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  • Tuition Fee:
  • Local: $ 4k / Year
  • Foreign: $ 4k / Year
  • StudyQA ranking:
  • 394pts.
  • Duration:
  • 1 year

    Photos of university

    The Master of Urban Design (MUD) degree programme at the University of the Witwatersrand trains the next generation of qualified urban design professionals and academics on the African continent. Urban Design is a globally emerging profession and intellectual field aimed at creating better cities that can adapt effectively to societal changes, respond to rapid urbanisation, improve the quality of life of diverse urban populations, and reduce the dependence on unsustainable energy sources.

    The strength of the MUD at Wits is rooted in the diverse backgrounds of our national and international student body, joining our degree programme from the fields of architecture, urban planning, landscape architecture, and town and regional planning. Our regional metropolitan condition of Johannesburg and Tshwane metropolitan areas provide a rich and challenging context for investigating local/global urban questions. The programme is involved in producing urban research and imaginations that are not only relevant to South Africa, but address issues and possibilities for continental Africa and the global world.

    The programme emphasises the role of urban design as a process and urban designers as agents in the urban environment, interacting with the city through various spatial, socio-economic, and cultural strategies. Our view is that an urban designer is a generalist, rather than a specialist, who can imagine radical, innovative, sensitive, and/or responsive visions for the future of cities. The urban designer is also a coordinator, always working alongside an interdisciplinary team of skilled specialists and stakeholders (transportation planners, urban planners, engineers, architects and landscape architects, developers, councils and communities), working towards realising a unified future for regions, cities, towns or neighbourhoods.


    The MUD degree programme creates a critically engaged and interdisciplinary forum for interrogating questions of our rapidly changing urban condition. Our aim is to cultivate the next generation of urban professionals who can envisage, promote, and coordinate change towards sustainable urban futures.

    Our focus on 'design' in urban design does not presuppose a singular methodology of intervention. For instance, we do not promote aesthetics or beautification (or 'design' defined uncritically) as a single or preferred approach to improving urban environments. We embrace the dynamic, complex, and interactive nature of the African city and its role players. Strategies for realising urban projects include any of the following and more: design improvements, planning and policy frameworks, participation and community engagements, state incentive or market forces, consensus building, evolution over time, and evidence-based research. Therefore, the programme is structured to foster design competency dealing with multiple strategies, scales, systems, and agents while engaging with relevant debates around urbanisation and development. 


    Reinstated in 2009, the Wits MUD degree programme is one of the leading urban design programmes, not only in South Africa, but in the developing South. We have prominent South African urban design professionals teaching our courses in addition to our distinguished full-time lecturers and professors in urban design who are also involved in teaching urban planning and architecture courses.

    Students are equipped with a wide range of urban design theories, strategies, methods, and applications, focusing on the African urban landscape in particular. Debates revolve around pertinent issues such as the formal-informal, local-global, and public-private forces that shape our complex African cities.

    The coursework component is divided between theoretical courses and applied design studios, followed by an independent Research Report. The courses and studio offerings are announced in the beginning of each calendar year by the programme coordinator. After completing this foundational coursework, students then work on an independent supervised research report or thesis. Students are required to complete three core units and three elective studios and a research report.

    Stage 1: Core Courses

    The coursework covers urban design theories and history, representation and urban conceptualisation, urban design professional practice, cities of the South, and research methods. These courses are offered consecutively within six-week teaching blocks. Completion of the core courses (except Research Methods) is a prerequisite to continuing with the elective studios. Depending on the course credits, core courses require students to be in class between 1/2 to one full day per week (excluding preparation, readings, and assignments)

    Stage 2: Elective Studios

    The elective studios cover the themes of Global City Studio, Accessible City Studio, Sustainable City Studio, and Transforming City Studio. The studios are offered in 6 week teaching blocks, and students must be in studio for a minimum of one full day (8 hours) per week (excluding preparation, readings, and assignments). MUD students complete 3 of the 4 studios.

    Stage 3: Research Report

    The Research Report (ARPL7062) is an independent thesis project consisting of a 50% research and 50% design components, under the guidance of an assigned supervisor. Progress on the research report is discussed during meetings between the candidate and the designated supervisor. Weekly or bimonthly group seminars, presentations, and workshops run by Prof Diaan van der Westhuizen provide the opportunity to share ideas, present progress, and receive feedback from peers, supervisors, and external critics. The research report can usually be completed within 6 months to 1 year.   

    The curriculum includes:






    Urban Design Theory and History

    (20 credits)

    Urban design paradigms and theories; urban morphologies, including those of the pre-modern, modern, colonial and post-colonial cities, focusing on cities of the south.

    This course also includes an afternoon experimental workshop focussing on conceptualisation and representation of urban ideas, concepts and visions through various media: sketching, drawing, video, installations, models, etc.

    All these courses are compulsory


    Urban Design Professional Practice

    (10 credits)

    There is currently significant debate around the issue of professionalisation of urban design since it is not a registered profession in South Africa. This course aims to investigate the professionalisation of urban design and to conduct research on the topic covering topics such as concepts around professionalisation, professional competencies, contracts, community participation and facilitation, ethics, project management, professional bodies, fees, city regulations, and dispute resolution.


    Understanding Cities of the South

    (20 credits)

    Understanding the many forces that shape cities of the south. These include economic development processes (formal and informal); legal and governance issues; environmental issues; transport, land use, infrastructure, services etc.; power and politics; as well as discourses of modernity, globalisation and post-colonialism.


    Research Methods

    (10 credits)

    What is research? Research design; inductive and deductive research approaches; developing research questions; literature review; case study research; action research; qualitative and quantitative methods; archival and historical methods; survey methods; data management and data sources.



    Global City Studio

    (10 credits)

    Design studio dealing with aspects of global cities: event cities (world cups, Olympics etc.); tourism, culture and world heritage sites; economic and trade linkages; cosmopolitan cities; catalytic projects; gating; and R D communities.

    Choose any three of the four studio units


    Accessible City Studio

    (10 credits)

    Design studio dealing with issues of urban accessibility: socio-economic issues; informalisation; migrants, immigrants and refugees; movement and transportation; inclusiveness and exclusiveness; human rights; gender, children, aged and groups with special needs; and poverty.


    Sustainable City Studio

    (10 credits)

    Design studio dealing with sustainable cities: open space systems; environment, energy and resources; landscape and nature; urban development infrastructure; sprawl vs. compact cities etc.


    Transforming City Studio

    (10 credits)

    Design studio dealing with transforming cities: post-colonial cities; habitable cities; fragmented and segregated cities; communities in transition; informalisation etc.



    Research Report

    (90 credits)

    A supervised, independently-prepared research report on a topic appropriate to the field of urban design. Consists of 50% research and 50% design.


    Applicants holding any of the following, or comparable, degrees are eligible to apply:

    • BArch
    • BAS (Hons)
    • MArch (Prof)
    • BSc (TRP) or BSc (Hons) (URP); or
    • MSc (Landscape)

    Applicants are required to have a minimum of 65% average in their honours or equivalent year. Prior learning may also make a candidate eligible for admission as a candidate for the degree, as determined individually by the Senate.

    • Original copies of all your academic transcripts
    • Curriculum Vitae
    • Certified copies of your degrees/diploma certificates
    • Copy of ID document or passport
    • Certified copy of SAQA certificate (international applicants)
    • Proof of English proficiency (international applicants who have not previously studied at an English medium institution)

    To be submitted to the School of Architecture and Planning after applying at the Student Enrolment Centre:

    A portfolio in both hard copy and digital copy (also see "Requirements for the portfolio") which includes the following:

    Table of contents

    • At least two independent references (academic and professional)
    • Motivation letter (approximately 1000 words) (see description of “Motivation letter” below)
    • Creative work: A maximum of 15 two-sided (30 pages total) folios of creative/academic/professional work. This section should include design projects, professional work, academic writing, or other creative outputs from previous courses, presented in chronological order by date. Please note, the Master of Urban Design degree has a significant design focus and the portfolio should attest to these abilities.

    Requirements for the portfolio

    The portfolio should be in a bound format, printed double-sided. A digital copy of the entire portfolio should also be submitted on a cd/dvd along with the hard copy. 

    Motivation letter

    We require all applicants to prepare a motivation letter of approximately 1000 words. If you use books or articles, please reference these fully. Please see this as a useful opportunity to reflect on your interests in urban design, as well as your aims and objectives. It is important preparation for in-person interview.

    Submit the portfolio to the School of Architecture and Planning Postgraduate administrator Marisa Sauls

    Portfolio interview

    All eligible applicants will be required to attend an interview with a selection panel from the School of Architecture & Planning.

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