About the MScPl Program

Welcome to the Master of Science in Planning Program at the University of Toronto!

We believe at the heart of planning lies a commitment to humane city-regions, healthy environments and social well-being for everyone; we strive to foster places that are liveable, equitable, and sustainable.

Located within a large Department of Geography and Planning, our approach to planning is interdisciplinary, critical and engaged. We are a community of scholars, practitioners and activists engaged in studying the dynamics of city-regions and committed to fostering places that are sustainable, accessible, beautiful and just. Our distinguished faculty bring an unusually wide variety of perspectives to bear on planning education, based on extensive research and outreach projects across the economic, social, urban, environmental, transportation and design dimensions of planning. Students in our program can pursue these substantive areas of planning while also learning about planning theory and history, political economy and public finance, and comparative international development.

We aim to:

  •     Emphasize issues of social justice and environmental sustainability across all specializations of planning.
  •     Bridge the imagined gap between theory and practice.
  •     Advocate an interdisciplinary, critical and engaged approach to planning.
  •     Maintain the highest standards of scholarship in our work.
  •     Attract a varied, representative, experienced, creative and critical student body every year.

Our Commitment to Diversity

A strong commitment to diversity is a vital hallmark of our program. We wish to reflect the increasing social diversity of global cities in our student population and faculty, and we welcome students with diverse educational backgrounds and work experiences aligned with planning, especially those who belong to groups that are currently underrepresented in planning academia and practice, from Canadian as well as international arenas. We take pride in our efforts to bring a true diversity of perspectives on planning and related issues into our classrooms, in order to enrich our program by creating an intellectual environment where a radical mix of opinions about what planning is and should be may thrive. We especially welcome applications from racialized persons/persons of colour, women, Indigenous persons, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ persons, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas.

Why Study Planning? Why Now?

At the heart of planning lies a commitment to humane city-regions, healthy environments and social well-being for everyone. Planners work for the public good—tempering market and bureaucratic rationalities with radical-democratic considerations and fostering a holistic perspective on debates about urban futures. They pursue these objectives as policy makers, public servants, urbanists, researchers, community organizers and political activists, working at all levels of government, in the non-profit sector or in private practice.

Although the built environment has been their traditional field of practice, today the work of planners involves social, economic, environmental, cultural and other such vital considerations. In spatial scale, it ranges from the design of individual communities to policy planning at the national level to international development. Planning specializations include land use, housing, transportation, urban design, social policy, public health, economic development, international development, and the environment—among others.

This is a time of rapidly increasing global demand for expertise and creativity in planning, as city-regions throughout the world face major challenges to the quality of urban life in the face of climate change, anti-Black and other forms of racism, and the socio-spatial inequalities associated with gender, race, sexuality, class and other forms of oppression and difference. In this context, the education of planners assumes an unprecedented importance. The growing need for planning practitioners and academics worldwide is linked to:

  • The importance of city-regions to economic viability, social cohesion, environmental sustainability and human well-being;
  • The escalation of social conflicts stemming from rapid and uneven urban growth across the globe as well as from uneven pressures resulting from climate change;
  • The need to ensure that the demographics of planning institutions and academic departments are representative of the populations they aim to serve.

Our Approach to Planning

If what planners do and how they think about the world are diverse, what constitutes the unity of their art and science? From a pedagogical standpoint, we can identify three questions that concern all planners.

  1.     How did the world of our cities get to be the way it is?
  2.     What kind of cities—or world—do we want to live in?
  3.     How do we get from what we have to what we want?

In our program, we address all three fundamental and interrelated questions.

A unique feature of our program is its location in a Geography Department—where faculty and students work across the domains of spatial analysis and planning intervention, theory and practice, reflection and action. This advantageous situation gives planning students access to a remarkably wide range of courses and faculty with expertise pertinent to many aspects of planning.

The program offers applied courses in the form of workshops, internships, field courses and the Current Issues Paper (an individual piece of primary research on a practical topic), which emphasize ideas as much as skills and bring real-world problems into the classroom for critical reflection.

The approach to planning we advocate is interdisciplinary, critical and engaged. In our degree programs, students can pursue their interests in planning theory and history, political economy and public finance, economics, research methods, policy analysis, urban design, architecture, environmental studies, international development, anthropology, history, feminism, Marxism, critical theory, cultural studies, as well as urban, social, historical and cultural geography.

Connections with other Academic Units

The MSc. Pl program benefits from close ties to the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design, with which the program shares several courses.

Our productive relationships with U of T Anthropology, Economics, Engineering, History, Management, Political Science, Social Work, and Sociology enrich the student experience. We also have relationships with University of Toronto research institutions such as the School of Cities, the Martin Prosperity Institute, the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, the School of the Environment, and the Centre for the Study of the United States. The Planning Program also participates in collaborative programs in Community Development, Women and Gender Studies, Environment and Health, Environmental Studies, Community Development, Contemporary East and Southeast Asian Studies, and Global Health.

Administration of Graduate Studies & the Program Advisor

The MSc. Pl program is administered within the Department of Geography, which is part of the Faculty of Arts and Science and the School of Graduate Studies. The graduate office is located at St. George campus, on the 5th floor, Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George St.) within the Department of Geography and Planning.

The Planning Program Advisor is the first point of contact for students in the MScPl program. Students will need to contact the Advisor for information on admissions, financial support and program design. Each planning student should check with their program advisor regularly to find out about deadlines for various applications, to explore academic problems, or to discuss personal or financial difficulties.

The Graduate Chair of the Department appoints as an Associate Chair, a Director of Planning from among the faculty members involved in the MSc. Pl program. The Director leads the development of policy on curriculum and related matters in the MSc. Pl program, assists in the development of policy within the larger department, represents the MSc. Pl program directly on various Graduate School committees, and supervises the administration of planning student programs. Planning students and faculty members are represented on the departmental council which discusses issues affecting the department as a whole. The MSc. Pl program receives guidance in its development from its alumni and other practicing professionals who are consulted on a regular basis.

The School of Graduate Studies, through its Council and various committees, defines the rules within which our graduate planning program operates. Their policies and procedures are laid out in the annual Calendar of the Graduate School. The MSc. Pl program is grouped with social science departments, professional schools, centres and programs. The School determines our ability to compete for certain University scholarships, shapes our admissions policy, and monitors changes in our program.

Graduate Geography and Planning Student Society

The Graduate Geography and Planning Student Society (GGAPSS) is the course union for graduate students in the department. The GGAPSS website provides information on activities and services for current and prospective students.