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MSc Urban Economic Development


The central concern of the MSc Urban Economic Development at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) is to identify methods of enhancing urban productivity while promoting sustainability and equity through public intervention at the city level.

Urbanisation, globalisation and climate change are transforming the development agenda. Within the next two decades, more people will be living in urban areas than in the countryside in nearly every country in the world.

Cities are much more than human habitats; they are crucial and advanced components of the national and global economy, acting as engines of economic growth and structural transformation. The city represents a crucial battlefield for societies to meet the challenges of sustainable development, especially the eradication of poverty and the creation of a new low-carbon economy. Unfortunately, many cities fail to rise to these challenges. Signs of urban decay and poverty are commonplace, even in the most developed parts of the world.

Programme Objectives

Policy makers and researchers are only just starting to recognise that many social and environmental problems have their roots in economic failures and structural weaknesses. However, such problems can not be effectively addressed without economic restructuring and appropriate economic policies. Crucially, this would require professionally trained people who understand the dynamics of the city economy and are equipped to tackle these challenges through effective policy formulation and implementation. This course is designed to train and supply such people.

Through a series of lectures, seminars, workshops, case studies and field work relating to cities around the world, the programme endeavours to impart a critical understanding of the economics governing urban development, enabling students to appreciate and assess the contexts within which a city economy operates.

In order to strengthen participants' analytical skills, the course also provides training in the critical assessment and use of micro- and macro-economic data, the analysis of urban economic activity, and the application of economic criteria to urban development.

Contact details

Programme Director: Le-Yin Zhang

Programme Co-Director: Naji Makarem

Graduate Teaching Assistant: Nina Neubauer


The MSc Urban Economic Development is structured so that 75 per cent of the taught components (90 credits) is devoted to the core subjects of economics in urban development and managing the city economy, 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 modules allow students to examine different approaches and issues in accordance with their own particular interests.

The course is delivered through lectures, seminars, workshops, case studies and field trips, and involves reading, essay writing and individual and group project work. Student performance is assessed through course work, examinations, and an individual dissertation report undertaken during the summer on a topic selected by the student.

UED Programme Structure

Field trips

The programme involves field work abroad (undertaken in recent years in Mek'ele, Ethiopia; Mbarara, Uganda; Barcelona, Spain; Cairo, Egypt; and Accra, Ghana), as well as in the UK, allowing students to put into practice some of the tools and techniques acquired during the course.


Core modules

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.

BENVGUE3 Practice in Urban Economic Development exposes students to contrasting practices of urban economic development to enable them to gain a better understanding of the process of managing local economic development in an urban context. 

BENVGUE4 Urbanisation and Development addresses the prospect for development in a context of international trade and investment, with the role of the state and effects of policies as key underlying factors.

BENVGUE5 Cost Benefit Analysis: Theory and Practice covers the economic assessment of projects and policies using cost-benefit analysis techniques, furthermore the evaluation of trends and developments and other issues relevant to urban economic policies will be explored.

BENVGUE6 An Introduction to Public Economics and Public Policy deals with identifying the most common market failures, the drivers of government failures and the interactions between economics and politics as constraints on the design of public policies.

Optional modules (subject to UED timetable 2016-17)

BENVGSD1 Social Policy and Citizenship looks at socially sensitive development, which has its roots in the social sector and social welfare models that were developed during the last century.

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.

BENVGSD4 NGOs and Social Transformation explores how different NGOs address issues of identity and diversity and the extent to which they are able to represent and be accountable to their constituency. The module also provides participants with an understanding of how NGOs conceptualise well-being, and reviews their ways of dealing with the complex identities and the diversity of beneficiaries.

BENVGBU1 Transforming Local Areas: Urban Design for Development provides a structured understanding of the forces that shape and develop cities, particularly in countries of the global south; as well as the intellectual and theoretical bases for a recalibration of urban design praxis.

BENVGBU2 Participatory Processes: Building for Development aims to examine theory and practice of participation by unpacking the relationship between participation in the processes that shape the built environment and the process of empowerment.

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 participants with an understanding of different aspect of post disaster recovery practice and its complexity. It will contribute to students’ abilities to assess critically how actors are engaged in post disaster recovery processes through interactions of the physical environment, policy frameworks, governance, and community actions.

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.

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.

BENVGES2 Urban Environmental Planning and Management in Development considers the immense 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.

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.

BENVGES8 Food and the City looks at urban food security with long-term sustainability and resilience in face of crisis and extreme weather.

BENVGES9 Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture: Knowledge Systems in the Global South provides a critical examination of the historical evolution and the negative impact of industrial agriculture and its consequences for small holder urban and peri-urban food production and knowledge systems in the Global South.

BENVGDA0 Contemporary Challenges in Development Planning: Urbanization and Overseas Development Assistance aims to present a theoretical and empirical overview of the links between development and urbanisation and to explore conceptions of regional planning, the peri-urban interface and their implications for development planning. It also seeks to develop a critical understanding of the contribution made by foreign aid to the economic growth, environmental sustainability and human development of developing countries.

BENVGDA6 Society and Market: Private Agency for Development explores the theoretical base and implications for development planning and practice of market- and civil society-led approaches to development. It will focus on conceptions of ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’, livelihoods and ‘making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) approaches that permeate much contemporary development policy and practice.

BENVGDA7 Political Economy of Development introduces participants to the historical evolution of the theories and ideas underpinning development
interventions. It provides an understanding of development theories and the historical circumstances in which they were produced. It will explore the strategic implications of these frameworks while contextualising them within specific and applied discussions on development administration and planning found in other components of the MSc DAP course.


The MSc UED is taught by DPU staff and associate teaching fellows held in high esteem by their peers internationally and renowned for their contribution to academic thinking and urban economic analysis in the context of city planning and urban management.

Programme Director

Dr Le-Yin Zhang
View Le-Yin's profile

Programme Co-Director

Dr Naji Makarem
View Naji's profile

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Nina Neubauer
View Nina's profile

Staff currently teaching on the programme

Dr Robinson Rojas
View Robinson's profile

Prof. Antonio Estache
View Antonio's profile

Dr José Carbajo
View José'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.

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 UED 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 UED 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 UED 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 UED 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 alumni spread across many continents, countries and organisations, often facilitating that essential first introduction of a UED graduate into employment.