City Planning & Design - Higher Level Apprenticeship

In a world facing environmental, social and economic challenges, how we manage changes to our natural and built environments will be crucial for our future. In our urbanised world, how we design and plan our cities impacts our environmental sustainability, health and even happiness. This programme will equip you with the skills to be part of making progressive changes in your place.

In practice, there is a common tension between those developing and interpreting planning policy on the one hand, and the designers of cities on the other. This programme brings these groups together to engage in project-based learning. You will develop planning research, urban analysis and design skills before deciding whether to complete an urban design thesis or dissertation. Both of these options can be completed as work-based studies with opportunities for summer placements.

Please note: This course is subject to renewal approval by the Department for the Economy.

About You
The HLA is a work / study programme so you will already be in employment, or have a firm offer of employment from a company in a planning-related sector which supports your application. Related sectors include: community development, environmental, housing, architecture, landscape architecture, renewable energy, built heritage, legal, development and construction.

You will have a keen interest in planning, urbanism and placemaking. You may already have experience of working in the field – hands on experience is not necessary for starting the course, but it can be useful.

Subjects taught

he course content gives theoretical and practical coverage across a wide variety of topics including:
• Green infrastructure
• The Inclusive City
• Urban Technological Developments
• Low carbon transition
• Critical Heritage Perspectives
• Cities and the e-economy
• Planning the Urban-Rural dialectic
• Demographic challenges
• The future of urban housing
• Health in future cities

Course Modules
Comparative Urban Design (20 CATS)
Spatial Literacy (20 CATS)
Urban Futures (20 CATS)
Future Planning Practice (20 CATS)
Planning for Sustainable Communities (20 CATS)
Approaches to Development (20 CATS)
Thesis (60 CATS)

Part-time Modules
Year 1, Semester 1
EVP7039 - Spatial Literacy (20 CATS)
EVP7040 - Urban Futures (20 CATS)

Year 1, Semester 2
EVP7043 - Planning for Sustainable Communities (20 CATS).

Year 2, Semester 1
EVP7038 - Comparative Urban Design (20 CATS)

Year 2, Semester 2
EVP7041 - Approaches to Development (20 CATS)
EVP7042 - Future Planning Practice (20 CATS)

Year 2, Semester 3
EVP7044 - Thesis (60 CATS)

Students failing more than 20 CATS points worth of taught modules will not normally be permitted to progress on to the Thesis Module. A student who has failed one 20 CATS taught module will normally be allowed to progress to the Thesis Module at the student's risk. If a student fails the Thesis Module on a second attempt, a post-graduate Diploma may be awarded.

Entry requirements

Normally a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a relevant subject.

Applicants with qualifications below 2.2 Honours degree standard, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University, will be considered on a case-by-case basis, if they can demonstrate appropriate acceptable experience.

The University's Recognition of Prior Learning Policy provides guidance on the assessment of experiential learning (RPEL). Please visit for more information.

Students wishing to apply for this Higher-Level Apprenticeship should also upload their CV and a letter of support from their employer (combined in one file). The employer’s letter of support must state that the employer supports their application, that they are prepared to release them from work for one day per week to attend the course, and that, if they are an existing employee, they need this qualification for a new role. The new role can be a change of title/role within the company.

This Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) is fully funded by the DfE therefore it is not open to international applicants. Further information on eligibility criteria for Higher Level Apprenticeships can be found at

The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2024. However, we encourage applicants to apply as early as possible. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

Please note this course is subject to renewal of funding by the Department for the Economy and applicants must be working for a company with a base in Northern Ireland


2 years (Part Time)

Enrolment dates

Entry Year: 2024/25

Post Course Info

Career Prospects
Our graduates end up in leading positions in central and local government as well as in planning consultancies in the private sector. Some of them have gone on to lead significant environmental campaigns such as opposition to fracking; work with NGOs such as Friends of the Earth; and work with communities to make their neighbourhoods better, such as with disadvantaged groups.

Employment after the Course
Examples of employment: Urban Design and Planning practices, Research institutions, GIS companies, Housing organisations, Community Advocacy Groups, Environmental and Community sector NGOs.

Employment Links
Graduate employers include:- Belfast City Council, Department for Infrastructure and other public and private sector planning consultancies.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters at UK Level 7

  • Attendance type

    Part time,Daytime

  • Apply to

    Course provider