MSc Urbanisation and Development

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At a time when three quarters of the world's urban population, 90% of urban population growth, and poverty and social exclusion are increasingly concentrated in towns and cities in the Global South, it is vital that we understand the theoretical and empirical relationships between urbanisation, urbanism and development.

Students will develop an understanding of how urban and development theory have changed over time

This programme reviews urbanism from colonial to the contemporary period, emphasising social, economic, environmental, cultural and political processes. It pays particular attention to the aims and achievements of contemporary policy with reference to housing and land markets, environmental sustainability and climate change, governance, social justice, the role of global development institutions and non-governmental organisations.

Students will be encouraged to appreciate how a wide range of policy intentions and outcomes can be evaluated from international to local scales, and in ways sensitive to concerns for gender, ethnicity, social and environmental justice and democratic deepening.

This programme is intended for graduates with a good first degree in geography, development, sociology, planning, anthropology or any discipline with a substantive urban or development studies component. We also encourage applications from candidates with work experience.

Graduates of the programme have gone on to hold employment in leading academic institutions, programme and policy positions in international agencies (IOM, UN, World Bank), bi-lateral organisations, NGOs and private consultancies, and governments in Global North and South. We are building a growing alumni network to facilitate programme knowledge and graduation pathways.

‘Walking’ London

Since 2018, the MSc Urbanisation and Development programme has been running half-day field trips to sites across London. These have included walks to the Barbican, Brixton, the Elephant & Castle, and the East End-to-Greenwich. The walks allow students to consider London as a site to reflect on issues discussed in the programme such as gentrification, infrastructure, land use, housing, street art, inequality and ecologies. 

U&D walk (1) (1)
MSc Urbanisation and Development City Walk. Photo by Laura Antona. 
london 2019 photo (2)
MSc Urbanisation and Development students on their London Field Walk. Photo by Al Lim. 


Overseas Field Trips

In partnership with the International School of Urban Sciences at the University of Seoul, in alternate years a group of students has visited the city to understand how issues of infrastructure, environmental management and climate change, and transport have been addressed. It is expected that the next trip will be in the 2024-25 academic year.

In 2023-24, students have also developed a field visit to Copenhagen. During the visit, students examine issues of public space and urban design, mobilities, community planning, and urban sustainability and climate adaptation.

Alumna supports MSc Urbanisation & Development students with Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Through a gift from alumna Jane Baker, funds are available to support research on themes related to refugees, asylum seekers and/or displaced persons as part of the dissertation in MSc Urbanisation and Development.

Commenting on the grant, Prof Gareth A. Jones said, "I would like to thank Jane for her generous gift and am delighted that these funds will support students in their research on such an important topic".

Previous recipients of this grant have conducted research on architecture and identities of young Bamileke migrants in Douala, Cameroon; the role of ‘gardiens’ in property holding in changing Dakar; and, what the redevelopment of urban villages means to migrants in China.

Professor Sylvia Chant Annual Lecture

In memory of our friend and colleague, the departments of Geography & Environment and Gender Studies host the Sylvia Chant Annual Lecture. The lecture addresses themes central to Sylvia’s research and advocacy, and have been presented by Naila Kabeer, Cathy Mcilwaine and Sue Parnell.


MSc Urbanisation and Development at LSE MSc Urbanisation and Development at LSE
Introduction to the programme by staff and students

Student testimonials

Our students describe their experiences of the programme:

Haris Gill

haris gill

Why did you choose the course/LSE?

The standout thing that attracted me to LSE was the academic credibility, for Geography and Urbanisation it is highly ranked on a global scale. 

What has been the highlight of your LSE experience?

Studying at the LSE means learning from and studying with the best and brightest minds from across the globe. In addition, studying in arguably one of the best cities in the world has been a great experience from a social and academic perspective. 

How are you planning to use your degree for your future career?

Whilst urbanisation presents great opportunities for prosperity, if unmanaged it may have detrimental impacts. I intend on joining a start-up, with the goal of 'greening' cities and people's lives. 

Sum up your experience in 3 words:

Grounded, Profound, Life-Changing. 

Nopur Siingh


Why did you choose the course/LSE?

Two factors very clearly motivated me to apply to LSE. The international reputation of the institution, and the course, MSc Urbanisation and Development. The course more because it is a very rare, complementary combination of theory and practice which significantly appealed to me.

What has been the highlight of your LSE experience?

Apart from the academics and the people I’ve met here, living in London has been a wonderful and liberating experience.  

How are you planning to use your degree for your future career?

In the long term, I hope to work for inclusive urban infrastructure. For that, in the near future, I want to begin working with NGOs that engage with issues of the built urban landscape.

Sum up your experience in 3 words:

Enriching, stressful, rewarding. 

Claudia Hihetah

Claudia HihetahWhy did you choose the course/LSE? I chose to study the MSc in Urbanisation and Development because of the programme’s rich focus on theoretical debates in the Global South and the relatively small class size facilitating better discussions. I chose to study at the LSE because of its top world ranking and location at the heart of one of the most culturally-diverse cities in the world.

What has been the highlight of your LSE experience? The highlight of my LSE experience has been the opportunity to meet and share ideas with people from all over the world. The MSc UD academic staff were very approachable which minimised the pressures of the intelligently-crafted thought-provoking course structure.

How are you planning to use your degree for your future career? This degree programme has exposed me to many ideas and practices in urban studies of the Global South and even the Global North. This will help me contribute my knowledge and skill in whatever geographical space my future career takes me to.

Sum up your experience in 3 words: Amazing, Stimulating, Impactful.


Shay Siqiao Xie

Shay, LSE

My year in the MSc Urbanisation and Development programme (2016-17) was definitely a huge step in my personal and academic development, and possibly the best academic decision I have ever made in my life. The relatively small cohort size of MSc UD brings faculty and students much closer than other programmes, and while the intellectually challenging course structure really pushed me to polish my researching, multi-tasking and critical thinking skills, my insightful and friendly Professors strongly motivated me to further pursue my academic career.

In the course of my MSc UD programme, I had the opportunity not only of enjoying amicable support and encouragement from world-renowned scholars and outstanding colleagues from diverse international backgrounds, but was able to enjoy every minute I had in London, regardless of whether I was working in the library or taking advantage of wandering in London’s many museums and other sites of cultural and social interest. To me, MSc UD proved way more than just taught postgraduate education: it was a home away from home, and a home port where I sail out for my future academic journey in the ocean of social science.  My MSc allowed me to combine my personal interests with scholarly skills and training, and has laid a solid foundation for my future work as a PhD student in the School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. Here I will expand upon my MSc dissertation research on middle class Chinese migrant communities and networks in the USA, benefiting immeasurably from the theoretical and empirical legacies of my time at LSE. 

Hilary Malson


The MSc Urbanisation and Development was exceptional, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to grow and learn in this programme. Professors on the course were highly engaging, deeply knowledgeable, and very generous in sharing their expertise and insights with students. And the small size of the programme – 13 students from eight nations in 2015-16 – created a close-knit feeling among the group. The relatively short programme length and large work volume meant that students had to dive in headfirst, which wound up being an asset! By immersing myself in the coursework and debating the material with my coursemates, I was able to draw connections from across the modules and better understand some of the complexities of urbanisation, migration, and development.

I was fortunate to receive a fellowship from the Smithsonian Institution to support my dissertation research, and have been hired there since as a research assistant to help develop an upcoming exhibit on urban displacement, migration, and organising. With the encouragement of programme faulty, I am applying to PhD programmes and am looking forward to building on the foundation I gained at the LSE. The small class size, rigorous academic standards, and truly collegial environment of the MSc Urbanisation and Development create a uniquely enriching and rewarding academic experience.

Thomas Van Laake


My year in the MSc Urbanisation and Development programme was an amazing experience of personal and academic growth. The international, intelligent and friendly students at LSE in general, and the programme in particular, were a constant source of motivation and support. Moreover, the teaching staff are personable, dedicated and inspiring, offering cutting-edge courses as well as being available for one-on-one discussions and advice.

The programme really distinguishes itself in the diverse range of topics students pursue in their dissertations, reflecting the complexity of the ‘urban’. Uniquely, students are encouraged to undertake dissertation research abroad, invaluably allowing them to translate theory into practice during their master’s year. Personally, my research in Ecuador, besides allowing me to complete my master’s successfully, resulted in experience researching independently in the field, as well as confidence to move to Latin America. And here, with the master’s year behind me, the value of all the ideas, conceptual tools, theories, methods I absorbed come together in an approach to the urban that is both more understanding and more curious than before. 

Jennifer Cinelli

I was attracted to the MSc Urbanisation and Development programme because of the strong basis of development theory within a specifically urban development context. The U&D MSc provided a rich theoretical perspective in which to discuss and understand issues of urbanisation in developing countries and complimentary course offerings allowed me to personalise the degree to my career trajectory.

Studying at the LSE provided a rich setting in which to learn from a great variety of people-outside speakers, your professors and your peers. Professors come from a wide range of backgrounds and bring significant experience in the field to the classroom, providing important insights into the dissertation process and into using the degree upon completion.

LSE attracts an incredibly diverse student body that brings a wide-range of experiences to the classroom resulting in inspired discussions, friendships beyond the classroom and a lasting network of colleagues for years to come.

Neil Helbraun

I was amazed by the experience and perspective that my classmates had to offer.  During the inaugural year of the Urbanisation and Development programme we were 13 students representing 7 different nationalities. Though we ranged from individuals fresh out of undergrad all the way through to those with years of infrastructure experience in the field, everyone had something unique to contribute. I found this cosmopolitan, everyone-together-now spirit typical of students throughout the Department of Geography and Environment, and one of my favourite things about the LSE. 


Where are they now?

Our alumni tell us what they did after graduation:

Rocio del Pilar Veloza Cantillo

RocioWhy did you choose the course/LSE? I was interested in studying development or urban studies in Europe. My MSc in Urbanisation and Development is a unique master in that sense; it's an avant-garde program that works across disciplines to reflect over nowadays global debates.

What was the highlight of your LSE experience? Without doubt the highlight of my LSE experience was the opportunity to join an international student environment. There, I met people that in other contexts I wouldn’t meet. My master's partners were from Africa, Asia, America and Europe; such diversity is a unique characteristic of LSE. 

How has your degree been useful for your career? My degree has given me the opportunity to approach development studies from an innovative perspective. It set the basis to produce a proposal for the Geneva Challenge; my team's proposal won first prize.

Sum up your LSE experience in 3 words: stimulating, global and avant-garde.

Femke Gubbels


The MSc Urbanisation and Development programme was an eye-opening experience. It offers a well-balanced combination of in-depth seminars, engaging lectures and challenging coursework. I found the team of lecturers incredibly passionate about their subjects, which made it a pleasure to learn from them. Equally motivating were my bright fellow students who brought with them a wealth of urban knowledge from around the globe. Their perspectives challenged mine day in day out and I would not have missed it for the world.

For my dissertation I went to Dar es Salaam with a group of three other MSc UD students to conduct research on climate change adaptation, resettlement and flooding in a rapidly growing city of the Global South. I would highly recommend making the most out of your research by organising fieldwork. Although challenging at times, it is a true opportunity to get practical experience in the exciting field of urban studies.

After graduating I started working as a Programme Manager for 100 Resilient Cities, a global organisation committed to helping cities become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges of the 21st century. The position was pointed out to me by a fellow LSE student!

Lewis Abedi Asante


Lewis has been awarded a DAAD-Government of GhaLewis Abedi Asantena PhD Scholarship. This scholarship is an initiative of both the Ghana and German governments to enable staff of public tertiary institutions in Ghana the opportunity to pursue a PhD programme in a German institution. Since 2010, a maximum of 20 candidates are selected every year, through a three stage bi-national procedure. The selection is based on a convincing and well-planned research project and previous academic achievements.

"In July 2015, I saw an advert of scholarship in the dailies and I put in an application. After going through the selection process, I was awarded the prestigious scholarship to pursue a PhD programme at TU Dortmund University in Dortmund, Germany. The topic of my PhD is ‘Managing Urban Regeneration Projects in Ghana: A Case of Selected Projects in the Urban Built Environment’. The PhD will be supervised by Prof Dr Dietwald Gruehn and Prof Dr Karl-Werner Schulte of TU Dortmund University and Regensberg University respectively. As part of the scholarship, I have to study the German language for 6 months (2 months in Ghana and 4 months in Germany). The language course in Ghana started on 4 April and will end on 27 May and then I travel to Gottingen, Germany in June for another 4 months language course. The PhD programme begins in October 2016.

I am very happy to have this opportunity to pursue further academic laurels. The training I got at my time at LSE has brought me this far. I am grateful to Sylvia, Claire, Gareth and all staff of UD for excellent training and support."

Jordana Ramalho


Before starting my MSc in Urbanisation and Development at the LSE I had spent 7 years working in the field of community development and social inclusion in Cent
Jordana Ramalhoral America, East Africa and the UK. The multidisciplinary nature of the department and course options were very appealing to me and perfectly complemented my professional and academic interests. Gareth Jones’ Urban Policy and Practice in the South, Sylvia Chant’s Cities People and Poverty and Gender and Development courses, David Keen’s Complex Emergencies and Kate Meagher’s course on the Informal Economy were invaluable in shaping my understanding of contemporary urban development challenges as they relate to poverty, gender and social exclusion.

For my dissertation, I conducted a comparative analysis of three large-scale gender and development (GAD) interventions that apply a gender perspective to their work with men, developing my expertise in the field of masculinities and engaging men in GAD. Included in this was an exploration of different rights-based participatory approaches to promoting gender equitable behaviour at individual and community levels, and of tools such as the Gender Equitable Men (GEM) Scale that are used to quantitatively evidence changes in behaviour and perspectives.

I enjoyed my MSc so much that I decided to embark on a PhD within the department, looking at the gendered dimensions of household adaption to extreme weather and climate-related disasters in the Philippines. It focuses on the experiences of low-income households living in informal urban settlements who are regularly affected by extreme weather hazards and on governance and policy approaches to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation as relevant to the urban poor.

Xinyu Wang

For me, MSc Urbanisation and Development is an elaborately tailored programme with an in-depth theoretical perspective in the field of development studies. Its intense academic coverage with a sense of comprehensiveness has enabled me to develop my own research interests.

The intellectual training offered by world-class calibre of academic staff, academic conferences and public lectures held by famous academics and daily interactions with classmates from different cultural/political backgrounds all capacitated me to analyse social questions and arguments from different approaches. Throughout the programme, all professors have provided me with tremendous academic support and guidance, especially when I was not clear about my dissertation and future career goals.

After graduation, I have worked for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and got the opportunity to work with the Agricultural Bank of China to take a further step on my dissertation. Currently I am working for UBS London to investigate the relationship between regional policy and international remittance. Either in NGO or in Private Sectors, the knowledge and skills I have gained from the programme have proved extremely important and helpful. I highly appreciate the intellectual communication, training and networking opportunities provided by the programme and the international reputation attached to the School, and I am truly grateful for all memories I had during my time at LSE.  

Edad Mercier


I received my PhD in World History from St. John's University in NYC, United States in May 2023 and am now History Professor at St. John's.

Studying at LSE/U&D with globally minded faculty and students encouraged me to think critically and act creatively. For example, out of my coursework in Professor Sylvia Chant's Gender and Development: Geographical Perspectives (GY421), I designed a presentation on gender, housing, and urban services in Jamaica, which served as a catalyst for my eventual dissertation on gender-based planning in Haiti. Other courses such as Economic Appraisal and Valuation (GY455) were helpful in providing me with alternative approaches to analyzing some of the most pressing debates in urbanization.

I credit my time in U&D with helping me refine my research goals, while furthering my understanding of the critical processes that inform urbanization across different settings in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. Faculty and student-led activities and the collaborative work culture of U&D all made it an intellectually exciting and nurturing department!

Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed

"I was attracted to the MSc U&D programme because it combined my two interests for urban studies and development. The core courses in development and urban policy, as well as the optional courses on Gender and Development and Cities, People and Poverty in the South, had the perfect balance of history, theory and practice. The MSc U&D was a brilliant programme and laid the foundation for my PhD giving me new skills, theoretical knowledge and confidence.

My PhD is looking at the everyday lives of male and female paid domestic workers in Nigeria. I am working in the Urban and Development Cluster with Professor Sylvia Chant (principal supervisor) and Professor Diane Perrons (co-supervisor). With my PhD I hope to add to my knowledge and skills to balance an academic and consulting career in gender, employment and development.

Studying at the LSE, in the Geography and Environment Department, provides a great arena to learn from world-renowned professors with great passion and experience in the field, and peers who provide an immense amount of support, stimulating conversation and friendship. Not to forget the variety of outside speakers! This places me in an opportune position for which to pursue my career goals."

In 2016 Dr Zahrah Nesbitt-Ahmed moved to a position as Consultant at Social Development Direct following three years as a research fellow in the Cities Cluster at IDS, Sussex.

Paolo Casilli

The MSc Urbanisation and Development offers a unique opportunity to be exposed to a highly enriching and stimulating learning environment thanks to its world-class academic staff and the international student body. The programme strikes a good balance between theory and practice and instils key research skills.

The new skills and knowledge, the increased confidence acquired during the MSc, and the LSE's international reputation have all contributed to open new professional avenues in international development agencies. All these factors have paved the way for my job with the International Organisation for Migration. Remarkably the knowledge gained in increasingly important fields such sustainable livelihoods in urban areas have been key to successfully undertake my assignment as Reintegration and Community Stabilisation Officer in Sudan.

Alice Evans

Alice Evans

"My PhD research focuses on ‘gender hierarchies’ in Zambia and the key factors in their changing nature over time such as women’s and men’s differential access to resources, social support structures and gender-sensitisation campaigns. My methodology comprises triangulating a gendered history of Zambia with qualitative and quantitative research in the field, for which I am currently learning Bemba, one of Zambia’s major languages.

The Development/Urban cluster in Geography provides an ideal academic home, with two of its faculty - Professor Sylvia Chant (an expert on gender and development) and Dr Claire Mercer (an expert on civil society) – acting as my principal supervisor and review supervisor respectively. I realised I wanted to pursue a PhD during my MSc in Development Studies, in which I took the UD option ‘GY431: Cities, People and Poverty in the South’. The more I learnt about urbanisation and development the more eager I became to pursue further empirical and analytical study in this area. Staff in the Development/Urban cluster have been extremely supportive throughout, including helping me to obtain ESRC MPhil/PhD funding."

Alice's PhD, entitled: ‘"Women Can Do What Men Can Do”: The Causes and Consequences of Growing Flexibility in Gender Divisions of Labour in Kitwe, Zambia’ was passed in November 2013. Since 2015 she has been lecturing in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge.  

Faye Antonia Hays


My time at LSE's Urbanisation and Development programme was an invaluable instigator for my current course of doctoral study. Coming from an architecture and urban design background, I was eager to balance idealistic visions with practical knowledge of the developing world's urban centres and the intricacies within them.

The expanse of coverage and simultaneous interconnectedness of the courses I took at the LSE provided me an understanding of various cities' distinct sets of inner social and political forces, as well as the crucial qualitative scale of household study, but also a city's wider connection to a global network of poverty. These courses consisted of Sylvia Chant's Cities, People and Poverty in the South, Gareth Jones and Hyun Shin's Urban Policy and Practice in the South, Sharad Chari's Race and Space, and Stuart Corbridge and Kate Meagher's Development Theory, History and Policy. For my dissertation I conducted field research in Guanacaste, Costa Rica investigating the gendered aesthetics of informal housing through household interviews and photography.

This multi-scale mode of study provided me with an invaluable foundation of academic rigor as well as a toolset for practical application, skills that have been crucial in my current pursuit as a Doctor of Design student at Harvard University, where I am studying the role of film in affecting perceptions of urban space and in the construction of a multiplicity of memories that forge links between formal and informal urbanism, focusing on the film Sans Soleil (1983) by Chris Marker.

Bret Ericson

MSc Urbanisation and Development was an excellent programme. Classes were exceptionally well taught and the professors were keenly interested in the material. The broad approach places interventions and ideas in historical context, well preparing one for work in the field.

My fellow students were equally important to my time at the LSE. They were helpful, supportive and intensely intelligent. I now work with the Blacksmith Institute, a New York-based NGO that works to remove the health threat posed by pollution. I am currently managing a joint project between our organisation and UNIDO, with backing from the European Commission, that aims to identify and assess the bulk of polluted sites in the developing world. We carry out this work on several continents where I meet with government officials, NGOs and community members.

Kerwin Datu

I studied and worked as an architect in Sydney, Paris and London before taking the MSc in Urbanisation and Development in 2008. I chose to take the course on the simple realisation that with the number of slum settlers growing from 1 in 6 people in the world to 1 in 3 during my lifetime, designing one building at a time was a fairly short-sighted way to contribute to the well-being of our cities.

I am thankful to my year at LSE for giving me a handle on the big debates in urban and international development, and for allowing me to feel that I can intervene in these debates intellectually as a scholar and practically as an agent in the field. I advise current students to think about their dissertations early, find a subject they can enjoy studying, and go out into the field for their research. It will make the issues come alive, gives them human faces, and gives one confidence to talk about them with authority. I went to Manila, Philippines, and spent time with squatters relocated from the rail line to outlying housing settlements (see photo).

The MSc inspired me to create The Global Urbanist, a news website analysing urban policy around the world, which I continue to edit with the support of my LSE lecturers. I am also fortunate to be able to continue my LSE story with a PhD in the Geography department, supervised by Doctors Simona Iammarino and Claire Mercer, and funded by the ESRC. Pulling together the disprate discourses studied in the MSc, I will examine the role of intercity networks in international development, conducting field research in West African cities.

Ahmed Siba

Ahmed Siba

My experience at U&D was simply wonderful! Everyone was easy to get along with, from super friendly professors to administrative staff and colleague students. What is exceptional about the U&D lecturers is their sincere eagerness to help students to overcome their difficulties, ranging from personal to social and academic. 

Lectures were highly impacting as lecturers were clear and sufficiently demonstrated the depth of their knowledge in their various fields. As for seminars, they were especially interesting, as students were given the chance to present their ideas and independent opinions on various topics and readings. 

To summarise my experience at U&D, I would say that what U&D does is similar to unearthing a small part of a big treasure box for every student. Upon graduating, it’s up to you to dig up the whole box for yourself. I still feel I didn’t have enough of the U&D experience and so I look forward to undertaking a PhD at U&D someday. 


Contact us

Email: geog.ud@lse.ac.uk