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Thread: Urban geography v. urban planning for theoretical graduate degree

  1. #1

    Urban geography v. urban planning for theoretical graduate degree

    I am a Canadian architect with an interest in urban geography and general urban / planning issues. I have seven years of professional experience as an architect, though my M.Arch masters thesis was about urban design.

    It is tempting to go back to school to explore this interest in urban geography and planning. While I am familiar and interested with many of the day-to-day practical issues, my real interest is theoretical. Specifically, the workings of urban systems / spaces / networks in a post-modern context. I would enjoy a program with a research component as opposed to a strictly studio or course-based approach.

    I'll need some help figuring out how to proceed. On one hand, urban geography appears to offer a more direct avenue to explore my interest. On the other-hand, a more "practical" planning or urban design degree with thesis option might offer a way to explore this interest while offering a more useful degree in terms of future employment.

    Urban Geography programs seem disparate and typically fall under the larger umbrella of geography departments represented by few specific urban geography professors with limited course offerings.

    Urban Planning programs seem to offer broader support and larger faculty, but the drawback is that they often seem more practical than theoretical.

    A third option is a post-professional Masters of Urban Design degree. Some of these have a strong theoretical component, but are studio based and don't include thesis / research components.

    Thus far, the University of Toronto appears to be the best Canadian choice. Their planning programs have a strong theoretical basis, and are hosted by a joint planning and geography department, which leads me to think that there would be strong support for both planning and urban geography. Is this assumption correct?

    The American options are extremely expensive (for Canadians), but Cornell and other private universities offer good financial support. This assumes getting into the program and receiving financial assistance, which could be quite difficult.

    I would appreciate any help on figuring out the best way forward from here. Not only urban planning vs. urban geography, but also which universities offer the best programs and faculty for theory on urban systems. Thanks.

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I will offer up http://www.acsp.org/ . I don't think anyone can tell you exactly what you want to hear. We can all tell you about schools, but only you can know all the variables that you will use to make a decision.

    Educate yourself on each school you find interesting. I would then ask specifically about the top candidates that you are considering.

    Good luck on the hunt.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
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    UofT does seem to have the most theoretical degree around, and its position in the Geo dept means you end up taking joint Geo and Planning courses. So that does sound like a good bet.

    Planning in general is the practical degree as you mentioned, while a Geo masters gears you more for a PhD. I think you'd be ok doing a Planning degree at a school with a good theoretical basis.

    I actually also debated between a Planning and Geo masters (I only have an undergrad degree) and am starting the Planning masters in Sept - I chose this over Geo for the practical reasons you mentioned.

  4. #4
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    Might want to check out some programs in "Urban Studies" too.

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