Strategic Urban Planning & Policies

This master track delves deeper into how urban planning and policies respond to urban dynamics and how different stakeholders are engaged in co-creating a commonly envisioned urban development.

The Strategic Urban Planning and Policies programme is a master track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development, linking theory and practice by working with concepts and tools of urban planning, policies, governance, spatial justice, gender, and sustainability. The track addresses the role of urban planning in the context of rapid urbanisation, informal settlements, social deprivation, growing inequalities, economic decline, and changing climatic circumstances. Through the lens of urban justice, you will analyse how cities function and how strategic planning and policies contribute to steering urban development processes. Next to learning how to engage with different stakeholders and applying urban planning and policy tools, you will also reflect on the implications that different planning approaches have on the socio-spatial dynamics of cities. Finally, you will study how the spatial distribution of services, infrastructure, opportunities, and social practices in space and power relations in decision-making impact the city.

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At the end of the course participants should be able to:

  • Critically assess socio-spatial dynamics in an urban context based on specific concepts and theories addressed during the course.
  • Identify and engage with stakeholders in a planning process and analyse their interests and needs.
  • Apply concepts and tools related to strategy development, integrating social, environmental, economic, spatial, financial and institutional components of urban plans.
  • Reflect on the qualities of planning and policies, the interests and values that plans and policies represent and their impact on existing dynamics. 
  • Come up with creative solutions by synthesizing and combining concepts and ideas that critically address socio-spatial dynamics in complex urban problems, individually and in team.
  • Convincingly communicate ideas, plans and arguments, supported by theory, orally, visually and in writing.

How is your year organized?

The first block shares courses on urban sustainability, governance, planning, policy, finance, and data analytics with the other master tracks. However, your assignments with the modules as well as the action planning workshop are always track-specific. In the second and third blocks, your courses will only be track-specific, but all students also follow a course on GIS. The fourth block will be entirely dedicated to you writing your thesis. In addition, the programme will strengthen your research skills through research methods courses and workshops. It will further guide you in writing your thesis proposal on a topic relevant to your master track.


  • Beyond shelter – Impact of tenements on social inclusion/exclusion in middle-income neighbourhoods of Nairobi. A Case study of Donholm
  • Water supply interventions in informal settlements: Factors influencing the usage of automated water dispensers. A case study of Mathare Settlement in Nairobi City.
  • Analysis of Urban Residential Location Choice Kampala, Uganda
  • The self-organized citizen and its outcome in urban regeneration: a case study of Bangrak-Khlong San District, Bangkok
  • The Effects of Capacity Building in Alleviating Joblessness in Resettlement Sites: The Case of Southville 7 Calauan, Philippines
  • Assessing the impact of involuntary resettlement on the perceived quality of life: Case of resettled residents of Ubumwe to Batsinda
  • Analyzing the influence of small-scale rental housing market on bottom-up inclusionary housing in middle-income neighbourhoods of Kigali City
  • Assessing the influence of the customary land tenure on the growth of informal settlement in Oshiuman, Amasaman district in Accra
  • Physical planning and urban spatial disparities: Analyzing residential social disparities in Kampala as influenced by physical planning and self-organization
  • Freeland of Oosterwold - Organic Urban Expansion and Community Building in Oosterwold

Block 1 - October to January

With over half of the population living in urban areas, rising to 70% in 2050, it is of ever-increasing importance to understand how cities work and evolve. Complex and interrelated economic, social, physical, and environmental processes are constantly transforming cities. Understanding cities, therefore, require us to recognize, define and describe these complex and multidisciplinary processes.

This course will teach students how to harness the power of quantitative urban data by mastering the way they are prepared, visualised and analysed. The course begins with introducing students to quantitative data analysis (compared to qualitative data analysis), and continues with lectures on descriptive statistics and data visualisation. The focus is, besides understanding, on working with real data and practicing how to conduct data analyses, which students learn in workshops and with exercises. Students will also learn how to present descriptive statistics and data visualisation in academic studies.

This course will discuss the efforts of governments, often undertaken in partnership with other stakeholders, to deliberately intervene in and influence, steer and guide the development process of cities.

Local governments have a key role in the planning and execution of investments and preparation of fundable projects. In some countries, local governments have become increasingly dependent on intergovernmental transfers, which have been shrinking over time in part because of the fiscal constraints. Moreover, investment decisions are at the core of any development strategy. All these and many other aspects of financial investments are addressed in this course.

Blocks 2&3 - January to April

The Action Planning Workshop incorporates the concepts learned during the Urban Governance, Policy, Planning and Public-Private Partnerships (UGPPP) module in a practical, one-week exercise conducted in cooperation with local stakeholders in the city of Rotterdam.

Have you ever wanted to carry out a spatial analysis for research purposes? Or do you intend to do so for your thesis? GIS can be a powerful tool for spatial data analysis as it can link spatial and non-spatial data. Furthermore, visualizing data spatially, for example through maps, can reveal spatial relations which otherwise would not have become apparent. In this course, we will introduce and apply fundamental methods for analyzing data in GIS which will be helpful in answering research questions with a spatial component. These skills will be an added value in social sciences research and will be highly valued in various professions.

In this module participants develop their socio-spatial skills through a series of workshops designed around; social analysis and presentation, spatial analysis and visualisation, and urban observation. At the end of the module, the students will present a socio-spatial analysis of a specified area, which will be used to develop the game board.

In the planning theory module, students will discuss topics such as complexity, systems thinking and scale; strategic planning; social and spatial innovation; governance, policies and stakeholders; and urbanisation in relation to their relevance in urban planning.

In this module participants will develop knowledge on spatial justice and theory, in cooperation with the Urban Housing, Equity and Social Justice specialisation track. Knowledge is transferred through a series of lectures which addresses topics such as; social justice and inequality; spatial justice; gentrification; counter hegemonic trends (right to the city, city as a commons, sharing city); gender. Based on the learnings of the previous two modules, participants will present a framework for analysing the qualities of the game.

Spatial planning is approached in the specialisation  track as a multi-stakeholder activity. Therefore in this module participants will establish interaction by setting up a dialogue with the main stakeholders. The participants are then given the opportunity to identify relevant stakeholders and prepare and conduct interviews. This will be the basis for the game characters.

In the game development module, participants will work on the co-design and development of the game. During this time, the schedule is divided between workshops, lectures which support the game development work, as well as progress meetings. Work on the game development will be structured through several sub-assignments both as group work and individual work.

During the final module, the game will be presented to and played with stakeholders. Following this, participants will work on an individual assignment which is to reflect on the process and the outcome of the game development and evaluate the game according to the framework they have during the Planning & Spatial Justice Theory modules.

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master’s programme at IHS. This Research Design (RD) course guides students to design academic research within the social sciences and to develop their thesis proposal.

The main objective of the Research Proposal Period is to support the individual research process of participants and at the same time produce a body of collective knowledge that is expected to contribute to the understanding of the domain of urban management and development in developing, transitional and developed countries.

Block 4 - April to September

Designing and implementing academic research in the field of urban studies is a major component of the master's programme at IHS. During this period students will write their master thesis on their chosen topic guided by a supervisor.

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