Luke Wymer on studying Regional and Urban Planning at UCD

My name is Luke Wymer and I’m currently in my second (and final year) of the Master of Regional and Urban Planning course in UCD. Having grappled for some time with the task of choosing a Master’s programme I have no regrets so far. The MRUP course takes in a diverse range of study areas, from the more theoretical and academic (Planning Law or Economics) to practical modules like Urban Design and Development Management. The course combines three taught semesters with a final semester during which students research and complete a thesis.

The Richview campus, where the course is based, is a world of its own away from the crowded main campus. The Architects and Landscape Architects (who seem to live semi-permanently in their respective studios) share the buildings around the quad with Planning, Environmental Policy and Urban Design Students. There’s a friendly atmosphere around Richview, and it’s certainly one of the better looking parts of campus, with buildings including the Architecture building (which was previously the location of a Masonic school), Richview Library and the Earth Institute, all facing onto a tree-lined quad.

Class sizes in the MRUP are small, meaning you benefit from lots of contact hours with staff and more importantly, get to know everyone in your year really well. This makes fieldtrips, groupwork and studio work more enjoyable and the thesis more bearable. This year we even had a go at reviving the defunct Planning Society with a number of nights out so far, some more successful than others.

The course importantly doesn’t brush over the mistakes made in Irish Planning previously, not least in the run up to the collapse of the property market in 2007/2008. Students are encouraged to look at past decisions and policies with a critical eye, with the aim of promoting better choices in the future.

Students are encouraged to seek internships during the holidays in the public or private sector. Having interned at John Spain Associates, a city centre Planning and Development consultancy during the Summer of 2016, I returned for the month of January this year and now work there part-time while completing my thesis. Private sector Planning Consultants are involved from the earliest site appraisal and design stages of projects right up to the completion of the planning process, including any subsequent appeals and occasionally judicial reviews. Planners are also required to coordinate inputs from Architects, Engineers, Environmental Consultants and Archaeologists amongst other disciplines. It makes for interesting work with lots of variety and opportunities to get out of the office.

My thesis, which I am working on this semester, focuses on the use of rapid build housing as a response to the ongoing housing and homelessness crises. I am exploring the Planning mechanisms and delivery processes behind the provision of rapid build units, along with their efficacy, efficiency and potential social outcomes.

I have been involved (to varying degrees) for five years in the UCD Saint Vincent De Paul Society and for the past two years have led a soup run once a week in Dublin City Centre, engaging with homeless people, and particularly rough sleepers. My involvement in this society has provided me with a first-hand (if limited) view of the conditions faced by those without homes in the Dublin over the past five years and certainly had a bearing on my choice of research topic.

While it cannot claim to offer a panacea, I think Planning has an important role to play in the response to the housing and homeless crisis which currently threatens the moral fabric of Irish society. There is also an important role to be played by Planners in the effort to promote more sustainable development patterns, provide more liveable cities and neighbourhoods and protect the natural environment… so no pressure.

Following my graduation, I hope to pursue a part-time legal qualification while working and become a Chartered Planner via membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Irish Planning Institute. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have studied in such a high-quality environment for the past two years and would recommend Planning to any student from a relevant background who is struggling to decide on a postgraduate course as I did.