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Specialisation: Social Policy and Planning

Award(s) to which this specialisation belongs:

Social Policy and Planning


Department of Geography and Planning
Faculty of Arts

Admission Requirements:
Admission to Master of Planning
Study Mode:
Full-time, Part-time
Attendance Mode:
North Ryde — Session 1 (February)
North Ryde — Session 2 (July)

This specialisation must be completed as part of an award. The general requirements for the award must be satisfied in order to graduate.

Requirements for the Specialisation:

Completion of a minimum of 16 credit points including the following prescribed units:

Credit points

800 level

Developing Social Policy (4)
Evaluation and the Policy Process (4)
8cp from
Research Methods in Anthropology (4)
Research Methods for Sustainable Development (4)
Social Impact Assessment and Cross Cultural Negotiation (4)
Communication for Social Change (4)
Studying Public Policy (4)
Activism and Policy Design (4)
Doing Social Survey Research (4)
Qualitative Methods (4)
Political Economy for Social Policy and Research (4)
North, South, East, West: Comparative Social Policy (4)
Advanced Quantitative Methods (4)


Overview and Aims of the Program Significant global changes now require significant planning skills in spatial social policy to enable planners of the future to take account of climate change, population growth and displacement, growing inequality, major changes to agricultural and industry, and increased levels of social conflict.

The Master of Planning degree has traditionally been strong in environmental sciences. Building upon Planning Institute of Australis (PIA) accredited program's strengths in the social aspects of environmental planning, the specialisation focuses on social policy challenges to the practice of land use planning and will compliment the development of skills needed for the practicing planner.

The Social Policy and Planning specialisation in the Master of Planning is the only postgraduate program in Sydney to offer a comprehensive focus on social research, social impact assessment, and social policy development and evaluation.

The curriculum is based on lectures, workshops, tutorials and importantly field visits to ground theory and practice. The Master of Planning is accredited by the Planning Institute of Australia.
Graduate Capabilities

The Graduate Capabilities Framework articulates the fundamentals that underpin all of Macquarie’s academic programs. It expresses these as follows:

Cognitive capabilities
(K) discipline specific knowledge and skills
(T) critical, analytical and integrative thinking
(P) problem solving and research capability
(I) creative and innovative

Interpersonal or social capabilities
(C) effective communication
(E) engaged and ethical local and global citizens
(A) socially and environmentally active and responsible

Personal capabilities
(J) capable of professional and personal judgement and initiative
(L) commitment to continuous learning

Program Learning Outcomes By the end of this program it is anticipated you should be able to:

Demonstrate knowledge and practical understanding of key methods, concepts, and scholarship in social science and planning theory, including relevant multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches and perspectives (k) (t) (l)

Integrate and apply theories and concepts that address the interconnected dynamics of environments and societies in producing environmental dilemmas requiring planning policy responses (t) (e) (l)

Understand and identify the main ethical, political, and historical contexts of particular social ­ environment relations and their connections with global events and perspectives (t) (e)

Critically review how social and scientific perspectives on current environmental issues and challenges are communicated to professional and public audiences (k) (t) (i) (c) (a)

Formulate reflective and ethical approaches for putting social policy and research into planning practice through project based research (e) (a) (i) (p) (j) (l)

Be prepared and able to respond to diverse perspectives and approaches to socio ­ environment relationships (t) (c) (e) (a) (j) (l)

Research and evaluate planning dilemmas using methods, concepts, and scholarship in the social sciences, including multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches (k) (p) (e)

Critically engage with advanced concepts and academic texts, and express complex ideas in written work, oral presentations, and small group discussions (c) (t) (p) (j) (l)

Develop creative and innovative approaches to communicating social planning challenges (p) (i) (j) (l)

Apply key methods and concepts from the social sciences in a range of disciplinary and geographical settings (k) (j) (l)
The number of PLOs that a program should have is not specified. As a guide, between eight and twelve PLOs would be a reasonable number.
PLOs are made publicly available and so will be read by a wide audience. When writing PLOs it is useful to ask "is this written in a way which would be intelligible, accessible and meaningful to our students and prospective students?". Generally speaking, learning outcomes should be expressed in a form that includes action verbs, describing something your students can actually do, and can be assessed to have successfully done, like "identify", "describe" or "differentiate".
The AQF asks that PLOs should address the areas of Knowledge and Understanding, Skills and Capabilities, and the Application of Knowledge and Skills. It isn't necessary for each PLO to be classified under one of these headings. However it is important for the overall collection of PLOs for a program to clearly address all of these factors.
Each program learning outcome should be mapped to the graduate capabilities it fosters, using the standard letter codes given.
Learning and Teaching Methods Students are encouraged throughout this program to develop professionally relevant subject skills, methods, knowledge and understanding through a variety of independent and collaborative activities. The program is structured so that students do a set of required units which build core competencies, and electives which enable students to pursue their interests.

The teaching and learning approaches are designed to encourage creative and critical thinking about social, environmental, policy and planning issues as well as a range of practical skills oriented towards professional development. Teaching and learning strategies include weekly workshops that typically involve a lecture accompanied by in-class activities involving peer-to-peer learning; block-mode teaching where teaching is condensed into extended blocks involving guest lectures and practical activities spread over two or three days; and field trips to research sites. In each case, staff work closely with students to ensure the best learning outcomes. The program mixes knowledge and skills of academic staff with practicing professionals who play a prominent role in many of the learning and teaching activities.

Within the program there is an emphasis on student-directed learning through peer-to-peer interaction and discussion, drawing on the diverse skills and backgrounds of people within the class. Students are expected to research subjects outside of class time and present that research via a variety of formats in class. A number of units are aimed at developing professional teamwork skills and require students to work in small teams to generate and present ideas and research. There are also opportunities to apply skills and knowledge to practical 'real world' problems by producing reports for public, private and community sector organisations.
Assessment Students are exposed to a wide range of assessment tasks through this program. The majority of these are individual pieces of work oriented at developing the critical thinking, practical and communication skills required for a career as social, urban or development planner. The most common assessments involve writing essays and reports on contemporary social, development, public sector and planning topics; writing reviews and evaluation of current policies and approaches; and making presentations and participating in discussions with your peers. Other individual assessment tasks include quizzes, exams, proposals, research projects, academic papers, critical reflections and the application of relevant public sector and development planning skills. You are also required to work in groups or in group assessment tasks that will reflect your knowledge, as well as teamwork and communication skills.
Recognition of Prior Learning

Macquarie University may recognise prior formal, informal and non-formal learning for the purpose of granting credit towards, or admission into, a program. The recognition of these forms of learning is enabled by the University’s Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Policy (see and its associated Procedures and Guidelines. The RPL pages contain information on how to apply, links to registers, and the approval processes for recognising prior learning for entry or credit. 

Domestic Students
For undergraduate RPL information visit
For domestic postgraduate RPL information visit

International Students
For RPL information visit

Support for Learning

Macquarie University aspires to be an inclusive and supportive community of learners where all students are given the opportunity to meet their academic and personal goals. The University offers a comprehensive range of free and accessible student support services which include academic advice, counselling and psychological services, advocacy services and welfare advice, careers and employment, disability services and academic skills workshops amongst others. There is also a bulk billing medical service located on campus.

Further information can be found at

Campus Wellbeing contact details:
Phone: +61 2 9850 7497

Program Standards and Quality

The program is subject to an ongoing comprehensive process of quality review in accordance with a pre-determined schedule that complies with the Higher Education Standards Framework. The review is overseen by Macquarie University's peak academic governance body, the Academic Senate and takes into account feedback received from students, staff and external stakeholders.

Graduate Destinations and Employability Graduates of Social Policy and Planning specialisation in the Master of Planning find employment in a wide variety of organisations: Government, in Australia particularly at local and state levels; non-government and community organisations; and in the private sector there are specialist and multidisciplinary consultancies focussed on social enterprise and innovation, place-making and public domains, and planning, development and social equity.

Career opportunities include:

State government: strategic planning; policy development and research; statutory planning and urban development; social and environmental impact assessment; social policy planning and evaluation; community and public domain planning and public sector management.

Local government: strategic and statutory planning; community, social and sustainability planning; social impact assessment; policy development and evaluation

Federal government: policy development, research and evaluation; social impact assessment

Private sector: specialist multidisciplinary planning and community development consultancies; development companies and agencies

Non-government organisations: advocacy and lobby groups; community development organisations and trusts; peak interest and action groups; research organisations.
Assessment Regulations

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

This program is subject to Macquarie University regulations, including but not limited to those specified in the Assessment Policy, Academic Honesty Policy, the Final Examination Policy and relevant University Rules. For all approved University policies, procedures, guidelines and schedules visit

Inherent requirements are the essential components of a course or program necessary for a student to successfully achieve the core learning outcomes of a course or program. Students must meet the inherent requirements to complete their Macquarie University course or program.

Inherent requirements for Macquarie University programs fall under the following categories:

Physical: The physical inherent requirement is to have the physical capabilities to safely and effectively perform the activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Cognition: The inherent requirement for cognition is possessing the intellectual, conceptual, integrative and quantitative capabilities to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

Communication: The inherent requirement for communication is the capacity to communicate information, thoughts and ideas through a variety of mediums and with a range of audiences.

Behavioural: The behavioural inherent requirement is the capacity to sustain appropriate behaviour over the duration of units of study to engage in activities necessary to undertake the learning activities and achieve the learning outcomes of an award.

For more information see

2018 Unit Information

When offered:
S1 Day
Permission of Executive Dean of Faculty
HSC Chinese, CHN113, CHN148