The doctorate in planning began in 1968 as the Ph.D. Program in Urban and Regional Planning under the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs. It was initially a university-wide Ph.D. program with faculty participation from many colleges throughout the university. In the late 1970s, the degree moved into the Rackham Graduate School. The name changed to the Ph.D. in Urban, Technological, and Environmental Planning (U.T.E.P.) in 1982. The degree moved into the College of Architecture and Urban Planning in 1989 and administratively merged with the professional program in planning to form the Urban and Regional Planning Program. The degree is now known as the "Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning," a name change made in 2004. Over its 40 years of existence, the program has granted over 170 Ph.D. degrees. Graduates hold faculty positions in a range of departments in universities, government, research organizations, and consulting firms.
The Ph.D. in urban and regional planning trains scholars for careers in higher education, research and high-level policy positions. It is a doctoral degree with a flexible, interdisciplinary focus. Graduates work in universities, government, non-profits, and the private sector, in the U.S. and around the world.
The doctoral curriculum integrates analytical methods, research design, a rigorous understanding of urbanization dynamics, and an examination of broader social theories, processes and policies. Students address complex systems that typically encompass an array of spatial, environmental, social, political, technical, and economic factors. The emphasis is on theory, analysis, and action. Each student is also expected to demonstrate an understanding of the literature, theory, and research in a specialization area within the larger discipline of urban and regional planning.
Doctoral students specialize in a wide range of possible topics. Recent students have engaged in subjects as diverse as the political economy of public transit, inner-city revitalization, global city urbanization, information technology and cyberspace, the crisis of modernist urbanism, suburbanization in developing countries, regional planning institutions, the effects of environmental contamination on patterns of urban and regional development, the culture of suburban commuting, the impact of tourism on historical Mediterranean cities, and the application of complex systems analysis to sustainable development.
The highly individualized course of study operates under the premise that concepts and methods from a wide range of professions and academic disciplines are applicable to urban and regional systems. Accordingly, students rely on faculty resources not only from Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning but also from other schools, colleges, and institutes of the University of Michigan. Students commonly take courses in the social sciences (such as sociology, anthropology, history, and political science) and in the professional schools (such as architecture, business administration, engineering, natural resources and the environment, public policy, public health, and social work). This emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, and on the links between theory and action, are defining characteristics of the doctoral planning degree at the University of Michigan.