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Julie Douglas: Investing in future planners

Julie Douglas is the RTPI's acting Deputy Head of Education

As part of our commitment to championing the profession, the RTPI is resolute in its engagement with prospective future planners. We are conscious of the shortage of professional planners but recognise that this is something that cannot be remedied overnight. That’s why we continue to work with our members and partners to support and inspire those motivated about planning to pursue their ambitions and to join the profession. The success of our bursary schemes, with a focus on opening access to a variety of students, has over the years gone some way to achieve this aim.

Recipients have told us how the bursaries that we have awarded have taken some of the financial pressure off while undertaking one of the Institute’s accredited planning courses. It has also afforded students more time to invest in their studies, and to take opportunities such as study-related field trips. For some, the bursary has allowed them to attend networking events and engage with employers and practitioners at a time when some students may have been compelled to work an extra job between tuition. For others it has made the difference between pursuing a planning course or simply being unable to do so.

This Autumn we had the pleasure of awarding over 40 bursaries through our Future Planners Bursary scheme in England. We are grateful to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) who provided significant support for this year’s scheme and we hope that future grant contributions can continue these successes. This year, the scheme was oversubscribed and, like all our future planner pipeline initiatives, it encourages and converts those interested in a career in town planning, from a variety of backgrounds and related disciplines. This year, bursaries of £2,000 were granted to eligible students who have been accepted on a Master’s in Planning in England We are now looking forward to engaging with this year’s bursary cohort in 2023 to find out more and continue to explore similar bursary support and capacity programmes in the other UK nations.

Our advocacy of the planning student and nurturing that rich, diverse pipeline of future planners, is not only focussed on converting those at post graduate level. This year we will again invite undergraduate planning students to apply for the RTPI Trust Bursary and  for those who have recently entered a London Planning School, The Michael Welbank Scholarship.

The central purpose of these initiatives is to actively promote diversity in the profession while ensuring that planning education is accessible to all. The success of, and interest in, these schemes, meant last year, the RTPI Trust agreed to award an additional bursary. In addition, recipients were offered the added opportunity to be linked up with an RTPI planner in their local community with whom they could consider informal mentoring or work shadowing opportunities. I would like to end by reflecting on the thought-provoking ideas and experiences of planning students and highlight both blogs that the first recipients of the Michael Welbank scholarship have provided us on urban design;

How integrated designed cities can provide for rounded lives

Finding my way into a future in planning and urban design

The Institute continues to expand its programmes as part of our royal charter and corporate and charitable objectives.  Any members with ideas to contribute on how we could further add our support to more future planners, please do get in touch at [email protected]

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