As urban planning is less related to engineering than other programs, emphasis is placed on social and political aspects. Students take courses in the history and theory of planning, which gives them the necessary background in order to pursue more advanced topics.
Students take courses in planning practice that explores the role of the planner and the planning process. It focuses on understanding the institutional framework for planning, including social, political, and economic dimensions; examining approaches to community involvement, negotiation, and policy formulation; and developing effective communication skills.
Planning law courses are designed to teach the student about legislation, case law, and government authority applicable to planning and development control. Zoning and subdivision controls, development control, expropriation, planning appeals and the process of establishing and implementing plans are examined as well. In addition, the roles of private citizens, special interest groups, corporations and municipal, provincial, and federal government departments are looked at.
Courses in the ecological impacts of urban planning are also examined. Students learn about bioecology and ecosystems theory for sustainable development. Students assess the planning implications of thermodynamic law, human dynamics, self-organization, complexity theory, and related structural and functional properties of the ecosphere.
Transportation planning is an important aspect of all urban planning curriculums, and is designed to teach the student about the connections between transportation, land use, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, physical activity, and obesity.