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Inspiring change and enhancing well-being through collaborative governance.


The course aims to produce graduates with the knowledge and skills to deliver community planning (integrated service provision), manage performance and change, and appreciate the dynamic forces that shape the relationship between people and place through spatial planning, as well as to facilitate the personal and intellectual development of students to help them create the conditions for enhancing social, economic and environmental well-being.

Within this overall aim, the course will enable successful students to engage with, understand and debate:

  • Community Planning (Service Delivery)
  • Performance Management
  • Collaborative Governance
  • Place-shaping
  • Planning and Regeneration
  • People and Place
  • Leadership
  • Inclusive Engagement
  • Resilient Communities

The programme is delivered by the School of the Built Environment, in association with the School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies.

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About this course

In this section


The PgDip/MSc in Community Planning and Governance gives graduates the opportunity to specialise in the fields of public service delivery and place-shaping, and has been designed to provide valuable insight into the evolving relationship between people and place to help create the conditions for enhancing social, economic and environmental well-being. The programme is centred on contemporary governance and performance management debates. Particularly, the programme explores: the models and outcome based approaches of integrated service delivery; the integrative relationship between land use planning and community planning; how to create inclusive and empowered communities for shaping resilient places; and, how devolution and localism are influencing how places are governed.

It is an innovative programme bringing together knowledge from the disciplines of spatial planning, local government, leadership and change management, and community development, to offer a programme designed for those wishing to develop specialist and transferable skills to implement new models of service delivery, successful collaborative working, and span sectoral and organisational boundaries.


This part-time programme requires the following attendance, which leads to the following qualifications:

  • Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert): completion of four modules (1 year)
  • Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip): 2 years
  • Master’s (MSc): 3 years

Start dates

  • September 2017
How to apply


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Governance and Performance Management

Year: 1

This module examines the evolving nature and role of partnership working and collaborative governance in contemporary society through an exploration of changing state, market and civil society relations. In the context of community planning, it explores how partnership working and boundary spanning can inform the delivery of service provision and influence performance management. The module intends to enable participants to identify, explain and question models of partnership working and performance indicators for enabling community planning to deliver enhanced public services.

Communities in Focus

Year: 1

The module is rooted in fostering skills of ethical leadership and increasing the knowledge and understanding of students as global citizens. Students will experience working in a collaborative environment and challenged to adhere to the principles and values of a shared learning journey. Students will be encouraged to take responsibility for autonomous learning and working with their peers and tutor/s, to develop robust feedback systems that promote setting realistic and achievable future learning goals. The key aspects of ?communities in focus? will examine community development in framing the local environment within a global context. The principles of practice will include the key values of participation, empowerment capacity building and sustainability. These values form the springboard from which students will explore learning paradigms that begin to challenge and shape community transformation.

Leadership for Managing Change

Year: 1

The module will examine a range of theoretical and practical issues surrounding leadership and change. Understanding, and appreciating, such issues and considering how best to use new knowledge will be essential for spatial planners in terms of enhancing organisational and city performance in an inclusive way. The module is designed to prepare students to better manage their careers in the context of discontinuous change.

Community Planning and Delivery Outcomes

Year: 1

The module explores community planning as a modern expression of securing integrated institutional and cross-sectoral working, incorporating civil engagement, to design resilient service delivery. The module offers students to rethink public services, discuss the governance context that shapes service delivery and considers ways to monitor outcomes for improving well-being. With particular relevance to Northern Ireland, given the statutory link in legislation between community planning spatial and land use planning, which is the first of its kind in the UK and Ireland, the modules explores how the interplay between these two processes can be considered as an integrative approach for improving the relationship between people, places and services.

Year two

Inclusive Engagement Methods

Year: 2

This module explores ways of designing and facilitating inclusive engagement approaches, whilst helping students understand how ideas of civic and civil engagement are politically located and socially constructed in institutional and administrative environments. It presents theoretical and practical frameworks for understanding and implementing engagement for different planning enterprises.

Development Appraisal and Regeneration

Year: 2

This module is designed to provide students with an understanding of the planning and property development process in context of sustainable urban regeneration, a contemporary and priority agenda in cities. The module provides the students with knowledge of key issues related to mixed use developments and the deliverability of sustainability principles within an urban regeneration context. This module addresses the policy objectives related to sustainable communities and low carbon growth in cities.

Spatial Planning and Practice

Year: 2

This module considers the concept of spatial planning and how it has evolved across the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe. In particular, the module identifies the contemporary debates surrounding the fluid conceptualisations of spatial planning, and articulates how planning nests within planning practice. The module will provide a learning platform to understand the role and interrelationships between stakeholders in structuring and shaping land use policy and how planning practice sits within a particular legal framework.

Research Design and Methodology

Year: 2

This module introduces students to the practice of postgraduate research in the social sciences. This module requires students to consider the key research approaches, methodologies, and designs in the social science research in an effort to undertake an independent, in-depth study that demonstrates effective research, analytical, evaluation and appraisal skills. Students are expected to demonstrate an applied understanding of the theories and practices of undertaking empirical research in relation to an original problem, and examine the ethical issues which must be considered in advance of embarking on primary research. The module provides an essential skills basis for completion of a post-graduate dissertation or research project.

Year three

Community Planning Project

Year: 3

This module requires students to undertake an independent, in-depth study in relation to a specific community planning problem or issue and to demonstrate effective research, analytical, evaluation and appraisal skills. Students are expected to demonstrate an applied understanding of the theories and practices of community planning, undertake empirical research in relation to an original problem, and reach appropriate evidence-based decisions or recommendations.

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

In this section

Entry Requirements

Applicants to the linked PgDip/MSc (part-time) programme should hold:

(1) an Honours or non-Honours degree from a University of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, or from a recognised national awarding body, or from an institution of another country which is recognised as being of an equivalent standard; or

(2) an equivalent standard in a Postgraduate Certificate, Graduate Diploma, Graduate Certificate or an approved alternative qualification;

and provide evidence of competence in written and spoken English (GCSE grade C or equivalent);

or as an alternative, and in exceptional circumstances, where an individual has substantial and significant experiential learning, a portfolio of written evidence demonstrating the meeting of graduate qualities may be considered as an alternative entrance route.

Evidence used to demonstrate graduate qualities may not be used for exemption against modules within the programme.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Teaching and learning assessment

A variety of learning and teaching methods are adopted across the modules on this course, to place emphasis on independent, reflective and experiential learning, which include, for example, interactive lectures, facilitated seminars, cafe symposium style workshops, problem-based learning scenarios, reflective discussions, project work, case study examples and self-directed learning.

There is a mixture of both formative and summative assessments in all modules. Formative assessment is a core element of teaching and learning, in that it does not contribute to the final mark given for assignments, but instead it contributes to learning through providing feedback and feeding forward to help change and improve the quality of submitted assignments. Summative assessments, which evaluate student learning through assignments, vary across modules. Examples include professional reports, individual and group presentations, academic essays, personal reflective logs, and an independent community planning research project (at MSc level).

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

The programme is intended to prepare participants to act as managers, administrators and professional advisers in the public, private and community sectors. There is a strong demand for well-educated individuals who appreciate the changing collaborative working context between professionals and citizens, can influence how places and services are shaped, and understand the opportunities and challenges for delivering and enhancing social, economic and environmental well-being outcomes. Opportunities also exist within the Built Environment Research Institute (BERI) for PhD studies in a wide range of community planning and spatial planning related topics.

Professional recognition

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)

Accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) for the purpose of fully meeting the educational requirements for Chartered Membership.


How to apply Request a prospectus

Applications to our postgraduate courses are made through the University’s online application system.

Start dates

  • September 2017

Fees and funding

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Fees (total cost)

Important notice - fees information Please note fees displayed are for 2017/18 Academic Entry. Fees are correct at the time of publishing. Additional mandatory costs are highlighted where they are known in advance. There are other costs associated with university study.
Visit our Fees pages to find out more

Northern Ireland & EU:
£13,240.00  Scholarships available

Where the postgraduate course selected offers multiple awards (e.g. PG Cert, PG Dip, Master’s), please note that the price displayed is for the complete master’s programme. Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are charged at a pro-rata basis. Find out more

Scholarships, awards and prizes

The Royal Town Planning Institute’s Future Planners Bursary, of £1,000, is available to one successful applicant to assist them to study the MSc qualification in Community Planning and Governance at Ulster. The bursary will be awarded to one student based on their personal statement, which should be submitted prior to the beginning of the academic year of intended enrolment.

Additional mandatory costs

Additional costs may be incurred for printing coursework, publishing final year reports, or travelling to site/study visits.

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


Faculty Office

T: +44 (0)28 9036 6521


Course Director: Gavan Rafferty / Linda McElduff

T: +44 (0)28 9036 6391



"The course has helped me deepen my understanding of governance, commmunity planning, spatial planning and collaboration. The support and commitment from the Course Director has been outstanding. The multidisciplinary nature of the programme adds interest and contextual diversity and the teaching team are very flexible. The whole experience has been positive for me, great teaching team, access to onsite and online resources, opportunities for collaborative project based work." (Anna Clarke, Learning for Change Consultancy).

“My participation on the Community Planning and Governance course is allowing me to further my career and professional development, whilst continuing in my full time employment within the Planning and Development Directorate, at Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council. There are strong connections between each module that enable you to continually build on learning throughout the course. The integration of community planning and spatial planning has become an important function for service delivery in local authorities, and this postgraduate study is allowing me to shape its development.” (Paul McAteer, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council)