Planning Core Curriculum

The MSc. Pl Program offers a fully accredited Master’s degree to suit the needs of students intent on working as planners or pursuing doctoral studies in planning or related fields. The structure of this curriculum consists of a required set of core courses and a broad range of elective courses; students may elect from among five Concentrations in Planning, or a generalist option that established a breadth of planning knowledge:

  • Economic Development Planning 
  • Environmental Planning 
  • Social Planning and Policy
  • Transportation Planning and Infrastructure 
  • Urban Design
  • Urban Planning and Development

While the purpose of the core curriculum is to provide students with the kinds of knowledge considered essential to the education of a planner (history, theory, criticism, methods, skills), the six areas of concentrations offer the opportunity for more in-depth study related to their future work. 

Core Curriculum Courses

The Planning curriculum consists of 16 half-courses (8 credits), which full-time students complete within two academic years (four semesters), usually by taking four-half courses per semester, along with a Summer Internship between the two years. The Program also admits part-time students, who are expected to fulfill all requirements for the degree within 6 years of first enrollment. 

Out of the 16 half-courses (8 credits), the core curriculum accounts for 9 half-courses (6 half-courses and one full-course, the Current Issues Paper), that is, 1.0 credits – as explained below. The Concentration in Planning requires further half-courses, up to 5. These requirements leave students with space for at least three more electives – 3 half-courses or 1 full course + one half-course – that may be taken from any Graduate Unit in the University. 

The Core Curriculum, which is required of all students, is anchored in PLA1101H Planning History, Thought and Practice, a critical examination of the historical legacy, philosophical underpinnings and normative questions that shape contemporary planning practice.

PLA 1103H Legal Basis of Planning will provide students with an overview of planning law as it is constituted by different levels of government, administrative tribunals and the courts; the course also addresses planning law in action, including understanding how legal issues affect the day-to-day life of planners, as well as current issues in planning such as indigenous-municipal planning relationships and affordable housing innovations.

PLA 1102H Planning Methods I and PLA 1105H Planning Methods II introduce students to a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods of research and evaluation frequently employed in planning practice.

Taken together, these four first-year core courses, while covering knowledge essential to all kinds of planning practice, also provide students with a foundation for work in their Concentrations in Planning and second-year Core Courses: PLA 1106H Workshop in Planning Practice and PLA 1107Y Current Issues Paper.

The Workshop enables students to apply the fruits of their education in year one to a range of exemplary planning problems and projects in the real world, in the form of semester-long planning projects conducted by student groups on behalf of public and community-based planning clients. The Current Issues Paper, which is likewise focused on the practice of planning via consultation with an outside, professional advisor (under the supervision of two faculty, at least one of whom must be appointed in the Department of Geography and Planning), allows students to undertake original research in their particular area of interest – often with a view to preparing for future professional work.

There is an additional core course that may be taken in either year 1 or year 2 (for those enrolled during the 2021-2022 academic year). Students may elect among the following 3 courses to fulfill this core requirement: PLA 1108, Communication in the Face of Power, PLA 1552 Management for Planners, or PLA 1520H Project Management and Conflict resolution (not offered in 2021-2022). Starting in Fall 2022 this core requirement must be met by taking PLA 1108, Communication in the Face of Power, during Year 1.

PLA 1108, Communication in the Face of Power, surveys a range of skills that planners must develop in order to promote progressive planning objectives in the face of power (racial capitalism, sexism, ableism, colonialism, and so on), including community engagement, community-based research, participatory action research, participatory planning, facilitation, negotiation, conflict resolution, working with indigenous rights holders, and creative communications strategies.

Program Structure

The basic structure of the Planning Program consisting of core courses and electives (which fulfill the requirements of Concentrations in Planning as explained below) is as follows:

First Semester (fall)

PLA 1101H Planning History, Thought and Practice
PLA 1102H Planning Methods I
Elective or PLA 1108

Second Semester (spring)

PLA1103H Legal Basis of Planning
PLA1105H Planning Methods II
Elective or PLA 1108 or PLA 1552

[Summer Internship and Plan of Study]

Third Semester (fall)

PLA 1106H Workshop in Planning Practice
PLA 1107Y Current Issues Paper
Elective or PLA 1108

Fourth Semester (spring)

PLA 1107Y Current Issues Paper
Elective or or PLA 1108 or PLA 1552

Almost all of the courses in the Planning Program are half courses (H), which last one term and are worth 0.5 credits—with a significant exception. PLA 1107Y Current Issues Paper is a full course (Y) that continues through both terms from September to April; this is also a core course required for all students.

For course descriptions and schedules, please consult the department’s course information and timetables.