Master of Design (MDes) Urban Environments Design


Program Description

The Master of Design (Urban Environments Design) draws on the contemporary Hong Kong/China urban experience to offer a unique postgraduate education in urban space design. In line with the School’s human-centred critical approach to environment design, this studio-based specialism integrates the design of multiple scales and typologies of urban environments.

Urban Environments Design focuses on the analysis and design of hybrid and composite interior environments, urban public spaces and urban systems and strategies.

This programme, hosted in a design school, is in contrast to architectural education. / PolyU Design

Programme Aims

This full-time international postgraduate programme responds to the unprecedented urban transformations occurring during the past few decades in Hong Kong and China. Urban Environments Design aims at the development of a high level of intellectual and practical mastery of the analysis and design of diverse urban environments in the region, with broader implications for urban contexts worldwide. The approach of the Urban Environments Design is based on an understanding of socio-cultural dynamics of the regional context transferred into new design strategies and design interventions.

Hong Kong: a place to explore integrating the design of multiple scales and typologies of urban environments / Mathilde Gattegno (Class of 2018)

Programme Objectives

This specialism seeks to unite practical approaches for innovation in urban strategies with formal aspects of urban environment design, through:

  • real-world project development
  • teamwork approaches problem-solving
  • socio-cultural and aesthetic considerations
  • reflecting critically and analytically on the urban environment value creation by design within the urban environment
  • a critical understanding of contemporary urban transformations in China
  • definition of strategic approaches to urban environment design
Students participated in the research and cartography of an exhibition project iat The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) / PolyU Design/ Map Office

Programme Structure

Following an introductory seminar, which initiates students in the Urban Environments ethos and approach, the first year of the programme is structured around three half-semester studio subjects, each of which is paired with a seminar subject that provides a knowledge base for the respective studio. Each project is undertaken in collaboration with a public- or private-sector partner, addressing spatial design challenges that emerge from the partner’s real-world operations and institutional culture. The final semester centres on a student-defined capstone design project that synthesises the learning of the programme.

Student using a model to present food security within global and market-driven economic models / PolyU Design

Class delivery mode & duration

Classes are normally held during daytime on weekdays except for three subjects, which will be delivered during weekends. Each of these weekend subjects requires three weekends spread over 4–5 weeks.

Normally it takes 1.5 year to complete the specialism.

Eligibility: students with a background in Spatial Design or a related discipline / PolyU Design


Entrance requirement

A Bachelor’s degree in design or the equivalent in a related discipline and professional experience in design is preferred.

A complete application includes
  • Application form
  • Letter of intent
  • Three letters of recommendation (Academic/ Profession)
  • Evidence of academic qualification, i.e. Official Full Transcripts and Degree Certificates
  • Portfolio (refer to FAQ for requirements and submission)
  • IELTS/ TOEFL report^

^ Except for native English speakers whose Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent qualification) is awarded by a recognised university where the medium of instruction is English. Otherwise, you are expected to fulfil the following minimum English language requirement for admission purpose: A Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of 80 for the Internet-based test or 550 for the paper-based test; OR An overall Band Score of at least 6 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). All English language test scores are considered valid for two years after the date of the test.


All admissions must go through the interview process. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview in person (for local applicants) or over internet video calls (for non-local applicants).

Local and non-local students from the Mainland, other parts of Asia and the rest of the world / PolyU Design

Financial Aid

PolyU Design BA graduates can apply for Alumni Bursary (subject to approval) when admitted into one of the MDes programmes in 2020/21. This financial aid will be in a form of reimbursement of an amount equivalent to 15% of the tuition fee paid.

Local students who are holders of HKID Card (Permanent) admitted to one of the MDes programmes in 2020/21 may apply for the subsidy capped at HK$120,000 offered by the University Grants Committee (UGC)’s Targeted Taught Postgraduate Programmes Fellowships Scheme for the settlement of the tuition fee. The main purpose of the Fellowship Scheme is to attract meritorious local students to pursue inter-disciplinary and in-depth postgraduate training in priority areas of strategic importance for Hong Kong and to meet the societal needs for talents speedily.

Other types of financial aid for local students are available through the Government's Student Finance Office: Continuing Education Fund (CEF) and Extended Non-means-Tested Loan Scheme (ENLS).

No scholarship is available for non-local students.

* Remark: PolyU reserves the right to change the terms or withdraw the above fellowships or bursary. In case of any dispute/disagreement, PolyU’s decision is final.

Type of VISA (for International Students)

People’s Republic of China and foreign nationals, and those who are holding valid employment or working holiday visa/ entry permit may apply to this programme as non-locals. Non-locals will need a student visa to take this full-time programme. Holders of dependant visa or a visa under IANG are also considered as non-locals but do not require a student visa. Visa applications are processed and determined by the Immigration Department of the Government of the HK SAR. The process normally takes 8 – 10 weeks upon receipt of all the required documents.

Study Trip: Oslo Architecture Triennale / PolyU Design/ Photo by Mathilde Gattegno

Last updated Jul 2020

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About the School

PolyU Design has been an important hub of design education and research for Hong Kong since 1964. The School thrives on its geographical position in bridging the East and the West, allowing its studen ... Read More

PolyU Design has been an important hub of design education and research for Hong Kong since 1964. The School thrives on its geographical position in bridging the East and the West, allowing its students to develop their design strengths with a uniquely international cultural awareness at both professional and social levels. Read less