Master’s Planning and Sustainability – an international Master’s programme in urban and regional planning

The Master Planning and Sustainability is in line with the international priorities which aim at including sustainable development in higher education programmes. According to the United Nations, urban planning is a priority field for universities to address effectively the environmental and social challenges facing cities.

The programme involves learning about current challenges of sustainable development of cities through research. It focuses on issues around urban and regional development in European countries as well as in the Global South. As such, it develops a “one world” approach, providing skills that students can use as planners working in various geographical contexts. The students will be trained in research methods relating to planning and urban studies, with an emphasis on various planning cultures and on the need to incorporate environmental issues in urban development.

Regarding career prospects, this Master’s degree opens the way to a PhD in spatial planning and urban development. The curriculum is closely linked to international research operations of the laboratory Cities, Territories, Environment and Societies (CITERES, University of Tours and CNRS –National Agency for Scientific Research). The Master’s also equips students with expertise to manage and design urban studies, as researchers in a public or private organisation or as consultants. In addition, it opens the way to careers in public or private organizations in the field of sustainable urban development and regional planning throughout the world. These job prospects are continually growing given the high rate of urban development in emerging countries. The lack of courses in planning in these countries and the conversion of urban development to combating climate change make the Master Planning and Sustainability an exciting opportunity for foreign students to develop a professional project including expatriation or integrating the labour market of the country of origin.

The Master's has been selected by the French Embassy in the United States and Campus France USA to be part of the 2021 webinar series: Exploring Master's Programs in France. Together with three alumni, Prof. Christophe Demazière presented the aims and contents of the curriculum and answered questions.


Présence d'un lecteur vidéo


Since it opened, in September 2010, this Master has incorporated over 150 students , coming from the EU and neighbouring countries, but also from North and South America, from Asia, from the Middle East and from Africa.

The laboratory ‘Cities, Territories, Environment and Societies’ (CITERES, University of Tours and CNRS) supports this programme, in particular through its team ‘Action and Dynamics in Spatial Planning and the Environment’ (Dynamique et action territoriales et environnementales - DATE). This multidisciplinary team focuses on two fields in particular: urban studies and environmental research. It is composed of 25 permanent members, including 11 research directors. It currently hosts more than 30 PhD students. The 14 spatial planning and urban development lecturers and professors are very much involved in the Master. The courses they teach follow-on from international research work. Students get access to CITERES for their research thesis, with the possibility of co-supervision by scholars from other partner universities and/or other research laboratories.

Since September 2018, the Masters’programme is organized in two years and provides 120 ECTS. During the first year, the curriculum is organized around 200 hours of seminars, lectures and workshops (35 ECTS) and a research thesis (25 ECTS).The second year is devoted to 200 hours of seminars, lectures and workshops (30 ECTS) and a research thesis (25 ECTS). Students might be also involved in seminars and/or international conferences.

Detailed content :

Master 1 – Autumn semester:

  • Teaching Unit 01 - Group research project 1: the city (10 ECTS)
    In this module, students integrate and cooperate in a work group. They undertake an interdisciplinary diagnosis, analysing the spatial situation from the perspective of morphologies, populations, the economy, urban history, etc. They acquire expertise in applied research tools. They produce an analysis grid and test it on the ground.

  • Teaching Unit 02 - Geomatics (10 ECTS)
    This course provides the skills that are necessary to define a GIS and its components, including the ability to model data, to create thematic maps and to choose visual variables. These skills can be applied and further developed in the research projects that are carried out in group or individually.

  • Teaching Unit 03 - Research methods (5 ECTS)
    The course helps students to design a research strategy adapted to their topic. This comprises developing research questions, identifying useful sources to conduct planning research, presenting and structuring a research dissertation to meet required norms and rules. Following this unit, students will be able to carry out a critical choice of bibliographic sources and they will understand the idea of an original contribution to research.
  • Teaching Unit 04 - French as a foreign language (5 ECTS)
    This module helps students of non-French language of instruction to develop language tools necessary for academic integration, but also social and cultural success. It focuses on French and Francophone culture.

Master 1 – Winter semester:

  • Teaching Unit 05 - Urban Ecology (5 ECTS)
    The concept of urban ecology is approached via the interrelationships between communities and the natural and built environments at local, regional and global scales. The society is losing its appreciation for the ecosystem services, thereby diminishing resilience in terms of mitigating problems arising out of urbanization. While urbanization has many detrimental effects on the ecosystem, it has also led to innovations aimed at reducing these effects.
  • Teaching Unit 06 – Project studio (10 ECTS)
    In this module, students integrate the engineering school and cooperate in a work group. They undertake an interdisciplinary diagnosis, analysing the spatial situation from the perspective of morphologies, populations, the economy, urban history, etc. They produce an analysis grid and test it on the ground.

  • Teaching Unit 07 - Research thesis (15 ECTS)
    With the help of a supervisor, students develop a research question in relation to existing work and they conduct a state of the art literature review. They manage their research as a project (scheduling tasks, managing priorities and respecting deadlines). They write a thesis which sets out arguments, and links conclusions to data.

Detailed content :

Master 2 – Autumn semester:
  • Teaching Unit 11 - Group research project 2: Sustainable urban development (5 ECTS)
    Following this module, which is organized as a workshop, students become experts in analysing a spatial situation from the perspective of sustainability. They develop solutions to such issues as re-using brownfields or mitigating natural risks. They consider different scales (building, block, district…) and link the planner’s toolbox with the regional culture, the environment and the users.
  • Teaching Unit 12 – Risks, Decision Making and Planning (5 ECTS)
    Today, the need to reduce the rise of disasters in cities is a priority for European governments. This module focuses on the goals of risks management, defined as a cross- sectors public policy integrating civil security, environmental or health policies. It also defines a territorial approach of hazard mapping and planning as part of a complex urban network system. Keywords: Flood risk management, structural and non structural measures, flood risk maps, social vulnerability.
  • Teaching Unit 13 - Urban sociology (5 ECTS)
    This teaching unit seeks to describe and interpret the causal connections between the constitutive elements of a city and their causes. This approach furnishes understanding of the complex and profound meaning of every urban reality in all its components.
  • Teaching Unit 14 – Project, heritage and sustainable development (5 ECTS)
    Heritage approach, territorial growth and sustainable development proceed from different theoretical perspectives and can be oriented by separated practices. The question is: how could they be hybridised within spatial planning and local development projects? The major purpose of this module is to offer a multidimensional and interdisciplinary analysis of the social and cultural environmental questions, in various territorial scales. Keywords: urban project, heritage, sustainable urban development, energy
  • Teaching Unit 15 - Research methods (3 ECTS)
    The course helps students to design a research strategy adapted to their topic. This comprises developing research questions, identifying useful sources to conduct planning research, presenting and structuring a research dissertation to meet required norms and rules. Following this unit, students will be able to carry out a critical choice of bibliographic sources and they will understand the idea of an original contribution to research.
  • Teaching Unit 16 - Water and risks- an interdisciplinary approach (6 ECTS)
    This course is about the planning challenges of urban waterfront planning, including the challenge of the heritage dimension and the dimensions linked to sanitation and access to drinking water in emerging countries. It deals with biodiversity and urban development, but also with the different dimensions of risk and vulnerability in relation to planning and urban development projects.
  • Teaching Unit 17 - French as a foreign language (2 ECTS)
    This module helps students of non-French language of instruction to develop language tools necessary for academic integration, but also social and cultural success. It focuses on French and Francophone cultures.
  • Teaching Unit 18 - Job search techniques (0 ECTS)
    This module helps students to develop skills for job searches. It provides abilities to define a professional project and to develop a network approach in a national or international context.

    Master 2 – Winter semester:
  • Teaching Unit 19 - Research seminar (5 ECTS)
    Students are trained to producing an analysis grid and to propose research protocols. They develop skills in oral communication with specialists and non-specialists of the planning field.
  • Teaching Unit 20 - Research thesis (25 ECTS)
    With the help of a supervisor, students develop a research question in relation to existing work and they conduct a state of the art literature review. They manage their research as a project (scheduling tasks, managing priorities and respecting deadlines). They write a thesis which sets out arguments, and links conclusions to data.

Scientific partnership

This Master’s is offered by the Spatial Planning and Environment Department of the Polytechnic School, one of the largest planning schools in France, through its staff, its number of postgraduate students, or its number of graduates.

The Department is a truly internationally-oriented research and education centre. Besides taking part in numerous cooperation schemes with foreign partners, it is a founding and active member of key international associations in spatial planning, urbanism and environment:

  • the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP)
  • the French-speaking association of planning schools (APERAU Internationale - Association pour la Promotion de l'Enseignement et de la Recherche en Aménagement et Urbanisme)
  • ESDP - European Spatial Development Planning network

These networks connect us to the most important research and education centres in planning over three continents (America, Europe, Africa and Middle East).

The Spatial Planning and Environment Department also takes part in the Global Planning Education Association Network (GPEAN), which organizes every five years the World Congress of Planning Schools and events together with UN Habitat.