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UCC Postgraduate courses

Planning & Sustainable Development

Course Fact File
Duration2 Years
Teaching ModeFull-time
NFQ LevelLevel 9
Closing DateRolling deadline. Open until all places have been filled. Early application is advised.
Non-EU Closing DateOpen until all places have been filled or no later than 30 June. Early application is advised.
Start Date9 September 2024

Course Outline

Our Master’s in Planning and Sustainable Development (MPlan) programme is offered by the College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences (CACSSS) at University College Cork (UCC). This is an internationally-recognised, professionally-accredited master’s course in spatial planning and development for cities, regions, towns, rural areas, and neighbourhoods. 

As chartered professionals, MPlan graduates tackle real-world sustainability and environmental challenges in public, private and community settings throughout the world. 

The MPlan is a comprehensive, two-year course compatible with European standards and with international professional training models for planning. Our graduates come from many different disciplines, so our course offers a rich learning environment for people to fine-tune their areas of interest into a practical, ethical and effective field of action with relevance in the contemporary world.

The degree, which has a strong theoretical and ethical foundation, develops a wide range of skills and abilities leading to a strong capacity for making real-world, imaginative and balanced proposals and recommendations about the future of places. 

On graduation, you will be able to make a genuine and enduring contribution to society. The course content and learning progression of the MPlan has been designed around the professional accreditation requirements of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Irish Planning Institute (IPI).

Course Content

This is a full-time taught programme running for 24 months over two academic years from the date of first registration. You will take a total of 120 credits over two academic years as follows:

Year 1 (60 credits total)

  • PD6105 Housing, Social Change and Community Needs (5 credits)
  • PD6106 Infrastructure and Transport in Land Use Planning (5 credits)
  • PD6110 Foundations in Planning and Sustainable Development (5 credits)
  • PD6111 Contemporary Concepts in Planning Theory (5 credits)
  • PD6112 Drawing, Communication and Observation Skills (5 credits)
  • PD6113 Information and Engagement Skills in Planning (5 credits)
  • PD6114 Planning Processes, Administration and Participation (5 credits)
  • PD6116 Urban and Metropolitan Spatial Planning (5 credits)
  • PD6117 Regional, National and Transnational Planning (5 credits)
  • PD6118 Principles of Urban Design and Place-making (5 credits)
  • PD6205 Planning and Management of Natural Resources (5 credits)
  • LW6101 Introduction to Planning Law (5 credits)

Year 2 (60 credits total)

  • PD6120 Landscape Character, Context and Change (5 credits)
  • PD6122 Planning and Design for Built Heritage (5 credits)
  • PD6206 Property, Sustainable Growth and Enterprise (5 credits)
  • PD6207 Spatial Planning and Landscape for Rural Environments (5 credits)
  • PD6208 Applied Discourses in Planning and Sustainable Development (5 credits)
  • PD6209 International Planning Systems and Approaches (5 credits) 
  • PD6211 Plan-making and Forward Planning Skills (5 credits)
  • PD6212 Planning Skills in Development Management and Assessment (5 credits)
  • PD6213 Research Methods and Proposals in Planning (5 credits)
  • PD6215 Planning Dissertation/Research Project (15 credits)

Academic Programme Catalogue

See the Academic Programme Catalogue where you can search for the complete and up-to-date content for this course. Note that the modules for all courses are subject to change from year to year. For complete descriptions of individual modules, see the Book of Modules.

Course Practicalities

This programme is taken on a full-time basis over 2 years across two 12-week teaching terms. Lectures will be scheduled on four to five days per week and there will also be afternoon studio sessions or tutorials each week, all supported by individual study/reading time. There will be mandatory residential and day field trips, both within and outside Ireland in both years, and students will be asked to contribute towards the cost of these.


MPlan modules are assessed almost entirely through coursework: essays, designs, field journals, tutorials, team projects, written reflection, individual presentations and research projects/dissertations. Around 25% of the modules also have a short written examination at the end of the relevant teaching period, making up 30-40% of the marks available for the module.

Postgraduate Diploma in Planning & Sustainable Development – Candidates who pass modules to a value of 60 credits in the First Year may exit the programme and be conferred with the Postgraduate Diploma in Planning & Sustainable Development.

Who teaches this course

The core of this course is taught by the full-time and part-time staff of the UCC Centre for Planning Education and Research (which is a full member of the Association of European Schools of Planning) and by other UCC Departments. Additional teaching contributions are made by professional practitioners and guests as required.  

Main teaching team

Connected Curriculum

Our learning approach reflects our commitment to the Connected Curriculum where we emphasise the connection between students, learning, research and leadership through our vision for a Connected University. Our staff are at the forefront of this integrative approach to learning and will support you in making meaningful connections across the disciplines of Law, Applied Social Studies and Sociology.

Why Choose This Course

Cork City is a great place to study planning. There is a lot of planning-related history dating back to the Middle Ages and ambitious plans for the near and distant future...

Matthew Klem, MPlan

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I chose the MPlan because it was an opportunity to learn from an EU perspective...

Nathaniel Ryan, MPlan

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This masters has helped guide me in a direction that I look forward to pursuing and know that it has prepared me as much as education can before my career begins...

Matthew Cox, MPlan

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Planning is a career path that has the potential to enrich people’s lives by shaping a quality, inclusive environment...

Mary Molloy, MPlan

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The MPlan at UCC is known for the high quality of its graduates and its broad-based approach to learning. With a core teaching team of experienced professional planners, the course sits at the meeting point between the rigour of academic thought and the effectiveness of real-world practice.

Our MPlan has an international focus (with two study visits outside of Ireland) and a disciplinary ethos that straddles the physical sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This makes our programme especially interesting for English-speaking graduates from North America, Asia, and the global South who are interested in furthering their education in a progressive European university.

Skills and Careers Information

As the programme is a professional masters and fully accredited by the Irish Planning Institute (IPI) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), the most usual employment for graduates is in the planning industry. Traditionally conducted within the public sector at all levels of government, planning is now carried out in a wide variety of professional environments across the public and private sectors and across the housing, transportation, environment, retail, energy, heritage sectors.

The accreditation from the RTPI is internationally recognised and many of our graduates have found work across the globe. Students graduate with a range of skills which include creative problem solving, environmental evaluation, analytical and research skills, policy development, physical planning, community engagement, teamwork and design techniques and appreciation. This applied skill set is particularly attractive to the public sector, businesses and third sector employment situations.

Occupations associated with an MPlan degree


  • Working in central/regional/local government preparing spatial plans, managing development, protecting our heritage and countryside, working with communities and delivering regeneration;
  • Working in a planning/design consultancy, preparing development proposals, advising clients and assessing environmental impacts;
  • Working for yourself in your own planning consultancy.

Other environmentally based occupations

  • Working with the third sector, promoting sustainability and regeneration, supporting essential development in the third world and campaigning to raise awareness of the importance of jobs, communities and places;
  • Working in transport, housing, recycling, property development, energy, community development and economic development.

Research and further studies

  • Working for a PhD, teaching and academic research;
  • Carrying out environmental and property research.

Unlike most postgraduate options, an MPlan qualification leads directly to a professional career in planning or related fields. The MPlan has an extremely strong reputation in Ireland and abroad for the quality of their graduates and this is reflected in their employment rates and early career progress. Demand for planners is increasing rapidly in Ireland and across the globe.  A 2019 survey of almost 200 MPlan graduates shows that 35% work abroad (mainly in the UK, USA and Australia) with the remaining 65% having established professional careers in Ireland in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. In addition, the MPlan team have developed strong relationships with employers and specialist planning recruitment agencies which has helped secure positions for graduates of the programme.

MPlan - Graduate Attributes

The MPlan is showcased by the UCC Graduate Attribute Programme.


To apply for this course you need to have a Second Class Honours Grade II in a primary honours degree (NFQ, Level 8) or higher in arts, social science, architecture, engineering, science, commerce, or law (or equivalent). In exceptional circumstances, and subject to the approval of the College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences, candidates who have a primary degree other than an honour, and who demonstrate a high level of relevant work experience, may also be eligible for entry to the course under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

Selection will be based on academic achievement, a written expression of interest, an interview and any relevant work experience.

For Applicants with Qualifications Completed Outside of Ireland

Applicants must meet the required entry academic grade, equivalent to Irish requirements. For more information see our Qualification Comparison page.

International/Non-EU Applicants

For full details of the non-EU application procedure visit our how to apply pages for international students.

  • In UCC, we use the term programme and course interchangeably to describe what a person has registered to study in UCC and its constituent colleges, schools, and departments.
  • Note that not all courses are open to international/non-EU applicants, please check the fact file above. For more information contact the International Office.
English Language Requirements

Applicants who are non-native speakers of the English language must meet the university-approved English language requirements. Visit our PG English Language Requirements page for more information.

Fees and Costs

Postgraduate EU and International Fees 2024/2025

See our Postgraduate EU and Non-EU (International) Fee Schedule for the latest information.


If your course requires a deposit, that figure will be deducted from your second-semester fee payment in January.

Fee payment 

Fees are payable in two equal instalments. First payment is at registration and the balance usually by the end of January.

How can I pay? 

See different options on our How Do I Pay My Fees? page.

Any questions? See the 'Contact Us' section on the Fees Office page.

How To Apply

1. Check dates

Check the opening and closing dates for the application process in the fact file boxes at the top of the page.

2. Gather documents

Scanned copies of supporting documents have to be uploaded to the UCC online application portal and include:

  • Original qualification documents listed on your application including transcripts of results from institutions other than UCC.
  • Any supplementary items requested for your course if required.

3. Apply online

Apply online via the UCC online application portal. Note the majority of our courses have a non-refundable €50 application fee.

Any questions? Use our web enquiry form to contact us.

Additional Requirements (All Applicants)

Please note you will be required to provide additional information as part of the online application process for this programme. This will include the following questions:

  • You may enter the details of professional or voluntary positions held. We strongly encourage you to complete this section with all relevant work experiences that will support your application.
  • Please describe your motivation and readiness for this programme.
  • Please enter the details of a referee who can provide a reference for either previous relevant work experience and professional performance OR previous relevant academic performance, qualifications and aptitude.

The closing date for non-EU applications is Open until all places have been filled or no later than 30 June. Early application is advised.

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For queries regarding course content or timetables please contact