Where planning in Canada began
McGill University was the first in Canada to offer a full-time program in Urban Planning, with the creation of an interdisciplinary program in 1947 through which students combined a master's degree in their original field with Urban Planning. An autonomous program was established in 1972; this led to the establishment of the School of Urban Planning. We are now housed within the Faculty of Engineering, along with the School of Architecture, with which we have long-standing affiliations.
Aims and objectives of the School
The objective of the School is to produce qualified professional urban planners for the public and the private sectors and to equip them with the necessary intellectual and practical skills in this respect. Training is provided at the graduate (second-cycle) level; the degree offered is the Master of Urban Planning (M.U.P.). Upon completion of the two-year program of studies, graduates are expected to have acquired basic planning skills, a broad understanding of urban issues and specialized knowledge in a field of their own choice. We also offer a formal specialisation in Transportation Planning, details of which are provided on the Programs page.
The program of study offered by the School is fully recognized by the Ordre des urbanistes du Québec (OUQ) and the Canadian Institute of Planners (CIP). Graduates of the program can become full members of these professional organizations once having met their respective internship requirements. The School is also a member of the U.S.-based Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP); its students can become Student Members of the American Planning Association (APA).
Building on tradition and responding to current concerns, the School approaches urban planning first and foremost as an effort to guide the physical development of human settlements. An emphasis on the built environment enables students to understand the concrete meaning and impact of the cultural, economic and political processes that shape contemporary society. Thus studio work and individual projects deal with urban issues, with poverty, technological change or globalization, through the actual experiences of territorially based communities. This focus on real situations helps students prepare themselves technically for their work as urban designers, infrastructure planners, community organisers or public officials.
The School fosters the integration of theory and practice. Courses present practical questions within the theoretical framework that informs goal-setting, analysis and plan-making. While the curriculum emphasizes professional development, it also enables students to pursue theoretical and historical lines of inquiry. The synthesis of theory and practice is the goal of studio work and of individual research projects.
The School's academic and urban context
Montréal offers a rich environment, generally and in academic terms. The School is a partner in the Montreal Interuniversity Group Urbanization and Development, a consortium which is devoted to the study of urban problems and the formulation of policies in developing regions and which is recognized by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) as a Centre of Excellence. This consortium brings together McGill University, Université du Québec à Montréal, INRS-Urbanisation and Université de Montréal. Faculty and students collaborate actively with members of other McGill departments, notably Architecture, Geography, Civil Engineering, and Law, and with colleagues at other institutions in Canada and abroad. Students are encouraged to make the most of their education and their research activities within this excellent context.
Students benefit greatly from the School's location in the Québec metropolis, both in their studies and in their personal lives. Montreal is at once similar to many large North American cities, with its central business district of corporate skyscrapers and its suburbs of single-family homes, and different than most as it offers a livable and sage environment and a low cost of living. The School is housed in the Macdonald-Harrington Building, a recently renovated turn-of-the-century building in the centre of the McGill University campus. The campus itself is located in downtown Montreal, between the region's business, shopping and cultural centre and Mount Royal, the city's main natural landmark. Housing is available nearby, in the "McGill ghetto" just east of the University, or in a variety of well-serviced neighbourhoods nearby. The city offers a vibrant cultural scene, both French and English, and the region is also known for its sports and recreation--including great skiing in winter!
The student body
Students number about 50 in total and come from diverse educational backgrounds, from traditional professions such as architecture and engineering and from the physical and social sciences. They have varied personal backgrounds as well, some coming from Quebec, some from other Canadian provinces, and yet others from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the Carribean, Latin America and Africa. The language of instruction is English, but French is the second official language of McGill University and the common language in Montreal. Academic papers and examinations may be written in either English or French.
What careers do graduates pursue?
Alumni of the School work as planners and designers at various levels of government, in non-profit organizations, and with private consulting firms. Their expertise ranges from historic preservation to traffic management, from real-estate development to computer imaging. They devote their efforts in increasing numbers to environmental planning and sustainable development and rely more and more on geographic information systems and other computer-based applications.