Educating planners in Europe: A review of 21st century study programmes

Andrea I. Frank*, Izabela Mironowicz, Julia Lourenço, Teresa Franchini, Peter Ache, Maroš Finka, Bernd Scholl, Anita Grams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Education for urban, regional and spatial planning has become a regular subject throughout most European nations; this can be attributed in part to European policies promoting planning and spatially balanced development, but also to the recognition that planning can support sustainability. Nevertheless, there is lingering and justifiable concern about the status, profile and recognition of planning as a profession in its own right with the result that planning and planning education remain contested territories in academia. Conceptions of planning differ between countries and over time. The array of different planning cultures and associated educational models and pedagogies that traditionally have coexisted in Europe mean that education for planning can be either very visible or leading a shadow existence being embedded in programmes of other disciplines. While planning education provision customarily has been shaped by changes in planning practice paradigms and the profession, in 21st century Europe the provision is also influenced by European integration policies, the Bologna process and powerful transformations affecting the higher education sector writ large. This review seeks to advance our understanding of the complex dynamics at work, which to date have been only partially explored in the literature, by taking stock of the current state-of-play of planning education provision in Europe. Aside from examining the factors influencing planning education in Europe, an inventory of planning education programmes available throughout the member states of the Council of Europe was developed to quantify the provision as a critical first step. Figures indicate a substantial increase in the number of programmes when compared to limited historical data. Data also suggest an underdeveloped provision for education in planning in about ten per cent of European countries. Country case studies with historically differing planning cultures and education provision, i.e., Spain, Portugal, Finland, Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and Switzerland are used to compare and explore trends and developments (e.g., in respect to programme structure, curriculum content and focus, professional conceptions, specialisms) in detail. Findings demonstrate, both, an enduring power of national preferences and traditions but also some emerging commonalities. Overall a picture of increasing pluralism and diversity of education models transpires in the aftermath of Bologna which may contravene efforts to establish cross-national professional recognition and standards. Education for planning seems to embrace trends to provide increasingly international learning experiences and degrees while the provision of flexible recognised (online) degree programmes remains sparse. Recommendations for future actions and strategies to further develop and strengthen the field which is at present complex and little coordinated conclude the contribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-94
Number of pages65
JournalProgress in Planning
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Doctoral studies in planning are administered by the RYM-TK Centre, the nation-wide operating doctoral programme for built environment disciplines. The Centre is funded through the Academy of Finland and the Ministry of Education. RYM-TK supports the development of a new generation of business-aware researchers, who are capable of dealing with and resolving problems of strategic value to the built environment. It does so by solely concentrating on doctoral level research. Seven universities, Aalto University (coordinator), Hanken School of Economics, Helsinki University, University of Oulu, Tampere University of Technology, Turku School of Economics and Business Administration (University of Turku), University of Eastern Finland, and two research institutes (VTT, Finnish Geodetic Institution) from all over Finland bring their expertise into RYM-TK with about 70 affiliated professors. At the time of writing around 100 full and part-time PhD students are eligible to take part in RYM-TK activities; a fraction of those receives a grant or other support. The aim of the doctoral programme is to effectively support built environment research through scholarships, travel and research exchange grants to strengthen international networking, as well as research seminars and courses to provide guidance and support for multidisciplinary research and methods training. The centre is managed by a head of programme and a coordinator with the administration organised through Helsinki University of Technology, while the programme is overseen by an Executive Board consisting of professors of the participating universities.


  • Bologna reform
  • European integration
  • Planning cultures
  • Planning education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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