Overview Prepared for Director Search

January 2006


Tony Dorcey

SCARP Director


This brief overview is designed to provide basic background information for members of the Search Committee for a new Director of the School. It is anticipated that it would also be useful to applicants for the position in preparing a presentation on their vision for the Directorship and the School. This draft has been produced by editing and updating the statement that was used in the most recent accreditation reviews. It includes how the School has responded to recommendations from the site visit team reports and concludes by suggesting the opportunities and challenges in prospect. Reports from the reviews by the U.S. Planning Accreditation Board (2004) and the Canadian Institute of Planners/ Planning Institute of B.C. (2005) are available at


SCARP's Vision

Sustainability through democratization of planning.


SCARP's Mission

To advance the transition to sustainability through excellence in integrated policy and planning research, professional education and community service.


SCARP's Goal

To be the premier professional planning school in North America focusing on the challenges of implementing sustainability.


The School’s program is shaped by five critical long-range goals, which we see as the major challenges confronting both students and professional practitioners. These program challenges are shaped by our belief that the most effective planners are a rare breed of inspired visionaries, whose vision is tempered by sensitive flexibility and respect for practical reality.


Our primary pedagogical and practical goal is to give effective meaning to the concept of ecologically sustainable social and economic development and to explore local and global paths toward achieving it. We approach this challenge through practiced inter­disciplinarity. The integration of our teaching, research, and practice is oriented to providing professional planners with the knowledge and skills required to ensure the viability of our communities and regions in a rapidly evolving world. Adapting to global ecological change, economic rationalization and cultural diversity requires a new generation of planners who are dedicated both to under­standing the issues and acting to resolve them in a wide variety of public and private set­tings.


Our second challenge is to bring new understanding to the interdependencies among the many variables that affect the design and planning of the built environment, the development and use of natural capital, and the creation of wealth generally. Professional planning must better reflect both the biophysical stage upon which we mount our socioeconomic play and the lead roles performed by cultural values and aesthetics in meeting the needs of the human spirit. To meet this challenge, planners must acquire a sense of confident familiarity with diverse forms and sources of knowledge and develop the facility to use that knowledge in integrated development planning.


The third goal of our program is to advance society’s capacity for strategic thought and action. What institutional arrangements can best assimilate new knowledge and implement responsive policies and plans? In an era of deregulation and privatization, what new tools for governance are needed to protect the public interest and enhance the common-pool assets upon which we all depend? Answering such questions requires planners skilled at identifying feasible options, structuring decision processes, and identifying the inevitable trade-offs and long-term consequences inherent in all significant public policy choices.


            The fourth challenge facing the School is to increase the effectiveness of our professional graduates in working with diverse interests at the local level, in the communities and regions where people live and work. It is at this scale that planning most directly affects the conditions of everyday life, whether through urban design, community economic development, or natural resource enhancement.


Our fifth challenge is to help our graduates to maintain professional standards in all circumstances.  This requires several kinds of technical competence and personal skills: technical knowledge; analytic skills; communications ability; par­ticipatory leadership; sensitivity to others in com­plex organ­izational settings; a solid grasp of professional ethics; sound professional judge­ment; and a sense of responsibility.


We believe that meeting these challenges requires life-long learning rooted in personal commitment and nourished by superior graduate education. Providing much of this nourishment is the immediate role and responsibility of the School.



The School’s Doctoral Program is primarily a research degree.  Doctoral students work under the guidance of a Supervisory Committee consisting of at least four faculty members, at least two of whom are from SCARP including the Research Supervisor. Students must satisfactorily complete course work, two comprehensive examinations (theory and substantive), a research prospectus, a two-year residency, and write and defend a Ph.D. thesis to qualify for the UBC doctoral degree. Typical programs run 4-5 years.


Students typically take 15-24 credits of work in the first two academic years including the following required courses:

The student selects other appropriate courses in consultation with his/her Supervisory Committee.


The Program has been refined in its details in recent years and full information is now available at


'98/'99  '99/'00  '00/'01  '01/'02  '02/'03  '03/'04  ‘04/’05 ‘05/06 


New enrollment          0          5          0          0          3          6          5          4

Later Withdrew                       (3)                               (2)      

Graduated                   4          5          3          0          0          0          2          1( through Jan)    



The School's Masters Degree requires the completion of 60 credits of coursework including a 12-credit Thesis or a 6-credit Professional Project.


All students are required to take the following (Core Courses):

§       Introduction to Planning Theory and History (3 credits)

§       Legal Context of Planning (3)

§       Planning Research: Quantitative Methods and Computer Applications (3)

§       Planning Research: Qualitative Methods and Research Design (3)

§       Omnibus: Planning for Sustainability (3)

§       Masters Professional Project (6) or Masters Thesis (12)


All students are required to select at least one 3-credit course from 4 of 5 areas of concentration and from a list of eligible courses provided each year (Distribution Requirements):

§       Planning process and methods

§       Environment and natural resources

§       International development

§       Urban policy and community development

§       Urban design


In addition students may elect up to a maximum of:

§       6 credits of Directed Studies

§       3 credits of Internship

§       12 credits from outside of the School


Full information on current course offerings and syllabi is available at


'98/'99  '99/'00  '00/'01  '01/'02  '02/'03  '03/'04 ‘04/’05

Applied                       123      160      121      119      144      218      188

Enrolled                       25        29        33        30        36        32        33

Registered                   101      103      111      112      119      121      131

Graduated                   27        29        25        29        30        23        47

Completions (no./median months)

Thesis option 27/32   29/40   22/38   17/37   20/31   14/36   28/36

Project option NA      NA      3/39     12/27   10/24   9/24     19/26

Budget from UBC ($) 951K   938K   736K   904K   932K   1031K 1086K




In the seven years since the current Director took office SCARP has received outstanding support from the University and has enhanced its masters program by major changes including:

Faculty renewal and expansion:

§       6 new continuing faculty members have joined the School, while 2 retired and 1 resigned; there presently are 13 continuing members.

§       3 of the new appointments are funded by newly endowed chairs.

§       2 of the five new appointees are women.

§       8 of 14 Adjunct Professors are newly appointed practitioners currently teaching in the masters program.

Masters curriculum reforms:

§       Core requirements expanded by three additional courses: (i) Planning for Sustainability, (ii) Planning Research - Quantitative; and (iii) Planning Research - Qualitative.

§       Registration by stream and required courses within streams eliminated.

§       Distribution requirements added: At least 1 course from each of 4 areas.

§       Professional Project option added as alternative to Thesis.

§       Each supervising faculty member offers an advising seminar to support his/her second-year students in undertaking their Professional Projects or Theses.

§       Significant further additions and revisions have been made each year to course offerings (e.g. in 2003-‘4 there were 15 new or significantly revised courses since 2002-‘3).

§       Draft Guidelines for 7 Areas of Concentration were developed and introduced in 2005.

New space and equipment:

§       The Urban Design Lab in Lasserre and the classroom, lab, library, and office space in the West Mall Annex (WMA) have been expanded and renovated.

§       The Centre for Human Settlements (CHS) has been relocated to the WMA bringing all the faculty, staff and students together in two close-by buildings.

§       New computing hardware and software has been installed as part of the renovations and four new specialized computer labs have been established: Urban Design, Cosmopolis Participatory Planning, Bombardier Transportation Planning, CRC Urban Sustainability and Disaster Planning.

Governance reforms

§       Faculty, staff and students now work together in the governance of the School.

§       A School Management Committee (including all faculty, Administrator of School and Administrator of CHS, 1 research staff rep., 3 masters and 1 doctoral student reps) meets each month to address the breadth of governance issues; meetings limited to faculty are held only as necessary to address promotion and tenure decisions and issues relating to individual students or staff.

§       Students participate in all committees and task forces, including those established for hiring, admissions, and consideration of program changes (e.g. introduction of Professional Project; course evaluation forms; planning methods curriculum etc); exception is Promotion and Tenure committees.

§       The Planning Students Association (PSA) meets bi-weekly during term-time and the Director of the School has been invited to attend all sessions except when there is a desire for a students-only discussion.

§       Two Associate Director positions were established one with responsibility for the PhD Program (Leonie Sandercock) and the other for the Masters Program (not yet filled).

Research expansion and achievements

§       Individually and in groups SCARP faculty continue to advance and expand diverse research agendas, and their great success is recognized in new funding and other ways (e.g. it is remarkable that four of the SCARP faculty are presently members of the Editorial Boards for North Americas two foremost planning journals: Journal of American Planning Association (2), Journal of Planning Education and Research (2).

§       Researchers associated with CHS brought to conclusion major programs of capacity building and research, focusing in particular on community-based planning and poverty reduction and including large projects in Vietnam and Brazil, that are attracting further funding for advancing their findings. Other new funding obtained recently (e.g. the SSHRC funding for the EMERGENCE and CHILD projects and varied projects associated with the Transportation and Disaster Research Laboratories), is diversifying the research and providing present and future students with new learning opportunities, as elaborated further below.

Enhanced collaboration with profession

§       Each year a SCARP student is elected to serve on the Council of the Planning Institute of B.C. (PIBC) providing for continuing liaison between the School and Institute.

§       PIBC and SCARP have each created a fellowship to support two students presenting papers at the annual PIBC Conference.

§       Each September the PIBC Council holds its meeting at SCARP and this is combined with an evening open house for practitioners and students to meet and explore opportunities for collaboration including mentoring and internships.

§       Currently 8 members of the PIBC/CIP are appointed as SCARP Adjunct Faculty and are teaching courses in the School and numerous others contribute guest lectures; three faculty are presently members of PIBC/CIP; one faculty and 2 adjuncts are members of AICP.

§       The SCARP Director has been a member of the PIBC Education Committee for the last seven years, assisting in the development of the proposal for a Continuing Professional Development requirement adopted in 2003 and offering a new intensive course for experienced planning practitioners wishing to complete the requirements for membership in the Institute.

§       Each year the School offers two or three community-based courses working with local practitioners and community members (e.g. Squamish and Nanaimo presently).

§       PlanTalk was introduced four years ago and is a downtown seminar series on topical planning issues organized by recent SCARP alumni and present students to foster discussion among practitioners, students and faculty.

§       SCARP students are developing the Planners for Tomorrow initiative as input to the World Planners Congress and World Urban Forum in June 2006.




SCARP has a distinctive masters degree program focused on sustainability through the democratization of planning. While fully meeting the accreditation requirements of the U.S. Planning Accreditation Board and the Canadian Institute of Planners, the SCARP program is further distinguished by its emphasis on (i) integration, (ii) diversity, and (iii) learning-by-doing.



SCARP has long emphasized an integrated approach to planning and since the early 1990s this has been explicitly recognized in the focus on sustainability planning in all of its interrelated environmental, economic and social dimensions. Consistent with this individual SCARP courses are highly interdisciplinary and characterized, in varying ways and degrees, by integration across essential component learning objectives of the planning curriculum, including:

§       Theory and practice

§       Process and substance

§       Substantive fields

§       Methods: quantitative and qualitative, including design

§       People, communication and group skills



Within the overall focus on sustainability planning and democratization the SCARP program is greatly enriched by a diversity of perspectives and capacities among its faculty, students and staff. Differing and evolving views on what constitutes sustainability planning and the role of democratization in its pursuit create healthy tensions and stimulate debate (e.g. see statements by faculty members linked from their bios ). Three critical dimensions of the program's diversity are:

§       Faculty: the regular and adjunct faculty bring to the program an exceptional diversity of backgrounds, education, research and professional practice experience that is highly interdisciplinary; span the breadth of environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability planning; and who are actively engaged from the local to the international level, in both developed and developing countries.

§       Students: the School admits students from the complete spectrum of undergraduate fields and most entrants have had rich work experience both at home and abroad before pursuing graduate studies in planning (reflected in an average entry-age of 26-28) and the program attracts applications from across Canada and around the world; a major strength of SCARP's program is the immense learning that results from the diverse contributions of its students and the vibrant community they build and foster.

§       Alumni: SCARP's masters graduates pursue planning careers in an increasingly diverse array of jobs in government, business, civil society and educational organizations from the local to the international level; while initial employment is often related to the focus of their SCARP studies and may well develop from connections made while conducting internships and research, alumni tend to move quickly both up the hierarchy with experience and laterally into new substantive areas as they learn on the job.



SCARP's masters program is strongly influenced by a belief that learning-by-doing is critically important in both planning education and practice. It is fundamental to progressive and reflective practice. Within the masters program increasing efforts have been made in recent years to enhance learning by more closely integrating teaching, research, capacity building, professional practice and service activities. CHS provides leadership and facilitates initiatives by bringing together faculty, students, staff and diverse other collaborators to obtain external funding and carry out projects across the breadth of the School's interests and capabilities in sustainability planning and democratization. Over the last few years the School has shaped and capitalized on learning opportunities around faculty and student activities from the local to the international level, working with communities and stakeholders on every continent, and integrating these into the masters program (e.g. from University Town and South East False Creek locally to San Paulo in Brazil and numerous communities in Vietnam). In undertaking these activities the School delivers on its belief that students should be of service to the community and model global citizenship as they learn:

§       Courses: Most courses incorporate problem-based learning; assignments, both individual and group, that involve defining planning problems and seeking solutions, often involve stakeholders, in real situations with clients, and give experience in meeting the challenges of progressive planning practice (including pro and cons of top-down, bottom-up); learning-by-doing is integrated into coursework as opposed to not only in special workshops.

§       Internships: About two-thirds of students elect to take an Internship, with opportunities being taken-up around the world, and are encouraged to design these as a way into exploring and shaping Project or Thesis research topics and potential employment.

§       Professional Projects and Theses: All Professional Projects and Theses contain a significant element of learning-by-doing; often topics are related to the research, capacity building, professional practice and service activities of faculty; the Professional Project requires identification of a real or explicitly assumed client; and many Theses involve case studies that involve some degree of participatory research activity.



The arrival of four new faculty members during the last three years and the new research resources and capacities associated with each of them, enable the School to enhance its Masters Program in major ways that will increasingly come into operation through additional courses and research opportunities, including:

§       Substantive: land use, transportation, design, disaster management.

§       Methodological: quantitative, computer based, design

§       Skills: ICTs



Since the present Director was appointed in 1999 the School has undergone a major transition, one that is continuing. Unprecedented support from the University for restoring and enhancing the School's faculty and facilities and the new external resources that this has helped to attract have drawn attention to SCARP both on and off campus. At UBC it is seen as a unit exemplifying the pursuit of the University's TREK 2010 vision. Among planning academics and practitioners it is increasingly acknowledged as one of the premier planning schools in North America focusing on the implementation of sustainability planning. Looking ahead the School faces a number of challenges and opportunities as it seeks to capitalize on all that it has built in recent times:


§       Uncertain external environment: While the recent adoption of TREK 2010 positions the School to make even stronger contributions to UBC in the upcoming years, major changes among the senior administrators of the University introduce uncertainty as to whether the strategic directions will shift – notably a new Provost and a new Vice President Research took office last year and at the end of this year the President and the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies are stepping down.  In addition the change in the Federal Government creates uncertainties about the extent to which the unprecedented plans for expanding funds for cities and universities will be implemented. To the extent the emphases in the UBC and Federal Government agendas continue the School is exceptionally well positioned to capitalize on them.


§       Faculty renewal and development: In coming years with the expected high rates of retirement everywhere it has to be anticipated that there will be increasing competition both to retain and hire new faculty.  SCARP has one faculty member reaching 65 in each of the next four years and then a gap of three years before again having one person reach 65 in each of the following four years.  While it is widely expected that the current policy of compulsory retirement at 65 will be eliminated it is unclear what policies will replace it.  At the very least the School’s strategizing with regard to succession planning is going to become more complex and likely uncertain. However, based on recent experience the School can do a great deal to meet the increasingly competitive challenges in the market for new hires by continuing to build a strong community of faculty, staff and students and program of activities that encourages faculty to stay and new people to come. It can also continue to seek endowment funding for faculty positions so as to enhance its control over future hiring options.


§       Program development: The School's program has been developing steadily throughout recent years incorporating new ideas about curriculum and pedagogy, expanding the teaching program with new faculty expertise, and taking up opportunities for new research initiatives as they arise.  The revisions in the masters degree curriculum made this year have enabled recommendations from the accreditation reviews to be considered and responded to.  With a new Director taking over, the recently appointed new faculty members now having had time to become familiar with the School, and the significant uncertainties ahead about opportunities and challenges, it will be an appropriate in the coming year to reassess SCARP’s Vision, Mission, Goal and Program and future development priorities.


§       Student support: Rapidly increasing fees in the last couple of years have heightened the need for greater financial support for students. The immediate challenge for the School is to ensure that it supports its students in submitting strong applications to the continuing (e.g., SSHRC and University Graduate Fellowships) and the significant array of newly emerging opportunities (e.g. masters fellowships from SSHRC). At the same time faculty members need to capitalize on the expanding opportunities to support students from grant and contract funding that are increasingly becoming available (e.g. through the expanding and liberalizing conditions for SSHRC research funding). This issue was the focus of a SCARP task force a couple of years ago and is a challenge to be given continuing priority.


§       Administrative budgets: Funds provided through university budgets for the office staff and expenses associated with the teaching program are relatively small, declining in real terms and the likelihood of significant increases in coming years is not good. The major opportunity for meeting a continuing short-fall is to increase the funding brought into the School through grants and contracts.


§       Professional development: There is a growing demand for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as practitioners see the need for additional and new knowledge and skills. This has been heightened in B.C. as a result of the Planning Institute of B.C. adopting two years ago requirements for its members to meet CPD requirements on an annual basis. The challenge for the School is to identify its comparative advantage in meeting these demands. More fundamentally consideration needs to be given to the design and content of a 2-year masters program when it is conceived as the foundation for a career-long process of CPD and possibly one component of joint degrees. These are questions to be incorporated into the Program Development task.


Given the potentials the School has built since 1999 and the further advancements in process, SCARP is uniquely well-placed to pursue its Vision and Goal and to exploit the opportunities in prospect, including not only diverse new funding but also events such as the World Urban Forum in Vancouver in 2006, UBC's Centenary in 2008, and the Winter Olympics in 2010.