- The Department of Urban Studies & Planning (DUSP) is a department within the School of Architecture + Planning at MIT
- Year founded: 1933
- Degrees Offered: Bachelor of Science in Planning (SB); Master of City Planning (MCP); Master of Science (SM); Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
- Number of graduate students (2014-2015): 205 (138 master, 67 PhD)
- Number of faculty: 40
- The Planetizen Guide to Graduate Urban Planning Programs once again ranked DUSP #1 in the U.S. and Canada
The Department of Urban Studies & Planning
is composed of four specialization areas (also referred to as Program Groups):
- City Design and Development 
- Environmental Policy and Planning 
- Housing, Community and Economic Development 
- International Development Group 
These planning specialties can be distinguished by the geographic levels at which decision making takes place—neighborhood, city, regional, state, national, and global. Subspecialties have also been described in terms of the roles that planners are called upon to play, such as manager, designer, regulator, advocate, educator, evaluator, or futurist.
A focus on the development of practice-related skills is central to the department's mission, particularly for students in the Master of City Planning (MCP) professional degree program. Acquiring these skills and integrating them with classroom knowledge are advanced through the department's field-based practicum and studios subjects, research, and through internship programs.
For a full description of the department its program groups, and curricula see the Institute Catalog .
Many of the courses developed by DUSP faculty are provided free to the public through MIT's Open CourseWare site .
Vision & Mission
Over the past half-century, developed countries have experienced rapid urbanization around their edges and deindustrialization in their cores; economic restructuring has had uneven impacts between and within regions. In decades to come, most of the world’s urbanization will occur in the metropolitan regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia, in settlements that lack the infrastructure, resources, and organization to cope with the challenges that confront them. Over the same period, the United States will add over 100 million new residents to metropolitan areas that are increasingly ethnically diverse and persistently unequal, and whose postwar infrastructure is largely crumbling. Cities worldwide will have to deal with climate change, large-scale migration, changes in family structure, rapid technological change, and other powerful forces.
As a department, we can address many, but not all, of the challenges associated with urban development in the twenty-first century. To this end, we must build on our strengths in design and physical planning in order to focus on five critical areas. Each of these domains reflects a globalized world and offers rich opportunities for learning through research, teaching, and engagement in the field. Each domain requires collaboration across disciplines and specializations in our department, thinking and doing at multiple scales (neighborhood, city, region, national, global), and significant innovation in the ways in which we train professionals and define excellence in practice. The following five critical focus areas will strengthen our existing comparative advantages.
- Create ecologically resilient and adaptive urban regions.
- Forge equitable and well-designed development in a transnational world.
- Foster intelligent cities and socially responsive technologies.
- Design, build and advocate for affordable, adaptive, and inclusionary housing and neighborhoods.
- Engage in effective democratic governance.
Our moral vision is translated into professional education in distinct ways:
- We believe in the abilities of urban and regional institutions to steadily improve the quality of life of citizens.
- We emphasize democratic decision-making involving both public and private actors, and acknowledge the necessity of government leadership to ensure greater social and economic equality.
- We foster a positive approach to technological innovation as a major force of social change.
- We trust that the built environment can meet the needs of diverse populations and serve as a source of meaning in their daily lives.
Students at DUSP find a unique program reflected in the Department's goals and objectives:
- The education of practitioners in various fields of planning practice. The emphasis is not only on the breadth of planning skills, but also a specialized competence in one or more of the four areas of specialization.
- An expanding international focus. Though New England is the focus of much student work, programs are not limited geographically. A number of design studios and research projects take students abroad to work with faculty on planning issues in other countries. International students often return to their communities of origin to practice.
- The integration of MIT's vast technological resources into planning practice and education.
- The presence of practitioners as well as scholars among the faculty.
- The education of students for practice in the public, private, and nonprofit arenas. DUSP graduates go on to work in each of these sectors in roughly equal proportions.
- An increasing diversity of faculty and students. Long a goal of both the Department and MIT, strengthening of diversity continues despite the recent national assault on affirmative action. The Department also has strong connections to other departments and programs at MIT through dual degree programs, joint appointments of faculty, and joint listings of courses, as well as collaboration on research projects and interdisciplinary initiatives.
City Planning, was first offered at MIT in September 1933 and led to the degree of bachelor in architecture (Course IV-B). The object of the new course was to “encourage in the architectural student a breadth of outlook which will enable him to see city planning problems in a broad perspective,” and to equip him so that he is “qualified to cooperate intelligently with engineers, landscape architects, lawyers, economists, and sociologists in the planning or replanning of urban areas.”
The five-year course was taught from the architect’s perspective and required the student to complete the first three years of the architectural curriculum or an acceptable equivalent.
In 1935 the Executive Committee of the Institute’s Corporation approved a master’s program called the Master in City Planning (MCP) and courses in city planning, design and research and administration were approved by the faculty. Harvard University closed its School of City Planning the following year, and MIT became the only institution offering a master’s degree in city planning in the United States at that time.
In 1942 Course IV-B was renamed City and Regional Planning and reduced to a four-year program with a new curriculum that was no longer parallel to the program in architecture but included planning courses in the first year and an office practice course in the summer of the third year. The following year the School of Architecture became the School of Architecture and Planning to reflect the growing importance of the subject to the profession of architecture.
In February of 1947 Course IV-B became the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) in the School of Architecture, and Adams became the first department head. Enrollment in the program more than doubled the prewar figures; graduate students outnumbered undergraduates and the demand for planners exceeded the number of students graduating. Because the field was a relatively new one, the members of the new department struggled to obtain enough adequately trained personnel to meet the demand and to maintain high standards of instruction. The department continued to accept as its primary responsibility the training of technically qualified practitioners in the field of city and regional planning and housing rehabilitation.
In 1954 the DCRP undergraduate program was eliminated and the department became a graduate school, offering only the two-year M.C.P. degree. Planning courses at the undergraduate level were offered as electives. The M.C.P. program focused on the study of the large-scale physical environment and its interaction with society.
By 1955 many of the planning positions obtained by the graduates of the program required policy decisions of both an economic and an administrative nature. Students looking for relevant training sought interdepartmental degrees at the doctoral level. This growing phenomenon, coupled with an interest on the parts of educational and operating institutions in planners with more advanced training, led the DCRP to consider offering a doctoral program within the department.
In 1958 the M.C.P. program changed its core curriculum to stress the planning and design aspects of the city as a whole and to decrease emphasis on the design of small elements such as subdivisions. Also in 1958 the department first offered a Ph.D. program in city and regional planning and the Center for Urban and Regional Studies was established under the directorship of Lloyd Rodwin. A parallel center was established at Harvard and the two were intended to be integrated and interdisciplinary in their research approaches. The focus of the center’s research was the physical environment of cities and regions, the forces that shape them, and the interrelations between urbanization and society. The key areas of interest included the form and the structure of the city, transportation, technology, controls, the planning process, the urban landscape, and the physical planning problems of developing countries. The center greatly enhanced the research potential for students and faculty of the DCRP.
In 1961 a new research methods course provided training in the application of modern electronic computing to planning problems. New M.C.P. and Ph.D. curricula offered during the same period focused on the visual design of cities, regions, or large city areas, with a view towards the objectives of redevelopment projects, and larger issues involved in urban renewal. Also in 1961 the high demand for planning education by foreign students from developing countries caused the department to examine the very different training such planners would require. In 1966 Course IV-B became Course XI. By 1967 the heightened interest in urban problems and urban studies throughout MIT increased both the research and teaching capacity of this multidisciplinary field. Within the department, work developed primarily in four directions: city design; planning for developing areas; urban planning and social policy; and quantitative methods.
Also in 1967 the department initiated the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS), funded by the Ford Foundation. The program offered a fellowship for one year of intensive study to international students, with preference given to persons from developing countries. The fellowship was aimed at mature candidates who would shape policy in developing nations and enhance their capacity to cope with potential development problems.
In the spring of 1968 the department inaugurated the Laboratory for Environmental Studies. The lab received financial support from the MIT Urban Systems Laboratory, the Harvard-MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies, and grants and contracts from foundations and federal agencies such as the Economic Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The lab’s activities fell into four areas of concern: race and poverty; psychological perception studies; developing countries; and information systems for urban analysis.
The name of the department was changed in 1969 to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) to reflect a shift in focus from an emphasis on the structure of communities to a broader concern with issues of urban and regional development. To meet the rising demand for training in urban services and social policy, the DUSP began to offer courses in the areas of educational planning, health planning, welfare policy, social program development and evaluation, poverty law, and strategies for institutional change.
In 1984 the MIT faculty voted to approve a Master of Science in Real Estate Development program subject to a five-year review. In the same year the Center for Real Estate Development was founded. The objective of the center was to sponsor research programs on issues relevant to the real estate development and investment fields, which offered significant research opportunities for the department.
In 1990 the department was organized into five research/teaching clusters: City Design and Development, Housing Community and Economic Development, International Development and Regional Planning, Environmental Policy and Planning The non-degree Community Fellows and SPURS programs continue to operate. The Community Fellows Program was renamed the MIT Center for Reflective Community Practice in 1999.
In 2002, the Department again recast the MCP core curriculum, centering it on two “Gateway” classes-- “Planning Action” and “Planning Economics,” while retaining required subjects in Microeconomics and quantitative Reasoning. The new core also increased the emphasis on communication skills and required students to take a workshop-style “practicum” subject.
In 2007 the SENSEable City Lab was established with the aim of researching the impact of technology, especially sensors and hand-held electronics on the built environment. In 2012 the Center of Advanced Urbanism, a joint effort between the department and Architecture, was founded to engages in interrogation, reflection and redefinition of design and planning within the ‘big four’ fields of design: urban planning, architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design.
In 2015 the department received one of the largest gifts in MIT history, from alumnus Samuel Tak Lee ’62, SM ’64, to establish a real estate entrepreneurship lab that will promote social responsibility among entrepreneurs and academics in the real estate profession worldwide, with a particular focus on China. The gift funds fellowships to attract both U.S. and international students; supports research on sustainable real estate development and global urbanization; and makes the lab’s curriculum available online to learners worldwide via MITx.
Heads of the Department
- Frederick J. Adams 1947-1957
- Frederick J. Adams 1957-1970
- Lloyd Rodwin 1970-1974
- Langley C. Keyes 1974-1978
- Lawrence E. Susskind 1978-1982
- Gary A. Hack 1982-1986
- Tunney F. Lee 1986-1990
- Donald A. Schon 1990-1992
- Philip L. Clay 1992-1994
- Bishwapriya Sanyal 1994-2002
- Lawrence J. Vale 2002-2009
- Amy Glasmeier 2009-2013
- Eran Ben-Joseph 2013 --
School of Architecture + Planning
The School of Architecture and Planning comprises the Department of Architecture, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), the Program in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS), the Media Laboratory, the Center for Real Estate (CRE), and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS). Both departments, as well as MAS and CRE offer advanced degrees and include opportunities for joint programs with other departments. The Media Laboratory and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies do not confer degrees but are research based. The Media Lab houses the MAS program and provides its students a unique environment to explore basic research and applications without regard to traditional divisions among disciplines. CAVS offers an art-based platform for collaborations between artists, scientists, and technologists.
The School of Architecture and Planning builds on pioneering traditions. The first university instruction in architecture in the United States began at MIT in 1865. The program in city planning, established in 1933, was the second in the country. The presence of architecture and urban studies and planning in the same school reflects a deeply held conviction that the two disciplines, sharing a common intellectual tradition, provide mutually illuminating and critical perspectives on each other.
For more information, please visit the School of Architecture and Planning web site:
Department of Architecture
The Media Lab
Center for Real Estate
Center for Advanced Visual Studies
Giving to the Department
The work of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning is supported by range of sources, including Institute funding, foundation and grant support, and donations from alums and friends.
If you'd like to make a donation to help support the activity of the Department, please visit the MIT Giving Page , where you can see a complete list of gift designations and programs to support our work and our students.