Programme overview

Strategic Urban Planning & Policies

What the programme entails

A few student studying on a table.

Webinar on Strategic Urban Planning & Policies

Learn more about the master track content directly from Dr Anitra Baliga and Dr Pamela Duran Diaz — the programme coordinators themselves! Watch this video to discover more about the importance of urban planning and stakeholder engagement in today's cities and much more.

Watch the full webinar here

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

The Strategic Urban Planning and Policies is a master track within the MSc in Urban Management and Development that links theory and practice by working with concepts and tools of urban planning, policies, governance, justice, and sustainability. The track addresses the role of urban planning in 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 of different planning approaches on cities' socio-spatial dynamics. 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.

How is your year organized?

The first block shares courses on urban complexity, governance & finance, data analytics and research design with the other master tracks. In the second block, your courses will be track-specific and you will be working more closely with your master track peers. The third and last block will be entirely dedicated to your thesis. It will further guide you in writing your thesis proposal on a topic relevant to your master track.


Programme Curriculum

Block 1 - September 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 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 are key in planning and executing investments and preparing fundable projects. In some countries, local governments have become increasingly dependent on intergovernmental transfers, which have been shrinking over time in part because of fiscal constraints. Moreover, investment decisions are at the core of any development strategy. This course addresses all these and many other aspects of financial investments.

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.

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.

Blocks 2 - January to April

In this first module, students will be introduced to the diversity in planning approaches and the evolution of planning theories and practices. Students will learn how the field of planning is characterised by fragmentation and heterogeneity of views and interests, representing the complex worlds in which planning practices take place. Questions about what sustainability, resilience, inclusivity and justice mean (and for whom) within the context of urban planning and what role planning plays in their implementation will be covered extensively in this module.

In the second module, students will learn how the future of cities, and the cities of the future, are being thought about and acted upon in diverse regional and political contexts. In treating urban visions as a social, cultural, and politically fraught reality with a profound influence on the present, students will explore concepts of participatory planning and deliberative democracy and scrutinize the modalities, processes, and challenges of public participation, drawing on case studies from across the world.

In the third and final module of the course, students will grapple with the challenges and opportunities for decision-making and implementation within a complex planning context. This module will focus on three implementation elements: policy design & evaluation, scenario modelling, and stakeholder engagement. At the end of the module, students will explore through a role-playing game how urban actors, their relationships, and the alignment and/or misalignment of their shared and collective interests are key to urban planning and implementation.

For the case study exercise, you will work with other students to examine closely well-known, if not infamous, urban development projects in diverse regional contexts. When carrying out your analysis, you will need to pay particular attention to the project’s vision and its legitimation, the democratic process followed, frictions produced in the process, counters to those frictions, and ultimately the influence of all these factors on the project’s realization.

The Action Planning Workshop incorporates the concepts learned during the Urban Sustainability and Urban Governance and Finance modules in a practical, one-week exercise conducted in cooperation with local stakeholders in the city of Rotterdam.

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 3 - April to August

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.

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.

  • 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

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