Master of Urban Design
Application and Portfolio Deadline:
January 15 annually
Enrollment Deposit and Intent to Enroll Deadline:
April 15 annually
The Master of Urban Design (M.U.D.) is a one-and-a-half-year post-professional degree invested in the conceptualization of the complex global processes of urban transformation. The Master of Urban Design (M.U.D.) degree is open to students with professional degrees in architecture, landscape architecture and urban and regional planning.
The M.U.D. is a breeding ground for urban design experimentation, approaching urbanism through multiple scales of inquiry with studio projects prompting both analytical and speculative design work related to regional infrastructure and territory, urban housing, public-private development, urban governance, landscape processes, urban technologies, climate change, resilience, and civic space.
Research in urbanism is a core focus of the program. A seminar on urban research introduces research methodologies and prepares students to opt for a thesis track, consolidating their own research profiles.
Core seminars on urban finance and development, theories and methods of urban design, policy and urban governance, and the humanities complement the curriculum. Adding to the offerings in the Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning programs at Taubman College, students can advance their personal academic interests taking full advantage of courses in other units across campus.
The M.U.D. degree involves travel to a variety of national and international destinations to bring students into direct contact with the communities for whom they will be designing. In their field studies, students exercise their critical thinking skills and cultivate cultural competency as well as a more nuanced examination of local conditions and building practices.
M.U.D. students are encouraged to engage in collaborations with faculty members and advance their own research interests during their time at Taubman College. Through the highly competitive M.U.D. Fellowships, the degree supports this commitment by awarding students research stipends at their time to their admission to Taubman College. Access to our on-site, world-class facilities, including the Fabrication Lab (FABLab) and the Geo-Spatial and Numeric Lab enables students to engage in advanced technological platforms.
Through the access to these resources and the expanded areas of expertise on campus, students gain exposure to a myriad of contemporary global practices and schools of urban thought and cultivate critical design experimentation advancing the agenda of urban sustainability.
/ Degree Requirements
The M.U.D. Program requires 45 academic credits. The program is 3 terms in length consisting of a fall full term (September–December), winter full term (January–April), and fall full term (September-December).
/ Sample Schedule
The studio-based curriculum consists of the following consecutive and thematized studios: Technology (Fall) – Justice (Winter) – Climate (Fall). This set of three urban design studios positions design as the central discipline of urban transformations.
/ STEM Designated Degree Program
The Master of Urban Design degree is an approved field of study within the U.S. government’s official STEM fields list. When a student earns a degree in a field on the STEM fields list, he/she may be eligible for the 24-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) extension. OPT is defined as practical work experience in your field of study after completion of a degree. With a STEM degree, a student’s “regular” OPT of 12 months may be extended for an additional 24 months. For further details regarding STEM extensions contact the International Center.
/ Core Course Descriptions
UD 712: Urban Design Studio I
(6 credits) This core studio introduces a series of design approaches to study complex metropolitan regions and the network of agents in their transformation. Students develop fundamental skills to integrate multi-scalar design strategies and experiment with advanced representation methods, such as GIS, digital video and other technologies. Participants will engage in examining diverse territories and constituencies related to a design project based in Detroit or the Region. During the semester, participants will visit the projects of interests and engage with local practitioners, designers, and policymakers.
UD 713: History of Urban Form
(3 credits) The course offers a study of the historical development of the physical form of western cities from ancient times to the present. The course will deal primarily with European and North American cities under the following headings: Ancient and Classic, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, and Modern (nineteenth and twentieth centuries). Cities of Asia, Africa, and Latin America will be included where possible and applicable.
UD 714: Representation
(3 credits) This workshop exercises a wide range of techniques of representation to capture the multi-faceted and transient qualities of the built environment. Urban Design Representation is conceived as a mode of inquiry and spatial thinking and a critical medium for the generation of urban imaginaries and new audiences. Structured around two interrelated components, students engage in making and conceptualizing the discursive capacity of their work.
UD 717: City as Thesis: Urban Design and Research
(3 credits) Cities are mysterious and multifold, seemingly outside the purview of definition and control. However, the class is guided by a contravening precept: to construct an understanding of the city is to already begin its remaking. In applying new (and old) perspectives to the city and its effects, the city becomes design by way of research and speculation. Taking an open-ended approach to the questions of the urban (what it is, how it operates, and who its constituencies are) through a broad survey of approaches and parallel consideration of specific projects (subject to recent events and speaker availability), this course outlines a variety of ways by which to posit the city as both subject and object, as phenomena and proposition. Course participants will study examples of city “theses” in various forms and formats, as well as engage in their own parallel research efforts, culminating in a prospectus for further studies.
UD 715: Theories and Methods of Urban Design
(3 credits) This seminar surveys contemporary theories of urbanism as a lens for understanding urban design discourse and practice. Cities are simultaneously participants in, and resultants of, systems of economy, culture, and power. Accordingly, they can be examined to reveal embedded relationships between urban form and space, the urban publics, and prevailing cultural, economic and political regimes. This course presents an interdisciplinary cross-section of theories of urbanization, drawing from architecture, landscape, planning, urban design, cultural theory, geography, sociology, political science, and ecology, in order to critically examine cities and the methods that have been used in urban design practice globally.
UD 722: Urban Design Studio II
(6 credits) The studio positions urban design as a catalyst of vibrant urban cultural life. Participants will engage in the conceptualization, planning and design of a district-scale intervention while learning from regional and global initiatives of urban revitalization. Design work is expected to build upon intelligence gained from the previous semester’s work. Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of UD 712.
UD 716: Urban Economics, Finance, and City Making
(3 credits) This seminar covers urban economics and real estate finance concepts through the study of integrated approaches to project development. The seminar provide an overview of public and private development strategies in contemporary urbanization logics. Private investment issues include market feasibility, valuation and risk, and project financing and complex deal structuring. Public investment issues include community benefits agreements, social housing, pricing of urban infrastructure and public transport, public sector development, legal, policy, planning and inclusionary zoning issues. The course seeks to build proficiency in a cohesive model of project development that accounts for multiple perspectives in city making.
UD 732: Urban Design Studio III
(6 credits) This studio draws upon the research, cultural investigations, technical study and design work developed during the first year. Participants will engage in a faculty-led project or a student formulated design thesis (upon faculty approval) structured to focus on specific research and developed for dissemination to a broad audience. The specific vehicle for project dissemination will vary annually and with the subject of focus, and may include a publication, exhibition; colloquia and symposia with invited thought-leaders from relevant disciplinary domains. Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of UD 722.
UD 742: Urban Design Thesis
(6 credits) Students opting for Thesis as the culmination of the academic course of study will draw upon the research, cultural investigations, technical study and design work initiated during the first two terms. Participants will focus on a specific urban research subject of their choosing in consultation with core faculty in the M.U.D. degree. Project dissemination will vary annually and may include a publication, exhibition: colloquia and symposia with guests from relevant disciplinary domains.
Students who are non–native English speakers and do not have a four-year degree from an English-medium institution are required to take and successfully complete ELI 530, a two-credit hour architecture-specific English course offered by the English Language Institute (ELI) at U-M in their first fall term. ELI 530 is taken in addition to their regular architecture coursework and does not count toward degree requirements.
/ Potential Elective Courses
This is a tentative list of courses meeting electives areas of focus, and taught at Taubman College. Apart from these courses, you can also enroll in other schools on campus. As offerings change every year, prepare in advance and discuss with your advisors a good strategy to meet your interests.
Potential courses to fulfill directed elective in Ecology, Landscape, Sustainability
ARCH 509: High Density
ARCH 515: Sustainable Systems
ARCH 555: Building Systems and Energy Conservation
ARCH 565: Research in Environmental Technology
ARCH 575: Building Ecology
URP 527: Sustainable Food Systems
URP 542: Environmental Planning: Issues and Concepts
URP 552: Healthy Cities: Planning and Design
Potential courses to fulfill directed elective in Policy, Law, Institutions
URP 502 or URP 503: Planning Institutions and Law
URP 525: Regional Planning
URP 542: Environmental Planning
URP 543: State and Local Land Management
URP 560: Transportation and Land Use Planning
URP 561: Public Policy and Transportation
URP 570: Urban and Regional Planning in Developing Countries
URP 571: Comparative Urban Policy
URP 572: Comparative Housing, Property, and Law
URP 581: Housing Policy and Economics
URP 582: Neighborhood Planning
/ Faculty Teaching Core Courses
Taubman College Career and Professional Development offers a variety of programs, services and resources to assist students and alumni in exploring careers, securing positions and continuing skill development and management.
For additional information on career opportunities, visit our career and professional development page.
/ Frequently Asked Questions
When is the deadline to apply?
The deadline to submit the M.U.D. application is January 15.
Do I need a portfolio to apply?
Yes. It is due with the application on January 15. You can find portfolio content guidelines here.
Where can I find the application?
It is located on our website here: https://taubmancollege.umich.edu/architecture/admissions/apply/master-urban-design
How do I know if I am eligible to apply to the M.U.D. program?
Applicants to the Master of Urban Design (M.U.D.) degree, should already possess one (or more) of the following degrees:
- 5-year Bachelor of Architecture, Bachelor of Landscape Architecture, and Bachelor of Urban Planning
- Master of Architecture, Master of Landscape Architecture, Master of Urban Planning, or their international equivalent.
Through their application materials, applicants must show evidence of excellence in the design of the physical environment, as well as a commitment to the study of advanced topics in urbanism. Professional design and planning experience will be viewed favorably.
How many letters of recommendation do I need to submit?
Three (3) letters of recommendation are required and should testify to your academic and professional capacity and promise. If possible, two of these should come from former professors. Letter of Recommendation submission options (PDF)
What should the letters of recommendation include?
Illustrate your work, strengths and skills, and situate it disciplinarily:
design and representation capabilities, conceptual thinking, and sophisticated project descriptions. Ensure that:
- They issue the letter to the Master of Urban Design at Taubman College, University of Michigan. Yes, we know you are applying to several degrees, but reading a letter issued to other institution looks bad!
- The letter writer includes references to your potential for graduate school, holistically: the familiarity of the writer with you and your work matters a lot.
- The letter writer includes additional details of your interest and overall academic potential, anything that can help us to differentiate you.
And in general, avoid asking a letter to someone who does not really know you, no matter how important that person is.
Do I need to submit GRE scores?
No. Effective for 2022 applicants and beyond, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are no longer required nor considered for admission to all graduate programs, including the Master of Urban Design, at Taubman College.
Where do I submit my portfolio?
The portfolio is required and is submitted through Slideroom. There is a $6 fee to submit your portfolio. Slides, CDs, URLs, and hard copy materials will not be accepted.
What should I include in my portfolio?
You can find portfolio content guidelines here.
The first page of the portfolio (cover page-required) must include the following information
- Your last name, first name
- State you are a M.U.D. applicant
- email address
The portfolio must be formatted together in one Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)
There are no specified page dimensions or formats, but please note that portfolios will be reviewed electronically on a variety of screens and devices. Please ensure that all text and images will be legible in a variety of contexts. Portfolios may be no longer than 30 pages total and no larger than 20 MB. Portfolios that exceed these sizes may not be reviewed. Your portfolio will not be reviewed if you upload individual pages. Application processing time may increase if your file is incorrectly titled or if a cover page is not included.
Do I need an official transcript to apply?
No. Taubman College only requires official transcripts from those students accepting our offer of admission. Applicants will scan and upload an unofficial transcript or certified credentials (scanned from original transcripts) from all universities, colleges, community colleges, study abroad, and summer programs attended.
Is there an interview process?
Yes. As part of the competitive process of evaluation, the Admissions Committee will conduct personal interviews with each applicant. We will reach out after the deadline to arrange a Skype/Zoom interview once your application has been reviewed. Each applicant will have an interview with a faculty member in the Admission Committee. The goal is to further discuss with you your interest in the M.U.D. degree at Taubman College, and complement your dossier.
Be ready to have a conversation, and do not over prepare a speech: remember that the faculty interviewing you has already reviewed your dossier, so they may be interested in additional info or just discuss particular areas of their interest.
When is the enrollment deposit due?
April 15th. Students choosing to accept admission to the Master of Urban Design must pay a $500 enrollment deposit Payment may be completed online by e-check through Wolverine Access, credit card, or in the form of a check or money order (in US dollars) made payable to University of Michigan. This deposit reserves your space in the program. The $500 payment will be credited to your student account and applied toward your tuition.
What do I write about in my statement of purpose?
Please write a concise statement outlining your reasons for applying to Taubman College’s Master of Urban Design degree. Your ideas should be clear, well stated, and specific. The following questions serve only as a guide. The essay should be 500-1000 words and clearly communicate to the admissions committee:
- Why you want to study urban design
- Your career objectives and long-term goals
- What you want to learn/gain from the degree
- How the degree supports your career objectives
- What led you to apply to Taubman College
- Specific area of emphasis/specialization that you are interested in
- Previous professional experiences that have had a profound effect
- Your current strengths and weaknesses in reaching your goals
How long is the M.U.D. program?
The M.U.D. Program requires 45 academic credits. The program is 3 terms in length consisting of a fall full term (September–December), winter full term (January–April), and fall full term (September-December).
Is there a dual degree program?
Yes. There are three dual-degree programs with M.U.D. as a focus:
- Master of Architecture/Master of Urban Design
- Master of Urban Design/Master of Urban and Regional Planning
- Master of Urban and Regional Planning/Master of Urban Design
Students also have the opportunity to pursue student-initiate dual degrees with a wide range of other programs. Students wishing to pursue a dual degree program other than those described are advised to contact the college registrar. Requests are approved on an individual basis. Learn more about Dual Degrees.
Are there certificate programs available to M.U.D. students?
Yes. Through the Rackham School of Graduate Studies, certificate programs are available for graduate students interested in gaining additional strength in a field that cuts across several disciplines. You can find more information about Graduate Certificates here.
How much does the M.U.D. program cost?
You can find a breakdown of estimated cost here.
What type of financial aid is available to me?
There are several different aid opportunities available to students including merit-based scholarships, need based grants, federal financial aid awards, and more. To learn more about financial aid and scholarships please see the Paying for Your Degree page.
Are M.U.D. students able to serve as teaching assistants?
Yes. All Taubman College graduate students are eligible for Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) positions after their first fall term at Michigan. The number of positions that are available depends on the program’s teaching needs for the particular term. GSI positions are very competitive. Typically, a GSI position would cover 100% of tuition, provide a small stipend and health benefits during the term of appointment. On average, over 100 students apply for approximately 30 positions.
As an international student what type of aid is available to me?
Federal regulations and U-M policy limit the types of financial assistance available to international students. International students are not eligible for U.S. need-based federal financial aid. Taubman College has limited funding opportunities for international students. Your application to our school also serves as your application to our departmental awards. These are competitive, merit-based awards. In addition, some donor awards have specific applicant criteria. Applicants are notified of these awards in the letter of admission.
Additional funding resources for international students:
How can I check the status of my application?
Applicants can verify application data and status online approximately 10 – 15 days after their application is submitted. The admissions office will send an email to each applicant that includes the University of Michigan Identification Number (UMID). You will need to use a login ID and password to confirm some personal data before viewing your application status. Student Service staff will try to keep all materials received current. However, please allow sufficient time for processing before contacting the office.
For Applicants Who are Current Students or Employees: Log into Wolverine Access using your existing University of Michigan Uniqname and password, click New and Prospective Student Business.
For Applicants New to the University:
About five business days after you submit your application you will receive an email confirming that Taubman has downloaded your application from ApplyWeb. This email will direct you to set up your friend account.
- Go to the Friend Account Request Form and enter your email address.
- You will receive a confirmation email with a link to create your friend account.
- For more information, see the Information and Technology Services website.
When will I know if I was accepted?
Applicants will be notified of their admission status by late February or early March. If you are admitted, you will be able to see that you have been recommended for admission by the Architecture Program via the online web application status. Notification letters will be sent via email. Any merit scholarship award decisions made by the Architecture Program will be noted in the letter of admission.
Are there any resources available for International Students to support with questions related to visa application, health insurance or Life in Ann Arbor?
Yes. The Website of the International Center at the University of Michigan offers helpful resources for incoming international students related to topics such as Immigration and Visas, Health Insurance and Housing or Local Transportation.
The International Student and Scholar Services (I.S.S.S.) team serves as a key resource to the University’s community of international students, scholars, and their families. It provides professional expertise and support to international students from the time of admission to beyond graduation.
Frequently Asked questions and a list of advising services and advising hours can be found here:
Is an English proficiency test score required?
All non-native English speakers must take either the TOEFL, or the IELTS. Scores must be no older than two years old to be valid. Non-native English speakers who have earned their degree from a university, where English is the primary language of instruction, are not required to submit a TOEFL or IELTS. U.S. citizenship does not exempt applicants from taking the test if his/her native language is not English. Students only need to take one of the above listed tests. Taubman College does not admit students that have not met minimum score requirements.
TOEFL Examination (International Students Only): The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition are the approved English proficiency tests required of all non-native English speakers. Information about the TOEFL/iBT Special Home Edition including test dates and locations can be found at ets.org/toefl. Please contact ETS (ets.org) and have an official score report sent to the University of Michigan (Institution code 1839, department code 12) at least 4-6 weeks prior to the application deadline. TOEFL/iBT scores must be no older than two years old to be valid. Please take note that the minimum requirement is: 95 iBT. If you have taken the TOEFL exam and not achieved the minimum score we encourage you retake the exam to meet the minimum requirement. Taubman College does not admit students that have not met minimum score requirements.
IELTS Examination (International Students Only): The International English Language Testing System exam is another English proficiency tool required of all non-native English speakers. Information about the IELTS including test dates and locations can be found at ielts.org. Please have IELTS send an official score report electronically to the University of Michigan. IELTS scores must be no older than 2 years to be valid. The minimum requirement for the IELTS test is 7.0. If you have taken the IELTS exam and have not achieved the minimum score, you must continue to take the test until you reach 7.0 to be considered for admission. Taubman College does not admit students that have not met minimum score requirements.
ELI 530: Students who are non–native English speakers and do not have a four-year degree from an English-medium institution are required to take and successfully complete ELI 530, a two-credit hour architecture-specific English course offered by the English Language Institute (ELI) at U-M in their first fall term. ELI 530 is taken in addition to their regular architecture coursework and does not count toward degree requirements.
Where can I find more information regarding the University’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements, safety and prevention efforts and testing programs?
Please refer to https://campusblueprint.umich.edu/ for latest news on the coronavirus situation on campus and the COVID-19 policies currently in place for students and faculty.
Gradient is an online platform for current conversations in architecture and urbanism at Taubman College and beyond. The journal highlights the wide variety of expertise and methods and diverse ways of designing and theorizing the built environment’s role in the world. Project Papers further spotlight the intellectual diversity of our internationally recognized faculty.