PP4A1E      Half Unit
Cities in an Urban Age: Challenges and Opportunities

This information is for the 2021/22 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.

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.


The course will be taught via a combination of asynchronous sessions and live sessions, the latter of which can be attended in-person or remotely. A minimum of 10 hours of asynchronous learning materials sessions will be provided ahead of live teaching, which will consist of videos, readings and interactive activities. Approximately 10 hours of live teaching will be provided, consisting of lecture-based discussions, seminars and workshops. These live sessions will build upon the outcomes of the asynchronous sessions. All live teaching will take place over a one week period (Module 1). 

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

  • Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Simone, AbdouMaliq and Pieterse, Edgar (2017) New Urban Worlds: Inhabiting Dissonant Times. Polity Press. London.
  • Travers, Tony, ‘Taxing Power’ in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Pieterse, Edgar, ‘Placemaking in dissonant times’, in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • McQuarrie, Michael, Ferreira da Cruz, Nuno and Rode, Philipp ‘Tensions of Governance’ in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Pieterse, Edgar, ‘Placemaking in dissonant times’, in Burdett, Ricky and Rode, Philipp (eds) (2018): Shaping Cities in an Urban Age. Phaidon Press Ltd. London.
  • Angel, Shlomo (2011): Making Room for a Planet of Cities. Lincoln Institute of Land Policy
  • Glaeser, E. (2011): Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier. Penguin Press.
  • Brenner, Neil (2004), New State Spaces: Urban Governance and the Rescaling of Statehood, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Pieterse, Edgar , (2018) The politics of governing African Urban Spaces, International Development Policy / Revue internationale de politique de développement, No. 10.

Additional readings:

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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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: School of Public Policy

Total students 2020/21: Unavailable

Average class size 2020/21: Unavailable

Controlled access 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Commercial awareness