Urban planners have diverse opportunities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 February, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 February, 1999, 12:00am

Urban planners should diversify their skills to adapt to working in other sectors, according to a local professional.

Peter Hills, professor and director of the Centre of Urban Planning and Environmental Management, said opportunities in the field were diverse as trained professionals were in demand on the mainland and in transportation, environmental protection, tourism, and by private developers and government organisations.

They were also sought by consultancies, which conducted planning studies for the public and private sectors.

The centre, part of the University of Hong Kong which will be exhibiting at the expo, is accepting applications for its Masters of Science in Urban Planning programme.

It is the only local programme which is fully recognised by the Hong Kong Institute of Planners.

Anyone wishing to enter the profession must be a member of the institute.

'Although we are a professional planning degree, the training we give is suitable for employment in a lot of fields,' Mr Hills said.

'Many of our activities are generic and could be applied to the same sort of issues in, say, tourism development as we are teaching very general skills in some respects.' While graduates of the centre were finding jobs it was not as easy as it once was, he said.

'The reasons I am keen to promote planning as general training is because, if they limit themselves to a job in govern ment as a town planner, they may have to wait for a vacancy. We think our training gives them a good basis for entering a variety of different careers,' Mr Hills said.

During the programme, students are required to attend lecture courses and seminars which focus on the relationship between planning and the urban environment and the role a planner plays in the development.

The programme also includes project work and optional courses in a series of specialised streams such as transport and physical planning.

Each year, about 35 to 40 students are admitted to the programme which can be completed in two years of full-time study or three years part time.

He said Hong Kong provided a good case study for his students as issues such as sustainable development were topical.

It involved planning growth and development in a way that allowed planners to meet environmental, social and economic objectives without overloading the natural environment through overpopulation and pollution.

'Hong Kong is overloading the system and the environment cannot absorb all the pollutants we are putting out,' Mr Hills said.

'This is a particularly critical period in terms of development plans for the future of Hong Kong.

'From the research work we use in our teaching, it is clear that Hong Kong has to start doing things differently.'