Our Master of Urban Design program equips future urban designers with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of modern urban growth.
Beginning in the summer term, the intensive 11-month curriculum focuses on enhancing your understanding of urban design at all scales—from the neighbourhood block to the regional. The post-professional course of study integrates design studios with courses in urban design history and theory, economics, and public policy. You will have the opportunity to pursue personal interests in the discipline by choosing the focus of your elective courses and research topics.
The intersection of academia and the contemporary profession informs our investigation and practical work. Each year, we explore an urban design theme through active partnership with community and regional organizations. In the design studios, you will collaborate with faculty, stakeholders, and professionals on real-world projects for possible future applications.
Our students benefit from intimate student-faculty ratios. You will work directly with the practicing professionals who developed Vancouver’s urban design successes. You will have the opportunity to see these achievements up close, through weekly tours to landmark places such as the Olympic Village, Granville Island, and Stanley Park. The urban design faculty and affiliates work alongside you throughout the program and in potential collaborations for local sustainable urbanism projects.
As a student at UBC Vancouver, you will have access to world-class facilities and a research library ranked among the best in Canada. As a student in Vancouver, you will have access to the city and region as a living laboratory, further enhancing your studies in urban design.
Tradition of excellence
The University of British Columbia is a global centre for research and teaching, ranked among the top public universities in the world.
Vancouver is consistently named as one of the top cities in the world for livability and urban design. With diverse geographic regions and climates, a rich, multi-cultural history, a dynamic arts and culture scene, and world class civic spaces, Vancouver is an amazing place to work and study urban design.
Our faculty are internationally renowned experts in their fields and have chosen to teach here in part because of our school’s reputation for excellence in research. Join us and you will learn from the people who are changing the way we think about design.
With low faculty to student ratios, at SALA we get to know you by name. We are proud of our small studios, intimate seminars, and personalized learning opportunities.
Urban design affiliates
As an urban design student, you will have access to an impressive roster of affiliates, including some of the most prominent urban design professionals in Vancouver. Our affiliates are not only involved in teaching and design reviews, but are also available for one-on-one mentoring as you move through the program.
One year to gain the degree
Our curriculum is condensed into an intense 11-month program, making it half the length of most North American programs. Study with us and you will be out designing smarter cities sooner.
You will travel abroad as part of your studio sequence. This will allow you to think globally about urban design, while having the opportunity to develop real-world solutions in places that need it the most. Past trips have included Mexico City and Chandigarh, India.
We have a wide variety of employment opportunities. We currently offer over 100 annual teaching assistantships and nearly as many research, administrative, and technical positions. Whether it is leading an undergraduate seminar, analysing data in the lab, or assisting in the workshop, you will find a position that is right for you.
The 11-month Master of Urban Design degree requires the completion of 45 credits.
Typical course of study
Term 1: May to August
- UDES 501 Design Studio I: Sustainable Neighbourhood Design
- UDES 509A Urban Design Methods
- UDES 509B Case Studies
Term 2: September to December
- UDES 502 Design Studio II: Ecological Regional Design
- UDES 504 History and Theory of Urban Design
- UDES 505 Urban Design as Public Policy: Policymaking for a Sustainable Region
Term 3: January to April
We accept applications for the Master of Urban Design beginning September 1. Admissions close December 31. Admissions decisions are sent out in mid to late February. Be aware that the admissions schedule is unusual. Unlike other SALA programs, the Master of Urban Design program begins during the summer term on May 1, and ends the following April 30.
You must meet all admissions requirements in order to be considered for entry into the program.
You must hold a professional degree in architecture, landscape architecture, or planning. An accredited professional undergraduate degree meets the minimum standard. We consider applicants with an academic background in a related field on a case-by-case basis.
If you have completed your degree at a Canadian or American university, you must have a B+ average in your third- and fourth-year-level coursework. If you completed your degree at an international university, you must have a B+ average in all coursework.
Applicants from a university outside Canada in which English is not the primary language of instruction must provide results of an English language proficiency examination as part of their application. Tests must have been taken within the last 24 months at the time of submission of your application.
The minimum scores are:
TOEFL – 90 iBT or 577 paper based
IELTS – Overall band score of 6.5 with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component of the academic (not general) test.
While not required, you may submit GRE results as additional evidence of scholastic promise and aptitude.
All application materials should be submitted through the online application.
You must submit an online application form, complete application materials and the non-refundable application fee by the deadline.
A summary of your experiences in education, work, travel, volunteering, and other relevant areas. The maximum length is two pages, double spaced.
Why does urban design matter in the world today? What drives you to study urban design? What has prepared you for this course of study? Where do you want it to take you? And why UBC? Please write a statement that answers these questions. The maximum length is 2 pages, double spaced.
Your portfolio is submitted digitally in your online application. The PDF can be a maximum of 20 letter-sized (8.5″ x 11″) pages and must be under 10MB in size.
Tip: Use 150 pixels-per-inch or even 72 ppi images, or try saving the file as a Reduced Size PDF (“Save as Other”) in Adobe Acrobat, to bring down the file size.
The intent of your portfolio is to highlight your skills related to urban design. Include six examples of creative works that demonstrate aptitude, experience, and accomplishment. Instead of providing a collection of one type of work, include a variety. Creative works may include a wide range of types, including design work and planning projects, professional work and academic work. One example should be a written piece. Showing your creative process and ability to think critically will also provide context for your work.
You should organize your portfolio into a clear, well-crafted document. The portfolio should have concise, descriptive text on each page to adequately explain the work. If working in collaboration with others or in a professional context, please clearly indicate your contribution to the submitted work.
You must upload scans of official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions previously attended, including transcripts from universities attended on exchange. Uploads of unofficial transcripts will not be accepted. If you are currently completing a degree, submit your transcripts to date. In that case, UBC will not grant final confirmation of acceptance until you have submitted the final transcripts after the degree is conferred. If offered admission, you will be asked to send official transcripts in hardcopy.
If the academic records are in a language other than English or French, you must submit scans of the official transcripts in their original language and accompany them with scans of official translations.
You must arrange for three letters of reference, two of which should be academic and speak to your past performance and ability to succeed in a graduate program. Referees submit their letters through the online application system.
Our Masters of Urban Design program adds another dimension to your design practice. As cities expand at increasing rates, experience working at the urban scale is an in-demand skill. Both firms and governments are searching for professionals who can design for complex public spaces. How you integrate urban design into your practice is up to you. You can continue in your prior career with a new set of placemaking skills, or make urban design the focus of your work. The international scope of the program allows you to apply your knowledge across the globe.
Over the course of your studies here, you’ll gain invaluable skills in:
- design at a variety of urban scales
- building community partnerships and engagement
- communication and presentations
- project management and organization
Our urban design program is designed for students who already have a degree in a field concerned with the built environment. Our Master of Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture programs are professional programs that provide a foundation for further urban design studies.