UCL Home

MSc Urban Development Planning

Overview

The MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) at the Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit 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.

As urban growth continues apace, albeit in a differentiated manner, cities and towns are increasingly being reconfigured as key drivers of regional and national development. In this highly competitive context, fuelled by complex/multifaceted globalisation processes, cities are being tasked with the ambitious objective of bolstering economic growth while buttressing the societal and ecological fall-outs of growth-oriented policies.  Yet, as the globalisation of economic relations restructures most cities and towns across the globe, the simultaneous, differentiated, encroachment of neo-liberal policy and planning is altering the roles and relationships between those involved in the development and management of cities. In this uneven process of reconfiguration, cities and towns in the global south (and north) are becoming increasingly fragmented, while inequality and environmental degradation are progressing.

The challenge for urban development planning is to respond to these problems, working with the enormous potential of 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.

Programme Objectives

This course argues that planning is a key to dealing with urban problems and opportunities, but that its potential cannot be tapped without a critical understanding of the processes that generate urban change in specific contexts. Accordingly, the course seeks to equip students with the capacity to develop critical diagnoses of the urban, as a basis for developing propositional responses within the framework of socially and spatially just urban governance. The course seeks therefore to build a critical sensibility to planning theory, methodologies and skills, and their localised application in a variety of international contexts.

Specifically, the course seeks to advance:

  • An awareness of scale. Examining a range of urban practices, the course emphasises the importance of multi-scalar approaches that address the interaction between neighbourhood/local initiatives and city-wide planning, across time and space.
  • An understanding of strategic action planning – as a theoretical and practice-oriented response to the socio-economic, spatial and ecological disparities faced by so many cities of the global south (and north). Critical here is an understanding of policy makers and planners’ room for manoeuvre, at city level, to reconfigure the course of their city’s trajectory. A strategic understanding of global, regional, national and local forces acting on the city, and the engagement of the city with these forces, is critical.  The emphasis is on an appreciation of the complexities of practice and the development of knowledge, capacities and skills to that end.
  • An understanding of collective agency for planning.  The course focuses on community-led processes in partnership with public and private sector actors. The local and central state remain key actors of urban development planning and one focus of the course is to explore ways of ‘moving the state’. The course also explores the conditions under which planning can engage with the market to achieve more social and spatially just outcomes for the city. 
  • Finally, a recognition of inequality, difference and diversity. The course explores their implications for active citizenship, engagement with governance structures and planning, as well as access to and control over resources and the ‘use’ of the city.

Contact details

Programme Co-Directors: Caren Levy (c.levy@ucl.ac.uk), Barbara Lipietz (b.lipietz@ucl.ac.uk)

Graduate Teaching Assistant: Christopher Yap (c.yap@ucl.ac.uk)

Structure

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

Content

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

(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.

BENVGBU1 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development explores the form, formation and functioning of cities in order to gain an understanding of their shape, size and structure, especially in the context of developing countries.

BENVGBU4 Housing Policy, Progamme and Project Alternatives looks at the substantial changes that have taken place in housing policy over the last few decades. The role of the state, its relation to the other agents and actors involved in housing production and provision, the levels and instruments of public intervention in housing - all have gone through considerable transformation.

BENVGBU2 Participatory Process: Building for Development introduces the theories and concepts of participatory approaches and the processes in development and practice.

BENVGBU4 Housing Policy, Progamme and Project Alternatives looks at the substantial changes that have taken place in housing policy over the last few decades. The role of the state, its relation to the other agents and actors involved in housing production and provision, the levels and instruments of public intervention in housing - all have gone through considerable transformation.

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.

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.

BENVGBU8 Critical Urbanism Studio I - Learning from Informality: Case Studies and Alternatives targets individuals 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.

BENVGBU9 Critical Urbanism Studio II - Learning from Informality: Investigative Design Strategies for Contested Spaces is the second Critical Urbanism Studio module. It proactively 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 following a 'design as critique/resistance' attitude.

BENVGDA0 Management and Planning for Development offers a theoretical and empirical overview of the links between development and urbanisation and a critical understanding of the contribution made by foreign aid to the economic growth, environmental sustainability and human development of developing countries.

BENVGDA5 The Developmental State: Africa, Asia and LAC since 1940s considers differing conceptions of the state as a primary agent in the development process, including import-substitution, export-led and combined models.

BENVGDA6 Society and Market: Private Agency for Development examines alternate views on the role played by market mechanisms in promoting development, either through immanent processes or as means to augment planned intervention.

BENVGDA7 Political Economy of Development reviews the historical evolution of development theories and examines the relationship between theory and development policy in practice.

BENVGDA8 Land, Food and Agriculture addresses the issues of rural social relations, food security, rural, urban and peri-urban land, agricultural production and distribution, and rural resource management that underlie any successful development strategy.

BENVGDA9 Industrialisation and Infrastructure provides a systematic analysis of the notions of industrialisation and infrastructure building as key elements in initiating and sustaining national, regional and local development.

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 considers the very large health burden suffered by large sections of the urban population as a result of environmental hazards, especially in urban areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

BENVGES4 Urban Agriculture looks at the way in which our rapidly changing world now presents us with immense challenges linked to peak oil and climate change.

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 Development examines 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.

BENVGES7 Urban Water and Sanitation, Planning and Politics focuses 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 explores the theoretical debates that link diverse social identities and power relations, and the competing models of equity that attempt to reconcile them. It then examines the implications of these theoretical debates for Social Development as a 'people-centered' approach through an examination of how issues of diversity and power affect a number of sectoral areas of intervention.

BENVGUE2 Urban Development and Economics considers the very large health burden suffered by large sections of the urban population as a result of environmental hazards, especially in urban areas of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Staff

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
View Caren's profile

Dr Barbara Lipietz
View Barbara's Profile

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Christopher Yap

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

Applying

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.

Opportunities

The MSc UDP is widely recognised by international organisations and outfits, 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.

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 also diversity in the geographic location 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 there; others find employment in development organisations (from grassroots to multilateral tiers) away from their own countries.

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