Master of Urban and Regional Planning

The UHM-MURP degree program is fully accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board. This professional program is 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.

The MURP degree requires a minimum of 42 credit hours (including at least one credit taken during the semester in which the student intends to graduate) deemed acceptable by the faculty. A student’s academic program may include courses offered by other departments and programs, provided such courses are approved by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Chair.

Grades of B or higher are required in the six core courses, as well as an average of B or higher in all courses counted toward the MURP degree. MURP students who receive a grade lower than a B will be allowed one additional opportunity to achieve a B or higher in each core course.

All MURP degree candidates need to pass a final oral examination (applicable to both Plan A and Plan B). The final examination reviews the student’s competencies and achievement (knowledge, skills, and values) in the field of urban and regional planning. 

Candidates should also fulfill all requirements established by the Graduate Division (e.g., maintain an acceptable grade point average, complete remedial work). They should review all Graduate Division regulations as presented in the current edition of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Graduate Catalog.

Students are required to complete the following:

1) Prerequisites

A foundation in statistical methods is required for beginning the MURP degree. An introduction to description/inferential statistics is a pre-requisite for enrolling in PLAN 601, PLAN 605, PLAN 654 and PLAN 655. Courses that have been identified as meeting this pre-requisite include:

  • BUS 310 Statistical Analysis for Business Decisions
  • ECON 321 Introduction to Statistics
  • GEOG 380 Analytical Methods in Geography
  • SOC 476 Analysis in Social Statistics

Prospective students should check with the Department about other statistics courses that may meet this requirement.

2) Core Courses (18 credits total)

  • PLAN 600 Public Policy and Planning Theory (3)
  • PLAN 601 Planning Methods (3)
  • PLAN 603 Urban Economics (3)
  • PLAN 620 Environmental Planning and Policy (3)
  • PLAN 640 Land Use Policies and Programs (3)
  • PLAN 678 Site Planning (3)

3) Methods Courses (9 credits total)

Choose three additional methods courses selected from the following (with a minimum of one course from each category):

Research Methods

  • PLAN 473 GIS for Community Planning
  • PLAN 604 Qualitative Methods in Planning
  • PLAN 605 Planning Models
  • PLAN 655 Planning Research Methods
  • PLAN 673 Information Systems for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance

Practice Methods

  • PLAN 616 Community-Based Planning
  • PLAN 627 Negotiation and Mediation in Planning
  • PLAN 661 Collaboration Between Sectors
  • PLAN 645 Land Use Planning
  • PLAN 652 Policy Implementation and Program Evaluation

4) Electives (6 credits total)

Choose two additional graduate level or upper division PLAN courses. Please note that any non-PLAN elective must be pre-approved by the student’s advisor.

5) The Planning Practicum (6 credits total – choose one)

  • PLAN 751 Planning Practicum (6)
  • PLAN 754 Urban Design Studio (6)

Every MURP degree candidate is required to take a practicum. The practicum involves five or more students and a faculty member to guide a planning process. Each practicum produces a final report and/or provides specific clients with planning assistance for/toward a plan-making process. Each practicum team is involved in defining the scope of a selected problem, setting objectives, assessing the availability of resources, determining the work to be performed, allocating its resources, delivering a product and/or service, and evaluating its effectiveness. The practicum provides a student with the opportunity to synthesize multiple planning dimensions to respond to a real-world planning endeavor. Recent practicum projects.

6) Degree Option (3 or 6 credits total)

Students are expected to successfully complete a thesis (Plan A) or capstone paper (Plan B) in an area of focus defined by the student and accepted by their faculty advisory committee including a minimum of two courses to help develop depth of knowledge in the selected area. 

Thesis (Plan A)

  • PLAN 700 Thesis Research (3-6 credits)
  • Plan A students must take PLAN 700. 3 credits of PLAN 700 will count towards one of the two elective requirements to keep the total credit hours at 42.

Capstone (Plan B)

  • PLAN 650 Research Design Seminar

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, they are initially advised by the Graduate Chair. At the initial advising session after admission, each student is encouraged to specify their field of interest:

  1. Community planning
  2. Disaster management and humanitarian assistance
  3. Environmental planning and natural resource management
  4. Housing
  5. International development planning
  6. Land use, transportation and infrastructure planning

Students may change their field of interest in consultation with their 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 advisor.

As the student progresses, more emphasis will be laid on their 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 their 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.

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.

The University of Hawai‘i permits graduate programs some flexibility in specifying requirements for graduate degrees. The Department currently offers the thesis option (Plan A) and the non-thesis option (Plan B), which is the Capstone Paper and Oral Defense.

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 the recommendation of the committee chairperson) and prepare a thesis proposal under the guidance of their 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.

Main Tasks for Completion

The student should initiate the following tasks with guidance from their advisor:

  • Submit FORM I (Preliminary Advising).
  • Decision to pursue Plan A option made during second semester of student’s tenure.
  • Submit FORM II (Advancement to Thesis Stage).
  • Tentatively select topic, prepare brief outline describing approach, and discuss with advisor or other faculty.
  • Form Plan A committee and designate committee chairperson (done by mutual consent).
  • Submit FORM III (Final Examination and Approval of Thesis).
  • Prepare research design.
  • Arrange committee meeting with student to discuss research design and clarify expectations.
  • Schedule and announce final oral examination (giving Department faculty and students at least one week’s notice).
  • Take Final oral examination.
  • Complete output standards. Committee certifies that student has met Department output standards.
  • Prepare final thesis document consistent with Graduate Division regulations.
  • Obtain favorable judgment of the content of the thesis

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

The University of Hawaii permits graduate programs some flexibility in specifying requirements for graduate degrees. The Urban and Regional Planning Department currently exercises a non-thesis option (Plan B), which is referred to as the Capstone Paper. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate sufficient depth of knowledge and competence in an area of planning to enable the student to transition into professional practice and/or advance to higher levels of education.

A Capstone Paper is differentiated from a M.A. thesis (Plan A) in three ways:

  1. The capstone paper is usually shorter in length and is typically expected to be no more than 35-50 pages, not including figures, references, and appendices.
  2. The paper’s purpose is to show competence in a sub-field of planning rather than test a hypothesis or develop new concepts or theories through primary data collection.
  3. The paper 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 formulation and writing of a Capstone involves three components:

  • Delineating the Capstone’s focus by identifying its major planning implications and historical evolution.
  • A critical analysis of a specific set of planning issues, which draws upon theories, concepts and methods of analysis.
  • Recommendations for further action and/or analysis.

The mode of presentation of these three components of a Capstone will vary according to its specific focus and intended contribution. Some papers may recommend a course of action to address a specific issue, such as formulating a housing policy for the homeless or community-based approaches to environmental management. Others may involve the preparation of a development plan to, for example, preserve areas of cultural or historical significance. Still others may focus on monitoring and evaluation techniques with reference to an existing plan, such as the Hawai‘i State Plan, or a planning process, such as the planning and implementation of a land-use or regional development program.

Capstone Paper Formats

  • Policy analysis and planning paper – Analyze existing policy based on numerous planning criteria.
  • Plan evaluation – Undertake a critical examination of a particular plan, related set of plans, or planning process.
  • Plan-making – Prepare a plan to address a current urban and/or regional planning problem

Main Tasks for Completion

A student pursuing Plan B should initiate the following tasks with guidance from their advisor:

  • Discuss proposed Plan B Capstone and possible paper topic with advisor during the second semester of student’s tenure.
  • Submit brief description of Capstone and curriculum to faculty who are prospective members of the Plan B committee.
  • Form Plan B committee and designate committee chairperson (by mutual consent).
  • Prepare a statement that describes the Capstone, proposed curriculum, and paper topic. Meet with Committee to review proposed Capstone and discuss student’s proposed curriculum.
  • Complete Master’s Committee form.
  • Discuss additional requirements with advisor, if any (such as revisions to the Capstone or paper topic, additional work experience or course work).
  • Distribute paper to committee.
  • Schedule and announce final oral examination (giving Department faculty and students at least one week’s notice.
  • Distribute paper to committee. Conduct final oral examination.
  • Committee Chair certifies that student has met output standards.
  • Complete final checklist.

For more information, please refer to our Capstone Guide (Plan B).

Background and Purpose

Having a deep understanding and appreciation of Hawaiʻi’s cultural, land use and resource management history is critical for planners working in Hawaiʻi. Moreover, bringing this knowledge into modern context is at the forefront of responsible place-based planning practice. This memorandum of agreement (MOA) aims to build relationships between the Center for Hawaiian Studies and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP), with a focus on curriculum pathways. This MOA identifies a set of Hawaiian Studies (HWST) courses in which DURP Master and PhD students can enroll, with waived prerequisites.

From left: Antoinette Freitas, Jon Osorio, Denise Konan, and Makena Coffman

Statement of Agreement

DURP Master and PhD students may take the HWST courses identified below, with waived prerequisites. DURP students may count the identified HWST courses as an elective course, pending approval from their DURP advisor. While HWST 2/300-level courses may be taken, they will not count toward the MURP degree. The Hawaiian Studies courses, while taught in English, rely on Hawaiian language, concepts and primary source documents as a fundamental basis of its academic program. DURP students enrolling in HWST courses are advised and they acknowledge that there is a reasonable expectation by Hawaiian Studies faculty that students be familiar with Hawaiian language in these courses. DURP students wanting to enroll in Hawaiian Studies BA or MA courses can request an override from the teacher of record via email. Questions or concerns can be directed to the HWST BA Academic advisor or the MA Chair directly. This agreement will be in effect from the date of signature and may be updated at any time in writing. Modifications take effect at the date of signature by the Department Chair.

List of Courses Accepted under This Agreement:

  • HWST 207 Hawaiian Perspectives in Ahupua’a
  • HWST 440 Māhele Land Awards
  • HWST 441 Ceded Lands: Focus on Crown and Government Lands (1848 to Present)
  • HWST 442 Introduction to Indigenous Research Methods
  • HWST 445 Hawaiian Institutions
  • HWST 455 Ola I Ka Wai: Water and Sovereignty in Hawaiʻi
  • HWST 457 ‘Āina Mauliola: Hawaiian Ecosystems
  • HWST 458 Natural Resource Issues and Ethics
  • HWST 459 Strategies in Hawaiian Resource Use
  • HWST 495 Kumu Kānāwai: Western Law and Hawaiʻi
  • HWST 496 Kānāwai II: Practical Application of Rights
  • HWST 601 Indigenous Research Methodologies
  • HWST 602 Hawaiian Archival Research
  • HWST 691 Kūkulu Aupuni: Sovereign Hawaiian State, Domestic Kingdom Law, Governance and Politics

View Course Descriptions

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.

Application to the master’s degree program in Urban and Regional Planning requires the following:

Submit the following to the Graduate Division:

  1. Graduate application form and fee
  2. One transcript from each post-secondary institution attended.
    Applicants may submit unofficial copies of transcripts while applying for admission through the upload website. However, admitted students are required to submit official transcripts in order to enroll at UHM. Official transcripts must be sent to Graduate Student Services directly from the issuing institution(s), or in sealed institutional envelopes if submitted with the application.
  3. If a native English-speaking applicant, an official report of the GRE or GRE Revised General Test aptitude test scores, not more than five years old (ETS code: 4867).
  4. If a non-native English-speaking applicant, an official report of the TOEFL or IELTS score, not more than two years old.

Mailing address for transcripts:
Graduate Student Services
2540 Maile Way
Spalding 354
Honolulu, HI 96822

Submit the following to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning:

  1. Completed Express Information Form
  2. Completed Statement of Objectives
  3. Two letters of recommendation emailed or uploaded directly from persons well-acquainted with the applicant’s academic work and/or professional experience.

Submit the above documents directly to:
Graduate Application Supplemental Documents Upload Website OR send them to

Application Deadline

The deadline for receipt of application materials is February 1 for admission the following fall semester and September 1 for admission the following spring semester. These two dates are the primary deadlines for consideration of admission. If spots are available after the February and September admissions rounds, the admissions committee will review qualified applicants on a monthly basis.

Official notification of admission or denial is issued by the Graduate Division, not by the Department.