Young planner's expectations and motivations

Project details

Full project title: Young planner’s expectations and motivations

Duration: 1 September 2019-31 July 2020

Funder: Royal Town Planning Institute

Project Leader for SPE: Hannah Hickman

Other UWE Bristol researchers:

Research partners/collaborators: 

  • UK/Ireland Planning Schools Forum
  • Royal Town Planning Institute

Project summary

Two surveys were conducted: one of first year undergraduates and first year postgraduate students new to planning; and one of recent planning graduates. The project  explored:

  • their motivations for studying planning; 
  • their ideas about planning’s purpose and value; and 
  • their expectations for future practice and what they would like to achieve as planners. 

The aim of the surveys is to provide a body of knowledge to further our understanding of how planning is viewed both by students new to planning and those early in their planning careers. It is particularly important – with planning reform high on the agenda - that we understand and nurture the views and aspirations of planners of the future whose responsibility it will be to implement and challenge the system to ensure the benefits of planning are realised.

Key outputs

  • Project report to the Royal Town Planning Institute
  • Research papers
  • Conference dissemination

Key findings

  • The students and graduates who completed the surveys clearly care about the environment, cities, the future, and are motivated to make places better for people. 
  • Although the specific motivations of individuals vary, the most frequently cited motivation for studying planning was ‘opportunities for career progression’. 
  • Many respondents also chose to study planning because of an evident enthusiasm for the subject, particularly its inter-disciplinary nature, and for its role in improving places.
  • Students were asked about their desires for change. The overwhelming focus on achieving positive environmental change was striking.
  • They have strong ideas about planning values ranging from values associated with professional practice such as integrity and honesty, to ideas around the public interest and sustainable development.
  • Some students raised the possibility that the reality of planning might be distant from their ideal.
  • The majority of respondents described their levels of ‘optimism’ about the ability of planning to make a difference as ‘somewhat optimistic’, suggesting a degree of circumspection.
  • Whilst the majority of graduates reported that their early career experiences had matched up to their original expectations, some chose to qualify this by also expressing some uncertainty about planning’s ability to affect change in reality.
  • Students new to planning were undecided as to their intended career destinations, with the majority of students expressing openness to both public and private sector career routes. Nevertheless, of the total choices expressed, a private sector route was the marginal preference.
  • The potential for a tension between the perceived public interest values of planning and private sector employment routes was alluded to but with little in-depth comment.

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Hannah Hickman.