the core M.U.P. program.
The Urban Design option allows students to specialize in this field as part of their course of study for the M.U.P. degree. Studio courses, an internship, and a final project involve real-life work that prepares students for the professional practice of Urban Design.
Taken from Programs, Courses and University Regulations 2014-2015 (last updated Jul. 22, 2014).

Urban Planning Admission Requirements and Application Procedures

Admission Requirements

The M.U.P. degree is open to students holding a bachelor's degree or equivalent in Anthropology, Architecture, Economics, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Geography, Law, Management, Political Science, Social Work, Sociology, or Urban Studies. Students from other backgrounds are considered for admission on an individual basis.

Application Procedures

McGill’s online application form for graduate program candidates is available at www.mcgill.ca/gradapplicants/apply.

See Application Procedures for detailed application procedures.

Additional Requirements

The items and clarifications below are additional requirements set by this department:
  • Personal Statement (one to two pages)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Applicants to graduate studies whose mother tongue is not English, and who have not completed an undergraduate or graduate degree from a recognized foreign institution where English is the language of instruction or from a recognized Canadian institution (anglophone or francophone), must submit documented proof of competency in oral and written English. By the application deadlines, appropriate exam results must be submitted directly from the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing Systems) Office. The minimum requirement for the TOEFL test is as follows: PBT – 600, iBT – 100, with each component score not less than 23. The minimum score for the IELTS test is 7.0

Awards and Financial Assistance

The School offers several fellowships and supports student applications to external grants from provincial and federal agencies. For information regarding awards and financial assistance, please refer to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies website at www.mcgill.ca/gps/funding.

Application Deadlines

The application deadlines listed here are set by the School of Urban Planning and may be revised at any time. Applicants must verify all deadlines and documentation requirements well in advance on the appropriate McGill departmental website; please consult the list at www.mcgill.ca/gps/contact/graduate-program.

Canadian International Special/Exchange/Visiting
Fall: Jan. 15 Fall: Jan. 15 Fall: Jan. 15
Winter: N/A Winter: N/A Winter: N/A
Summer: N/A Summer: N/A Summer: N/A

Admission to graduate studies is competitive; accordingly, late and /or incomplete applications are considered only as time and space permit.

Taken from Programs, Courses and University Regulations 2014-2015 (last updated Jul. 22, 2014).