SP415      Half Unit
Urbanisation and Social Policy in the Global South

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Sunil Kumar OLD.2.55


This course is available on the MSc in Development Management, MSc in Development Studies, MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (LSE and Fudan), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations) and MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


Some knowledge of or experience of dealing with urban issues is desirable. To apply for a place on this course, prospective students will have to write a 250-word statement (information will be available on the Moodle page for the course) as to: (i) why they would like to take this course - 50 words; (ii) what they can bring to the course - 125 words, and (iii) how they intend to use the knowledge gained (for example, for their dissertation or future employment or research) - 75 words.


Some experience of urban issues in the Global South or North is desirable.

Course content

The course critically explores the challenges and opportunities that urbanisation and urban transformations pose in the social, spatial, economic, institutional and political realms in the urban Global South.  A plurality of theoretical and conceptual perspectives informing contemporary policies and planning practices are explored each week. 

Some of the themes explored in the course are, urbanisation, urbanism and social change, theories of urbanisation and urban change, internal migration and the rural-urban interface, urban poverty and livelihoods, urban labour markets and livelihoods, urban housing and tenure, urban basic services, urban governance, and urban social movements and collective action.  Cross-cutting themes such as gender and the role of civil society are also explored. 

Prospective students must be willing to commit themselves to full participation in all aspects of the course, including an element of art. They will be required to read and discuss the essential readings for both the lectures and seminars each week.  They are also expected to read more widely and actively participate in the seminars. This course seeks a weekly commitment from students to undertake a non-assessed activity: (i) My_City – a short 500-750-word desk-based piece of research and writing that links key issues emerging from the lecture to a city of their choice with the view to meeting one of the pedagogical aims of this course, namely, linking theory with policy and practice.  In addition to Moodle, the course will use other online tools such as Padlet.  


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

  1. In addition to the subject/topic based lectures, there will be two additonal lectures on: (i) Dr. Kumar's research (as the course is research led) in week 1 or 2 of LT, and; (ii) on the task for the summative essay (around week 5).
  2. Students are required to attend all lectures.

Formative coursework

Students taking this course will have the opportunity to write a 1,000-word formative essay (excluding an abstract and references at the end of the essay) as a draft of the summative essay. The learning pedagogy and learning outcome is to receive feedback on what may become the summative essay.  Since the formative is intended to lead to a summative essay, students will not receive a grade but will receive written feedback. The formative essay will have to be submitted in weeks 7-9 of the term in which the course is taught so that timely feedback can be provided. In thinking of the subject matter for the their summative essay, students are required to read widely and will find that undertaking the My_City weekly activitie (as set out in the course content) - useful.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list is provided for each lecture and seminar via the LSE library's electronic reading list. The following is an introductory list of texts in alphabetical order (a number of them are available as e-books via the LSE library).

  • Chant, S. (2010) The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty: Concepts, Research, Policy. London: Edward Elgar.
  • Hansen, K. T. and A. L. Dalsgaard (2008) Youth and the City in the Global South. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.
  • Kumar, S. (2001) Social Relations, Rental Housing Markets and the Poor in Urban India. Report for the UK Department for International Development (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/57a08d64ed915d622c00197b/R6856.pdf)
  • Kumar, S and M. Fernandez (2016) The Urbanisation-Construction-Migration Nexus in Five Cities in South Asia: Kabul, Dhaka, Chennai, Kathmandu and Lahore (Research commissioned by the UK Department for International Development’s South Asia Research Hub (SARH), New Delhi, India. Six-page briefing Note - http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64169/ - Full report (30 MB) available at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/65861/ OR http://r4d.dfid.gov.uk/Project/61261/Default.aspx.
  • Miraftab, F. and N. Kudva (2014) Cities of the Global South Reader. New York: Routledge.
  • Parnell, S and S. Oldfield (2014) The Routledge handbook on cities of the Global South. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Samara, T. R., S. He and G. Chen (2013) Locating Right to the City in the Global South, Abingdon, Oxon; New York, NY; London: Routledge.
  • Satterthwaite, D. and D. Mitlin (2014). Reducing Urban Poverty in the Global South. London, Routledge.
  • UN-DESA (2014) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, Highlights (https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.pdf).
  • UN-HABITAT (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. World Cities Report 2016 (http://nua.unhabitat.org/uploads/WCRFullReport2016_EN.pdf).

Additional Reading:

  • Brenner, N. (2013) "Theses on Urbanization." Public Culture, 25(1): 85-114.
  • Fischer, B. M., B. McCann and J. Auyero (Eds.) (2014) Cities from Scratch: Poverty and Informality in Urban Latin America. Durham, Duke University Press.
  • Fox, S. (2012) "Urbanization as a Global Historical Process: Theory and Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa." Population and Development Review, 38(2): 285-310.
  • IOM (2015) Migration and Cities (https://www.iom.int/sites/default/files/our_work/ICP/IDM/RB-25-CMC-Report_web-final.pdf).
  • Marcuse, P. (2009) Searching for the Just City: Debates in Urban Theory and Practice. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Mercedes González de la, R. (2006) "Vanishing Assets: Cumulative Disadvantage among the Urban Poor." Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 606: 68-94.
  • OECD (2015) The Metropolitan Century: Understanding Urbanisation and its Consequences, Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Robinson, J. (2016). "Starting from anywhere, making connections: globalizing urban theory." Eurasian Geography and Economics, 57(4-5): 643-657.
  • Roy, A. (2005) "Urban Informality: Toward an Epistemology of Planning." Journal of the American Planning Association, 71(2): 147-158.


Project (20%, 1000 words) in the LT.
Essay (80%, 5000 words) in the ST.

There are two summative assignments for the course; (i) a "Just Neighbourhood project (JNp)" - 20%; and (ii) a Summative Essay - 80%.  The following is a short description of the two assignments.

Just Neighbourhood (JNp): This will take the form of a schematic drawing of a JN to incorporate the topics discussed in the course - for instance, migration, poverty, livelihoods, housing and basic services - and a supporting statement of 750-1000 words (20% of the overall grade).  This is an in-course piece of work and will be submitted late in the term in which the course is taught.  Guidance notes for the JNp and a dedicated marking frame will be available on Moodle.

The Summative Essay: The summative essay for the course must: (i) address an urban issue in the global South or apply a southern perspective to an urban issue in the Global North; and (ii) have relevance for marginalised groups.  The grading will reflect: (i) innovation of thought; (ii) application of cultural perspectives as appropriate; and (iii) dovetail theory, policy and practice.  The summative essay will be between 4,000-5,000 words long (80% of the overall grade) and is submitted early in the ST.

There are three potential entry points for identifying the subject matter for the essay: (1) an academic critique of an urban policy (existing or proposed); (2) the identification of an urban issue that does not have a policy but requires one; (3) a critique of a conceptual framework that has been used to address an urban challenge.  Students should note that entry points 1-3 are intended as prompts to help them approach the summative essay; thus, any number of starting points could be combined.  Those students approaching the essay from starting points 1 and 2 are required to propose broad policy solutions and address key barriers to the adoption of the proposed policy.  Those who would like to approach their essay from the perspective of point 3, will have to propose improvements to the conceptual framework being critiqued namely, how the critique changes the 'framing of the problem' and its associated policy implications.  Students can also critique urban policy and conceptual frameworks in the global North as long as they use concepts from the global South.  In doing so, they are required to suggest policy and conceptual improvements to urban challenges in the global North.  This is designed to overcome the North-South divide and foster the transfer of ideas.  Students who chose this option will have to demonstrate that the transfer of policy ideas or conceptual critiques, using literature from the urban South to the urban North, are feasible in terms of context, institutions and politics, for instance. 

Extensive guidance notes for the summative essay will be available on Moodle.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 20

Average class size 2019/20: 10

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills