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MSc Urban Development Planning


Providing the analytical and practical tools to engage reflexively with urban development and planning challenges in the Global South.

Why choose The Bartlett

We offer:

  • a critical sensibility to planning theory, methodologies and skills, and their application
  • an understanding of collective agency for planning and a focus on community-led processes in partnership with public and private sectors
  • a recognition of inequality, difference and diversity, and their implications for active citizenship, engagement with governance structures and planning
  • an awareness of scale and the importance of multi-scalar approaches that address the interaction between neighbourhood/local initiatives and city-wide planning, across time and space
  • a focus on strategic action planning, a theoretical and practice-oriented response to the socio-economic, spatial and ecological disparities faced by the Global South

Programme summary

The MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) seeks to provide candidates with the analytical and practical tools to engage reflexively with the urban development and planning challenges thrown up by rapid social, economic and political change in the urban global south.

The challenge for urban development planning is to respond to these problems, working with urban communities to transform cities into places where women and men of different classes, ethnic groups, religions and ages, can exercise real individual and collective choice in their lives.

The MSc UDP aims to develop the capacity for critical diagnoses of the urban, as a basis for developing propositional responses within the framework of socially and spatially just urban governance.

More information

For more information, please contact:


Core and Optional Modules

The course consists of lectures, seminars, workshops, case study analysis  and field work in London and abroad. Students are expected to play an active part in their learning through reading, participation in class activities and individual and group work. An important emphasis is placed on group work as a key aspect of a relational planning practice.  The course is structured so that 75 per cent of the taught components of the course (90 credits) are devoted to the core subjects of Urban Development Planning and 25 per cent (30 credits) to an option from a range of modules on offer. The core modules provide the theoretical and methodological components of the course while the optional module allows students to examine different approaches and problems in accordance with their particular interests. Teaching takes place in the first two terms of the academic year (September to March) with the exception of the Practice in Urban Development Planning module which spans three terms (September to June). A module is finalised once work is completed in all its elements of performance assessment, i.e. course work, essays, project reports and, where required, written exams.

London-based field trip

The course strives to embrace both theory and practice, with one of the three core modules being specifically practice-oriented. Students engage in a practical exercise in London equipping students with the knowledge, techniques and skills required on the ground from practitioners. The skills learnt are directly transferable to the overseas field trip which takes place later in the year.

During the first term (November) students also attend an intensive three-day residential workshop at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor with the rest of the DPU student body. This is a unique experience to work on a specific case study with experts from the field and in collaboration with students from across the DPU.

Overseas field trip

In the third term (May) students travel abroad to a city in the Global South to conduct a two-week field trip in groups. The purpose of the trip is to give hands-on experience of processes of urban change, community-led initiatives and policy challenges in the urban context of the Global South. Students are asked to explore a given urban issue through teamwork and, after meeting with the stakeholders involved, produce recommendations for the institutions and communities present in the area of interest. Recent field trips have taken place in Cairo (Egypt), Accra (Ghana), Mumbai (India), Istanbul (Turkey), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania).

Dissertation Report

Students are required to write a report (60 credits) on a topic selected by themselves, bringing together debates and concerns in urban development planning. Examples of former reports include:

  • The informal city, spaces of negotiation and citizenship in Southeast Asian cities. Requalifying slum upgrading at scale, the cases of Kampung Improvement Programme and Baan Mankong
  • The progression of governance in Medellin, Colombia
  • Exploring the difference in place-making.  The case of bad buildings and regeneration in the inner city of Johannesburg, South Africa
  • The Right to the City: Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship among Pavement Dwellers in Mumbai, India


The three compulsory core modules run throughout the first and second terms, with the exception of one module (BENVGPU3) which runs across all three terms.

Core modules

BENVGPU1 The City and Its Relations: Context, Institutions and Actors in Urban Development Planning explores the economic, social and physical change of cities in the wider context of development and globalisation.

BENVGPU2 Urban Development Policy, Planning and Management: Strategic Action in Theory and Practice explores strategic action in urban development policy, planning and management which recognises social justice in cities.

BENVGPU3 Practice in Urban Development Planning explores the challenges of urban governance in the context of selected urban areas in the South and the North, offering students real-life platforms to gain experience of urban development planning practice.

Optional modules offered by UDP

(Please note that enrolment onto each module is subject to places being available)

BENVGPU4 Gender in Policy and Planning is an 18-session module over two terms examining gender relations in the socio-economic, political and environmental processes in the development of human settlements.

BENVGPU5 Transport Equity and Urban Mobility focuses on the relationships between social identity, transport and planning in the context of urban development in the Global South. It critiques and explores the implications for transport planning and its interaction with other kinds of planning, and the relationships between the state, civil society and private sector in the provision of transport for more socially just cities.

Optional modules offered by other Masters in the DPU

BENVGBU1 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development provides a structured understanding of the forces that form and transform cities – particularly in countries of the global south – as well as the intellectual and theoretical bases for a recalibration of urban design praxis. Students have also the occasion to touch ground through a London-based urban design exercise, in partnership with a relevant stakeholder. The module engages with critical transformative literature and specifically with alternative design approaches connected with literature of renewed philosophical and critical studies.

BENVGBU2 Participatory Processes: Building for Development introduces the theories and concepts of participatory approaches and the processes in development and practice. It questions the nature and limits of participation and participatory design while engaging with case studies of collective and critical urban and spatial practices. 

BENVGBU6 Disaster Risk Reduction in Cities provides a detailed examination and structured understanding of Disaster Studies and Disaster Risk Reduction, with specific reference to urban areas. It engages with extreme condition of disasters and their social, physical and political implications on urban areas, the built environment and planning disciplines. Drawing from current research on the urban turn in Disaster Studies and the entanglements between Disaster Risk Reduction, Development processes and Urban Poverty, the module offers an introduction to the debate on urban resilience and its policy implications. 2015-16 tutor: Dr Cassidy Johnson

BENVGBU7 Post Disaster Recovery: Policies, Practices and Alternatives provides a detailed and critical examination of post-disaster recovery practices and policies, with a particular focus on its institutional arrangements and socio-spatial implications. Drawing from transnational research experiences and connections with practitioners, humanitarian workers and development managers, the module reflects on the different challenges posed when working in a post disaster environment and implementing plans, projects and interventions. 

BENVGBU8 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives will suit students of diverse academic backgrounds and levels of professional experience. This studio-based module promotes the merits of existing project scenarios and a critical understanding of case-study analysis and research in design processes. It focuses on how informal urban territories are constituted and imagined, and engages with a vast variety of urban materiality as a way to learn from existing experiences and reflect on design strategies that are able to deal with the complexities of the urban project.

BENVGBU9 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces is the second Critical Urbanism Studio module. It builds upon the accumulated knowledge and conceptual framework of case study analysis (BENVGBU8) while focusing on a more profoundly phenomenological investigation into the multiplicity of contested developing arenas. The module evolves around a real-life contemporary urban case study developed in collaboration with a partner in the Global South. It offers the platform to reason on a new aesthetics of informality and experiment with design research and strategies that reflect on the design process as act of critique, resistance, balance, while putting the poor at the centre of it. 

BENVGDA5- Neo-Structuralism and the Developmental State considers differing conceptions of the state as a primary agent in social and economic development processes by examining case studies from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. This module also seeks to familiarise the student with the opportunities and constraints posed by the global integrated process of production to planning for independent styles of development. Students are assessed with a written assignment. 

BENVGDA6- Society and Market: Private Agency for Developmentexplores the theoretical base and implications for development planning and practice of market- and civil society-led approaches to development. It focuses on conceptions of ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’, livelihoods and ‘making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) approaches that permeate contemporary development policy and practice. Students are assessed with a written assignment.

BENVGDA8- Political Economy of Development: Land, Food and Agriculture aims to expose students to the inextricable linkages between agricultural policy, land allocation, food insecurity (local and global), good governance, conflict, and famine, and to consider how these elements impact people living in poverty in both rural and urban areas in the developing world. Students are assessed with a written assignment.

BENVGDA9- Political Economy of Development: Industrialisation and Infrastructure seeks to critically examine the contribution of industrialisation and infrastructure to national, regional and local development in the Global South. By focusing on these two issues, which often stand at the centre of national/local government policies, the module looks in detail at some of the forces that help shape national development from both a theoretical and an empirical viewpoint. Students are assessed with a written assignment.

BENVGES1 The Political Ecology of Environmental Change starts by providing a comprehensive review and critical analysis of the contemporary debate on development and environmental sustainability. 

BENVGES2 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development surveys environmental problems in urban areas and their underlying causes and identifies who contributes most to such problems and who is most affected by them.

BENVGES5 Adapting Cities to Climate Change in the Global South aims to provide participants with an understanding of the ways in which climate change will affect urban areas in low- and middle-income countries. 

BENVGES6 Sustainable Infrastructure and Services in Developmentexamines the different ways in which urbanisation is unfolding across the global South, with specific attention to the creation of infrastructures and the delivery of essential services. It explores the underlying causes of urban fragmentation, social exclusion and unsustainability. [Not running in 2014/15]

BENVGES7 Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politicsfocuses on the challenges of and opportunities for the adequate provision of urban water supply and sanitation. It examines innovative 'policy-driven' and 'needs-driven' approaches to the provision of the services, for and with the urban and peri-urban poor. 

BENVGSD2 Social Diversity, Inequality and Poverty argues that social development is no longer confined to the 'social sector', but is increasingly defined more broadly as an approach that attempts to put 'people' and social equity at the centre of development initiatives across all sectors.

BENVGUE2 Managing the City Economy enables participants to develop a critical understanding of the key components and operating dynamics of the city economy, and the factors that underlie urban productivity.


The MSc UDP is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows held in high esteem among their peers internationally, renowned for their constant contribution to academic thinking and urban development and planning in practice. Click on the links below to learn more about them.

Programme Co-Directors

Caren Levy
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Dr Barbara Lipietz
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Graduate Teaching Assistant

Rafaella Lima
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Staff currently teaching on the programme include:

Jorge Fiori
View Jorge's profile

Dr Colin Marx
View Colin's Profile

Dr Cassidy Johnson
View Cassidy's Profile

Julian Walker
View Julian's profile


Please click through to the UCL graduate prospectus page for this course, from where you can find information on application fees, eligibility, tuition fees, scholarships, and then complete the online application process.

Applicants should also review the faculty specific admissions information and the FAQ on admissions.

Please note for September 2016 entry applications onward TOEFL will be accepted.

Read more about the English Language Requirements and accepted tests on the UCL entry requirements website.

Applicants should also review the faculty specific admissions information and the FAQ on admissions.


The MSc UDP is widely recognised by international organisations, including UN agencies and the World Bank; bilateral aid organisations from different countries, including the UK's Department for International Development, as well as other government aid programmes; and by many national organisations.

The UDP programme is a core course at the Development Planning Unit and alumni benefit from the international respect enjoyed by DPU thanks to its expertise in and contribution to urban development and action planning globally.

There is enormous variety in the careers UDP graduates pursue, ranging from working with UK-based organisations in the public, private and community sectors that focus on local as well as international development, to employment with governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations operating in a development capacity in the South.

There is wide geographic spread of UDP alumni: some return to their home countries with the additional MSc qualification and engage in the practice, teaching or research of urban development; others find employment in international development organisations (from grassroots to multilateral tiers) away from their own countries.

DPU boasts a global network of UDP alumni across many continents, countries and organisations, often facilitating that essential first introduction of a UDP graduate into employment.

For more on the potential of alumni pathways, read the reflections some of our Alumni have written on their career trajectories here.

Based on a series of recent joint MSc UDP and BUDD fieldtrips to Thailand, the DPU, together with Thailand’s Community Organisations Development Institute (CODI) and the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR) and the Community Architects Network (CAN), has launched a novel Junior Professional Internship Programme. For more information, read here.