Claire: MSc Urban and Regional Planning

Claire, an MSc Urban and Regional Planning student, describes her experiences of the course and of life in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Birmingham.


My name’s Claire, and I'm a student on the Urban and Regional Planning course here at the University of Birmingham.

I think what is so special about the course here at Birmingham is that there's a real focus on real-world planning. So obviously there's lectures and we learn the theories and skills that we need, but there's a real focus on hands-on real-world planning. So we have regular seminars from planning practitioners, we’re invited to RTPI young planners events, and we often have guest speakers. So in the coming weeks we've got Waheed Nazir the Director of Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City Council. So I think what's special about the course is it opens planning up beyond the course requirements and the skills we learn through lectures, and this allows you to appreciate and understand planning more widely and find your own niche within planning.

I chose to come to the University of Birmingham to do my postgrad degree because I did my undergraduate degree in geography and planning here and realised I just really enjoyed studying here. I think in part this is due to the learning environment. It’s a real privilege to be part of the academic community on such a lovely campus. I think as well I developed good working relationships with the members of staff and I learnt really well through their practical approach which I think is so important in applied and practical job like planning. Birmingham as well as a city is so dynamic and rapidly evolving and there's such a diverse range of planning challenges and such rapid growth in development, and as a planner that’s really exciting. They refer to Birmingham as our learning laboratory which might sound a bit clichéd but it’s so important because what we’re learning, the theory and the knowledge that we’re learning in the lectures come alive when you can see them and you can experience them around you in the city you're learning in. I think this focus on real world planning makes you understand and appreciate that what you're learning is really up to date and relevant. The course here at Birmingham is RTPI accredited which was a big pull for me. I was recently looking at a job application and one of the requirements was an RTPI accredited course, and of course it’s not the case for all jobs but this just reinforced to me the importance of doing a course that you know will be relevant and teach you the knowledge and skills you need in the planning profession.

I think my top tip for anyone looking to apply to this course is to make sure that you find it interesting, and make sure that it’s relevant for future prospects in careers because it does require a lot of work and a lot of motivation at times. I think if you're wanting to pursue a career in planning I would highly recommend this course, and I would attribute a lot of my passion for planning and my prospects in this field to be the knowledge and the skills I've learnt and the quality of teaching and opportunities I've had here at Birmingham. I'm only just coming to the end of my first semester and I'm thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying it so I’d highly recommend this course. 

The course is delivered on a Monday and a Tuesday for fulltime students or Monday in first year and Tuesday in second year for part-time students, and on these days the time is split between lectures, seminars and workshops, in contact with the teaching staff, and then the rest of the week we have time for group work or individual work. Group work is quite important on the course. I think because there's such a mix of students; there's international students, domestic students like myself who have carried on straight from undergraduate degree, and also students who have been working for a few years and then come back to study. So group work is really important because you get such a mix of interest and rich insights that you would never have thought of before. On the course we've got an opportunity to go to Rotterdam as a week’s field trip and that will be really interesting to be able to see the similarities and differences in planning in another European city, as well as being great fun I'm sure.

I've been working a day a week at a private planning consultancy in Chester throughout this course, and I'm going to continue working there when I complete my Masters. I think the careers network has been really helpful in helping me to achieve employment upon graduation because of the opportunities and services they offer. So I've been to a CV clinic to have my CV checked, I've been to countless careers fairs and networking events, and they also do job application checking and mock interviews, so I don’t think it’s surprising that Birmingham is number one in the country for graduate employment because there is a real focus on helping us to get work after our degrees.

My favourite thing about being a postgraduate at the University of Birmingham is that the range and mix of people I've got to know. On the course it’s made up of such a diverse range of people from different backgrounds and experiences from all corners of the world, and I think this has really developed my understanding of planning beyond what we've learnt on the course. So for example getting to know students from different countries I've learnt about the planning systems in their countries, and this has given me a broader and more appreciative understanding of planning.