Higher Education and Student Affairs

The combined graduate-to-graduate master's degree between Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership Studies (M.A.) and Urban and Regional Planning (M.S.) fills a growing need for higher education academic administrators with knowledge and understanding of planning and sustainability principles and methods.

Historically, campus planning consisted primarily of physical planning in a university setting. Emphasis, therefore, was on capital improvements and space planning. This remains an important area. Two newer areas have been added to higher education planning—strategic planning and sustainability. Sustainability planning encompasses the growing concern on university campuses for both encouraging sustainable practices in the physical plant (e.g., energy conservation) as well as creating a culture of sustainability and integrating sustainability into the curriculum.


Students with combined URP-HESA degrees are ideally suited to meet all the dimensions of campus and higher education planning, particularly the growing emphases on strategic and sustainability planning.

The following are key marketplace skills and duties, in demand in the higher education job market, which are supported by the combined URP-HESA curriculum.

  • Forecasting and matching space requirements with both academic program requirements and sustainability principles.
  • General capital improvements planning
  • Integrating physical improvements with student life and sustainability principles
  • Developing and employing sustainability metrics to measure campus sustainability performance
  • Researching and promoting best management practices for campus sustainability
  • Creating a culture of sustainability in an institution of higher education
  • Understanding how to integrate sustainability into undergraduate and graduate curricula
  • Knowledge and understanding of higher education administration and issues
  • Knowledge of strategic planning in higher education
  • Ability to achieve consensus on campus planning issues with a broad variety of stakeholders—students, faculty, administrators, contractors, adjacent communities.
  • Developing and managing campus climate action plans, such as Penn’s Climate Action Plan


Students will be expected to meet the admission requirements of the respective programs, take the requisite admission exams and provide appropriate admission materials. The two programs will make admission decisions independently. Students may begin each program in advance of the other or begin the two programs concurrently. All requirements for each degree must be satisfied separately, which includes passing the final examination for each program.


The M.A. degree in HESA requires 40 hours. The combined degree option in URP and HESA reduces the total semester hour requirement for both degrees from 90 to 68. Students can complete the coursework in three years. Students will need to pursue which courses would be appropriate with their advisors in both departments.

Sample Plan of Study