SO4A1      Half Unit
Governing Cities in an Urban Age: Challenges and Opportunities

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Richard Burdett FAW 8.01J and Prof Antony Travers CON6.06


This course is compulsory on the Executive MSc in Cities. This course is not available as an outside option.

This course is only available to students registered in the Executive MSc in Cities.

Course content

Governing Cities in an Urban Age is an intensive introduction to global urbanisation and the state of cities. The course explores different stages of urban development in cities and regions across the world. It provides students with an understanding of the key challenges facing both mature and rapidly-developing metropolitan areas. It will locate the key challenges facing large cities, notably the persistent levels of social inequality, poverty, unsustainable resource use and constraints to economic efficiency. The course introduces the key tools for intervention such as planning, governance and management of land and infrastructure in response to critical pressures linked to economic development, globalisation, migration, social inclusion, climate change, resource efficiency, and resilience. The key purpose of the course will be to give participants a comprehensive framework for understanding the challenges which cities are facing today.

Topics include: global urbanisation, development and design, urban change, population growth, urban productivity, urban expansion, urban sprawl, densification, intensification, sociability, urban governance, urban institutions, budgets and responsibilities.


7 hours and 30 minutes of lectures, 15 hours of seminars and 7 hours and 30 minutes of workshops in the MT.

The course will be taught over a period of one week in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the MT.

Submission of a 500 word non-assessed formative statement outlining the key political, environmental and socioeconomic challenges in the student's city that will shape the content of the 2,000 word assessed report.

Indicative reading

Angel, Shlomo (2011): Making Room for a Planet of Cities. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Barber, Benjamin R. (2013): If Mayors ruled the world: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities. Yale University Press.

Burdett, Ricky and Deyan Sudjic (2011): Living in the Endless City. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.

Glaeser, E. (2011): Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Penguin Press.

Travers, Tony (2004) The Politics of London Governing an Ungovernable City, Palgrave.

Additional readings:

Ackroyd, P. (2001) ‘To Build A new’ pp. 238-244, and ‘Unreal City’ pp. 771-76, in London: The Biography. London: Vintage.

Fainstein, Susan, Gordon, Ian and Harloe, Michael (2011) Ups and downs in the global city: London and New York In the 21st century. In: Bridge, Gary and Watson, Sophie, (eds.) New Blackwell companion to the city. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, pp. 38-47.

Gordon, I., Travers, T. (2010). "London: planning the ungovernable city" in City, culture and society, 1(2), pp. 49-55. 

Jacobs, Jane (1961): The death and life of great American cities. Random House.


Essay (70%, 2000 words) and presentation (30%) in the MT.

A presentation and submission of a 2,000 word report in MT of how the student's city or organisation is dealing with some of the challenges and opportunities presented in the course.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness