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The inception of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (formerly Department of Town and Regional Planning) dates more than 30 years ago. The National Diploma in Town and Regional Planning was first offered by the Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR) some 31 years ago. It arose in response to a request by the then Johannesburg City Council for the introduction of a course, which would lead to the formal recognition of Town Planning Assistants. For several decades the de facto situation at the City Council was that of professional, university-trained Town Planners aided by assistants with no formal training but which, in many cases had vast experience and were very competent in their respective tasks.

At this stage, Durban and Cape Town (the other two large metropolitan areas) already had similar programmes being offered by Technikons in their area. The then TWR programme was initially offered as a part-time evening course running over three years. The students came either from the Council or Consulting firms, and all had several years of experience behind them and their levels of understanding were high.

Due to a change in market demand, as well as the student profiles, the programme had to be switched to a full-time course catering for young Grade 12 students. Later, also in response to market demand, the BTech (Baccalaureus Technologiae) was introduced. The first intake of students for the National Diploma Town and Regional Planning was in 1989 with the first diplomates graduating in 1991. The BTech Town and Regional Planning had its first intake of students in 1996 with the first graduates graduating in 1998. With the merger of the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) and Technikon Witwatersrand (TWR), the Department became part of UJ. There was no sister Department in the Science stream that had to merge with the Department in the technology stream, which resulted in a smooth transition from the Technikon Witwatersrand to UJ. The National Diploma in Town and Regional Planning, and the BTech in Town and Regional Planning programmes were phased out in 2018 in response to the national imperative as advised by the National Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) together with the Minister to phase out all National Diploma Programmes and BTech programmes and align all previous NQFs to the new Higher Education Qualifications Sub-Framework (HEQSF) by 31 December 2019. This phasing out of National Diploma and BTech programmes led to the introduction of the Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (BURP) and Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning Honours (BURP Hons).

The Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning (BURP) was introduced and first offered by the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the year 2017 and the Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning Honours (BURP Hons) was first offered in the year 2020. The first batch of the BURP Hons consisted of students who had just completed their BURP (meaning those who enrolled for BURP in 2017).

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