Planning & Development - Higher Level Apprenticeship

Completion of this part-time conversion Masters, following your undergraduate qualification, will allow you to become an accredited planner. This Higher Level Apprenticeship offers 10 funded Department for Economy-funded places for those working in planning-related industry.

Planning is a fascinating subject to study at university. It is about changing the places within which we live. How we can transform and improve our cities, towns, villages, neighbourhoods, and communities. So, it affects our everyday lives and is an extremely exciting discipline to study at university. A Planning degree provides you with the knowledge and skills to be able to make decisions that shape the processes of growth and development. We currently face many major challenges - for example, attracting investment, creating jobs, protecting the environment, energy policy, housing supply, transport links, providing local amenities, protecting health and wellbeing - and Planning affects how these things happen. Therefore, as future planners you will have a very important role to play in shaping the future. Planning is a broad subject matter and planners perform many different roles relating to the natural, physical, economic, social, and cultural environments that we live in. Given this, Planning offers a wide spectrum of employment opportunities. Studying Planning will equip you with the knowledge to understand how cities, towns, villages, communities, and neighbourhoods function and operate, and then have the skills to make decisions that shape how they grow and prosper. The discipline of Planning is located in the School of Natural and Built Environment, David Keir Building on Stranmillis Road, Belfast.

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, renewable energy, built heritage, legal, development and construction.

You will have a keen interest in urban planning. 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.

Course Content
The course’s primary focus is on attaining a professional qualification. It is designed as a conversion Masters for graduates in any undergraduate subject to provide a broad knowledge of planning and the professional skills and experience you’ll need to forge a career in this area. Your dissertation may be a work-based project, working for a client organisation on a brief that they commission. You will learn the use of techniques (GIS, design software, statistical analysis) but more importantly, how to apply them to solve problems, create new solutions for the built environment and understand the complexity of environmental management.

The Environment
You’ll be working in an applied problem-solving environment, confronting genuine challenges in the field and making a real contribution to sustainable environments. We place an emphasis on projects on live planning problems such as a Development Plan exercise for a client (local authority), on studio work and applied learning outside the class including problem-solving with controversial proposals, such as fracking and windfarm applications. You’ll work with your fellow students in teams to find practical approaches to the management and development of the built environment.

Course Content
An intensive programme to prepare graduates from a broad range of disciplines for a career in planning and development. It is overseen by professional Partnership Boards of practitioners, academics and members of the Institutes, and accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

You’ll develop relevant skills in ICT, problem solving, team work and aspects of urban design; you’ll gain awareness of your ethical responsibilities; and you’ll benefit from a strong emphasis on the practical skills and knowledge required for theoretically-informed practice.

Subjects taught

Year 1
Core Modules
• Planning Law and Practice (10 credits)
• International Planning Studies (10 credits)
• Community Planning and Regeneration (10 credits)
• Planning Skills and Ethics (10 credits)
• Design in the Built Environment (10 credits)
• Professional Practice Project in Environmental Planning (20 credits)
• Independent Specialist Project (60 credits)
• Introduction to Planning Theory and Practice (10 credits)
• Property Development (10 credits)
• GIS and Spatial Analysis (20 credits)
• Planning and Environmental Governance (10 credits)

Entry requirements

Normally a 2.2 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any discipline.

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

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

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.

Application dates

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.

How to Apply
Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.


2 years part-time.
Contact teaching hours (per week): 9 hours part-time.
The Part-time delivery of this programme facilitates day-release with teaching on 1 day per week.

Enrolment dates

Entry Year: 2024/25

Post Course Info

Career Prospects
Our graduates end up in leading positions in central and local government, planning consultancies in the private sector and in NGOs. Former students have also gained employment in related fields of housing, renewable energy, heritage and environmental advocacy internationally.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters at UK Level 7

  • Attendance type

    Part time,Day release

  • Apply to

    Course provider