Master's study / Doctoral study / Urban Design Certificate / Dual Degree


Candidates of any degree offered by the Department may pursue their studies in the area of City Design and Development. Applications for the MCP and PhD degree programs are made to the Department. For information on admissions and financial aid and instructions on how to apply, please visit the Admissions page.


Cities are now transforming at a breathtaking speed. While Asia confronts rapid urbanization, some cities in Eastern Europe and the US are dispersing. New technologies are leading to different ways of understanding and organizing cities. But resources are dwindling. How do we design in this context?

New models of form, modes of intervention, and strategies are needed, but there is no consensus among theorists and practitioners about what these should be. For this reason, the Joint Program in City Design and Development takes a threepronged approach:

First, CDD provides a place for the exploration of ideas about the future city. It is a space of agendas, devoted not only to debate, but also to the development of alternative urban forms, techniques, policies, and codes. We research these alternatives by testing them in design. We therefore see design as central to the analysis of the city, and to understanding the consequences of more general agendas for urban change.

Second, CDD undertakes concrete projects in cities. Many of these projects build on our research, helping cities to cope with the changes confronting them. Members of the Joint Program have close ties to practice, as architects, landscape architects, planners, policy-makers, transportation engineers, and developers. This practical experience is in turn integrated into CDD’s propositional thinking.

Third, CDD grounds its work in history and theory. We study the historical traditions from which various contemporary propositions for the city have emerged. This is important not only to avoid past mistakes, but also to become conscious of the broader, age-old project of building the city that each of us has chosen to be a part of.

These characteristics distinguish the Joint Program in City Design and Development from planning institutions devoted predominantly to the analysis of the city, as well as from architectural schools occupied with the designed object in and of itself. By contrast, the purpose of CDD is to study, define and realize propositions about the city, consistent with MIT’s focus on innovation.

Since its founding by Kevin Lynch and others almost 50 years ago, CDD has provided critical paradigms about the city.

Candidates of any degree offered by the Department may pursue their studies in the area of City Design and Development. Applications for the MCP and PhD degree programs are made to the Department. For information on admissions and financial aid and instructions on how to apply, please visit the Admissions page.

Master's study

Students in CDD are mainly drawn from the Master of Science in Architecture Studies program (SMArchS) and the Master of City Planning program (MCP) where students may choose to specialize in City Design and Development. However, the program also serves a wide array of other students drawn from other programs and departments at MIT and in the Cambridge community.


Students who specialize in CDD must fulfill the core requirements of their professional degree program, and then assemble their own set of additional subjects with the aid of an advisor. Students pursuing the Urban Design Certificate must choose from a specific set of subjects and meet special requirements described in detail below.


For admission to the Master of City Planning (MCP) program see DUSP’s Admissions web site.

For admission to the Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) program see Architecture’s Admissions web site.


The submission of a design portfolio online through the application portal is highly recommended but not required of all CDD MCP applicants with design background. Please Note: Paper portfolios are no longer accepted.  Only electronic versions uploaded with the online application will be reviewed .

The portfolio should include evidence of recent creative work: personal, academic and/or professional. Choose what you care about, what you think is representative of your best work, and what is expressive of you. Work done collaboratively should be identified as such and your role in the project defined. We expect the portfolio to be the applicant's own work. Portfolios should have a 30-page maximum and should not exceed 10MB (maximum). The dimensions should be roughly 1275x1650 pixels at 150 dpi and exported for screen viewing. Portfolios should be uploaded as a single PDF file through the online application system.

Doctoral study

The Department of Urban Studies and Planning offers a Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program focused on preparing advanced students for careers in teaching and research. The program is based on a close working relationship between doctoral students and their faculty advisors. While the program of study is hand-crafted for each doctoral student, the program emphasizes the development of research competencies particularly through joint student-faculty research. 

On average, approximately sixty Ph.D. students are registered in DUSP. Each year the department admits between eight and twelve new Ph.D. students; generally one or two of these students have been selected to study in the City Design and Development area.

Each Ph.D. student develops a course of study with his or her advisor in order to take full advantage of the resources available at MIT and elsewhere. Much of the student’s coursework and independent reading and study is focused on preparation for the student’s general examination. The nature of the preparation that will be necessary varies widely depending on the candidate’s background and research interests.

Often the City Design and Development Group has held faculty-student research seminars on topics of common interest, and there is considerable flexibility in creating such opportunities. Doctoral students have access to most courses at Harvard and Tufts, as well as other departments within MIT.

Collaborative research projects and teaching are two other important parts of each doctoral student’s experience. Doctoral students in City Design and Development have been given substantial teaching responsibilities, particularly in the introductory courses offered by the group’s faculty members. Recent Ph.D. students have served as Instructors in Urban Design and Development, Planning Action, the Beijing Urban Design Studio, and Big Plans.

Doctoral students have also played key roles in research projects supervised by City Design and Development faculty including work on the areas of public housing renewal, suburban development, and design standards.

The Doctoral Program is built around the following requirements: 

  • Completion of several required subjects inlcuding 11.233 Research Design and Methodology; 11.800 Doctoral Research Seminar; and one quantitative and one qualitative methods subject from an approved list. 
  • A Doctoral Research Paper, written during the student's first year in the program. The purpose of the paper is to assess the student's ability to make a reasoned argument based on collective evidence. Equally important is the opportunity to work closely with a faculty advisor. A Doctoral Seminar taken by all students in their first semester focuses on how to frame interesting research questions, shape convincing arguments, and write academic research articles of publishable quality. 
  • General Exams in a first (disciplinary) field and a second (problem-focused) field. Ph.D. students take general examinations that include a written and oral component, after the completion of their fourth semester. The written take home exam is administered one or two weeks before the oral exam. The examinations allow faculty to assess how well the student has mastered the content and methods of at least one discipline and at least one area of substantive planning or applied public policy. 

Each student selects the fields he or she wishes to study with guidance from an examination committee. The committee, comprised of three or more faculty members, helps the student define each field, select a bibliography, and suggest the format of the exam. This process usually occurs in the final year of a student's coursework.  For a list of approved first fields see the department PhD web site at: Students in City Design and Development normally chooce it as their first examination field. 
A detailed explanation of CDD’s First Field Exam and suggested reading list is available by downloading the following document:

Ph.D. First field general examination in CITY DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT (CDD)

  • A dissertatino proposal approved by the student's dissertation committee and presented in an open colloquium, normally completed by the end of the student's third year. At this point each doctoral student can qualify for non-residential status and reduced tuition. 
  • A completed dissertation and a formal defense of the dissertation. 

Ph.D. study is also available in Architecture in the History, Theory, and Criticism area. 

Admission: Applicants from any field will be considered. Official transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose demonstrating maturity and clarity of purpose in pursuing advanced doctoral study, and examples of relevant work are required. GRE required for all applicants. TOEFL scores required for all applicants whose native language is other than English. 

For online forms and further informatijon see DUSP’s admissions web site.

Dual Degree

Graduate Dual Degrees in Planning and Architecture
Information for Students already enrolled in the School of Architecture and Planning

The School of Architecture and Planning offers students the opportunity to pursue concurrently graduate degrees in the Department of Architecture and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, based on an approved program of study.  Students may write a single thesis for both degrees and complete their studies in less time than it would ordinarily take if they worked toward the degrees separately.

The Dual Degree Program is monitored by The Dual Degree Committee, composed of faculty representatives from both departments.  The committee deals only with dual degrees in the two departments, involving MCP, MARCH, and SMARCHS degree programs. Members of the committee include faculty and degree administrators of the two departments.

The function of the committee is to advise students prior to application; to review the proposed program for dual study; to evaluate students record of performance and capability to successfully complete the proposed program; to recommend students to admissions committees of respective programs; and to review and monitor students progress.


+ What are the procedures for becoming a dual degree student if you are already enrolled in either Department?

1. Students prepare a written program proposal and a new application for admission to the degree program to which they are applying in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning or the Department of Architecture. Students should also request that their original admissions applications be forwarded to the dual degree committee to be included in their folder. Applications and requirements should be obtained from the department to which you are applying. These should be submitted to Jordan Pettis Room 10-485, by January 5th.

2. The Dual Degree Committee reviews the program proposals and application. The Committee makes one of three findings: not recommended (student’s application rejected; no appeal); recommended (student’s application forwarded to the appropriate admissions committee with recommendation to accept); or special circumstances (forwarded to admissions committee for review with no prejudice, along with a note explaining special circumstances.) Decisions from the Dual Degree Committee are announced on or about January 17th.

3. The applications and program proposals are then reviewed by the appropriate admissions committee of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning or the Department of Architecture. In reviewing dual degree applications, degree committees may take into consideration whether the applicant is comparable to other students who have been admitted to the degree program, and other factors. Decisions from the Departmental Committees are sent out on or about April 1st.

This process is designed to ensure that the program of study represents a meaningful educational path and that the quality of dual degree candidates remains high. Not all dual degree applications will be approved–only those which demonstrate a formulated educational program, and the capability to pursue it.

+ What degree combinations are possible?

Within the School of Architecture and Planning, the status is open to students wishing to pursue either Master of City Planning/Master of Architecture or Master of City Planning/Master of Science in Architecture Studies. Students may begin their programs in either department. Students who wish to apply for a second Master’s degree in a department other than DUSP or Architecture should consult the graduate advisor in their own department.

+What constitutes an acceptable program?

The Dual Degree Committee looks for several points in judging the adequacy of a proposed program:

1. What is the student’s eventual career objective? Would (s)he be aided by having formal credentials in both fields?
2. Will the program lead to special competence and skills in a particular area, or would it simply mean acquiring a loose collection of experiences in many different subjects?
3. Area there intellectual advantages to pursuing the two degrees simultaneously, or could the same or better effect be attained by studying the two fields sequentially?
4. Does the student evidence the ability — judged in terms of prior accomplishments, record to date at MIT, participation in program activities — etc., to integrate the educational experiences so that they are useful for future professional work?
5. Is the program able to be done in the time the student proposes to devote to studies?
6. Does the proposed program match our educational resources?

The student proposal should speak to each of these issues.

+Who is eligible for the program?

A student must apply by January 1st before beginning the last full year of graduate study on the first degree. This means that MCP and S.M.Arch.S. students must apply during their first year at MIT. Second year students of these programs are not eligible to apply to the Dual Degree Program. M.Arch. students (planning a normal 3 1/2 year program) must apply during or before their second year. The program is also open to any applicant to the school, who would need to submit two applications and be accepted to both departments. Students who are admitted simultaneously to two degree programs should immediately fill out a petition and submit a program statement in the application for dual degree status.

+Must students compete with all others applying for admission?

The first requisite is being admitted as a graduate student in the initial department. Applications for this are handled in the normal way. In being accepted for dual degrees, a special admission quota applies. MIT degree students do not compete for the small number of regularly available places in degree programs of the Department Architecture and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. However, degree committees may take into consideration whether the applicant is comparable to other students who have been admitted to the degree program, and other factors. Non-MIT dual degree students must be admitted from the general pool.

+How does the dual degree program relate to the degree requirements of the two departments?

Students will be expected to complete the coursework and core requirements of each of the two departments. Immediately upon being accepted into the MCP program, a student must begin the core courses in September of the second year. The core courses must have been successfully completed before a student can register for thesis.

Subjects that carry joint numbers may be counted only towards work in one department or the other. For example, M.Arch. students must complete the studio sequence and the required number of subjects in each of the other mandatory areas. MCP and S.M.Arch.S. students must fulfill the respective core and other program requirements. The Institute policy as of March 1980 states that a student who is a candidate for the simultaneous award of two masters degrees and submitting one thesis must satisfy completely the minimum requirements for both departments separately – example: 164 M.Arch. 66 S.M.Arch.S.; 126 MCP (without thesis). (In certain circumstances, a student may petition to reduce the number of credits for one degree or the other. Please consult with department administrators.)

In order to be eligible for the simultaneous award of two maser’s degrees, a student is required to file a petition with the Registrar, approved by both departments, at least two terms prior to graduation, stating the expected program in both departments. Students are expected to file this petition in their home department administrator immediately upon acceptance into the Dual Degree Program. For further information on the format of this petition, consult Architecture or DUSP Administrators Department.

+In which department does a dual degree student register?

For SMARCHS students accepted into the MCP program, the student registers in Architecture for the first and second year, DUSP the third year. For MCP students accepted into the SMARCHS program, the student registers in DUSP the first year, Architecture the second year, and DUSP the third year. The student must be registered for a minimum of two full semesters beyond what would have been necessary to get the first degree. M.Arch. students register for three and a half years in Architecture, or less as it is reduced by advanced standing; followed by at least two full semesters registered in DUSP. MCP students accepted into the MArch program will register in Architecture from their second year on.

+What are the arrangements for theses?

Dual degree students must complete a thesis that is acceptable to both departments. All dual degree students must register for thesis prep and Thesis in DUSP and the thesis process will be governed by administrative procedures in DUSP. However, thesis topics must be approved by a faculty thesis advisor from each department and at least one faculty member from each department must be represented on the thesis committee. The faculty thesis advisor from each department must sign the completed thesis (two signatures).

+What about financial aid?

Financial aid relating to MCP and SMARCHS students will be the responsibility of the “home” (first) department for the first two years of study, the other (second) department the last year of study. No aid is guaranteed. Financial aid involving MArch students will be determined by the department in which the student is registered.


Students wishing to apply for the dual degree should submit the following application materials by January 5th:

1.  Statement:  Write a brief statement of how the two degrees relate to career plans, why having both degrees is essential to your work. We are aware that your plans may change; nevertheless, we are looking for your current program objectives.  Describe:

×         Why the pursuit of two degrees simultaneously, rather than sequentially, is critical.

×         Issues or questions which you wish to pursue and how you see them relating to each other.  What do you intend to draw from each of the two degree programs?  What is your likely thesis area and what kind of a project can you     imagine doing?

×         Work or field experiences you have had which may demonstrate abilities in both fields.

×         Which faculty members in the two departments you would expect to work most closely with?  With which have you already worked?

2.  Study Plan:  In a table by semester, indicate what courses you intend to take in each of the two degree programs to complete the requirements of these programs.  Be sure to include all core classes for each degree, required distribution of “g” and “h” subjects, thesis prep and thesis.  Total the credits.  You should have this table reviewed by the program administrator of the degree program to which you are applying.

3.  Letters:  At least 2 letters of reference must be included from your advisor(s) or instructors at  MIT.

4.  Prior application:  Have this forwarded from your home department to the Dual Degree Committee (Jordan Pettis) for inclusion in your folder for Dual Degree admissions.

Members of the Dual Degree Committee are available to discuss program proposals in draft form and to suggest improvements.