There is a change that is happening within the planning discipline. Issues of public and private health, natural disasters, international conflicts, the rise of populism and illiberalism but also personal well-being, autonomy, and critique towards positions of power are evolving around the built environment. The fundamentally social and environmental nature of the planning discipline is challenged every day, and planning pedagogy and education are, we argue, still struggling to adapt.
In 2019, no one had thought that planning as a discipline could be taught online, yet our education processes have been tackled to do just that. Now that the world is returning to a very fragile ‘normality’ and many of the challenges of 2020 and before are still present, planning education is at a turning point, and many questions are unanswered:
+ What is going to happen to planning and urban studies pedagogy?
+ Are we returning to ‘normal’ and the much-needed in-person interaction to study and engage with the built environment?
+ Are we going to a hybrid model in which students select what type of education they prefer?
+ Are we -as planners- becoming more forward-thinking?
The emerging changes are significant, not only in methodologies, tools, teaching styles, etc. Those necessary adjustments are the first stage of the transition to virtuality or a hybrid model.There is a second obvious problem concerning the correction of geographical inequities that AESOP has tried to bring to the discussion. Virtuality can open the doors for an analogous phenomenon, a very high market concentration, to reorganise the world of higher education in planning and generate more inequalities in the periphery.
Imagine a young woman from a small town or neighbourhood who wants to study planning or one of its associated professions. Why would you prefer a local university in your own context if, through virtual classes, you can take all or part of your degree at a university in the global north, where, in theory, the most ‘renowned’ institutions are? At half or maybe a subsidised cost?
What will happen with locality, context, and awareness of the local needs of the built environment if this is an evolving trend in planning education?
Considering all these issues, we also want to remember that the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) is a network of European and international universities, their departments, and affiliated schools engaged in teaching and research in urban and regional planning. This is our niche and the focus we want to redirect our efforts to what we believe is the central role that AESOP, and mainly AESOP Young Academics, must tackle.