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The Department of Urban and Regional Planning

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP), a unit within the College of Social Sciences, offers the following degrees:

The department also offers the following certificates:

The Department emphasizes theory, methodology and practice in the following areas known as course streams:

  • Community Planning
  • Environmental Planning and Sustainability
  • International Development Planning
  • Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure Planning
  • Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance

For more detailed information, please refer to our Program Guide 2019-2020

The Planning Profession

The problems faced by cities, counties and specific populations today demand innovative solutions from committed and thoughtful planners. Practitioners assist communities in planning for growth and change. They look at existing conditions and challenges, and help develop a vision of what a community could look like in the future. Professional planners help to address issues such as transportation, housing, social services, economic development, environmental and natural resources, globalization and disaster management. For more information, please review the ACSP’s Guide to Urban and Regional Planning.

For a list of application forms and deadlines, please refer to the Office of Graduate Education’s page for the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning

Bulletin 2018-2019

The MURP degree program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. It is a professional program designed to:

  • Equip students to fill professional planning and policy analysis roles in public agencies, international organizations, private firms, and community groups, particularly in Hawai‘i, Asia, and the Pacific Basin
  • Develop and apply new knowledge in the field of planning; and
  • Provide service to public agencies, communities, and others concerned with urban and regional planning.

Students normally take from two to three years to complete the MURP program. The program requires a minimum of 42 credit hours. Please refer to the Curriculum in Brief for a detailed review of the course requirements and the Course Streams.

Grades of B or better are required in PLAN 600, 601, and 603, and an average of B or better must be earned in all courses counted towards the MURP degree.

Both thesis (Plan A) and non-thesis (Plan B) programs are available. All students are required to pass a final examination, including successful defense of the thesis (Plan A) or the selected area of concentration (Plan B) and to meet the departmental standards for graduation (Plan A and B).

No one course of study is appropriate for all, or even a majority, of the students in the Department. Much emphasis is therefore placed on advising. When the student is admitted to the Department, he/she is initially advised by the Department Chair. The emphasis is on assuring that students understand their opportunities and obligations during their ensuing graduate work. At the initial advising session after admission, each student specifies his or her field of interest:

  1. Community planning and social policy
  2. Environmental planning and natural resource management
  3. Urban and regional planning in Asia and the Pacific
  4. Land use, transportation and infrastructure planning

Students may subsequently change the designation of field of interest in consultation with his/her advisor. It is important that each student embark on a well planned course of study. Attention must be paid to the correct sequencing of courses.

By the end of the first semester of study, students should select a member of the Urban and Regional Planning faculty to serve as the student’s ongoing advisor.

As the student progresses, more emphasis will be laid on his/her interests, in particular as they are to be expressed through a thesis (Plan A) or work in a focus (Plan B, Capstone). The focus may either fall within one area or bridge interest across two or more areas of interest. At this later stage a committee is formed for each student at his/her invitation. The committee, consisting of at least three faculty members, two of whom must be from the Urban and Regional Planning Department, carries the primary responsibility for assuring that subsequent coursework is appropriate for the student.

The chairperson and committee ultimately certify that the student has met the standards for graduation. Committee formulation is a formal process, initiated by the student and approved by the Department chairperson and the Graduate Division.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the Masters in Urban and Regional Planning, students will be able to:

  1. Explain major planning paradigms and their applications;
  2. Articulate processes leading to urbanization and rationales for planned interventions;
  3. Apply planning methods to organize, analyze, interpret and present information;
  4. Critically and creatively develop planning inquiries or processes to foster solutions-oriented decision-making;
  5. Effectively collaborate as a planning team to work with a client and/or stakeholders to assess and address a relevant planning problem to create a plan or professional report;
  6. Effectively present oral and written work (as a plan, professional report, or research paper) in a coherent, persuasive and professional manner; and
  7. Reflect upon the ethical implications of the choices planners make as professionals.

MURP Criteria

Admission to the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most students entering the degree program have concentrated at the undergraduate level in the social sciences, natural sciences, architecture, or engineering. Others have specialized in the humanities, business, or the physical sciences. The Department encourages applicants from a variety of fields.

A student admitted to the MURP degree program is expected to have a basic foundation in descriptive/inferential statistics. A student who has not achieved competence in statistics may be admitted to the degree program but will need to make up any deficiency prior to being advanced to candidacy for the degree. Remedial coursework in statistics, which may be taken on a credit/no credit basis, will not count toward the degree.

Preference in admission is given to students with good preparation in the following areas:

  1. Social and natural sciences insofar as they are relevant to urban and regional processes, e.g., coursework in urban economics, regional geography, environmental science;
  2. Research methods, e.g., statistical analysis, survey research;
  3. Physical systems analysis and design, e.g., architecture, transportation engineering, urban design;
  4. Planning or administration, e.g., work in a planning department or consulting firm, experience in administering a program, office, or neighborhood council.

Special consideration for admission is given to students who have had experience with a culture other than their own. Such experience may have been obtained in Peace Corps, Vista, or through less formal involvement.

Native speakers of English and those with a degree from a university in which English is the primary medium of instruction, are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for verbal, math and analytic sections, with a minimum total score of 300. Non-native speakers of English are required to submit either a TOEFL or IELTS Academic score with a minumum of 76 iBT and 6.5 respectively. Candidates are expected to have a minimum of a 3.0 grade point average. Students with a lower average may be considered for admission on a conditional basis.

The admissions committee is responsible for evaluating a student’s objectives, letters of recommendation, GRE or TOEFL scores, academic record, and experience. The statement submitted by the student as part of his/her application is carefully reviewed by the committee. The committee may request additional data from an applicant. It may also request an interview if arranging one is feasible. Applicants are encouraged to meet with members of the faculty on their own initiative prior to applying if they are in Hawai‘i.

Thesis Option – Plan A

Students may elect to pursue Plan A, the thesis option, if they demonstrate to their advisers sufficient interest, motivation and capability to complete the thesis requirements and are prepared to devote a substantial portion of their graduate study to thesis preparation.

Three credits of coursework are allocated to preparation of the thesis proposal (PLAN 650) and six to the thesis itself (PLAN 700) including at least one credit in the semester that the degree is to be awarded. Students wishing to complete a thesis must declare their intent prior to enrolling in PLAN 700 and must do so before finishing 24 credits. This normally takes place in the third semester of study in the program.

The faculty recommend that the student prepare a brief prospectus (not exceeding three pages) which explains the proposed thesis topic and the methodology to be employed and circulate it among the faculty well in advance of committing himself/herself to the preparation of a thesis proposal. This feedback stage is instrumental in determining whether the topic is a reasonable one and whether faculty resources are appropriate to the topic. A guide for proposal writing is available to students from the Department office.

Each Plan A student is to enroll in PLAN 650: Research Design (unless waived by the Departmental chairperson on recommendation of the committee chairperson) and prepare a thesis proposal under the guidance of his/her adviser. If the thesis proposal is not completed and defended prior to the final examination period of the semester of enrollment in PLAN 650, it is likely that the faculty will recommend that the student switch to the Plan B option. (PLAN 650 cannot be counted toward a Plan B MURP degree.) The actual writing of the thesis follows the defense of the proposal. The preparation and defense of the proposal requires the formation of a committee chaired by a member of the Urban and Regional Planning graduate faculty. An outside member on the committee is highly recommended. Students interested in pursuing Plan A should take the appropriate initiative to ensure steady progress throughout the proposal, research, thesis writing and oral presentation stages.

For more information, please refer to our Thesis Guide (Plan A).

Capstone – Plan B

The University of Hawaii permits graduate programs some flexibility in specifying requirements for graduate degrees. The Urban and Regional Planning Department currently exercises the thesis option (Plan A) and the non-thesis option (Plan B), which is referred to as the Capstone Paper.

A Capstone Paper (Plan B) is differentiated from a M.A. thesis (Plan A) in three ways. The Capstone Paper is shorter in length, and is normally expected to be no more that 60 pages in length, double-spaced, excluding figures and appendices. Second, its purpose is to show competence in a sub-field of planning rather than test a hypothesis or develop new concepts or theories though primary data collection. Third, it is generally intended for students who intend to finish graduate studies in planning at the M.A. level and seek professional careers outside of academia rather than continue on to Ph.D. studies and careers in university level planning education.

The Plan B option, pursued by most MURP degree candidates, permits the student to take more formal coursework than is usually taken by the Plan A student. Plan B requires the student to specify a “focus area” of his/her own choosing. The Department does not prescribe a list of appropriate focuses. Rather, each student is invited to formulate his or her own focus. The specific focus is to fall within the following areas of departmental and faculty specialization:

• Policy and program planning
• Environmental planning
• Development planning
• Land use and infrastructure planning

Examples of focuses are social impact assessment, housing policy, environmental mediation, historic preservation, energy planning, planning information systems, urban design, community participation in planning, community-based planning, and agricultural land-use planning.

For more information, please refer to our Capstone Guidelines.

Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning

A Ph.D. is also offered to students with a master’s degree in planning or a related field. The Ph.D. offers advanced students the opportunity to specialize in one of the sub-fields of planning. Ph.D. students are expected to take a minimum of 21 credit hours beyond the master’s degree, pass a comprehensive exam, and prepare and defend a dissertation. Students without a master’s degree in planning may be required to take additional courses from the MURP curriculum.

The doctoral program provides training in advanced research in urban and regional planning. Graduates are expected to pursue academic appointments at institutions of higher education and to achieve higher levels of professional practice in the public and private sectors.

Ph.D. Criteria

Each Ph.D. degree student is required to complete at least 21 credits in advanced courses (in addition to any remedial courses designated at the time of admission):

PLAN 602: Advanced Planning Theory
PLAN 655: Advanced Planning Methods and Models
PLAN 650: Research Design Seminar

In addition to these two courses, Ph.D. candidates are required to take nine credits in an allied field (to be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor). Students are also required to take one additional three-credit methods course.

Ph.D. Degree Overview

First year — Completing basic requirements

  1. Take PLAN 602.
  2. Take courses in allied fields.
  3. Prepare Study Plan with your advisor outlining proposed courses and schedule.
  4. Prepare draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Second year — MOU, Preparing for comprehensive examination

  1. Identify three DURP committee members.
  2. Finalize MOU consisting of (a) a brief statement on the proposed dissertation topic, (b) names and descriptions of major and minor fields and proposed bibliography for the comprehensive exam, and (c) calendar of study, research and writing to completion of the dissertation. Signed agreement on the MOU by all committee members is required by the end of the second year.
  3. Prepare major field paper.

Second-third year – Completing courses and comprehensive exam

  1. Take research design/proposal course
  2. Complete all course requirements
  3. Prepare exam reading list for major and minor fields of study and successfully take comprehensive examination in consultation with Ph.D. committee members. The practice at DURP is that only three committee members will be responsible for setting and assessing the comprehensive exam. Students are free to have more than three committee members on the comprehensive examination.
  4. Identify five dissertation committee members, with at least one member from another department or program at UH (or, if approved, off campus)
  5. Draft complete dissertation research proposal in consultation with committee members.

Third year and after — Advancing to candidacy, field research and completing the Ph.D.

  1. Present dissertation proposal at a department colloquium. Having already completed all course requirements and successfully passing the comprehensive exam, upon acceptance of the proposal by the committee the student is advanced to candidacy for a Ph.D., also known as ABD (all but dissertation).
  2. Field research, writing of Ph.D. dissertation, and final defense.

Students are subject to all relevant requirements of the department and the graduate division. Students must demonstrate sufficient progress in order to advance to candidacy.

Student Learning Objectives:

Upon completion of the Ph.D., students will be able to:

1. Evaluate, synthesize, and conduct independent research relevant to building knowledge in the field of urban and regional planning;

2. Demonstrate mastery of rigorous research design and an application of research method within the field of planning; and

3. Present, discuss, and defend research findings through effective oral and written communication.

For additional Ph.D. details, please reference the Ph.D. Guidelines here.

To apply, check out admissions.

Certificate Programs

Graduate Certificate in Planning Studies

The Graduate Certificate in Planning Studies allows students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree in a related field to become acquainted with planning skills and activities. Students enrolled in graduate programs in architecture, economics, engineering, geography, political science, public health, social work, and sociology are among those eligible. Students are encouraged to use the certificate program to increase their competence in planning as it relates to their major area of study. The individual student’s program can be designed so as to build upon his/her educational background and professional interests.

Planning Studies certificate students are required to take five courses offered by the Department and complete the requirements for a master’s degree in their area of study. The three required courses are:

  1. PLAN 600 (Public Policy and Planning Theory)
  2. PLAN 601 (Planning Methods)
  3. PLAN 751 (Planning Practicum, 6 credits).

The remaining two courses are to be selected from among the following courses by the certificate student in consultation with the faculty member responsible for directing the Planning Studies Certificate Program:

  1. PLAN 603 (Economic Analysis for Urban and Regional Planning);
  2. PLAN 610 (Community Planning and Social Policy);
    * PLAN 620 (Environmental Policies and Programs);
    * PLAN 630 (Urban and Regional Planning in Asia);
    * or PLAN 640 (Land Use Policies and Programs);
  3. An elective planning course.

Successful completion of the program leads to a master’s or doctoral degree in the student’s chosen field and a Certificate in Planning Studies. The Certificate is awarded in the same semester in which the candidate receives his/her master’s or doctoral degree. If a student subsequently pursues the MURP degree, he/she will be requested to turn in the Certificate in Planning Studies at the time the MURP degree is awarded.

A student accepted in one of the affiliated or related master’s or doctoral degree programs and interested in admission to the certificate program should: (1) arrange for an interview with the faculty member responsible for directing the Planning Studies Certificate Program and (2) file an application for admission as soon as possible.

Professional Certificate

The Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning is designed for planning practitioners and working professionals in public policy, economic development, environmental conservation and many other fields related to planning. It is open to those currently working in the public, private or voluntary sector who do not have a planning degree but are interested in formal education in urban and regional planning and any of its sub-fields. The program allows professionals to continue working full-time by offering a selection of evening as well as daytime courses. Certificate students may attend classes or make arrangements with the instructor to take courses through real-time distance learning when available.

The Professional Certificate requires completion of 5 courses (15 credits) comprised of one required (PLAN 600: Public Policy and Planning Theory) and four elective courses. Each course carries three credits. A public capstone presentation of a course project or paper is also required.

The electives are typically selected in consultation with the candidate’s faculty advisor. Below is a sample of electives courses:

PLAN 601: Planning Methods
PLAN 603: Urban Economics
PLAN 604: Qualitative Methods in Planning
PLAN 605: Planning Models
PLAN 616: Methods for Community Planning
PLAN 620: Environmental Planning & Policy
PLAN 625: Climate Change, Energy, and Food Security in Asia-Pacific Region
PLAN 627: Negotiation and Mediation in Planning
PLAN 632: Planning in Hawaii & Pacific Islands
PLAN 640: Land Use Policies and Programs
PLAN 641: Neighborhood & Community Land Use Planning
PLAN 642: Planning Urban Infrastructure
PLAN 645: Land Use Planning
PLAN 647: Planning for Sustainability
PLAN 648: Urban Transportation Policy and Planning
PLAN 661: Collaboration between Sectors
PLAN 670: Interdisciplinary Seminar in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance
PLAN 678: Site Planning

For a complete list of courses click here.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must have:

  1. An undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 in any field
  2. Minimum two years of experience in planning, policy, or a related field such as environmental sustainability, transportation and urban infrastructure, historic preservation, conflict mediation, and economic and community development, among others.

Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance Certificate

The Department of Urban and Regional Planning’s Program on Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance grows out of our commitment to a multidisciplinary approach to planning education which recognizes the important contributions to planning that can be made by the social and natural sciences and by the architectural, public health, social work, and civil engineering professions and emphasizes extensive community involvement.

The DMHA certificate is a 15 credit plus 1 credit (capstone) certificate that provides an academic course of study aimed at building disaster risk reduction competence and professionalism. Combining existing courses across campus that provide disciplinary perspectives on hazards, disasters and risk reduction with focused coursework and seminars in core areas of disaster management and humanitarian assistance results in a rigorous and productive graduate level curriculum. Students graduating with recognized skills in disaster risk reduction will find career opportunities in the public and private sectors, from the local to the international arenas. Click here for frequently asked questions regarding the program. For more information, please email us at

For more detail on the application process, please visit the DMHA Admissions page.

DMHA courses

Pre-approved Elective DMHA courses:

In this video, USAID and NDPTC director Karl Kim document the collaborative disaster risk reduction training in Indonesia between the University of Hawai’i in association with the NDPTC, the Institute of Technology Bandung, Gadjah Mada University, and the Islamic University of Indonesia. One portion of the training was conducted over the summer of 2014, with the generous support of USAID.

National Disaster Preparedness Training Center

The mission of the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) is to develop and deliver disaster preparedness training to governmental, private, and non-profit entities, incorporating urban planning with an emphasis on community preparedness and at risk populations. For information on the training center, please visit the website at

Health Emergencies in Large Populations (HELP)

The HELP Course is a three week intensive graduate level training course, taught in conjunction with the Medical Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Through the facilitation of the Center for Excellence, the HELP Course has been taught for ten consecutive years at the East-West Center located on the University of Hawaii at Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii. The HELP Course was created by the International Committee of the Red Cross with the participation of the University of Geneva and the World Health Organization to meet the public health needs of health professionals working in emergency situations. For more information about the course, please visit the website at H.E.L.P Course. For information about this course related to Health Emergencies in Large Populations, please visit the following website at

The Asia Pacific Initiative

A collaboration between ten education and research institutions in the Asia Pacific region. Graduate students and working professionals interested in disaster management and humanitarian assistance issues have the opportunity to learn from a diverse faculty from throughout the region as well as distinguished guest lecturers from regional and international organizations.

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