An intensive exploration and analysis of the governance, planning and design of London, drawing parallels with and implications for other major cities.

Led by senior faculty members of both LSE Cities and LSE London, the course draws on world-class research work originated within these renowned LSE institutes. It will explore the longer-term development of London (in the context of other global cities) so as to provide students with an understanding of the key challenges facing both mature and rapidly-developing metropolitan areas.

This five-day course will include classes given by the core teaching group; guest lectures by key members of London’s political, development, transport and housing sectors; and visits to London’s newest redevelopment area surrounding King’s Cross, and the expanding Canary Wharf development in East London.

Programme benefits:

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of the key challenges facing both mature and rapidly-developing metropolitan areas
  • Build your awareness of the key challenges facing London and other large cities, notably the management of services, resource-raising, the management & planning of land, infrastructure development, migration, housing and the quality of the public realm
  • Understand the frameworks needed to consider the challenges posed to those who run major cities
  • Gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the physical and social development of London and other cities
  • Achieve an understanding of London’s city-wide, regional and neighbourhood government arrangements
  • Take away knowledge of city planning and the city’s image – the better city
  • Understand the way London assesses the infrastructure it needs through the London Plan and Transport for London’s planning
  • Gain a greater understanding of London government’s role in economic planning, and competitiveness.

Course description

Fifteen years after London adopted a directly elected Mayor, the course will unravel how the city is governed, and how the Mayor works through complex layers of local and central government. It will explore how major infrastructure projects like CrossRail, the Congestion Charge and the “Boris bike” system have been funded and implemented. It will describe the loose planning regime of a city enshrined in the London Plan which has led to the rediscovery of the urban skyscraper and promoted a new generation of large-scale, private sector driven developments like Canary Wharf and King’s Cross, as well as the public-sector driven transformation of East London accelerated by the London 2012 Olympics. It will also explain the tensions and challenges posed by an acute housing shortage and increasing inequality amongst its diverse and multi-cultural communities.

Major topics covered:

The operation of London’s city-wide, regional and neighbourhood government arrangements; public-private coalitions; different leadership models; the consequences of particular government systems; the challenge of reform; fiscal autonomy and relations with other tiers of government.

Planning & design
City planning and the city’s image: the London Plan; exemplar projects; design quality; making the city liveable; density vs sprawl; tall buildings, skyline and streetscape; metropolitan vs neighbourhood needs; preserving a balance of land uses; heritage vs modernity; the benefits and challenges posed by private developers in driving redevelopment; London’s Royal Parks and public open space; citizen involvement in planning; the struggle between engineering and design; justifying quality design against other priorities.  

The way London assesses the infrastructure it needs; bringing together land use and infrastructure planning (the London Plan and Transport for London’s planning); the development and maintenance of physical infrastructure; planning for London’s rapid population growth; access to private finance; regulation of water, gas, electricity and telecoms utilities; intelligent decision-making and climate change; private competition vs public management.

Transport for London: one of the world’s most powerful city transport agencies; fitting London’s transport policy into the city’s wider planning framework; assessing the appropriate role for private and public transport; planning ahead of population growth; road construction and maintenance; railways, metros and trams; buses and taxis, cycling and walking; the use of fees and charges to provide incentives; the challenge of managing freight and deliveries.

Balancing London’s business and housing needs; sustaining mixed communities in the inner and central areas; managing land costs; subsidising homes for the poor; attracting and managing foreign buyers; density vs sprawl; matching housing to population growth and transport; regeneration of former industrial land and buildings; the economic development of London’s outer boroughs; policies to protect green and other unused land; tax policies.

Economic competitiveness
London government’s role in economic planning; city incentives to encourage new sectors; the evolution of ‘Tech City’ in Shoreditch; The ‘Olympics Effect’ on east London; skills shortages and migration impacts; reputation, brand, marketing and promotion: ‘London & Partners’ as a model; the management of declining sectors and areas;  the use of Mayoral Development Corporations; ‘soft’ attributes such as diversity, tolerance and the rule of law; airport policy: how (or whether) to develop more runways around London; staging major sporting and cultural events (Olympics, Wimbledon; Wembley, world cups etc); London’s exhibition centres, theatres, museums and the arts; London’s record in dealing with terrorism, environmental disasters.

Course suitability

This executive course is suitable for:

  • Senior executives searching for insight into how cities are governed and designed
  • International governments and intergovernmental organisations working in the field of urban development or sustainable urbanisation
  • Professionals within private sector companies, for example providers of city infrastructure
  • Individuals looking to understand the implications of rapid urban development on city governance.

“Amongst mature cities of the global North, London provides a model of resilience in governance, planning, design and infrastructure. It faces many of the challenges that come with global city status – housing, inequality, cost-of-living – but has implemented important changes since its adoption of a directly elected Mayor in 2000. This week-long course will offer an intense insight into the workings of London, with the participation of some of its leading protagonists and respected scholars. Anyone interested in managing the complexity of urban change will find the short programme useful and informative”.

Ricky Burdett, Director, LSE Cities and Professor of Urban Studies. (Ricky Burdett has been involved in regeneration projects across Europe and was Chief Adviser on Architecture and Urbanism for the London 2012 Olympics. Amongst numerous other roles he is also currently a member of the UK Government’s Independent Airports Commission.)

About LSE Cities

LSE Cities is an international centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science that carries out research, education and outreach activities in London and abroad. Its mission is to study how people and cities interact in a rapidly urbanising world, focussing on how the design of cities impacts on society, culture and the environment.

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"When I was looking for courses in London planning and governance, this was the course that gave the most comprehensive perspective to the origins of the city and how the city operates today."

Associate, Zenprop Property Holdings, South Africa



Previous course participants include:

  • Alltrom Group
  • Barcelona Global
  • CBS Property Zrt.
  • Chilean Chamber of Construction
  • City of London Corporation
  • City of Montreal
  • City of the Hague
  • Concremat Companies
  • Daimler AG
  • European Commission
  • John Wardle Architects
  • Microsoft
  • Nigerian House of Representatives
  • Royal Danish Embassy
  • Shell International
  • Siemens
  • The Dubai Executive Council
  • The Kresge Foundation
  • The Malak Group LLC
  • Yesil Valiz Association for Responsible Tourism
  • United Nations
  • Wellcome Trust


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+44 (0)207 849 4615

Tel: +44 (0)20 7849 4615

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Executive Summer School Office
Houghton Street
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