Teaching in the broad field of planning is one of the main activities of AESOP Member Schools. Thus, in 2002, AESOP introduced a prize, which recognizes and encourages Excellence in Teaching. Through this award, AESOP celebrates and disseminates innovative practices in teaching in its Member Schools. The broad aim of the Prize is to stimulate the development of planning courses or groups of courses in order to better prepare students for their forthcoming practice, to further educate practitioners, and to promote the development of a critical perspective. The specific purpose of the prize is to promote and encourage planning schools to innovate in ways that enhance the knowledge and skills necessary to respond to existing and emerging planning challenges. The Award provides an important opportunity to disseminate effective practice and importantly to celebrate teaching quality amongst AESOP members.

2021 THEME OF THE PRIZE – Planning Education in Digital Space

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for how studying, teaching and learning in Higher Education had to change, the committee sought entries for this year’s prize under the theme of “Planning Education in Digital Space”. The committee was looking, in particular, for alternative approaches that addressed the specific difficulties of distanced learning or innovative learning formats that are the result of the rapid digitalisation of universities.


Four entries were received for the Prize: “Designing Sustainable Futures” (University of Manchester); “A Manifesto for the Just City” (Technical University Delft); “Transforming Urban Mobility” (University College London) and “Development Planning Projects –Field Trip Element” (University of Reading).

After a thorough review of the applications, the collation of the scores and deliberations from the Committee the 2021 AESOP Prize for Excellence in Teaching is awarded to the University of Manchester and Dr. Joanne Tippett for the module ‘’Designing Sustainable Futures”.

“Designing Sustainable Futures” is a module that addresses the theme of the prize in an innovative and holistic manner as it encapsulates teaching in virtual/digital space while also employing an alternative (analogue) tool. The module is a required course in the first year of the undergraduate degree programme in Planning and Environmental Management and introduces students to designing and delivering sustainable futures. The module requires students to not only develop knowledge of sustainability concepts but also develop teamwork, problem-solving, time-management, critical analysis and systems thinking skills. By supplementing online teaching with the use of a physical toolkit the challenges involved in collaborative teaching and learning activities when physically distanced and separate are at least in part overcome. To help students prepare for online discussions with peers, all students received a toolkit (send to their home). This offered a unifying and consistent approach and created a community of practice that greatly improved students’ willingness and ability in interactions at a distance. The committee felt that complementing digital collaboration with a haptic/physical toolkit represented a notable innovation compared to wholesale substitution of in-classroom activities with digital collaboration tools such as breakout rooms, blogs or such like virtual spaces which distinguished this entry. The success of the method is evidenced in increased engagement and impressive and positive student feedback.


Andrea Frank, Committee Chair (University of Birmingham, UK): Maria Håkonsson (KTH – Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden); Lukas Gillard (Hafencity GmbH, Germany); Konstantinos Lalenis (University of Thessaly, Greece); Josselin Tallec (Université Grenoble Alpes, France); Valeria Fedeli (Polytechnic of Milan, Italy); Elisa (Lizzy) Privitera, Young Academics Network Representative (University of Catania, Italy); Maros Finka (Slovak University of Technology, Slovakia).