Review - Our Course to Date
While this intended to be somewhat light-hearted, it does contain serious thoughts on the current structure of the RMIT B app(sci) Planning course...
While talking with several RMIT students concerning their various work
placement jobs over the summer, a recurring theme has emerged concerning
the adequacy of training in the classroom prior to starting in the planning
workforce. While generally it is an accepted norm that students will
experience a steep learning curve when they first being to work in any of
their chosen profession, be it social work, psychology or planning, it
would appear that young student planners are completely unaware of many of
the problems, tasks and requirements of working in the profession. Does the
problem lie in the overall course structure or in the individualsí learning
abilities? Far from attempting to answer these rhetorical questions, the
purpose of this piece is to assess the progression from 1st Year to the
beginning of work placement at the beginning of 3rd Year.
In first year the School of Social Science and Planning chooses to group
all students together in a set of foundation classes that should, in theory
give them a grounding in the basics of what they will be learning over the
next 2-3 years. This is all well and good, but feedback from students
suggests that while the grounding courses are interesting, many donít see
them as relevant to their chosen course and ultimately, their target
profession. On the basis of these (sketchy) reports, it would seem that a
large portion of first year students within the school feel that they
arenít given enough starting tuition in their chosen field. This may well
be the case, but when it comes down to it, the skills learnt in that first
semester do contribute largely to the success of the student later in their
In my own personal view, the introductory class on planning did little to
prepare me for subsequent forays into the subject. In fact, if it wasnít
for the two study camps we were assigned to, Iím pretty sure the subject
wouldíve been a complete waste of time. Not only have I completely
forgotten most of the topics (if any) covered by the class, but also the
mish-mash of class times meant that most students didnít turn up to the
Moreover, due to the Planning course being closely linked with the
Environment course, we as planning students were exposed to all the wonders
of the many facets of environmental management. To a degree. Cursory
investigation of Environmental and biological processes in several classes
seemed to further harden many studentsí hearts against ever getting to
study real planning subjects, such as the mythical History and Theory of
Planning. Even Strategic Planning was largely regarded as something of a
joke, despite the wonderful tuition of Michael Buxton and Robin Goodman.
It wasnít until 2nd year that we finally got to grips with the core of the
planning system in Statutory Planning and Environment, taken by the
ever-popular Trevor Budge. While generally the subject helped with those
who had never seen a planning scheme before, given a few hours to do some
reading, a lot was fairly self-explanatory. The sessions on the Planning
and Environment Act 1987 were rather good, letting us get into the
important sections of the act etc etc. This was possibly the most important
subject for us. It showed the basics and general function of the VPP while
also incorporating several other important sections on relevant documents,
the aforementioned P & E Act and a few practice reports.
Semester 2 of 2nd year allowed us some greater freedom in the selection of
our ever-diminishing list of school electives, while Alan Marchís Urban
Design & Planning subject yielded some interesting new information
regarding drawing conventions, structure plans and several urban design
research techniques. I think, perhaps, that the design areas of Alanís
class left quite a few students trying to keep their heads above the water,
seeing as many had very little drawing skills. This was perhaps the only
failing of the course outline.
Overall, the course has provided us with a general overview of many of the facets that constitute 'decent' planning skills. 8/10
3rd February, 2005 22:24:34
This year brought the demise of the Sustainable City Planning course to which you refer and replaced is the Origins & Developments of Planning subject - which gives a broad overview of planning history for the first-years and those lucky enough to have missed or failed the Sustainable City Planning course (like me).
This course (only attended by planning students) is far more useful than the other courses we've been doing. Although I agree that we should have broad humanities subjects in the course, the sheer amount of them and the coursework they entail is excessive. However, this view is probably shaped by the fact that I've already done 2 years of humanities prior to getting into planning.
As for being unprepared for work placement, I think you're right to a certain degree... although work placement in this instance is meant to give us an idea of what lays in front of us, and as a practical basis for future study - rather than being the beginning of our long careers as public servants or industry lackies.
However, we go into this work placement having studied THREE courses in planning (the first semester course doesn't really count). Hardly a basis to answer the phones in the council planning debt, let alone having REAL applicants / clients with REAL planning needs.
That said, I've been working for a planning consultancy for 3 months now and I've had 3 clients, been to numerous meetings and site visits (including one in Broadmeadows *shudders*) and am representing them at a Council meeting on Monday night. All this while handling most of the admin side of the business (including answering the phones). This experience won't count as work placement as I'm 12 credit points short to be eligible, plus RMIT has to organise it for you and get them to sign something. Surely, if students are able to find their own work placement (or have been working in the industry for 5 years), they should get it credited towards their degree. As more and more students kick up a fuss about this, the more likely RMIT will see common sense on this issue.
Anyways... enough of my ranting. Enjoy work placement everyone... see you (unless you're doing honours) in semester one!
Aaron Hewett 6th February, 2005 15:20:46