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. We rely in large part on project-based learning. The program also puts great emphasis on students doing policy-relevant research.
The School’s teaching and research activities 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. Further information concerning these concentrations is available at www.mcgill.ca/urbanplanning/programs. Students wishing to specialize in urban development and 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.
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If you identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis, you are encouraged to self-identify on your application. For full details, please consult Indigenous Applicants.
If you do not possess a conventional basis of admission such as a high school or CEGEP diploma you may qualify to apply as a Mature Student.
Factors that are NOT considered in the admission review:
- Interviews, extracurricular activities and additional documents (such as recommendation letters, personal statements and portfolios) are not considered in the admission review and should not be submitted. Some exceptions do apply, please consult Additional Supporting Documents.
- Your citizenship or permanent resident status – our review will be based on your demonstrated academic ability, regardless of citizenship or resident status. Later, if admitted, this information will impact your tuition fees.
- Legacy information – some universities and colleges have legacy programs which give special admission consideration to relatives of graduates; McGill does not have a legacy admission program.