Development Planning

The MSc in Development Planning is designed to enable students holding the Postgraduate Diploma in Planning to qualify as professional planners. The degree is accredited by the South African Council for Planners.


The MScDP enables graduates to register as professional planners with SACPLAN once they have completed the degree and have acquired at least two years’ relevant work experience. 

The degree is designed to enable students holding the Postgraduate Diploma in Planning to qualify as professional planners. Students with a four year undergraduate/Honours degree that is accredited for professional registration by SACPLAN may also undertake the degree.

The MScDP stresses the interdisciplinary diagnosis/analysis and prognosis for planning issues across all scales, and it provides graduates with an interdisciplinary base from which to approach the diverse issues involved in development planning. The objective of the programme is to ensure that learners have the knowledge and skills to conduct research and, in a professional capacity, guide processes of change in urban and rural domains. Its purpose is also to educate and train planning practitioners, researchers, scholars and policy makers.

The qualification gives students the opportunity to develop a critical awareness of the social, economic and management issues underlying socio-economic change; build their critical, analytical, and integrative skills for resolving human and environmental development challenges; enhance their knowledge for informed decision and policy-making on development issues; as well as providing operational skills pertinent to working in the public, private or community domains; and practical research experience and opportunities for reflection. 

The timetable is tailored for full time and part time study, see detail under ‘curriculum’.


The degree includes four compulsory courses, an elective, and a research report, which accounts for 50% of the degree.

Students with a Wits honours in urban and regional planning may substitute the course Philosophies, Theories and Methodologies of Development Planning with another elective relevant to the field.

Students may choose their electives from a range of courses relevant to the field, subject to the approval of the degree convenor. These include courses offered within the School (please see the MUS degrees for possible courses), as well as those offered in other Schools at Wits.

Approach to the release / timetable:

  • The academic year runs from February to November, divided into two semesters.
  • Full-time and flexible part time options available involving compulsory in-person contact time in 1 to 2 week blocks (1 to 2 blocks per semester).
  • Blocks incorporate group and studio work, fieldtrips, exhibitions, presentations and exams and interdisciplinary high-level lectures.
  • Assignments and blended/hybrid sessions (i.e., enabling in person and online participation) between these blocks throughout the two semesters.
  • Online participation is facilitated through platforms such as Teams and Canvas.

Curriculum breakdown

ARPL7029 Philosophies, Theories and Methodologies of Development Planning

This course has two components. The first component introduces candidates to the idea and history of development, the institutions of development, theoretical approaches to development, and key themes within development such as gender and sustainability. The second component provides candidates with an overview of the theories and philosophies of planning and include procedural rationalism, neo-Marxist critique, and post-positivist philosophies that focus on issues such as power and communication.

ARPL7063 Governance and Municipal Planning

This course focusses on municipal planning within the context of ‘developmental local governance’ and covers the following topics: municipal powers; structure and functions; municipal budgeting systems; the international experience with municipal planning; South African forms of planning; planning process; sectoral plans and integration of these plans; the planning and delivery of municipal infrastructure; project packaging; and performance management.

ARPL7044 Community Participation in Urban Governance: Discourses, Theories and Practices

The course critically engages with development and planning theories, 'good governance' discourses and political literature (from the local to the global levels), and question them in particular through the study of the practices of community participation and the various types of challenges these practices entail with a particular focus at empowering students to communicate their findings to different audiences, using different methodologies and in particular graphic devices.

ARPL7040 Research Methods

The course familiarises candidates with research methods, articulation of research questions and identification of types of data (qualitative or quantitative), the different methods of data collection, with an additional emphasis on conducting surveys, approaches to analysing both qualitative and quantitative data. In particular candidates will gain an applied understanding of statistics in analysis of quantitative data through the use of statistical programs.

Research Report

Each student is individually guided in their search of a relevant research topic, and supervised throughout the proposal writing, research and report-writing process. The 25-30 000 word research report is externally examined.

Entry Requirements

The minimum admission requirements are:

  • The Postgraduate Diploma in Planning (PG Dip) from Wits University with an average of at least 65%
  • A SACPLAN accredited Bachelor of Science Honours in City/Town/Urban and Regional Planning (BSc Hons URP) from a South African university with an average of at least 65% in the final year of study.

Applicants are required to submit their curriculum vitae and compulsory assignment.

Compulsory Assignment Brief

To assist us in the selection of candidates for the MScDP, we require applicants to prepare an essay of 1 200 to 1 500 words (one and a half to two pages if typed in a 10 point font, single spaced) on the topic below. The essay must be clearly structured with sub-headings, and must include an introduction and a conclusion. 

It is not our intention to test your competence in the field in which you intend studying. However, we do need to judge your interest and motivation in studying in this field and your ability to understand an assignment brief, structure thoughts, develop an argument and communicate this in writing. If you make use of books, articles or any other sources, please reference these fully. If quoting directly from any source, please use inverted commas for the quoted sections and reference these fully. You may not be assisted by another person.

Please see this as a useful opportunity for you to reflect on your interest in the degree you intend studying, as well as your aims and objectives. It is an important preparation for your enrolment.

Please provide as a title the degree you have chosen. Should you be applying for more than, then make this clear in your heading and address both degrees (with field of study if relevant) in your assignment.

Essay question:

In your introduction, set out what draws you to the degree that you have chosen. Provide a brief motivation for wanting to study towards the MScDP, and explain how the remainder of your essay is structured. Then, in the main text of the essay, briefly discuss the city in which you live, identifying three key challenges that relate to the MScDP degree. How you understand the causes of this situation, and in which way this situation be addressed through your chosen field of study? End with a brief conclusion.

Please also note that you may be asked to attend an interview. This can be face-to-face or online, depending on circumstances.

University Application Process

  • Applications are handled centrally by the Student Enrolment Centre (SEnC). Once your application is complete in terms of requested documentation, your application will be referred to the relevant School for assessment. Click here to see an overview of the Wits applications process.
  • Please apply online. Upload your supporting documents at the time of application, or via the Self Service Portal.
  • Applicants can monitor the progress of their applications via the Self Service Portal.
  • Selections for programmes that have a limited intake but attract a large number of applications may only finalise the application at the end of the application cycle.

Please note that the Entry Requirements are a guide. Meeting these requirements does not guarantee a place. Final selection is made subject to the availability of places, academic results and other entry requirements where applicable.

International students, please check this section.

For more information, contact the Student Call Centre +27 (0)11 717 1888, or log a query at

University Fees and Funding

Click here to see the current average tuition fees. The Fees site also provides information about the payment of fees and closing dates for fees payments. Once you have applied you will be able to access the fees estimator on the student self-service portal.

For information about postgraduate funding opportunities, including the postgraduate merit award, click here. Please also check your School website for bursary opportunities. NRF bursaries: The National Research Foundation (NRF) offers a wide range of opportunities in terms of bursaries and fellowships to students pursuing postgraduate studies. External bursaries portal: The Bursaries South Africa website provides a comprehensive list of bursaries in South Africa.