Master of Urban Affairs

The Master of Urban Affairs (MUA) degree program is designed for students seeking a broad background in urban public policy, community development and service delivery, and the administration of public and private agencies in urban settings. Graduates are prepared for careers in which they assemble and analyze information for policy-making, identify community needs and resources, and administer effective service delivery programs. These tasks are common to public, private, and voluntary organizations in a wide variety of urban functions, such as housing, health services, economic development, transportation, and environment control.

The course of study emphasizes analytical skills and a deep understanding of urban issues. It is flexible and well adapted to students who (1) seek career entry or advancement in urban public agencies, private service organizations, or community programs; (2) desire advanced background in urban affairs for personal, community, or political activity; or (3) are in a related field such as real estate, law, finance, architecture, urban design, or social services. Many students obtain the MUA degree in preparation for further study.

The program accommodates students on both a part- and a full-time basis. The 36 credits required may be earned in one year of full-time study and must be earned within a maximum of five years.

Students who complete the master’s degree in Urban Affairs will be able to demonstrate:

  • Mastery of knowledge in the history and theory of urban and regional development, the structure and functions of cities and urban systems, and local and national policy-making processes.
  • Proficiency in quantitative and qualitative research skills and their application to theory-building, data-gathering and analysis, and policy-making processes.
  • Proficiency of communication skills for public (community) and policy settings.
  • Awareness of the political, social, and ethical issues inherent in policy work and the planning practice, as related to minority or disadvantaged urban communities.

For more information visit the City Planning & Urban Affairs website.

Candidates for admission to the degree program are selected on the basis of academic transcripts, academic and professional references, and a statement of intent. The statement of intent should clearly outline the applicant’s interest and aspirations in the field. Applicants with an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) lower than 3.0 are encouraged to submit additional information to demonstrate their capacity to succeed in graduate school.

International students are required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Internet-Based Test (iBT). A minimum score of 100 is required, though the minimum score maybe lower for some admission cycles, depending on the average score of the applicant pool. Suggested scores in each section are as follows: Reading—25; Listening—25; Speaking—25; and Writing—25. International applicants are also urged to submit their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, although these are not formally required.

There are no fixed application deadlines. The program allows for students to submit applications on a rolling basis, although all students are encouraged to submit completed applications no less than one month prior to the start of the semester in which they desire to commence studies. Admission decisions are announced promptly, pending receipt of all application materials.

The Application for Graduate Admission can be found at bu.edu/met/admissions.

Course Waivers for Related Programs

The six core requirements for the Master of Urban Affairs (MUA) and Master of City Planning (MCP) programs are identical. Therefore, Urban Affairs graduate students may opt to transfer their credits to obtain a Master of City Planning degree instead. In such cases, MCP candidates may receive a full waiver for all six core courses, provided they received a grade of C (2.0 or higher).

Master of Urban Affairs students may pursue a certificate program in Commercial Real Estate or Real Estate Finance at Boston University’s Center for Professional Education (CPE). MUA students who earn a CPE certificate in Commercial Real Estate or Real Estate Finance will be granted a waiver of three graduate-level elective courses (12 credits) toward their degree.

Students may also pursue the Graduate Certificate in Applied Sustainability as part of their Urban Affairs degree. The Applied Sustainability certificate consists of four courses distributed across three Metropolitan College departments: Applied Social Sciences (Urban Affairs and City Planning), Administrative Sciences, and Computer Science. Students who earn the certificate will be granted a waiver of four courses (12 credits) toward their MUA graduate degree. In addition, with the corresponding department approval, students pursuing or planning to pursue master’s degrees in Computer Science or Administrative Studies may apply certificate credits toward their degree.

City Planning and Urban Affairs students who are interested in the sub-field of Preservation Studies (historic preservation) may take elective courses offered in the Preservation Studies graduate program at Boston University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. With prior approval of the Program Coordinator, these elective courses may be applied towards the MUA or MCP graduate degrees. For more information please contact the Preservation Studies program at amnesp@bu.edu or 617-353-2948.

Additional Information

Credits for graduate courses in an urban discipline that meet the program criteria and received a grade of C (2.0) or higher may be transferred from another accredited institution for credit toward the MUA degree after completion of two graduate-level courses in the program. No credit is allowed for courses used to fulfill another degree. Prior approval of the program coordinator is required.

A maximum of two Urban Affairs or City Planning courses (up to 8 credits) taken at Metropolitan College before acceptance into the degree program may be applied toward the degree. The courses must be of graduate level, with a grade of C (2.0) or higher.

Up to three courses (12 credits), with a grade of C (2.0) or higher, taken outside the Urban Affairs program may be applied as electives to the degree. Prior approval of the program coordinator is required if students wish to take more than three courses outside the department to fulfill their MUA or MCP elective requirements, and will be considered only under special circumstances.

Academic Standing

An average grade of B (3.0) must be maintained during the course of study to remain in good academic standing and satisfy the degree requirements. Students who earn a grade lower than C in a core requirement must retake that class and earn a grade of C or higher for it to count toward their degree.

A total of 36 credits is required, distributed as follows:

Core Requirements

(Six courses/24 credits)

History, concepts, and methods of contemporary urban and regional planning practice. Governmental, nonprofit, and private settings of professional planning; plans, research, and policy development; uses and implementation of planning. Political analysis of planning issues, such as comprehensiveness, public interest, advocacy, negotiation, and future orientation. Case materials drawn from redevelopment, growth management, land use conflicts, and service delivery.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
A1 IND Dutta-Koehle MET B02B M 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Major problems confronting urban areas and the process of policy formulation and implementation. Emphasis on problem interdependence and systems characteristics. Analysis of problem definitions (housing, crime, poverty, etc.), goals, public/private responsibilities, existing programs, and policy options. Analysis of selected, comparative international experience.   [ 4 cr. ]

Use and analysis of quantitative data in public policy development and planning. Basic skills of organization and presentation of numerical information. Introduction to descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, correlation, and regression; computer use. Math review.   [ 4 cr. ]

Mixed-Methods Design for Urban Research is intended to develop skills in the evaluation and utilization of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods approaches to scholarship in social-science research. The course will explore survey, experimental, observational, interview, ethnographic, and case-study research methods in depth, and students will learn how to collect, organize, and evaluate data in various forms. Students will create a fully developed research proposal drawing upon mixed-methods techniques to investigate a topic of interest.  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
C1 IND Koehler CAS 324 W 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

This course provides basic understanding of economics and approaches urban problems and planning issues from economic perspectives. It explores how microeconomic theories and models can help us understand how cities and regions function, analyze urban problems, and evaluate urban policies. This is a broad introductory survey course, focusing on how "microeconomic" actors including business firms, households, and nonprofit and government institutions - organize to provide for the sustaining and flourishing of life.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
D1 IND Sungu-Eryilm PSY B53 R 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

The Boston based Urban Symposium will be a thematic Spring symposium, required for students in the Urban Affairs and City Planning programs. The class meetings will weave together the interdisciplinary nature of the urban planning and city planning professions. While the symposium topics will change each spring, professionals and industry leaders will be invited to lecture on their experiences, contemporary challenges to the professions, and major problems confronting the public and private sectors. Recognizing the unique and diverse characteristics of the Boston urban environment, the symposium themes will be drawn from topical issues that involve the greater Boston metropolitan area. The course features a combination of guest speakers and academic case studies that emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of urban planning.   [ 4 cr. ]

Electives

A total of three courses (12 credits) is required.

Electives should constitute a coherent concentration within the general curriculum. With advice from the Graduate Advisor, students are encouraged to construct individual concentrations.

Sample of Urban Affairs Elective Courses

Surveys the factors affecting supply and price of urban housing. Examines federal, state, and municipal programs, as well as future policy options, from the standpoint of housing quality and community development goals. Analysis of selected international comparative experience.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
B1 IND Song MET B02B T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Examination of selected cases in municipal and public management. Organization, financial management, personnel relations, program planning and budgeting, and issues of public and private sector relations. The administration of municipal functions, including health, police, schools, and housing.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
B1 IND German CAS 229 T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Various factors affecting location, construction, financing, and marketing of real estate in metropolitan areas. Studies the relationship of public policy to the activities of the private sector, market analysis techniques, evaluation of development projects, and problems of real estate investment.   [ 4 cr. ]

UA510 is the designation for "Special Topics in Planning". The subject matter for UA510 courses changes from semester to semester, and more than one UA510 can be offered in a given semester.

Fall 2016-- Special Topic: "Affordable Housing Financing" A nuts and bolts course on financing affordable housing developments in the United States. After a review of historical and current public and private financing mechanisms, the class will review various case studies and project summaries of actual developments identifying key development and finance challenges. The course includes at least one site visit to a local affordable housing development in the Boston area. Coursework includes the development of a comprehensive affordable housing development case study by each member of the class.

Spring 2017-- Special Topic: "History of Metropolitan Boston" (Section A1) This course provides an historical overview of Boston's metropolitan development, from the earliest country estates to suburban sprawl and the smart growth movement. The course is based upon the recent book The Hub's Metropolis: Greater Boston's Development from Railroad Suburbs to Smart Growth (The MIT Press, 2013). It provides historical context for understanding the region's contemporary planning efforts that are addressing the challenges of low- density sprawl, climate change, and the global information age economy. The course examines ten periods of Greater Boston's metropolitan development. The class explores how each era produced a distinctive vernacular land use development pattern. Each period had particular characteristics related to the built landscape, transportation, real estate development patterns, housing styles, commercial development, and the treatment of open and public space. Although there has been much formal government planning over the years, there is a "deep structure" to development patterns that is not easily altered by planners, politicians, or developers. Each era of suburbanization has also been shaped by cultural attitudes toward suburbs, the city, and social class.
The course discusses how Boston has been a national pace-setter for many features of suburbanization, including country estates, railroad suburb subdivisions, streetcar suburbs, land use zoning, open space conservation, highway beltways, shopping centers, office parks, edge cities, and central city revitalization. Landscape architecture pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted promoted model suburban designs from his home and office in the garden suburb of Brookline. The Metropolitan District Commission's park- and-parkway system, which was created around 1900, was the country's first example of regional planning. The city of Boston is noteworthy for its vibrant central city, which suffered a painful postwar decline, but crafted a nationally-regarded revival.

Spring 2017 -- Special Topic: "Urban Sustainability and Climate Change" (Section B1) Human led urbanization and globalization have produced serious negative impacts on the natural ecology of the planet earth. Climate change is one such impact that has put human settlements at risk by weakening the social and economic resources for long-term survival of people living in cities, towns and rural areas. The increased frequency and severe impacts of natural disasters demands that planning understand the dynamics and interconnectedness between urbanization, globalization and climate change; and their impacts on people and human settlements. They need to understand the governance and political complexities of meeting sustainability goals. This course makes students knowledgeable about the negative impacts of urbanization and globalization on climate and human habitat; and procedural, bureaucratic and political challenges in meeting sustainability goals. It provides lessons for planning practice by exposing students to several best and worst planning examples.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
SA1 IND Johnson CAS TR 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

Principles and status of environmental law for pollution control and environmental improvement. Impact statements, resource conservation and protection, growth management. Emphasis on air, water, land, and hazardous waste issues. Environmental, economic, and other policy relationships. Case materials and court decisions.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
D1 IND Benson MET B02B R 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

The Boston Experience is a graduate and advanced undergraduate course designed in the seminar format. The course will provide an introduction to the study of architecture as an important foundation for students of urban affairs and city planning and as an important foundation for students in other disciplines such as civil engineering, historic preservation, and the applied social sciences (such as sociology). The course will also serve as a foundation of the basic concepts and a general overview of the field of architecture. This foundation will also provide a prerequisite for the two advanced studio planning courses currently offered at MET in the Department of Urban Affairs and City Planning (UA 613 and UA 510).  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
SA1 IND Maruyama MCS MW 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

This course is designed to present a comprehensive approach to urban environmental issues by integrating environmental planning and policy. It is intended for both students with and without planning background. This course provides a broader view and discussion of natural resources planning relating to issues affecting urban watershed management. This approach includes water policy, sustainability of water resources, freshwater planning (Lakes and Rivers), coastal waters, open space protection, stormwater management, clean water act, wetland protection, low impact development, and stakeholder involvement with a focus on the means and techniques available to local governments to plan and protect watersheds. Case studies will be used to demonstrate the potential to address full range of urban watershed issues, including water supply planning, water quality restoration and protection, open space planning, habitat protection and ecological conservation, and enhancement and regulatory activities.  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
SA1 IND Kyei-Aboagye EPC MW 6:00 pm – 9:30 pm

The role of urban design in the community development process. Examines human behavior, aesthetic foundations of design methods, citizen/client participation, and public policy issues. Analysis of actual community spaces. Student design exercises.   [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
C1 IND Dutta-Koehle CAS 228 W 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

Sustainability generally refers to the ability of "systems" to be maintained such that they remain viable over long periods of time. As much as achieving the perfect sustainable equilibrium may be the ideal, it is important to recognize that there will be competing and conflicting interests, especially within complex hierarchical social, economic and ecological systems, particularly in light of ongoing climatic change. This field intensive course draws on the practices and theories of sustainability and climate change to understand what sustainability can mean in different contexts, and, more important, how nuanced, sustainable solutions can be achieved under varying conditions and in different systems. With an emphasis on the urban environment, the course will consist of projects in which students will identify, analyze, and develop practical proposals to real world issues. This course is intended for a wider audience from a range of disciplines.   [ 4 cr. ]

Interrelationships between physical environment and processes of urbanization. Case studies develop historical perspective on social, economic, and physical aspects of the quality of urban life. Special attention to the preparation of environmental impact statements and assessment of urban environmental quality.   [ 4 cr. ]

Geographic Information Systems for Planners provides an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specifically with a focus on applications in urban planning. The role of spatial analysis in local, state and regional planning has steadily increased over the last decade with the infusion of windows-based GIS software such as ESRI ArcGIS. The class focus is to prepare students to feel comfortable communicating with other GIS users, research spatial data, and produce high quality digital maps in an applied learning environment.  [ 4 cr. ]

Section Type Instructor Location Days Times
B1 IND Sungu-Eryilm CAS 330 T 6:00 pm – 8:45 pm

This course specifically explores the area where the private and public sectors meet so that the student can develop an awareness of the complexity of dealing with these often competing interests. The objective of the course is to give the student an understanding of the motivations of the private sector in the way they go about creating their products and projects and to leave the student with the tools and knowledge to successfully negotiate the Public Interest with the Private Needs.   [ 4 cr. ]

Planning, zoning, subdivisions, eminent domain, exactions, impact fees, and other land use controls: what are they, how do they operate, what are the limitations on their use? In this course, we will explore the use of those tools for planning and development and read and understand the important U.S. Supreme Court and state court decisions that have shaped and continue to influence planning and land use throughout the country. We will see the connection between land use controls and court decisions and how each has evolved to meet changing conditions and goals. We will also review the structure of the U.S. legal system and create a framework for understanding constitutional requirements on eminent domain, due process, and equal protection from a planner's perspective.  [ 4 cr. ]

Limited to a maximum of 8 credits toward the degree requirements. Approval by program director required prior to registration. Study of urban and public affairs and planning individually arranged between student and instructor to provide training opportunities not available elsewhere.  [ 4 cr. ]

Limited to a maximum of four credits toward the degree requirements. Approval by program director required prior to registration. Students spend a minimum of 5 hours per week working with public agencies, community groups, or private organizations, during the semester.   [ 4 cr. ]

The 36 credits required for the degree may be earned in one year of full-time study and must be earned within a maximum of five years. Students entering the program without prior or current experience in their field of study are encouraged to participate in selected fieldwork internships provided through the program.

View all City Planning & Urban Affairs graduate courses.