Integrated Planning for Rural Development and Environmental Management

Organized by MAI Zaragoza
Mai Coordinators: María Teresa Aguinaco


The use of rural space and the management of natural resources in Mediterranean countries cannot be carried out by merely extrapolating options developed in other ecological systems. The proposals and solutions adopted in each situation ought to be based on an individualized analysis of the natural, economic and social components at stake and should contemplate the dynamic functioning of the system adopted. This means that professionals must be able to take a global and integrating approach to resources and furthermore, be aware of the basics, the possibilities and the limits that modern resource assessment techniques and information management offer to the decision maker.


  • To understand the bases and principles governing the behaviour of rural systems and their underlying physical, socioeconomic, legal and institutional subsystems, and to be or to get acquainted with the methods and techniques applicable to the different steps of a rural planning project.
  • To be able to distinguish and integrate the different components and subsystems of a rural system, and to value the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of strategies and methodologies that enable a better management of the rural environment and that thus may contribute to enhancing the development of rural systems.
  • To be able to design, develop and assess integrated planning projects in different rural environments and situations that consider different land use alternatives, and to evaluate the viability and appropriateness for their realization, given the initial situation, the objectives of the project and the environmental and socioeconomic constraints.
  • To assume the responsibility of planning and carrying out, under the supervision of a tutor, but in a manner that must be largely autonomous, a work of initiation to research in integrated planning in rural areas, whose results may be potentially publishable.
  • To prove knowledge of the scientific and technical information underpinning the research conducted, command of the techniques and methodologies relevant to such research, and capacity to objectively evaluate the significance of its results and conclusions.
  • To know how to communicate the reasoning and conclusions of tutored works carried out in a group or autonomously, to develop skills in the preparation of informative and synthetic documents, and to acquire experience in the preparation and presentation of oral communications delivered and defended before an audience.
  • To develop aptitudes and attitudes for multidisciplinary and intercultural teamwork.


Unit 1

Unit 2
17-21 Oct. and 14-25 Nov. ’16    NATURAL RESOURCES (5 ECTS)

Unit 3
22 Nov.-02 Dec ’16, 09-13 Jan., and 23-27 Jan. ‘17    NATURAL AND AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION SYSTEMS (7 ECTS)

Unit 4
26-28 Oct.’16 and 26 Jan.-17 Feb. ’17    ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS AND POLICIES (6 ECTS)

Unit 5
24-28 Oct.’16 and 21 Feb.-01 Mar., 24-27 Mar., 09 May ’17    SOCIOECONOMICS OF RURAL AREAS AND DEVELOPMENT POLICIES (5 ECTS)

Unit 6
10-19 Oct.,02-11 Nov.,28 Nov.-02 Dec. ’16, and16-20 Jan.,03-07 Feb. ‘17    SPATIAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC ANALYSIS (9 ECTS)

Unit 7
24-31 Mar., 25 Apr.- 05 May ‘17    LAND USE ALLOCATION AND MODELLING (9 ECTS)

Unit 8
26 Sep. ’16- 08 June ’17    INTEGRATED PLANNING PROJECT (15 ECTS)

Each unit is independently graded.
Participants take 7 written examinations, corresponding to Units 1 to 7. Written exams consist of a set of questions that require a concise answer. Some of the questions are multiple choice. Lengthy questions are avoided. Exams evaluate the comprehension of lectures content, exercises, individual/group work methodologies, and processes observed during technical visits. In the written exams, the questions are marked according to the technical and conceptual precision of the answer, and to the reasoning approach. Participants may retake failed exams once. 
In addition, participants present: (i) written documents carried out in groups, which are presented and defended orally, to complement the examinations of Units 6 and 7; (ii) individual or group exercises or written reports to complement the examination of Units 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7.
To evaluate Unit 8, participants must elaborate written documents that are presented and defended orally before a jury for their qualification. As the projects are carried out in groups, each component presents and defends a different part and the jury gives a common grade for the project and an individual grade for each group component. Furthermore, each group component is also graded by the project tutor and the IAMZ coordinator of the Course, on the basis of personal attitude and involvement during the realisation of the project.

The working languages are English, French and Spanish. Lecturers can teach in any of the three languages. Simultaneous translation into Spanish is provided when lecturers speak English or French, therefore participants should prove knowledge of Spanish at the start of the course. From the beginning of July to the end of September IAMZ organizes an intensive course of Spanish for those who require it. Participants can answer the exams in Spanish, French or English. In the selection of candidates, knowledge of English is nevertheless valued, as part of the documentation distributed may be written in this language.


Supervised research work: Thesis and defence (60 ECTS)
Duration: 11 months

This part is organized in 2 Units


This Unit is divided into two subjects. The first one, "Basic tools for the elaboration of scientific and technical documents and publications" (6 ECTS) provides skills in writing, composition and review of technical and scientific texts, and for the establishment and use of bibliographic reference databases. The second subject "Practicum on Rural Planning" provides the background knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for the planning and realization of research or professional projects in a given topic within the Master speciality. The Practicum topic is chosen according to the educational and professional interest of the student, and can take place in various universities, research centres and companies collaborating in this part of the programme. It is a practical professional stage in which the student, under the supervision of a tutor, works and learns autonomously and benefits from being included in a working team. Training focuses on understanding the scientific-technical objectives of the research or work carried out by the host team on the topic chosen for the Practicum, on the handling of the instrumentation and equipment used by such team, on the identification of sources of knowledge relevant to the topic and on the effective planning of work.

Learning outcomes:

  • To improve skills in the search for information, as well as in its selective and systematic treatment.
  • To develop criteria for defining the objectives of a particular research study or professional project.
  • To know how to plan the research work in order to best achieve the objectives set and to optimise time.
  • To develop skills in the use of techniques and methodologies relevant to the execution of a research project and to discern the advantages and disadvantages of each one for each particular project.
  • To know how to integrate knowledge and to learn how to analyse and contrast results.
  • To value the guidance received to plan and develop a research work, fostering dialogue, criticism and capacity to work as a member of a team.
  • To develop skills for self-directed learning and autonomous work.
  • To improve the capacity of response to unforeseen situations and the ability to reorient a research if need be.


This Unit represents the application of the training received to the production of an original research project on a specific topic, within the scope in which the student has performed the Unit "Introduction to research", and whose results are potentially publishable. The student is provided with training and supervision to master the application of techniques and methods selected for the research and for becoming able to objectively assess the significance of the results and conclusions obtained. Likewise, the student is endowed with the necessary training in order to produce a written document on the project carried out, and submit and orally defend the research results before a jury.

Learning outcomes:

  • To be able to apply previously acquainted knowledge, methods and techniques in a discerning manner.
  • To develop skills in the analysis of problems and in the definition of objectives.
  • To know how to design the diverse experiments included in the research project correctly.
  • To be competent in data collection and analysis according to a pre-established research protocol.
  • To gain experience in the analysis of results and the elaboration of conclusions that may contribute to clarify and find possible solutions to problems.
  • To develop skills in the synthesis and presentation of contents and in the preparation of scientific texts.
  • To gain practice in the preparation and presentation of oral communications and in their public defence.
  • To acquire attitudes to favour exchange and collaboration with other researchers and professionals.

Research work is carried out in well-recognized institutions (universities, research centres or firms), generally throughout Spain or in the participant's country of origin, under the scientific supervision of a thesis director that must be a doctor of renowned prestige. Participants choose the topic according to their interest of training, which is approved by a Committee. If the participant so requires, the organizing institutions advise on the choice of the most appropriate thesis director and institution to carry out the desired project, and likewise propose topics related to their research activities or other topics of interest previously accorded with other institutions.

The assessment of acquired competences for the first subject of the first unit is made by the lecturers based on the practical work, considering the understanding of the methodology applied and the validity of the results gained. The assessment of the practicum of the first unit includes an evaluation made by the tutor on the results of the candidate’s theoretical and practical tutored learning.

Furthermore, both the Practicum of unit 1 and the unit 2 are assessed by an examining board composed of representatives of the organizing institutions and external members selected in each case for their expertise and prestige in the field of the research work. For the first unit, this assessment is based on: (i) an oral examination by the examining board on the achievement of the learning outcomes of all training activities; and (ii) the evaluation based on the reports presented periodically by the participant, with the support of the thesis director, on the development and progress of the research work. For the second unit “Master Thesis”, assessment is based on: (i) the quality of the thesis document submitted; (ii) the public presentation and defence of the thesis (background, objectives, methods, results and conclusions of the research work).

Research activities: most common topics for Master of Science theses

  • Application of different methods and techniques to rural planning and environmental management
  • Proposals for partial or integrated planning of natural or rural areas
  • Agricultural production and its interaction with the natural or social environment in rural areas
  • Study of the physical media, the interrelationship between its components and their effects on certain aspects such as water management or the process of desertification
  • Forestry studies such as impact of fires or regeneration of affected areas
  • Socio-economic studies on the use of natural resources or the impact of certain activities on the sustainability of production and rural development