GY431      Half Unit
Cities, People and Poverty in the South

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Tom Cowan


This course is available on the MSc in African Development, MSc in City Design and Social Science, MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in Environment and Development, MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation, MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities, MSc in Health and International Development, MSc in Health, Community and Development, MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Local Economic Development, MSc in Population and Development, MSc in Regional And Urban Planning Studies, MSc in Urban Policy (LSE and Sciences Po) and MSc in Urbanisation and Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


Experience and/or knowledge of development and/or urbanisation in the South would be a distinct advantage

Course content

The course examines the patterns, processes and implications of urbanisation in developing societies, with particular reference to the survival and well-being of low-income groups, and the variability of urban life and poverty in different geographical contexts. The conceptual and empirical focus of the course revolves around strategies adopted at individual household and community levels to ensure sustainable livelihoods, and the interrelations of grassroots processes with policy interventions on the part of governments, international development agencies and NGOs. Specific themes include: trends in urban development in the 20th and 21st centuries; rural-urban migration; shelter and housing; land and tenure; urban services; the conceptualisation and measurement of poverty; the 'urbanisation' of poverty; the 'feminisation of poverty'; poverty reduction strategies; employment and informality in urban labour markets; urban livelihood strategies and economic restructuring; households and gender; women-headed households; participatory urban governance, and civil society.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT. 2 hours of lectures in the ST.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce one essay during the course, as well as to prepare seminar presentations (usually in pairs), and to be actively involved in seminar discussions, including as discussants and rapporteurs.

Indicative reading

Detailed reading lists will be provided during the course.  No one book covers the entire course.  However, recommended essential reading is as follows: A. Roy and E Shaw Crane, Territories of Poverty: Rethinking North and South, 2015; A. Gupta, Red Tape: Bureaucracy, Structural Violence, and Poverty in India, 2012. J. Beall and S. Fox, Urban Poverty and Development in the 21st Century, 2009; S.Chant and C.McIlwaine Cities, Slums and Gender in the Global South, 2016;; S.Parnell and S.Oldfield (Eds), The Routledge Handbook on Cities of the Global South, 2014; D. Satterthwaite Urban Myths and the Mis-use of Data Which Underpin Them, 2010; G. Tannerfeldt & P. Ljung More Urban, Less Poor, 2006; UNFPA, State of the World's Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth, 2007; UN-Habitat, State of the World's Cities, 2012/13: Prosperity of Cities, 2012.


Exam (75%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (25%, 2500 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2013/14 - 2015/16 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17
Merit 52.3
Pass 28.4
Fail 2.3

Teachers' comment

A course which regularly attracts MSc students from  wide range of Departments across the School with the majority attaining merit or distinction marks

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Controlled access 2016/17: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication