Ireland is unfortunately littered with examples of what can happen when construction and development occurs without proper planning. Things are changing for the better however, with public and private developments these days paying far more attention to issues such as sustainability and environmental degradation. Graduates of postgraduate planning and property development courses face a rewarding career, but with stiff challenges in the shape of Ireland’s shifting demographics, industry and infrastructure.
Third level graduates who are seeking a career in planning have a selection of postgraduate courses that they can apply for. The Masters in Rural and Urban Planning (MRUP) in UCD is perhaps the best known. ‘It’s an excellent qualification and there’s a huge demand to get in,’ says William Hynes, Director of Postgraduate Planning Degrees in UCD.
The MRUP is fully accredited by the IPI (Irish Planners Institute) and the RTPI (Royal Town Planning Institute) and teaches students all the skills required by a professional planner: research methods, economics and spatial planning, public policy, methodology, studio work, project management, etc. There is also a strong international aspect of the course with the use of best practice cases and visiting lecturers from leading countries such as the Netherlands. Graduates from many disciplines – such as geography, engineering, surveying, architecture, and horticulture - are invited to apply, and diversity is welcomed by Hynes: ‘We find that the more multi disciplinary the class the better, as people with different skills are learning from each other.’
Career prospects in Ireland are ‘very, very good’ according to Hynes, with graduates working in the private sector as planning consultants for large companies like Tesco and IKEA, for various development consortia, and in the public sector.
But it is abroad, and in the UK in particular, that graduates of the MRUP have a particular advantage over graduates of international universities. William Hynes explains: ‘The RTPI (a UK-based organisation) in the last number of years decided in an effort to get numbers into planning schools in the UK, to reduce what was normally two-year programme to a one-year Masters course. So we took the strategic decision not to do that, we decided to keep our two-year course and to run with it.’
It was a prescient decision. ‘Basically the RTPI have said that we have the gold standard Masters in the British Isles, and even anecdotally, all things being equal our graduate will get a job over a UK graduate,’ he adds. There is one principal benefit to retaining the second year says Hynes: ‘We provide a huge level of studio based technical work where most of the other courses have cut down and become mostly lecture-based.’
However, hot on the heels of UCD’s MRUP is a similar option in the form of UCC’s recently launched programme – the MPlan in Planning and Sustainable Development. According to Brendan O’Sullivan, Programme Director of this two-year course, the MPlan will have received its accreditation from the IPI and RTPI by the time the inaugural class of 2006 graduates in 2008. It is already a much sought after qualification with 150 applicants vying for 30 places in the 2007 admission. The MPlan places an emphasis on the development challenges faced by city-regions, coastal settlements and rural hinterlands, and like the MRUP it has a strong international element.
Graduates interested in a career other than that of professional planner within the urban and regional development sector may be interested in applying for DIT’s one-year full time MSc in Regional & Local Development. Module clusters include Understanding the Development Process and Making Development Happen, and students spend 20 per cent of the programme on work placement. Graduates will find career opportunities with community development organisations, private enterprises and regional/local development authorities at home and abroad.
There are also numerous courses for experienced professionals within the planning and development industry who wish to improve their skills. Civil engineers working in local authorities, planning offices and consultancies can develop a sound basic knowledge of all the non-engineering elements – economic, legislative, sociological, etc. – that go into effective planning by enrolling in Trinity’s one-year, part time Postgraduate Diploma in Physical Planning. The programme is approved as a means for professional development by Engineers Ireland.
DIT’s postgraduate programmes for working professionals in the construction sector include the MSc in Planning and Development. This 2½ -year course, which is accredited by the SCS (Society of Chartered Surveyors), is designed to enable professionals such as planning surveyors to develop their knowledge of areas such as property development, finance and law, and construction management; and to ultimately increase their area of responsibility within an organisation. DIT’s MSc in Spatial Planning is another 2½-year part time programme; aimed at developing the skills and knowledge of professionals with five-years’ experience within, or on the margins of, the planning system. Students will investigate issues such as the theory of planning, environmental assessment and urban development.
The MSc in Real Estate, also provided by DIT, is in effect a conversion course for graduates of other disciplines such as arts or business who wish to pursue a career in real estate. This 2½-year part time programme is accredited by the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) and according to Course Director Martin Hanratty is attended by people who currently either have a job in the property business, or in the case of those (such as recent graduates) who don’t – ‘they use this course as a mechanism for obtaining a career in the industry.’ He finds that the programme, which began in 2005, gives a definite boost to the career development of property management professionals.