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Past Questions

  1. Thank you for your reply. Can I ask you a more specific question? The direction I think is not only the re-use of gas stations. Due to the recent influence of COVID 19 and the development of electric vehicles, the representative of gas stations I know is considering switching to other businesses due to future uncertainties in the gas station business, and in fact, closing gas stations are increasing. Since Planning courses are mostly public areas, I wonder if I can study commercial parts on the course, and I wonder which course is closest to the course I think? Thank you.

    Hi, again I would say surveying covers more commercial aspects of land use, planning doesn't really cover commercial uses to any great extent.

  2. I am currently working at a department relative to a gas station in an oil refinery, and while I was looking for a Masters course in the UK for my carrier after retirement, I found out that there are many similar areas such as real estate course, real estate development course, spatial planning, urban planning, and regional development courses etc. I am very interested in the use of closed gas stations, and I wonder if this field is suitable for the Urban and Regional course at the University of Birmingham, if not, what would be the right course?

    Hi, the urban and regional planning course at Bham is so broad that is wouldn't specifically look at re-use of closed gas stations. It prepares you to be a professional Town Planner though and deal with all kind of planning scenarios, including what you're looking at. For instance, I am now working on a project looking at the re-use of a power station in my job, having studied the planning course. The main difference between planning courses and real estate courses is that the planning course is accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) which allows you to work as a professional planner. The real estate courses tend to be accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and prepare you to be a professional surveyor. I hope that helps answer your question.

  3. Hi Jenny, What is the average package of an urban planner per annum as per local market in the UK?

    Hi, it varies a lot per career grade, but I'd say starting salaries are generally between £20k-£28k, mid career salaries circa £30-£50k and leadership salaries in the industry probably anything up to £100k. The RTPI releases a worker survey each year which is worth keeping your eye out for as it goes into this. You can also find information on salaries from many websites like Payscale. The following report is quite useful but conscious its from 2015 so slightly out of date: https://www.thatcherassociates.com/Media/Town%20Planning%20Salary%20Survey%202015.pdf

  4. Hi Jenny,

    I want to become an urban planner, therefore, I am now looking for a programme that can provide me with a foundation that I need to get into the industry. Does the programme at Birmingham include training in GIS or other planning tools? How essential are these skills in real planning situations? Also, as I am from overseas, do you think the career prospects will be different as compared with local students? Thank you very much!

    Hi, the training at Bham didn't include GIS or other planning tools when I did the course (2010), but I am sure you can browse more up to date course content on their website as they may well have adapted this. Digital planning tools are becoming increasingly relevant, and although I don't use them on a day to day basis in my job (it's mainly still Word, Excel, Adobe and PPT for me!), I think this will change in the future and am certainly working with the digital teams in my organisation more (although I don't need the technical skills of building the tools, I do need to understand how to use them more for my job). As for career prospects, I am not sure if you meant how you would fare if you moved here for work, or studying here but then working in your own country. Either way though, I imagine your prospects would be good. Certainly, over here, planners are very much in demand and in my organisation alone we of its overseas reputation but ie have many international employees, so I don't think it would harm you and indeed might help you to bring valuable different perspective. As for the course, I am not sure of the course's international reputation but University of Birmingham as a whole carries a good reputation generally so again studying here should be positive for career prospects overseas. Do follow up if you want to add more detail to your context to allow me to answer the question more fully, thanks!

  5. Hello, I’m 4 weeks away from starting my part time Masters in Urban and Regional planning. I just had a few questions regarding the course as I haven’t really heard much in the build up (understandable considering the times) 1. How did you find the course, was it interesting and practical? 2. What sort of contact hours can I expect per week? 3. Would you recommend any early readings to complete before I start the course? 4. What sort of career have you gone into and does this Masters give good opportunities for work after? Thanks very much and I look forward to seeing your thoughts.

    Hi, in response to your questions: 1. I did find the course interesting and practical - many of the modules had classes with industry representatives that set tasks similar to what you have to do in the real world. 2. When I did the course it was 2 full days of contact (for full time). 3. Cullingworth and Nadin 'Town and Country PLanning in the UK'. 4. I became a town planner for Arup after graduating - I'm still with them now. If you want to become a town planner the course will certainly give you great opportunities in this regard.

  6. Hi Jenny, I'm pursuing my bachelors in Urban and Regional Planning. What will the career opportunities be like after graduating in Urban and regional planning at the University of Birmingham? What is the minimum pay for an Urban Planner in the UK?

    Hi, it is a difficult time to say what the career opportunities will be like because of the current pandemic. However, under normal circumstances, your career prospects would be very good. Birmingham has a great reputation and planning companies value its graduates. Pay for a Graduate Planner tends to vary quite considerably but I'd say its usually around £20-28k. I believe the RTPI has an annual career survey which probably provides more accurate information on pay than me! Hope this helps.

  7. Hi Jenny,

    I am planning to study this degree and would like to know how many days you have to go into the university for lectures/seminars/classes? I will be living in London and travelling to Birmingham as financially it might not be worth it to move to Birmingham. Thanks for the help.

    Hi, it would be worth checking with the department for up to date information but when I studied it was just two days full time and one day part time that you were required to be physically on campus. When I did the course those days were Mondays and Tuesdays, but I would just double check this is the case. With the price of train tickets you might still be financially better off living in Birmingham though! Good luck with your choice.

  8. HI, I am interested in studying the MSc Urban and Regional Planning part-time. Do you know how many times a week I would need to travel to campus for this (e.g. how many lessons there are per week)? Your help is much appreciated.

    Hello, thank you very much for your question and apologies in the delay getting back to you. My name is Emma from the Postgraduate Recruitment team, and I am replying on behalf of the mentor as they have not yet answered it.

    Unfortunately I don't have detailed knowledge of the course content, but as the mentor has not replied to you, I would advise that you make an enquiry to the relevant team. At the bottom of the course page (https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/postgraduate/courses/taught/gees/urban-regional-planning.aspx) there is a 'Make an enquiry' button. Submitting a question there will send it to someone on the team, who will hopefully be able to help!

    Best wishes, PG Recruitment

    Hi, apologies for the late reply on this. Lockdown with two young children plus full on work left me quite literally with no time! When I did the course you had to attend one day a week if part-time and two days if full time. Hope that helps.

  9. Hi Jenny, I recently got an offer from the University of Birmingham and Newcastle university for a Masters in urban planning for the September 2020 intake. Which one do you think would be a better option to study, keeping job prospects in mind?

    Hi, I am not really aware of how they compare. All I can say is Birmingham has a great reputation and certainly served me well in terms of getting a job at the end. There are many companies in Birmingham with links to the course which helps to establish contacts and gain exposure to the local industry, but I went and worked in London after graduating so it doesn't limit you to the local market either. I'd say go for what suits you personally and course content-wise as I think you'd have good job prospects going to either Bham or Newcastle. Hope that helps.

  10. Hi Jenny,

    I was just wondering - as exams are not my strong suit, I have heard the course is exam based so I was wondering is the course just purely coursework or exams?

    Also would you consider the course vocational or is it more theory based?

    Hi, the course was 100% coursework when I did it, so it suited me as my exams were also not a strong point. It is a mixture of vocation and theory, but I'd say it's mainly academic still. There are some good modules where industry people come in though to give you 'real life' tasks, so to speak, which I found really useful.

  11. Hi, when is the deadline of application for Autumn 2020?

    Hi,

    For all our postgraduate courses there is no firm deadline for applications. However, courses are competitive and it can take up to eight weeks for applications to be processed so I would recommend applying as early as possible and before the start of June at the latest.

    Best wishes, Tom

  12. Hi Jenny, I'm a graduate of Urban and Regional Planning, I would like to specialise in urban designs and smart cities and I am interested in taking planning to another continent. I'm currently applying for a Cheveling Scholarship. How can I achieve my long term career goals if my scholarship is graciously favoured?

    Hi, it sounds like you are doing everything you can! I would just say study hard in the areas that interest you, do wider reading around urban design and smart cities if that is an area you want to specialise in (see Singapore as an excellent smart city case study) and try to get any work experience you can related to these areas.

  13. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

    I wanted a job in planning and a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) accredited masters is necessary for a long term career in planning, as it provides the foundation for you to become chartered.

  14. How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?

    On leaving Birmingham I joined Arup, an engineering and design consultancy, in their London office. I began as a Graduate Planner with a small role on a variety of projects. A big opportunity presented itself when we won a job to undertake a masterplan for Pretoria in South Africa. I was asked to transfer to our Johannesburg office and jumped at the chance – I lived there for almost a year and learned so much about planning in different contexts. On return, I was promoted to Senior Planner and have begun to manage my own planning projects.

  15. What advice would you give to current students studying on the course?

    Make sure you are passionate about the subject as planning projects are often long-term and the outcomes can take years to be realised.

  16. How did your degree prepare you for what you are doing now?

    My degree was directly related to my profession so it provided a solid foundation for my planning career. It provided a good balance of academic debate with practical application, especially as people working in the field were often integrated into the lecture programme. In particular, I loved that it used Birmingham as a case study for so much of what we were learning, it helped to see such things playing out in the city in reality.

  17. What was the highlight of your time at Birmingham?

    I really enjoyed the module where we had to carry out a masterplanning task for Birmingham City Council as it gave you a great understanding of what it might be like to work as a planning consultant. What’s more, three years later I was involved in a masterplanning project with my company for the very same area, showing how practical and relevant our course had been!

  18. Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

    The main reason why I chose Birmingham is friendliness – I found the lecturers at Birmingham incredibly welcoming and helpful when I first visited on an open day that I was sold immediately. And this translated to the course too - they were always ready to lend an ear when it came to discussing content or advising on job opportunities – I felt as if I had a trusted mentor, something which I’d felt was missing from my undergraduate university.

  19. How did you grow as a person by studying at University? Did it change your life in any way?

    I think one of the biggest ways I grew was that I became so much more culturally aware. I was suddenly surrounded by people who took an interest in the world and this had not been the case where I grew up. This change in perspective really broadened my horizons and opened me up to opportunities that I don’t think I’d have otherwise thought were for people like me.

  20. What would be a good book to read to lay the foundation for studying Urban and Regional Planning?

    Hi, I found Cullingworth and Nadin's 'Town and Country Planning in the UK' really useful as an overall introduction to planning in the UK: https://amzn.to/2M9ClJA

    Lots of people had it on my course too, it's essential reading for any wannabe planner!

    This book by Peter Hall is also great: https://amzn.to/2NTLZl7

    And just an all time classic in the urban world generally, is Jane Jacob's Life and Death of Great American Cities: https://amzn.to/2wRyQBV

    Hope this helps!

  21. Hi Jenny, I am strongly considering studying this course next academic year as I have a passion for planning and the built environment. I just wondered if you could advise me on any tips you have for the personal statement and how to maximise my chances of being accepted onto the course? Thank you!

    Hi, my advice would be to just show your passion for planning as much as possible. If you can demonstrate any work experience you have done that will show you are serious about pursuing planning as a career.

    If your undergrad dissertation touched on planning /regeneration/ urban renewal etc I would mention/ discuss that to show that planning has always been of consideration.

    I would also try to drop in a current issue that is topical in planning news to show you keep abreast of planning news. Looking at The Planner magazine, Guardian Cities or any type of related publication could give you some inspiration.

    All in all, as long as you can show you are keen and have a genuine interest this will speak volumes! Good luck with your application.

  22. I'm currently working as a Planning Officer in a London LPA. I'm considering doing a Masters seeing as I don't have a Planning undergraduate degree however, with Birmingham I'd have to go back to uni for a year. Is there much financial support, or are there opportunities for Planners in Birmingham to work alongside studying part time for 2 years?

    Hi, when I studied at Birmingham there wasn’t much financial support for the planning course specifically, it was all dealt with via the university centrally. I’m afraid as this is an area I don’t know much about you’d be best asking a contact at the university or from the course. There is also the option to study part time which lots of people do, which could be a good balance of studying whilst still earning.

    Thanks, Jenny

  23. Hi Jenny, for my final semester at University, I am taking an independent geographical essay module. I am currently thinking about potential essay titles for this essay in the field of urban and regional studies. As a senior planner, what are the key research topics you studied in the Masters degree and which topics do you think I should delve into to gain a greater insight into the topic and maximise my chances of admission to the Masters course? Thank you!

    Hi, the topics I covered on my planning Masters included: regeneration, social housing, sustainability, urban design, planning policies etc. If you look at the website you’ll get a good idea of current modules. I’d advise picking something quite specific in relation to one of the above topics to keep your essay focused and specialised. For example, my dissertation looked specifically at how urban design and planning need to make city centres more family friendly. A niche angle normally attracts more attention than a generic essay about regeneration for example. Have a look at The Planner magazine for inspiration about what is topical at the moment. Good luck!