With an OP1, Bipika Poudya could have studied anything she wanted at university, anywhere.
The Nepalese student from Toowoomba's Centenary Heights State High School has embraced her passion for planning, choosing to start a Bachelor of Urban Development (Honours) at QUT in 2020, majoring in urban and regional planning,
“It was through my high school studies in Australia that I discovered urban and regional planning as a profession, and I fell in love with it straight away,” Bipika said.
“I saw an aerial photo of Barcelona which really brought my passion into focus.
“That photo made me realise, here in Australia, there's a distinct configuration of houses, different from the buildings and apartments I knew in Nepal, and different again from what I saw in the Barcelona image.
“Each city is different yet everything still works, they’re still functional. That’s what I find fascinating about planning.”
As Queensland’s top Grade 12 student starting a planning degree in 2020, Bipika this month received the annual $1000 Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) Student Bursary, sponsored by LandPartners.
Planning for high achievers
Bipika is part of a growing number of high-achieving students pursuing careers in planning.
“At events like our QUT Open Days, I’m meeting more highly competitive students with lots of study options expressing an interest in planning each year,” said Urban and Regional Planning Lecturer Mellini Sloan.
“These students are realising that planners have a significant role in directing the growth of our cities and regions, shaping the places in which we live, work and play.
“The duality of planning, being a design and technical field, is a powerful lure for bright students looking to further develop both their STEM and humanities skills.
“Our graduates go on to such a broad range of jobs, including roles with the Commonwealth government and high-profile employers like LendLease.
“By following her passions into planning, rather than picking a course simply because it has an OP1-equivalent entry requirement, Bipika is sure to have an exciting and rewarding career.”
Exploring QUT Open Day sealed Bipika’s decision to study planning at QUT.
That’s where she learned about the Urban and Regional Planning course’s focus on industry connections and work integrated learning.
An unconditional offer from QUT, and access to academic excellence and international scholarships, sealed the deal.
“I was impressed with the practical nature of the courses and the many industry partners working with the planning lecturers,” Bipika said.
“The work placement opportunities QUT offers were also important to me because they will allow me to experience what it’s really like to work in planning firms before I even receive my degree.”
The drive for industry relevance and engagement underpins the learning and teaching activities of staff delivering QUT’s Urban & Regional Planning course.
According to Ms Sloan, that’s what sets QUT’s planning course apart.
“Our students undertake placements in a wide range of firms, helped by our academic staff who maintain strong connections with both alumni and industry leaders,” she said.
“As part of my role at QUT, I regularly interact with colleagues across our industry, and serve on the board of the Queensland Division of the Planning Institute of Australia.
“My discussions with planners at a range of organisations, including Brisbane City Council, ensure our students are aware of what’s happening at the cutting edge of planning and that they have connections into industry when they start to look for placements and employment.”
Diverse backgrounds make the best planners
LandPartners’ Director of Planning and Design Shane Smith is one of those employers.
A QUT alumnus himself, Mr Smith said he particularly appreciated that QUT planning graduates “understand the real world and are industry ready.”
“One of my ex-employees has returned to QUT to complete a PhD in town planning, based on what he’s learned here at LandPartners,” he said.
Mr Smith said his company sponsored the PIA Student Bursary because it was important to recognise emerging talent.
“Ours is a discipline where it’s important to explore new schools of thought, new technologies, and I want to ensure we are attracting and developing a broad spectrum of smart young people.
“I remember one of my lecturers, Phil Heywood, telling me that attracting a broader spectrum of students to planning ensures the industry can best meet the needs of all our communities, and that’s a belief I’ve always held, too.
“Diverse backgrounds make for better planners.”
PIA’s Queensland Division President, Wendy Evans, said passion was the cornerstone of a successful planning career.
“I think awards like this are extremely important because, for those students who are actually passionate about what they're doing, there should be some level of recognition and encouragement to keep them striving for and reaching new heights,” she said.
“Planners are in charge of creating our communities and, particularly at the moment with COVID, planners are at the forefront of re-shaping all of our cities and centres.
“Creating communities is not a sprint, it’s a long journey. And if you don’t have the passion for it, it won’t matter how smart you are.
“There’s a growing emphasis on strategic planning, which is about looking at trends, looking at patterns, looking at complex data, and I think that may be one of the reasons we’re seeing more students with physics and mathematics backgrounds choosing planning.”
Four other QUT planning students received prizes for top marks in their QUT cohort in 2019:
- First year: Daisy Fahy, undertaking a double degree in Urban and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture
- Second year: Tara Green, commencing a placement with Colliers International
- Third year: Alison Critchley, currently working as a cadet with the Department of Transport and Main Roads and undertaking a Parliamentary Research Internship
- Fourth year: Emily Took, now employed as a project officer/graduate planner with the Public Safety Business Agency