AESOP Core Curriculm (version 2024)

The AESOP Core Curriculum represents an updated version of the Core Requirements for a high-quality European Planning Education, issued in 1995 as part of AESOP’s statement on European Planning Education (AESOP Working Group on the Curriculum of Planning Education, 1995).

The Core Curriculum plays two crucial, interrelated roles for AESOP: It identifies knowledge, competencies and values deemed vital for spatial planners at the start of the 21st century; and it serves as a ‘benchmark’ for the evaluation of applications and admission of new member schools and their education programmes.

AESOP Core curriculum [1]


The Core Curriculum plays two crucial, interrelated roles for AESOP: It identifies knowledge, competencies and values deemed vital for spatial planners at the start of the 21st century; and it serves as a ‘benchmark’ for the evaluation of applications and admission of new member schools and their education programmes. This dual role poses conditions on the contents of the Core Curriculum. Because of different national situations, the diversity of planning schools applying for membership to AESOP is such that it is neither possible nor desirable to formalise the core curriculum in too much detail. Planning practice differs depending on national, regional, and local contexts. The diversity in approaches to planning that this implies should be considered an asset rather than a weakness of the planning discipline in Europe. Mutual learning, with respectful and responsible knowledge transfer and emulation of didactical practices is, however, highly desirable. Such mutual learning is further encouraged by the quality recognition programme of AESOP’s Excellence in Education Board. Given this, rather than a precise list of curriculum elements to be met, AESOP’s Core Curriculum aims to:

  • Establish a common identity for all member schools, and create an AESOP label, to which member schools can adhere and aspire.
  • Provide guidance on knowledge, competencies and common values of democratic accountability, rule of law and citizen engagement on the basis of which a planning school is recognised by AESOP.
  • Increase the quality and visibility of planning education and contribute to improving the professional recognition of planners educated in AESOP member 
  • Support the exchange between AESOP and other planning associations and networks (e.g., GPEAN) on capacity building for planning at the global level.



Broadly speaking, planners intervene in the organisation of physical and non-physical (e.g., economic) spaces at different scales in order to respond to the needs of human society and the planet. In doing so, planning professionals face complex tasks and challenges including social and spatial injustice; climate change, natural and man-made disasters, resource management and energy transition; a need for inclusive, healthy and sustainable place-making; citizen empowerment and community development; globalisation and digitalisation. The core curriculum for planning programmes specifies the: A) knowledge, B) practical competencies, and C) values that planners have to develop or adhere to in order to respond to these tasks in a socially responsible and professionally ethical manner.


(Graduates of planning education degree programmes have the capacity to produce, manage, analyse, interpret and communicate knowledge in areas related to spatial planning) 

Develop knowledge of:

  • Processes of spatial change in the natural and anthropogenic environments, including its systemic interconnections and the impacts of humans’ exploitation notably climate change, biodiversity decline, etc., and how human activities intervene in and modify these processes
  • Socio-economic dynamics, including social conflicts, inequalities, migration, demographics, cultural change, property and real estate markets and power relations within society
  • Specialised fields in planning and relationships across and between these fields, from an interdisciplinary perspective (e.g., natural environment, built environment, society, economy, law and history)
  • Locational specificities of spatial dynamics 
  • Discourses in society and human agency (e.g., UN Habitat and sustainable development) regarding planning and what is expected from planning, understanding its strategic and holistic aspects

 Develop practical competence in:

  • Experiencing, exploring, and analysing the natural and anthropogenic environment 
  • Scientific literacy (bibliographic research and academic writing)
  • Techniques of qualitative and quantitative data collection, analysis and synthesis, and assessing data reliability
  • Using tools of modern information technology, e.g., Big data, GIS and Artificial Intelligence 
  • Systems thinking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Anticipating future societal needs through scenario developments or future-casting
  • Understanding planning interventions and relevant municipal, regional, and state-level finance tools 
  • Working in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams
  • Negotiations and mediations

Develop an attitude and responsibility for: 

  • Curating a critical and ethical mindset towards the production, use and transfer of knowledge, expertise and information in planning and planning-related disciplines 
  • Social and transdisciplinary learning
  • Stewardship of natural and anthropogenic environments



(Graduates of planning education degree programmes have the capacity to conceive, devise and evaluate spatial interventions from a multi-actor perspective)

Develop knowledge of:

  • The nature, purpose, theory and methods of planning 
  • History of planning as an institution and a profession 
  • History of development and performance of planning instruments and awareness of the need to continually update such instruments to respond to new challenges
  • The actors/stakeholders in planning and the way in which they interact/the way in which the interactions between them are coordinated
  • Citizen movements and understanding of democratic planning processes
  • The political, legal, institutional and cultural context and power relations in planning including ideal versus reality of planning and illegality 
  • Transformational technologies, e.g., AI and Internet of Things
  • Transformative action in the context of sustainable development including adaptation and mitigation, recovery and preparedness in the cases of disasters and climate crisis 
  • Transformative action in the context of spatial injustice

Develop practical competence in:

  • Appraising and enhancing the value of natural and anthropogenic environments including their preservation and restoration
  • Thinking in terms of concepts, instruments and measures and management of knowledge for practical application
  • Integrating different types of knowledges for plan development
  • Integrating aesthetic and design dimensions in planning proposals
  • Developing design, drawing and visual representation skills
  • Devising plans, programmes and measures and guiding the implementation policies
  • Being in touch with civil society, organising and leading consultations and engaging in co-creation processes with communities, interest groups and stakeholders at various spatial levels
  • Dealing with governance and managing complexity and change 

Develop an attitude and responsibility for: 

  • The value dimension of planning
  • The ethical implications of planning
  • The cultural embeddedness of social processes and of collective action 
  • Democratic processes and rights, e.g., ‘right to the city’
  • Protecting the rights of all species and respecting planetary limits
  • Protecting social justice   


(Graduates of planning education degree programmes are capable of assuming the societal responsibilities of spatial planners)

Develop knowledge of:

  • Professional practices that contribute to spatial planning
  • Values associated with spatial planning and professional ethical codes
  • The limits to what planning can achieve and what other disciplines can potentially contribute to solution development and spatial transformation 

Develop practical competence in:

  • Transformational leadership
  • Skills in social interaction, persuasion, building trust, priority setting, frustration tolerance and goal orientation
  • Making plans and decisions with a high sense of environmental and social responsibility and the public interest
  • Reflective practice
  • Critically reflecting on the consequences and understanding the risks of decisions and actions

Develop an attitude and responsibility for: 

  • Lifelong learning
  • Open-mindedness
  • Identifying situations of contradictory injunctions with which planners are confronted and knowing how to position oneself in line with the values of planning
  • Adopt a reflective and critical stance on professional practices, legal frameworks and planning policies
  • Expert independence: Making ethical decisions based on knowledge and research, not on temporary politics 


As well as fields of knowledges, competencies and attitudes/values outlined earlier, an education in spatial and territorial planning should offer students opportunities to specialise in particular areas of planning such as housing, infrastructure, mobility, urban-rural planning, planning for disaster mitigation and resilience, sustainability, regeneration, recreation/tourism, land development, urban design and international or European affairs. There are other suitable specialisms and the listing here is not comprehensive but serves as a sample of possible areas of focus.

To give due attention to the threefold core of the curriculum and any specialism, the education and training of future professional planners requires an intensive programme of study and education requiring a minimum of 3–6 years of full-time postsecondary education[3].

AESOP recognises that in the European context, a range of different planning education programme models exist, both at undergraduate (first-cycle) and postgraduate level (second cycle); there are also planning degree programmes which integrate the two cycles. 

As for the programme focus, there should be adequate exposure to and interaction with planning practice. Project work and experiential learning situations, i.e., confrontation with real-life planning problems, preferably and possibly with the participation of practitioners in the programme, laboratory exercises in developing planning solutions, a period of intensive in- practice-training i.e., apprenticeship or placement and ‘learning by doing’ are distinguishing features of a fully-fledged, effective planning education.

Third cycle/PhD level education in planning exists but is not necessary for planning practice. It is therefore not covered by this core curriculum document.


[1]The 2024 Core curriculum represents an updated version of the Core curriculum initially issued as part of AESOP’s statement on European Planning Education, AESOP Working Group on the Curriculum of Planning Education (1995). 

[2] In some national contexts the term ‘territorial’ is used; both may apply 

[3] International Labour Organization (ILO) (2012). International Standard Classification of Occupations: ISCO – 08, Structure, Group Definitions and Correspondence Tables (Vol 1). Geneva: ILO